First, I have got to share this video. If you run marathons you’ll probably get a laugh:

OK, now onto my recap of Day 4 of the Center of the Nation Series, which was Montana I ! But of course if you’ve missed Part 1 just go here. For Part 2 go here and for Part 3 go here.

After another early morning wake up call (I think about 3:30am), the team got ready and packed up for the day (we actually needed to pack an overnight bag as we would be driving directly to Nebraska to a Hampton Inn after we were done running in Montana.)

The night before was the harvest full moon:

havin' a howlin' good time

Taken from the deck of our the cabin

And when we arrived at the Montana course, it was just before sunrise and the moon was still out:

Me and the moon

Me and the moon

The course was situated on a ranch in Albion, Montana where an old schoolhouse remained. This course was my FAVORITE of the courses for a few reasons.

1. The weather starting out was great! Cold and windy but invigorating and the sun arose to give the most beautiful lighting. Everyone looked like they were glowing!. (It actually got to be overcast and so ridiculously windy that it became a challenge about 5 miles in and I really did feel for the full marathoners who had to fight it way longer than I did) But I always focus on the positive right?!


Photo courtesy of Timothy Nohe and thank god for him because this is the only real running shot of me and I’m glowing.

2. The scenery. Coming from New York City, it isn’t often I see vast open skies and cattle (or bison or buffalo i’m not sure).


3. The course length. Instead of 6 complete laps of 2ish mile out and backs (12 for the full) we did 4 complete laps (with the full doing 8) on a course that was probably just more than a 5k. Psychologically this made the run go by so much faster (although my finish time was not fast. Ha.)

There was really one challenge for me and that was the terrain. The loose gravel road sloped a lot so that you were running at times with one leg much higher off the ground than the other. And if you wanted to pass someone you had to step over into the looser gravel which felt like you were running in sand. But again, I wasn’t passing many people and I wasn’t out there as long as the full marathoners so this wasn’t too much of a challenge for me.

Mike's got the glow too!

Mike’s got the glow too! Photo courtesy of Timothy Nohe

But you can see from these next few pics how windy it got and how cold some of the runners were. One speedy runner actually chose to keep his blue jeans on for warmth!

Elvia the mayor and her new friend Dave

Elvia the mayor and her new friend Dave

Zoro! No wait, that's just Elvia keeping warm.

Zoro! No wait, that’s just Elvia keeping warm.

Roger with a smile

Roger with a smile

I like to call this the Mona Lisa Landscape

I like to call this the Mona Lisa Landscape

Again, there was lots of great support from the turnaround crew and so many inspiration people to watch including this couple who ran all 5 full marathons:

the couple that runs together stays together! so adorable!

the couple that runs together stays together! so adorable!

And the aid station and volunteers just continued to be top notch! I finished in 2:37:52 and went into the van to get warm and change and then I walked some of the course with Lisa here and there and cheered people on while binging on a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips! Soon the full marathoners were finishing. Mike finished up first, then Roger and Lisa and Elvia.


Mike taking off the well earned rubberbands from lisa’s carabiner. She did it. All the full marathoners realized on this day that they had just finished over 100 miles so far.


This cold and windy weather rocks….for 5 minutes and then it’s bone chilling….where are the keys to the van?!

We took a few post race pics and got back into the warm van to make our way to Nebraska, but not without a celebratory photo op at the Montana state line.


The Dicks Sporting Goods #runfor alum!


Tim the Great with his favorite Dicks Sporting Goods #runfor “celebrities”




another slow run….but super happy about the sunshine….and the state sign….and of course the bling!

Tomorrow I will be posting the last in this series of recaps. It’s kind of sad. But there are so many more races on the horizon. And I think I might have more to say about this trip after I’ve reflected some more.

To be continued…

Welcome to Part 3 of my recap of the Center of the Nation Series. