Monday, October 31, 2016

A Fine Celebration in St. Louis

It seems like only yesterday I was celebrating my own 50 States Half Marathon milestone. It was July 2015 in Portland ME, and there was a nice little turn out of fellow 50 States club members to help me celebrate.

Fast forward to October 2016 and a running couple, Jann and Mike, were both completing their 50th state at the St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll half marathon. I decided that I would absolutely be there to help them celebrate!

So I registered for the race, reserved a room at the Hilton Ball Park, and booked my flight with United Airlines. I made plans to arrive on Friday in time to get my race packet at the convention center, and then run both the 5K race on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.

The flight went without a hitch and the cab ride from the airport to the hotel was efficient and quick. The Hilton was perfect and my room was very nice, with a view of the Mississippi River, the Old Courthouse, and the iconic Gateway Arch. Very nice, indeed!

View of the Old Courthouse from my hotel room

View of Gateway Arch and the river beyond, from my hotel room

I dropped my bags in my room and then walked to the convention center to get my race packet at the race expo. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a Starbucks for a very much needed shot of energy.  Dinner that night was room service from the hotel, as I laid my things out for the 5K race on Saturday morning.

Fitness Expo at the convention center

It was a surprisingly smallish crowd of runners assembled for the start of the 5K race. I learned afterward that it was the first year they held this event in conjunction with the half marathon. Running both the 5K and the half marathon earns a third finisher medal, the Remix Medal. It was perfect weather for the 5K and I found that I was able to run most of the distance, only walking up the two uphill sections of the race course.

5K finisher medal

Afterward, I got showered and changed and headed out on foot to find lunch. My research showed a sushi restaurant a few blocks from the hotel.  Well worth the walk, as the sushi was very good, and service was efficient. I returned to the hotel, stopped at the Starbucks in the lobby, and brought my coffee up to my room to watch football game on TV.

Some very good sushi, washed down with a Kirin beer

Most of the others in our running club were not arriving until Saturday, in time for our Saturday night pre-race group dinner at a very good Italian restaurant in the city. I took a cab ride to the restaurant, getting there a little early, so I stepped up to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Soon the others started to arrive, and we claimed our group tables and had a wonderful dinner, getting caught up and making new friends.

Pre-race dinner Saturday night at Lombardo's

I usually don't make it to the group photo on race day mornings, preferring to use that time to sleep in a little bit and get ready for the race. I choose races with hotels within walking distance for that reason, so getting out there an hour early just for a group photo seems counterproductive to me.

Kimberley, Jann, me, Donna at the start line

Nice group before the start of the half marathon

But I did get to the start line about 15 minutes before race start so was able to catch up with some of the others. Jann and Mike were standing there with a couple of club members who kept their attendance at this race a complete secret from everyone. They had just run a marathon the day before in Brooklyn, and no one expected them to be there. And then there was another surprise for Jann and Mike....when the singer started to sing the National Anthem, one of the gals turned to Jann and said, "Recognize that voice?"

It was another of our club members, Jim, who'd also run the Brooklyn marathon the previous day and totally surprised Jann by arranging to be the vocalist for the national anthem at this race. He has a beautiful voice, has done small roles on Broadway in New York, and has been gaining a well-deserved reputation as a good vocalist (link to video) on the marathon circuit, getting the chance to sing at more and more races. Click the link to hear his beautiful voice.

Jann was overwhelmed by this last surprise! It was so sweet to witness! Soon our corral was moving toward the start line and then we were off and running. The route for this race was not particularly scenic, aside from some very nice residential neighborhoods, and was surprisingly hilly.

The race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch


Being among the slowest in our group, I was surprised then to see most of them still there at the finish line when I got there. It was nice to be able to congratulate Jann and Mike for finished their 50th and to be a part of their finish line celebration.

Me, Jim, and Jann at the finish line

Me and Jann

We made plans to all meet for a late lunch at the nearby Hooter's. I walked through the finish line party area to the tent where I could collect my Remix Medal, and then walked back to the hotel, stopping first at the Starbucks off the lobby to get a cappuccino to take back to my room.

Remix medal (for doing both 5K and Half) and
Half Marathon finisher medal

At 2:00 PM, I headed out for the short walk to Hooters, and soon the others began to arrive. We had a great lunch and visit with everyone, before some had to leave for the airport.

Me and Jann at Hooter's. She did it...finished her 50th state!

That evening I had a light room service dinner and started packing for my next day's departure. In the morning I walked to the Starbucks near the convention center, just to give my legs a stretch post-race and before getting onto an airplane.

An uneventful ride to the airport and an uneventful flight and I was back to Houston, back to my car, back to the house by 6:30 PM. It was a great trip and so wonderful to see my running friends again to to help Jann and Mike celebrate their accomplishment.

Next on the calendar: my much-anticipated trip to Vancouver for another half marathon and to complete a race in another Canadian Province.

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