Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

MORE HISTORY PACKED INTO THESE 13.1 MILES THAN ANY RACE YOU’LL RUN

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The race takes place on the first Saturday in April and is the premier event in Springfield, IL. This race is absolutely worth making the journey as a runner and avid fan of all things historical. The race directors, Brookelyn and Randi, did a remarkable job of promoting their event on social media. Their marketing efforts were extremely creative, engaging, and humorous.

Like many runners these days, medals are a big factor (like it or not), and their medal was top notch (more on this shortly). The opportunity to tie up my laces and run where Lincoln once walked was too great an opportunity to pass up!

This race is a must on your #50halfmarathons50states challenge bucket list

Miles 1-3: History, History, and More History!

Abe and Mary share a few inspiring words before the race starts.

The course starts and finishes at the Old State Capitol where Lincoln gave his famous house divided speech. Across the plaza from the Capitol, within the first quarter-mile of the race are the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices. This is the only building still standing where Lincoln practiced law during his 25-year career. Less than a mile into the race, runners go back in time for two blocks, passing by the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned.

Before or after the race, you should take a tour of Lincoln’s home.

As you make your way back around the bend, you have a perfect view of the New State Capitol.

Miles 4-6: Washington Park

When runners enter the park, they will circle the majority of the park which has 150-acres of rolling terrain, some deep ravines. man-made lagoons, a botanical garden, a large duck pond, and a rose garden. This three-mile stretch was extremely peaceful and calming with not too much undulation.

Notice I am still wearing my Lincoln branded hand gloves

Miles 7-8: Running through Lincoln, Calhoun, and Rutledge Streets

These two miles take you Northeast through the city as runners make their way toward Lincoln’s Tomb. Supporters are scattered here and there throughout this space, and more than anything, I was excited to make my way to Lincoln’s final resting spot.

Miles 9-11: Lincoln’s Tomb and Lincoln Park

During Mile 9, runners enter Oak Ridge Cemetery (it’s a historical race for a reason) and are able to view Lincoln’s final resting place.

Lincoln Tomb is the final resting place of the 16th President of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln; his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; and three of their four sons, Edward, William, and Thomas. President Lincoln’s remains rest in a concrete vault ten feet below the marble floor of the burial chamber (yes, I went inside as it’s open to any visitors). A massive granite cenotaph marking the gravesite is flanked by the presidential flag and the flags of states in which Lincoln’s ancestors and Abraham Lincoln himself resided. Crypts in the chamber’s south wall hold the remains of Mary, Edward, Willie, and Tad Lincoln.

Miles 10 and 11 take runners through the Lincoln Park, but I have to say, I was more blown away by Lincoln’s tomb and maybe, kinda, sorta blacked out during these next two miles.

Miles 12, 13, and the Bling!

As I regained more of my memory, I raced toward the homestretch breezing through Mile 12. During the final mile of the race, runners will pass by the historic Union Train station directly adjacent to the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library which is just one block from the finish line.

As I crossed the line, state #26 was in the books and runners are rewarded with quite the finishing medal. Any type of interactive medal is a win in my book!

You can see this in my race video, but Abe “runs” back and forth past his house!

Lastly, make sure you stop by the Buzz Bomb Brewing Company for your free drink… not just because you’ve earned it, but because every single pint I had (which was a few) was amazing. I can’t wait until they are distributed outside of IL…say to Charlotte, NC!

If you’ve never been to Springfield, here are my additional takeaways:

1. Check your flying routes into Springfield – I flew from Charlotte > Dallas > Springfield. It was not the most direct flightpath (clearly), so make sure you plan accordingly depending on where you live. The airport (SPI) is roughly a 15-minute drive to the downtown area which is extremely walkable. While it’s a short distance away, Uber and Lyft are hard to come by and you can easily be waiting 15-20+ minutes for one at the airport or in the city. I stayed at the President Abraham Lincoln Springfield DoubleTree Hotel which was 3 blocks from the start line

2. Packet Pick-Up – The location was in the main ballroom at the DoubleTree hotel. The race shirts were probably the most comfortable shirts I have ever gotten at a half marathon race (mad props to the designer for including thumb holes).

The race directors Randi (on left) and Brookelyn (on right) brought some high energy

3. Start time was ideal – Bright and early: 7:30 am and runners have 3 hrs 30 mins to complete the race. The weather was windy and chilly so dress appropriately. Your gift bag includes President Lincoln hand gloves along with many other creative goodies. These ladies know what they are doing…

4. Hot spots to visit – Lincoln’s Home (entry into the Lincoln Home is only permitted through a ranger-led tour and tickets are free), old and new state capitols (both are impressive), Lincoln Museum (absolutely a must, especially their presentation rooms), and Lincoln’s Tomb.

5. Hot spots to fill your belly

  • Cozy Dog Drive-In – Home of the “Original” hot dog on a stick, dipped in batter and deep-fried
  • Saputo’s – a must for Italian lovers! Sit at the bar and do yourself a favor by ordering the escargot, the salad with homemade dressing, and the baked lasagna
  • D’Arcy’s – order a horseshoe or a pony shoe (a pony was more than enough). This is the signature open-face sandwich of Springfield, Illinois. The basic version is two pieces of Texas toast with meat placed on each slice, served with either a traditional or spicy white cheese sauce and what seems like a pound of crinkle cut fries
  • Buzz Bomb Brewing Company – they were at the packet pickup and they have some of the tastiest beers I’ve had in a long time. You can’t go wrong with any option

6. Fun half marathon fact – The Route du Vin half marathon in Luxembourg can lay claim to being the first half. While it was founded in 1961, the frequently changing course wasn’t exactly 13.1 miles until 1995. The first U.S. halfs came in 1964 with the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon in Springfield, Illinois and the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington, Delaware.

To view more Run4Papa photos of this race, go to the  2022 Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon Album

 

 

 

Baltimore’s 20th Running Festival – Half Marathon and 5K

A Return to Racing in the Free State After an 18-Month Hiatus

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Why Run The Baltimore Running Festival? Here are 5 reasons that felt like a no-brainer.

Reason #1: This was their 20th-anniversary race which means the hype is bigger, the medal is blingy-er, and the atmosphere is always larger than life.  After waiting 18+ months because of the pandemic, this was a very welcome relief. I laced up my running shoes and got back to what I do best: raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s and other related dementia research.

For people who have followed my journey for the past 10 years, most of you know I don’t train. I own it, I can’t explain it, but it is what it is…and for the last 18+ months, I have barely even walked a few miles at a time, let alone run them: #guiltyascharged

Reason #2: Run4Papa has a goal of running 50 half marathons in all 50 states. This was an important mile marker (pun intended) because this was state #25 and literally the halfway point between this goal which began several years ago. Despite an extremely sore and tender pinched nerve in my neck/shoulder area, I was too motivated to not show up and run against dementia.

Reason #3: Anytime I can convince my wife (which is way easier than it sounds) to hop a flight, run a race in a new place to encourage additional supporters for our cause, visit a new spot in the world together, and of course, eat some delicious crab (which is her favorite food on the planet), it seemed like a no brainer.

Life is always better with her around!

Reason #4: The Bling! I used to never ever look at any race bling until I actually crossed the finish line…until the Hackensack, New  Jersey Half Marathon. What happened and when I crossed the finish line? There was no medal.  They didn’t run out, they literally chose to not purchase medals…

For. A. Half. Marathon. Race.

Come on now. So without further ado, here is the race bling.

Reason #5: Since the 5K began at 7:30 am, and the Half Marathon kicked off at 9:45 am, (yes that is not a typo…the half marathon started over 2 hours later following the 5K,) I was able to see my wife run her race and have more than ample time to wait around (not a fan – more on this later) for mine to begin.

Baltimore’s Beloved Half Marathon Tradition Continues…

Ready to kickoff state #25

Miles 1-3: High energy is an understatement!

The half-marathon start line is a party on the shores of Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor, the 13-mile mark of the marathon. Complete with a live band and 10,000 of your new best friends, the half-marathon will run its own course for the first 3 miles and merge with the marathon at Patterson Park. From that point, marathoners and half-marathon participants will run the same course to the finish line in Baltimore’s famed and iconic Inner Harbor!

Miles 4-5: Nothing special visually, but great people out to support

This stretch runs through the streets of Lindwood and Madison Avenues, past Washington Street, and St. Lo Drive. These couple of miles are mainly just running in between businesses with a handful of hills along the way. There was nothing overly visual to see; however, you do have wonderful people out supporting the runners.

One of the funniest signs at the race

Miles 7-9: Far and away the most scenic part of the half marathon race

Runners make their way past Clifton park and run approximately one mile around Lake Montebello. Following this loop, there is a down and back for mile 8 and runners make their way past Memorial Stadium at Mile 9.

The very beginning loop of Lake Montebello

Mile 10: She always finds a way…

My wife is just incredible! She is my biggest cheerleader and always finds a way to hop around a race in order to cheer me on at multiple points along the way. With all the road closers, and very few Uber’s available, she managed to meet me at Mile 10. I didn’t think I was going to see her until the finish line, so this was a massive lift when I really needed it! She even said, “don’t run too fast so I can meet you at the finish line!”

We didn’t take a picture together, but she grabbed this selfie shortly after I kept pushing on:)

Miles 11-13: Finishing strong at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Runners literally take Howard Street straight down to the finish line. And when I mean straight down, basically miles 11.5-13 are pretty much straight downhill which was a nice surprise and a welcome relief.

Proud to log another 13.1 in the books. 25 up, 25 down.

What should you know about running at the Baltimore Running Festival?

1. The Baltimore Airport is roughly a 20-minute drive to the Baltimore Inner Harbor where the 5K and Half Marathon take place. There are plenty of hotels within two minutes of walking distance to the start line. The Full Marathon starts at Camden Yards which sounded pretty amazing.

2. Packet Pick-Up at the Convention Center – this is also a 5-minute walk from the Inner Harbor area. The staff was extremely friendly, helpful, and they had some great swag/amazing vendors brought in for the runners.

3. The start times of these races were quite perplexing.

  • 5K – 7:30 am
  • 10K – 8:00 am
  • Half Marathon – 9:45 am
  • Full Marathon – 8:00 am

I have no clue why they wouldn’t start the full and half marathon one after the other or together followed by the 10K and 5K runners. I’ve never heard of a half marathon starting hours later than than 5K and 10K races. I would’ve preferred to have an earlier start.

4. In an effort to keep disposable cups from being thrown on the ground and limit touch points, runners were required to bring their own water bottle and carry it during the race. Refill stations were placed about every 4 miles served with both Gatorade and water. There were also plenty of locals supporting along the way passing out extra water which was so helpful considering the temperature and humidity.

5. The temperature began in the low 60s and eventually crept up to the high 70s. As you can tell in my pictures, it felt way warmer.

6. On a scale of 1-10, I would give the course a 5 or 6, but the supporters a 9! The people of Baltimore are all about this race and you will see plenty of support from start to finish with some hilarious signage throughout.

7. I will say, while marijuana is not legalized in this city, it is in Washington DC. And while I was running throughout the race, I was smelling plenty of weed in the streets. I could care less who smokes it, but when running a race, I found it frustrating to smell mile after mile.

8. The bling is what everyone loves to focus on before and after a race so here you go!

9. The crab soup and crab cakes are worth the trip alone! A few recommendations of places we ate at and visited in the city include: Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, Mama’s on the Half Shell, Ra Sushi, and Mason’s Lobster Rolls. On a mini side note, the Baltimore Aquarium ranks #2 to the Atlanta aquarium, but well worth the price of admission.

To view more Run4Papa photos of this race, go to 2021 Baltimore Running Festival

 

Good Life Halfsy – Nebraska’s funnest half marathon

Tie up your laces for a wild race in the Cornhusker state

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Why run the Good Life Halfsy?

With 13.1 miles of parks, water features, tree-lined boulevards and Lincoln’s most notable landmarks, this point-to-point, net downhill course begs to be run. Add 15,000 adoring fans, 5 Cheer Stations, over twenty-course entertainment acts and an epic downtown finish. The Good Life Halfsy in the Cornhusker state may just be your new favorite half marathon.

The sixth annual race featured 6,500+ runners from all 50 states taking to the streets in Lincoln. This half marathon is a unique and friendly race, with surprises waiting on every corner while offering a tour of Lincoln’s greatest sights.

One of the better highlights (personally) was having the ability to see my friend, Nathaniel Matya, run his first ever half marathon!

What is the Good Life Halfsy race course all about?

Miles 1-3: High energy is an understatement!

Let the Cornhusker games begin!

The music is rocking, the atmosphere is hyped up, and runners pour out of the starting gate eager to tackle the city of Lincoln. The Good Life Halfsy begins at Seacrest Field, located adjacent to Lincoln East High School, with the Pink Gorilla monkey leading the way.

The race then continues south along South 70th street for two miles after starting the course around the campus.

Mile 4-6:Endless community support and waterfront views.

As runners make their way toward the second quarter of the race, the local neighborhoods are packed with supporters. I was blown away by the energy provided by these folks despite the noticeably chilly weather (20-ish with windchill).

The Lincoln supporters have a great sense of humor!

The next turn on the course takes runners around Holmes Lake Dog Park and the surrounding roads over the next few miles. The half marathon really starts going downhill at this point as runners continue north along South 70th street.

This section of the course comes with waterfront views of the lake before turning onto Normal Boulevard.

Mile 7-12: Selfie meet-ups and Trago Park.

Get used to Normal Boulevard because the next several miles consist of running northwest along this road, connecting several Lincoln neighborhoods and passing the Sunken Gardens and Neighbors Park, among other local attractions. One of the best parts of running a race is seeing people you know. A huge shoutout to Karla Mayta (a diehard Cornhusker for life) along with my father who navigated around the entire course to catch Nathaniel and I running at different points in time.

Left to right: Dad, Karla and Jason taking a mini pitstop for a selfie around Mile 7.

As we snapped this picture, Nathaniel was hot on my heels and actually ran right past us. He looked as if he had run a million of these before and was on pace to finish in just over two hours!

At this point in time, I picked up my pace as over eight miles had elapsed on the course. The course continues north for two more miles on the Rock Island Trail, now running through Trago Park. This stretch wraps around for several miles and takes runners into the homestretch.

There is no shortage of kids ready to uplift each and every runner in Trago Park.

Miles 11-13.1: University of Lincoln campus and Haymarket Park.

The final stretch took runners through parts of the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus which gives you chills; the campus is iconic. I’ve had the luxury to tailgate and watch a game at Memorial Stadium and the fans are nothing but friendly and welcoming. They love showing off their city and want you to return. I could say the exact same for the race today. Once runners pass by this area, they are treated to a panoramic visual of the Lincoln Bridge.

Top: Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team. Below: Lincoln Bridge.

As runners make their way across the Lincoln Bridge and into Haymarket Park, they will coast their way to the finish line. Be sure to watch for yourself on the Cube, where the race organizers display each finisher as they complete the course and get the post-race party started.

If you PR at this race, which I did not, you have the opportunity to hit the Pink Gorilla PR gong.

I was proud to knock off half marathon #23 in the Cornhusker state. And in case you were wondering how Nathaniel did, he finished in a remarkable 2:08:47! He motivated me to run faster moving forward, and I promised the next time I visit, we can just drive 13.1 miles to watch some Cornhusker football.

Thank you to Nathaniel, Karla, Milo and Annie for providing the best Cornhusker hospitality!

To view more Run4Papa photos of this race, go to Good Life Halfsy photo album

Thank you ABC 8 and 1011 and ABC 8 News stations  for sharing the Run4Papa mission with your audiences!

1011 News

ABC 8 News

Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon – Throw out all the rules!

Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, 10k & Greubel 5k – Get your Hillbilly on!

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What is the Hillbilly Hike?

Proud to run with the Hillbilly’s in the Hawkeye state!

Throw out the rules and prepare for a race that is fun, scenic, and in a remote area of Iowa. This location is perfect for Hillbillies and they proudly welcome any visitor, even a Northern-bred runner like myself.

This race began a few years ago with a crazy idea to help fund missions through their small church. The organizers were always doing small fundraisers to help the students/participants offset some of the cost to go and show love to others in various communities. The cause is important to this community because they want their students/participants who have this opportunity to realize they can make an impact in this world: not only on a trip, but also locally.

According to race director Ryan Roust, “Watching people who participate in these trips spread God’s love and then grow deeper in their faith is something we never tire of watching. God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams and we are so grateful to all the runners who come and be a part of our race. For example, this year’s Hillbilly Hike had 700 runners from 17 states along with 100 volunteers. This continues to  blow my mind that people would travel to cold, rural Iowa, to run like a Hillbilly!”

His passion to putting on a quality race for the runners coupled with his philanthropic desire to help his community is evident by his actions year after yea. Ryan said, “We added a 5K a few years ago to support three local kids who lost their parents in a tragic traffic accident. This year, we raised approximately $4,500 dollars that we put into their college scholarships funds. The race provides a chance for us to continue supporting the family and keep their parent’s memories alive. It was such a blessing to have their family help with traffic and pass out medals this year at the finish line.”

Why run with a group of Hillbillies? One acronym: FOMO!

From the moment my father and I received our race bibs, we knew this race would be a horse of a different color. We asked Ryan why our bibs had a totally different race name on it and why the year showed 2017!? In a very calm, matter of fact tone, he responded, “We are so Hillbilly that we are using recycled race bibs to save money.”

When my kids ask me one day to tell them about the Dam to Dam race, I will say “You mean the Hillbilly Hike?”

After that, we stopped asking questions and embraced the group of Hillbillies for what they are: outgoing people who don’t take themselves too seriously. How refreshing!

Miles 1-2: Ready. Set. Stay Warm!

Lets be clear. This was considered a warm day for the Hillbilly Hike. As I waited for the bus to take all us half marathoners to the start line, I was chatting away with my fellow hillbillies. They were ALL so friendly and welcoming. When we arrived, we sat together for the better part of 15 minutes on the bus, waiting until the last possible moment to stand outside in the bitter cold. Yet, despite the weather outside, the runners and the volunteers were clearly prideful of this event. One runner said, “Thank you for coming to our city to run this race. This makes a difference to us and to our community.”

Ready to run in Iowa with my father. He ran the 5K and I ran the half marathon.

At 8:00 a.m., my iPhone showed a brisk 31 degrees (didn’t reflect wind chill to the best of my knowledge); but when you run with the Hillbillies, weather is secondary to living in the moment. The race kicked off in Indianola, Iowa at the local high school. The gun sounded and we hit the pavement making our way toward the greenway.

Miles 3-5: There is something about running on a greenway. In the fall. Surrounded by Hillbillies.

While people love to run for a variety of personal reasons, they also love and can relate to this cause. I would estimate about 10 different runners asked about my mission to raise Alzheimer’s awareness worldwide during this 3-mile stretch. People care and they aren’t shy about sharing their stories and how their family is being personally affected. The camaraderie was incredible and I could tell that everyone was genuinely pulling for one another.  Moreover, the sheer peacefulness and tranquility of running in such a rural area was breathtaking.

Soaking in the beauty of the greenway leaves turning their fall colors.

Miles 6-10: Mini horses. Bridge after bridge. Panoramic views of the water.

The next five miles were equally if not more peaceful. As I rounded mile six, I saw a few mini horses just chilling. When in rural Iowa, right? After making a brief pitstop to say hi to the miniaturized animals, I ran across multiple bridges covered in frost. From miles 7-8, runners were blessed with a colorful palette of trees circling the water.

I stopped for a few minutes to admire the view.

Miles 11-13.1: Open Fields. Hilarious Signage. The Perfect Bling.

When a race is smaller in size, it is not uncommon to run alone for long stretches of time. I certainly prefer to run with other people, but when I find myself all alone, surrounded by the beauty of this landscape, my brain feels totally relaxed. I am used to always being on the go and not pausing enough for moments like this in time. We all need this type of reminder more frequently in my humble opinion.

For the last 2.1 miles, I was surrounded by vast open fields on each sides. As I made my way toward Carlisle, Iowa, there was hilarious signage all along the way, but especially in the homestretch.

I mean, when in Iowa…

With the finish line in sight, I saw my father proudly cheering. By the way, he ended up winning his 5K age group (well done daddy-o!). We ran two separate races, but we ran for the same purpose: to advocate for dementia awareness in Iowa.

Like father, like son!

We celebrated by taking part in the delicious festivities at the finish line, which included homemade biscuits and gravy, beef stew, and apple pie. Of course, taking home some bling never hurt anyone either, especially this one!

I would say the bling provided is perfectly appropriate for the stage!

As for the Hillbilly’s, I am in to run with them again. I hope they would say the same about us!

To see more photos of this race, go to: Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, 10k & Greubel 5k

 

 

Mount Rushmore Half Marathon – Fulfilling my Promise to Papa

Mount Rushmore Half Marathon – An Emotional Race and Run

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Why was Mount Rushmore half marathon race was so meaningful?

I was emotional. More emotional than I have ever been for a race and this was before I even signed up. This was no ordinary race, not by a long shot. I was finally going to make good on one (of many) promises to Papa by running at Mount Rushmore. Visiting this iconic landmark was a life long dream of his, but unfortunately, due to the aggressive nature of his dementia, we were unable to travel to this location while he was alive.

Fast forward exactly six years later to the day since his passing, I made good on that promise! The stars aligned for this moment in time and the theme of #21 literally pushed me toward Mount Rushmore because:

  1. Papa passed away on September 21, 2013
  2. This was my 21st half marathon
  3. This was my 21st different state
  4. The race was on September 21, 2019

The #21 was a symbol of both this race and anniversary of Papa’s passing.

13.1 miles of running through forests, tunnels, elevation, and of course, views of Mount Rushmore

I barely slept three hours. My mind was juggling all sorts of emotions this morning. I always miss my Papa, but today it seemed to sting more than I anticipated. While I had my wife and parents along for support, I couldn’t help but wish my Papa was around to see this historic site with his own eyes. Yes, I was fulfilling a promise to him, but geez, it hurt inside…and this hurt wouldn’t go away. Maybe that is the way life should work…

We arrived at the start line around 5:30 am. I hadn’t run a race or trained in a full year. I wish I was lying, but that is the truth. Yes, I got married, but that was no excuse. While I needed time off the race course, today was my time to shine on it.

Papa’s anniversary is always unusually hard on me, but  as soon as that race gun went off, it was game on!

A magnificent sunrise to kick-off the race.

Miles 1-3: The race begins at Ghost Canyon Dude Ranch on a well-packed dirt road for about 3 miles before turning into pavement. This stretch would normally not be that memorable; however, the night before the race, the Vacation Races team sent an email to all the runners about my Run4Papa story and the reason behind today’s run. To say I was overwhelmed does not do justice to what happened along these three miles. I was stopped probably 20+ times (and roughly 50 times total throughout the race) for selfies with other runners. I heard everything from “Thank you for bringing your mission to our state,” to “My family has a loved one with Alzheimer’s and we are inspired by your passion.” A few runners even asked if they could film a part of my race video. Of course, I happily obliged!

What never ceases to amaze me is the impact Run4Papa continues to have on so many people and their families around the world. This is why I run. I am fully cognizant how people pay it forward in life and every conversation, email, phone call and now race selfie seems to have a proactive compound effect.

I may have crossed mile 3 around the 45 minute mark, but there was no chance I was going to turn anyone away.

Miles 4-11: Let’s be clear. This race is a challenging course with lots of gorgeous views of Mount Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills! If you are a fan of hills, you will love this course (especially during this 7-mile stretch). If you are not a fan of hills, at least know that you will be  rewarded with amazing views of the forest, several carved out tunnels on the mountain, and of course, stunning views of Mount Rushmore.

Winding through the beautiful scenery that is the Black Hills Forrest.

As I continued to climb through the winding roads of Rushmore, my mind was at peace. I have never run a half marathon race where nature was so prevalent. My brain and body felt calm and relaxed. Upon reaching Mile 5, I ran through the first of three tunnels which in itself was a treat.

Carved right out of the mountain, this tunnel was fascinating to run through with a view for the ages ahead.

While that was exciting and different, nothing could compare to the view that followed. When I say Mount Rushmore is directly in front of you, I am not exaggerating.

A direct line of sight to this historically iconic landmark of Mount Rushmore.

Miles 11-13.1: Thankfully, the last few miles is downhill before finishing in the town of Keystone, SD (South Dakota). Yes, it was a relief to run down versus up,  but honestly, I wish I could have kept running in the forest because I had zero desire to leave at this point in time. The scenery was so magnificent  that I took my wife and parents through it all the following day in our rental car.

