“But the Colorado rocky mountain high I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye Rocky mountain high”
– John Denver “Rocky Mountain High”
The other day was gorgeous outside, with the sun shining and 65°F. I mean, it could have been 50°F, and, as a New Englander, I would have thrown on shorts and celebrated! The temperature was incredible, and the snow finally melted. I went for a run, and along the way, as I allowed myself to fall deep into thought, I reflected on my favorite half marathons. I have spoken of them before on this blog, but my memory kept bringing me back to Denver, CO. The Rock n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon is one of the best races I have ever run, and I mentioned it in an August 2020 post. Denver is a fantastic city, and this was an awesome trip.
As I mentioned in one of last month’s posts, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”, my brother Jeff promised that if we ran the Rock n’ Roll Brooklyn race in 2016, he would support me in selecting a race destination, further away, in 2017. Knowing exactly where I wanted to go and supported by a series of welcomed cosmic occurrences, the stars seemed to align. I went to Jeff with my request to run in Denver. Join me as I explore the city, the race once again, but honestly, for the first time, first observing the emotional connection that sparked my need to visit the city and see the mountains I had read about, or more importantly, heard about in songs.
“I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack.”
– Zach Galifianakis (Alan) from The Hangover (2009)
In the long history of my life, which isn’t that long at all, I have never had a ton of friends. Sure, I have close friends from my past who I am still in contact with from time to time. I communicate with colleagues and classmates who I met along the way and positively impacted me. But friends I hang out with and talk to frequently are a much smaller group, at least in terms of number. Over the last decade, I built a small group who I consider great friends. So, it should be of no surprise that when returning from my month-long stay in Shanghai, China, in July of 2018, I was invited by a couple of those close friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia; I responded yes. This group of friends goes on a trip once a year, usually to visit a Major League Baseball stadium, test out the local breweries, and eat fantastic food. I was thrilled to be invited. I had not been on one of their weekend excursions, but I enjoyed playing softball and exploring breweries with these four guys, so I was eager and excited to join them. Filled with history, a couple of breweries, and a visit to Citizens Bank Park, this trip became an unforgettable memory.
“In Brooklyn on a Saturday night, Saturday night, yeah, Talkin’ bout Brooklyn on a Saturday night”
– “Brooklyn on a Saturday Night” by Neil Diamond
I have spent two fabulous Saturday nights in Brooklyn. That might not be enough, true, but I spent both with family, fun was had by all, and I loved the city, its eateries, and its beer. My first experience in Brooklyn was with my brother Jeff. Together we ate, drank, and crushed the Brooklyn Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. It was a memorable weekend, and it was a running trip that we have modeled all our other trips after. The incredible times we had in other locations, and in subsequent years, was inspired by our “brother trip” to Brooklyn. As I have focused on and provided attention to a half marathon each month, this month, it’s time to lace up the sneakers, get some craft beer, eat delicious food and enjoy Brooklyn. Two brothers, 13.1 miles of scenic running, and the weekend that established a tradition.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
– John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address Delivered on Friday, January 20, 1961
Today is an exciting day in the United States. I have always been amazed by the American President’s inauguration. Maybe it was the countless hours I spent at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA. Those moments as I sat transfixed in front of the large screen, watching and listening to Kennedy’s inaugural address. As I observed this visual history in the museum exhibit, it was the first time I heard a speech that inspired me. It made me feel emotionally connected to history, the moment, the point of it all. As a historian, I continuously try to reclaim that connection to the past. That’s one of the reasons why I always wanted to visit Washington, D.C., and see the important monuments, museums and consider the nation’s collective memory of the past.
Four years ago this March, my wife and I traveled to Washington, D.C., so that I could run another Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. As I wrote in numerous blog posts about half marathon travel, I love Rock n’ Roll organized races. The half marathon I ran in Washington, D.C., is a perfect example of why I continue to travel and run. I enjoy traveling to D.C., and, especially as a historian, there is an endless amount to do. Since today is Inauguration Day and President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris will take the oath of office, I thought I would venture back to the nation’s capital and reflect on my last time there. Make sure your sneakers are tied and have your cold weather running gear because D.C. was frigid. The only way to remedy the freezing temperatures was running fast and eating some delicious food. Just beware of the eatery you go to; you might bump into someone unexpected.
“John Hammond: All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked! / Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
– Richard Attenborough & Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park
A year ago, in October of 2019, my wife and I accompanied my brother, his wife, and two daughters to Hershey, PA, for a theme park vacation and the running of a half marathon race. It was a fantastic weekend, filled with Hershey candy, beer, running, great food, some intense roller coasters, and of course, October family fun. It is strange to think back to last October and consider that it has been a year since our family trip, now with a new October upon us. With the pandemic hitting only a few months later, it seems the trip got lost in my recollection, and now, with the return of fall, I seek to both remember the journey and see hope in its enjoyment.
“Nashville could just as soon be called Punk City or Rock City. You are just as likely to find the word artisanal hanging over the door of a sandwich shop or a cupcake shop or the slow-drip-coffee laptop zone as anywhere in the land of man buns in the cities of the North.”
– Anthony Bourdain in “Nashville” of Parts Unknown
By the end of this post, you will see that I love Nashville, TN. In April of 2018, my wife Corinne, brother Jeff, sister-in-law Lauren, and I traveled to the hip, fun, and lively Music City. This trip brought tons of fun and left me wondering why I had never considered Nashville before. Filled with the NFL Draft, breweries, a half marathon, tons of BBQ, and side trips to historic sites, my trip to Nashville proved far better than I could ever imagine. What started as a trip to run the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon turned into a beautiful memory that, especially during this pandemic, can easily be called upon to provide happy feelings when I am feeling down.
My brother and I run a half marathon every October or November and have done so since 2014. After an incredible trip to Denver in October of 2017, we wanted to find another fun and unique location. After some research and internet scouting, I discovered that the Rock n’ Roll Marathon series was going to be in Nashville, and it just so happened that the NFL would be holding the draft the same weekend. I talked to my brother and my wife, and we decided to make it a group trip to the city. We booked our flights, registered for the race, and secured an Airbnb in East Nashville. We were ready, but was Nashville prepared for us!
With no half marathons held and those I had wanted to run canceled I have begun to reflect on the ones I have run since 2014. I have recently tried to consider which one was the best, most unique, was in the best location, had the best expo, and so on. Therefore, in this post, I will give my thoughts on the Top 4 Half Marathons I have run.
For this list, I will go backward from 4 to 1, with my number one race separated in another blog post. This ranking is not to disparage any of the races I have done, or those that are ranked lower, but instead to credit those four half marathons I feel were the best overall! I analyzed the beauty of the course, the success of the Expo, the medal’s awesomeness, whether I enjoyed the city hosting the race, the accommodations, and the overall experience the “runcation.”
As I wrote in my Half Marathon Travel page, I have run 16 Half Marathons in 13 different states plus Washington, DC. All of them have gifted me with memories of travel, fulfillment, and progress. I started running half marathons in 2014, and the itch has never stopped. I am constantly looking for new races, especially those that can I can plan a travel vacation around—what a great way to jump-start a travel idea. Look for fun races in cool places; register, book it, prepare, and go!
So, without delay, let’s get to my top 4 half marathons that I have run, so far…