It was a revolution of sorts when I went to go run my home state. I had already run five marathons in Oregon and had only paid for one so first off it was hard to talk me into just paying for one. Heck even just before I left I was offered a free pass to the Portland Marathon and turned it down due to an injury – this would never happen nowadays. I would struggle through. So, when I came back to Iowa with no job and consequently no money, running was not on my mind. I had also suffered an injury so when I went to the gym in Iowa and got a new trainer? I told him I wanted to be bigger. He did not do his job. I lost ten pounds in less than two months. So here I had worked and worked my way to get up to be 195 (by the way this is considered a Clydesdale in some marathon circles and can get you extra prizes) and now I was at 185.

I had always joked that my running weight would be 170 but that was not a weight I had really ever wanted to get to and then when work started at my new job at a call center I was more concerned than ever I would be gaining weight. I was able to keep my weight right at 180 after that sudden weight loss and not lose much more muscle mass. But upcoming was the Des Moines Marathon and there was one person who was not letting me forget about it any time soon – my aunt. She hounded me about it weekly and how she wanted to run her first half marathon. I had inspired her by telling her I knew she could do it. She did not want to do it though unless I ran it. And of course, I had this nagging injury so I just could not commit and lose the money – that was so precious – if I could not run it!

It took forever for me to commit to the marathon but I finally did when I ran into a former good looking friend at the gym who confided in me that she was considering it too. She had worked in my department and had just moved on but she was really cute and a marathon would be the perfect way for me to stay in contact with her! I told her that one faithful morning I saw her at the gym that if she was going to run I was going to run and we should train together. She said she really was thinking about it so I went home and decided to sign up. I emailed her a couple days later (knowing me it was Tuesday) and waited to hear from her… yeah, that never happened. And considering she never showed up to the gym again after that it was all pretty much a sign, so I just gave up on her and trained by myself.

I didn’t do much training for the marathon I hadn’t ever done before – possibly less but I was really concerned about my left hamstring. At the Eugene marathon almost a year and a half before, I felt a strain over there and had yet to recover fully. I soon found out the best way for runners to recover from an injury? Run through it! I made it through training and got to the start line on that faithful October morning.

My aunt was there too and she made her way to the back – it was her first and she did not want to get in the way. I ended up standing by a couple friends who I had no idea were running the race! It was nice to see a couple of friends from different walks of life where I knew their stories and had no idea they would be here. After that I ran into a pacer (the people who hold the times and keep a standard pace during the race) and it was a former fellow cross country runner and teammate Guy Willey! He was pacing for 3:10 and I was silly enough to start with him. At this time my best time was 3:31.

We took off and really, I did not know it at the time, but Des Moines has a fantastic course. I had only run the Oregon courses at this point and honestly, I only thought about what was different. Now through a more discerning eye – I can only tell you things I like about this course!

First, the course opens up on some pretty major roads and does an out of about 6 blocks before turning back and doing 10 blocks on what seem like 4 lane roads for at least 16 blocks. The point? When the road is this open then people are less likely to get in the way at the start and passing is easy. The marathon does not have to have corrals and we all start at the same time. The halfers are there and running right with you – I just love this.

However then about 3 miles into the race, the halfers cut off and run their own way and the full marathon starts winding its way through the back roads of Des Moines and you get to see some cool neighborhoods in the city I call home. They do a great job of including hills and it was nice to run in a little pack we formed as we kept going up and down. At the halfway point, we all got to do one lap on the Drake track (pretty famous track actually) and see our faces up on a huge scoreboard screen. It was just put together so well and I kept waiting to fall back but I was still stuck in that pack – right where I wanted to be. I was still going pretty good when we started winding down some back path that I have yet to see since this run.

There in the silence of just runners, it was time to strip off the Under Armour and walk for a bit. Now, when I first started running these marathons I always stopped to walk for a bit. It has always shocked people I could do so well with walking and it was not until Missouri (yet to come) that I did run my first marathon fully running. I just felt tired, my legs burned and I wanted to regroup. No reason to hurt myself.

I got going again to meet up with the halfers and pass them left and right until I walked again but I knew the 3:10 guy was coming and I kept pushing. The course winded around to circle Grey’s Lake and really any lake in a marathon is pretty – in this case it is magnificent. Des Moines is proud of this beauty and I ensure you their marathon makes sure to show you some of the greatest parts of the city – downtown, Drake and Grey’s Lake. I am not sure I would ask for much else – I think we even went by the sculpture garden. The 3:20 guy passed me around Mile 24 and I knew it was true. I just always wondered what happened to my pacer friend?

The only other highlight? A girl who passed me around Mile 25 with what looked like dark mud running down both sides of her butt cheeks. I remember thinking – she shit her pants. Oddly enough? I was not in the gutter on this one at least five other people commented on it first thing. I came in shaving a full six minutes off my previous best and amped to run again.

Of course Ginger already had me talked into the Disney Marathon by this time and away we went. Having just completed her first half, she had already fallen in love. The quest for 50 states happened just after this – actually my Disney time was about ten seconds slower than Iowa – but my thirst was just starting. Thankfully she has been with me the entire time as we run most of these runs together. However my bug is farther reaching as I remembered searching for a marathon in March even after we committed to Kansas and North Dakota almost immediately right after Disney.

And the weight? It keeps dropping as do the times. Maybe I do owe that trainer a thanks? Maybe he knew all along I would be better off without the weight than with the bulk? Who knows? We never really talk though he always congratulates me on my runs. And the girl, I have never seen her since and I have not a clue if she even ran that marathon or any after it.

It has been a strange and fantastic ride so far and I never would have thought I would owe so much of it to my home state. And my suggestion if you have to ever get Iowa off your list? I doubt you can do better than Des Moines!


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