Mile 12 – running on the downhill stretch out of the forest.

As I quickly made my way down the main road and toward the finish line, my mind succumbed to all the built-up emotions that had been swirling around in my brain. I saw my parents and wife standing near the finish line, I grabbed the Run4Papa flag from my father’s hands and waved it proudly as I completed my 21st half marathon in my 21st different state!

I wasn’t exhausted. I was ecstatic, heartbroken, and relieved all at once. I was appreciative of having my parents and wife be part of this important experience. To my fellow runners and supporters, thank you for always providing that additional motivation along the way; it makes a massive difference over the course of 13.1 miles.

Since the course was not set-up for spectators throughout the race (just at the start and finish line), the four of us hopped in a car and headed to see the Mount Rushmore landmark together.

My wife, parents and I standing in the spot my Papa never got to see with his own eyes.

I will never forget this moment in time as long as air continues to fill my lungs. I believe that Papa pushes me every day to be better and run further for this cause until a cure is found, and mark my words, we will find a cure for this disease!

Today, I hope he was able to see what I saw along these 13.1 miles because it was worth the wait, even if I didn’t have him physically by my side.

I will continue to carry this flag to every race moving forward and leave a snapshot of Papa’s legacy in each location.

To view pictures from this race click: Mount Rushmore Photo Album

What should you know about the Mount Rushmore Half marathon race?

  • Flying to this destination: depending on where you fly from, I recommend booking flights in advance as the cost can be pricey
  • Vacation Races Expo: Set-up is at the Ghost Canyon Dude Ranch the day before the race and runs from 12:00-6:00 pm with bib pickup as late as 7:00 pm. At the expo you can pick up your bib, race shirt, and other gear. Plan to stay awhile, and cook some s’mores by their makeshift campfire.

    You can even get a selfie with their mascot Odie!

  • Staff: From the expo to race day, the staff was so personable, friendly, and beyond pro-environment. In fact, there are NO CUPS OR TRASH ALLOWED on race day. At first, I was skeptical because I have never heard of this before, but it made complete sense. We are running through nature and why provide any opportunity for excess trash. I wish I would’ve kept mine for future races.

    These eco-friendly pouches were provided to each runner at the expo.

  • Race options:
    • Half Marathon Race start: 6:30 am., 4 hour maximum time limit
    • TBD: A 5K run in being contemplated for the future
  • Temperature: Started at 37°F and finished at 55°F (historically it is a low 41°F and a high of 68°F). I wouldn’t get caught up in the temperature because had it been  -5°F,  I would have loved every moment. Bottom line: the scenery is breathtaking!
  • Elevation:
  • Mount Rushmore Facts: The entire project took only 14 years to craft  beginning in 1927 and completed in 1941. The President’s faces are six stories tall (62 feet to be exact).
  • The Bling: I find this is always something people want to see so here you go folks!

 

 

We Promised, YOU Delivered!

NEW Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease

Grateful to my wife and parents for their tireless and endless support!

YOU made this happen!

Our research center was decades old. Our staff was on different floors and we knew we could do better for them and the people walking through our doors every day. As active Advisory Board Members at Northwestern Medicine, we knew we had to advocate and raise money for a more modern research facility. It was time!

Our goal was to double the size of our center’s footprint to maximize the work and collaboration being done by our researchers, clinicians and social workers at Northwestern Medicine. The design of the new center would not only be modern, but the floor plan would serve as a model for efficiency at Northwestern and for other research facilities around the world. While this would be a massive three-year undertaking, we ultimately knew this expansion would best serve the patients, families and medical staff.

After 3 years, YOU made this possible! We officially opened our new state-of-the-art 12,000 square foot research center! Because of YOU, we will push forward to advance this cause and treat patients and their families with the utmost care. This is an important step for our team who pours their hearts and minds into everything they have to fight (and run) against dementia!

The importance and passion behind our work!

In Honor of Papa

Our family is proud to have Papa’s legacy represented on the donor wall. He would be happy knowing that so many people will benefit from the research and treatment being conducted at this center.

Your contributions put into action

Construction began last year on this research facility, and as promised, this center was up and running by the end of 2018! Your support will help transform the work our team will be doing in the following ways:

1. Expanding the research center from 6,000 to 12,000 sq. feet to create an environment wherein researchers, clinicians, and social workers work side by side to bolster communication and collaboration leading to new discoveries and novel treatments.
2. Reducing the wait time for families looking to get their loved ones in to see our doctors and social workers.
3. Increasing the capacity to take on innovative research studies that lead us closer to the effective treatments.
4. Conducting research on how the brain coordinates mental functions, transferring the benefits of research to afflicted patients and preparing future scientists and clinicians in their field.

The Brain Bank: each box represents one deceased person’s brain which is carefully sliced and analyzed by researchers to better understand the affects of dementia.

Want to Join one of our research studies?

Our research studies lead to better understanding of and future treatments for these diseases. Most of our research takes place at our Center located in downtown Chicago. To join our research registry and learn more about our active research studies, click here. Our work is possible thanks to the generosity of our research participants — we appreciate you.

At this center, our team will continue to investigate the causes and clinical characteristics of neurodegenerative diseases, ensure that our patients are the beneficiaries of the latest advances and explore the neural foundations of behavior and cognition in health and disease. Areas of clinical emphasis include the following conditions: Alzheimer’s Disease, Primary Progressive Aphasia, Frontotemporal Degeneration, and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Dr. Marsel Mesulam using a super microscope to enhance the size of a slide on the adjacent computer screen showing the human brain.

What’s Next?

As 2019 continues to roll on, we have plenty of work ahead and have no intention of slowing down as a team. And of course, R4P has some big plans on the racing circuit to proactively raise awareness for this cause. Stay tuned for a big announcement this summer…I promise it won’t disappoint!

Until, then, we look forward to returning to our home away from home.

Pikes Peak Ascent

THE Toughest 13.1 Mile Race in the World

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How Challenging is Pikes Peak?

What does it take to run a race straight up 14,115 feet to the top of Pikes Peak mountain in Colorado? Although the average grade of slope is 11%, oxygen levels drop progressively as altitude rises, further compounding the uphill ordeal. The nature of the run (dirt trails, rock, and other natural obstacles) and the high altitude makes this race much more difficult than your standard 13.1 miles.

I thought I knew what was in front of me, but I had no clue. I heard tons of stories about how difficult this race was from fellow runners, and to be candid, I was very nervous I wouldn’t finish. One story seven years ago stuck in my mind from a running couple at the Great Wall of China Marathon, “We ran 50 half marathons in all 50 states, but failed to summit at Pike’s Peak. We missed the final cut-off and the trail was as tough as they come and the altitude was brutal.”

While I have completed every race to date, this one was giving me serious pause. I wasn’t 100% confident I would meet the cut-off times or cross the finish line. Despite running marathons all over the world, I was experiencing  major internal anxiety.

The Ascent (or ascent portion of the Marathon) can take as long, or longer, than a full flatland marathon. In fact, many flatlanders find that it can take much longer! On the other hand, if you have trained in high altitude, it is possible to go a little faster than your flatland marathon time during the Ascent.

Since I don’t train, I assumed I would be running for 30 mins longer than my normal marathon time…

3 miles in as the altitude was kicking my behind

What should you know about the Pikes Peak Ascent?

1. Registration – If you want a shot at running this race, you must send the race director one of two official finishing times from a race that you completed within the last two years. You can submit either a full marathon time (6 hours or less) OR a half marathon time (2 hours and 30 minutes or less).

They are extremely strict about this rule and it’s non-negotiable .

2. Packet Pick Up You must get your own packet and bring your own photo ID. For those of you who enjoy receiving swag giveaways from various companies, well, you will be in for quite a shock because you literally get your bib, a business card, and well, nothing else. While I normally toss out most of the swag I receive besides the running T-shirt, many people do enjoy all of these extras. The real swag is given when you cross the finish line. More on this shortly…

3. Wave Start and Cut-Off Times – a total of 1,800 people run the half and/or full marathon. You better stay in your corral, because if you cross the start line earlier than your scheduled gun time, you will be disqualified. I heard stories from people who had this happen in the past. In order to help alleviate course crowding, both the Ascent and the Marathon utilize a rolling wave start. Runners have been seeded into starting waves based on their qualifying times. The runners bib number defines the wave with bib numbers 1 through 199 in wave one, bibs 200 to 299 in wave two, bibs 300 to 399 in wave 3, etc. For example bib number 645 will start at 7:06, bib number 1347 will start at 7:13.

For the Ascent and Marathon, the on-course cut-off times are as follows:

In order to receive a finishers jacket and be listed as a finisher, Ascent runners must complete the entire course in under 6 hours 30 minutes; Marathon runners must complete the course in under 10 hours. These cutoffs are determined by your chip time (start time -> finish time).

Here is a link to answer any more FAQ’s

4. Race Day – you can feel the nervousness and excitement hanging around the start line. As I said above, I was anxious. More anxious than I can remember in recent time. Maybe it’s because I am getting older, or maybe it’s because I know what it takes on any given race day to sum up the mental and physical energy to run from A to B. I knew this mountain was going to be extremely difficult to conquer.

Elevation 9,500 feet. Hoping to reach Pikes Peak (not shown: insides in knots!)

The elevation gain (start to summit) is 7,815 feet. Take a minute to fully process that fact.

The start is at 6,300 feet and the summit is 14,115. The Ascent has very few stretches which are not going uphill. Thankfully, there are no exposed ledges, so there is little danger of falling off the trail!

The course and elevation breakdown.

This race was by far the toughest half marathon I ever ran (in the USA, if not the world). The altitude was harsh, the terrain was challenging, and the internal mental battle was constant throughout the entire race. Due to poor weather conditions, runners were turned around at Barr Camp, but I continued pushing forward with a few other runners. Sidenote: we should’ve just turned around like everyone else. We managed to reach the A-frame right near the tree lines, but we didn’t want to risk going any further. Like everyone else (eventually), we turned around and ended up running about 20 miles in total.

5. The bling and coveted finisher’s jacket – for a half marathon race, this bling is outstanding and every runner should want this medal in his or her collection! You can slide the runner on the medal back and forth and just knowing you made it to the top (unless you had our weather conditions) is worth every step.

In order to get your race pullover, you must make it to the top of the mountain. Although the threat of hail and lightning prevented us from summiting, finishers who completed the race under the cut-off time were able to receive this comfy pullover. To be fair, I wear it all the time when I travel.

Sweet justice, this puppy is comfy!

 

Back of the bling and jacket

In spite of the weather, I am left with an itch to return. Yes, it is always nice to accumulate new bling and sport a great pullover, nothing can actually replace crossing the actual intended finish line and summiting Pikes Peak.

I might have to book my flight again next year and go for round two.

Any takers?

2018 Tokyo Marathon

Running Full Circle – Sixth and Final World Major Marathon

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Tokyo, here we come!

In the marathon world, there are six majors: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York City and Tokyo. Until recently, I ran five of these six races. Tokyo has been on my radar for the last five years and finishing this race will check off a major (pun intended) bucket list item on my journey to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s.

The Tokyo Marathon course symbolizes the past, present, and future of Tokyo. This year, over 35,000 runners from Japan and around the world wound their way from Tokyo’s famous Metropolitan Government complex in Shinjuku on the city’s western side, to Tokyo Station on the east, running past scores of cheering fans and several of the city’s beloved landmarks.

Luckily, I was joined by my girlfriend, Carrie, (more on this later), who was nothing short of inspirational throughout the race and beyond (more on that later).

10 Takeaways from the 2018 Tokyo Marathon

1. Registration – Simple supply versus demand mathematics. The Abbott World Marathon Majors demand continues to skyrocket year after year, while the supply remains fairly fixed. Ask any runner what their odds of winning an online lottery entry spot for a major and you will likely hear 7-10%.* For example, over 300,000 runners went online to log-in for the Tokyo marathon…and then prayed for months eagerly waiting a confirmation email or a likely “unfortunately, you did not receive a lottery entry, but we look forward to your application next year.” Why? The Tokyo marathon lottery provides a total of 30,000 spots.  To avoid such chaos and stress, I registered through the “Run with Heart” charity option which opens on July 2 and runs through July 31. Run with Heart accepts 5,000 runners on a first come, first serve basis. In order to obtain a charity runner status, a runner must make a $1,000 contribution to one of twenty-two different charities offered by the race organizer.

*Boston marathoners must qualify for this race or raise $5,000 through one of their partner charities for a spot. 

2. Security is tight – Carrie and I stayed at an Airbnb approximately a 10-minute walk from the start line. On race day, everything was blocked off and we ended scrambling around for over 30 minutes to find an entrance (at an underground train station). At this point in time, we had to separate due to the tight security. Carrie was somehow able to find me before I crossed the start line. Moral of the story: leave yourself, as a runner and a spectator, plenty of time in the morning (easily  30-45 minutes longer than any other race).

3. Average temperature – this year was unusually cold with temperature’s starting in the low 30s! Normally, the temperatures average in the mid to high 40s. This was literally the first time in my life that I wore gloves and a fleece for the first two to three miles of a race (with the exception of Antarctica).

4. The race atmosphere is incredible! – Spectators line the streets for the entire race (similar to the Boston Marathon), and although they were predominantly cheering in Japanese, you can still absorb the amazing vibes even if you don’t speak the local language. I smiled all the way around and soaked up the spirit of the Tokyo Marathon.

One of many stops along the race where spectators showcased their love of Japanese culture. (Photo taken at the Asuka Temple Cannon)

5. KM not miles – there are no mile markers, only kilometer markers that go from 1 km to 42 km.

6. Aid stations every 5 kilometers – once in the corrals, the race is exceptionally well organized with  aid stations every 5 km which provide water, bananas, and even tomatoes!

7. No one drops any litter – it is amazing how many volunteers line the course with trash bags to collect everything from gel wrappers to cups and bottles. Don’t even think about throwing your empty gel or starbursts on the ground. I was too scared to drop even the top bit, so I ended up with a rather sticky pocket! I think this is a great idea; having seen the debris and aftermath of other races, this is something that should be implemented more often.

8. Navigating as a spectator – as a directionally challenged individual, navigating Tokyo on a normal day can give even the most directionally savvy person an anxiety attack. The train system is…the worst! Nothing goes where the map says it will go and people working at the underground stations aren’t that helpful or friendly. With this in mind, on race day, ask questions and follow the crowd. How Carrie was able to find me three times along the way was absolutely mind-blowing! I would have literally been crying away in some corner because you feel like a mouse trapped in a never-ending maze. Kudos to you Carrie Reese!

9. Grab a snapshot of the elites – since the course has a small loop near the halfway point, you might be lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of the elite runners flying by you at a 5ish per mile pace!

10. Sushi and bling go hand-in-hand! – any bling from a marathon major is worth showing off and keeping safe.

Bottom of my shirt: My favorite supporter —>
Bottom of Carrie’s: <—- My favorite boyfriend

Of course, when you are in the land of sushi, you must celebrate with some freshly cut blue fin tuna!

Photo taken at the Tsujiki Market

SO Now What?

What does one do after running all 6 majors, 7 continents and 12 marathons to date? We decided to make our way west by train to Kyoto, Japan, one of the most beautiful and ancient cities in the entire country. While in Kyoto, we visited the Golden Temple, Bamboo Forest, fed snow monkeys (totally worth the 2 mile hike), ate some of the best sushi and wagyu beef in the world, and most memorably paid a visit to Nara Park. This park, similar in size to Central Park, is known for their bowing deer. Yes, you read that correctly. You bow at them, they bow right back at you.

After walking around the park for over an hour, I decided to pull out my drone in an open space and film some of the deer bowing. I told Carrie to look up at the drone and while she was smiling and dancing away, I said, “I bow to you” (just like we had been doing for the past hour).

Carrie: “I bow to you.”

Me: “Well unlike the deer, I bow to you for life!” And I pulled out an engagement ring.

She screamed. She cried. She screamed some more and in between shouted “Yessssss, yeeeeeesss, yessssssss!!!”

So what now? We will see where the next adventure(s) take us…

And in case you are wondering about the drone footage…yeah, I was a bit nervous and forgot to hit record!

I left the U.S. with a girlfriend and returned with a fiancée!

2017 Santa Hustle

It’s not just a race. It’s a magical experience.

Race #10- 10 for 10 Challenge: 10 Half Marathons in 10 Different States

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The Santa Hustle Smokies 5K & Half Marathon

Christmas came early this year in the racing world. More specifically, over 2,000 runners dressed up as Santa Claus to run through the streets of Sevierville, Tennessee, spreading the holiday spirit.

The race is modeled on the Santa Hustle 5K, which brings thousands of runners out onto the streets of Chicago each December, decked out in a red long-sleeve t-shirt designed to look like Santa’s coat, a Santa stocking cap (complete with puffy white ball at the end) and a white fluffy beard to wear throughout the race.

Runners and walkers start both the half marathon and the 5K on the grounds of the Wilderness at the Smokies Hotel & Waterpark Resort. From there, the race follows basically a long out-and-back route down the Winfield Dunn Parkway and Highway 441, southward all the way down to the race turnaround point.

Once runners reach the turnaround — the mid-way point of the half marathon — they make the turn and head back northward along Highway 441, all the way back up to the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort for the race finish. All along the way, the race course features the green hills and smoky haze that gives the “Smoky Mountains” their name, as runners make their way along the river valley carved by the Little Pigeon River.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS RACE:

  • Average temperature –low is 28°F and the high is 51°F. On this day, it was absolutely freezing with the temperature hovering in the mid 20’s. I sincerely regret not bringing gloves as my hands were down right numb until maybe miles five or six. I literally ran with my hands in my pockets for the better half of the first two miles.
  • 4 different race options:
    • Half Marathon Race start: 7:30 A.M., 3.5 hours
    • 5k Race Start: Approx. 7:45 A.M, no time limit
    • 1-Mile Kids Rudolph Run Race Start: 7:00 A.M.
    • 100-Yard Santa Sprint Start: 7:15 A.M.
  • Swag – all 5K and Half Marathon participants receive a Santa hat and beard, a Santa long sleeve shirt, candy cane socks and an impressive finisher medal. I am seriously considering wearing more types of costumes for future R4P races in 2018 and beyond!

    Who wore it better folks?

  • The course – as stated above, the course is pretty much a down and back  on a highway. There isn’t much to see on the route with the exception of a few random architectural visuals (see video. Nevertheless, the signage at each and every mile was downright hysterical! For this reason alone, I kept looking forward to each mile marker, similar to the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon I ran earlier in the year.

    Funny signage all throughout the course.

  • The bling – is downright impressive for both race categories and arguably more visually appealing than some of the marathons medals I received over the years. You will not go home thinking “Man, this race director was tight on his/her budget with the bling.”

    Two very BLINGY ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Thinking about sticking around for a day or two? You might want to consider:

  • Foodies spotsGrape Xpectations and the Chop House. Both are literally side-by-side each other and absolutely worth your time for a pit stop. The owners of Grape Xpectations are super friendly, inviting, and eager to allow you to sample anything first… or you could just get the wine flight and sample 3 at once, like we did! The Toasty Bites (we tried 4 of them) were amazing and complimented their wine offerings. I’d recommend the homemade spiced wine in the winter. As for the Chop House, how can you go wrong with this type of food!

    Top left: chunks of ahi tuna. Top right: lobster bisque. Bottom left: Sirloin steak with horseradish dipping sauce. Bottom right: filet mignon with crusted horseradish sauce.

  • Dollywood Parade of Christmas Lights -the Parade of Many Colors includes vibrant floats, interactive characters and a number of other surprises sure to inspire guests with its heart-warming message.
  • Smokey Mountain Winterfest Christmas Lights Showwith more than 15 million lights in a 25 mile stretch, cars literally lined up for tens of miles to take their family and friends through this show.

    Christmas lights as for as your eyes can see!

If you are a Christmas lover, enjoy overplayed holiday music, and devouring candy and cookies, then grab your favorite friends and family and head to the Volunteer state for an early Christmas treat from Santa and his elves.

R4P, the GF and #SirMaxell wrapping up a year together of 10 half marathons in 10 different states.

2017 Rock ‘Roll Savannah Half Marathon

Racing through Cobblestone Streets and Mossy-Laden Oaks

Race #9- 10 for 10 Challenge: 10 Half Marathons in 10 Different States

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The Rock ‘N Roll Savannah Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah has charmed thousands of runners with its picturesque course and Southern hospitality. Today’s race brought more than 14,000 runners and walkers to the streets of the city. This city was immortalized in John Berendt’s 1994 classic, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s exactly that Southern charm and romance that runners will sense during the 7th Annual Rock ‘N Roll Savannah races in Georgia.

This race began at the corner of Bull and Bay Streets in the city’s downtown historic district, known for its plentiful hotels, shops, restaurants and bars that are filled to the rafters every St. Patrick’s Day. After the start, the historic district lies just a stone’s throw from the Savannah riverfront and walk — the race heads west along Bay Street and out of downtown, into some pretty nondescript areas. The course spends the next few miles heading mostly outside the city, through more industrial-warehouse-commercial district areas.

Tons of people were out on the sidewalks as runners raced past moss-covered trees lined with historic homes. For runners looking to set new personal record times or for runners trying their first marathon or half marathon — this course is pretty much tailor-made for someone who’s a first-timer, as it really is one of those few race courses that’s almost completely flat for the entire 13.1 miles.

Always a treat to have my two favorite supporters: The GF & #SirMaxwell

Takeaways from this race:

  • Average temperature – while the weather tends to be milder during late fall, the average low is 50ºF and the average high is 73ºF. However, during this race, temperatures rose to an extreme high (low 90s) with humidity; sweat was pouring down my face two miles in.
  • 5 different race options and time limits:
    • Marathon: 7 hours
    • Marathon Relay: Times subject to change
    • Half-Marathon: 4 hours
    • 5K: 1 hour
    • 1 Miler – the quick 1 Mile fun run is open to all ages and each runner will earn their own personal finisher medal
  • Flat course, but plain views – for people looking to PR, this might be the course for you; however, I was not impressed with the overall visuals from the half marathon. There were plenty of areas that felt remote and disconnected from the city. This finally changed around Miles 6-9 when I was able to run through the historic district which showcased Savannah’s famous mossy-laden oak trees. Sadly, this experience felt  few and far between over this 13.1 mile course.On top of that, I found myself struggling to capture photos and captivating video footage along the way. Usually, I have too big a selection to cut down from and edit, but this was not the case for this race.
  • Forsyth Park  – this spot is home to the finish line for this race and so much more! Forsyth Park is also one of the most photographed spots in all of Savannah. There is something always going on here, from the open air concerts, to a farmer’s market that’s open every Saturday.

    The huge, gorgeous fountain is totally Instagram-worthy.

  • The Bling – The Rock ‘N Roll bling always delivers and I have rarely heard a complaint from runners participating in any of their races.

    Happy to add this puppy to the collection!

If you have spare time to walk around the city, I highly recommend:

  • City Market – Easily within reach of all your sightseeing in Savannah, the City Market is four blocks of open air shopping, all surrounded by restored warehouses with tons of cute extra shopping, plus dining and art. There are plenty of open air concerts in the square as well, and it can be a great stop for just sitting and people watching.
  • The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – Called the most impressive building in all of Savannah, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist certainly will make your jaw drop.

    The towering spires and stained glass take your breath away.

  • Wormsloe Historic Site -If your’e looking for that quintessential Southern photo with the mossy oak trees hanging over a beautiful lane, this is where you’ll find it. This walkway leads right up to the ruins of Wormsloe, a colonial estate which is the oldest standing structure in Savannah at this point.

    This historic site includes a beautiful avenue with all the oaks and Spanish moss you could want.

  • Hitch Restaurant – one of the best eating and drinking spots in all the city. Full disclosure: my good friend Rick and his partner own both Hitch and Treylor Park, but I never share recommendations to foodie spots unless they are absolutely worth stopping in, and this place is one of them. Check out their menu, walk-in and be treated to first-class customer service and decor. IF you don’t have an excellent experience, hit me up and we can call the owners together!

From a 30,000 foot level, the city of Savannah oozes with charm, is pedestrian-friendly, and one that can be a little more affordable than Charleston, and a little tamer than New Orleans. As for the race itself, take my advice with a grain of salt and  make your own decision.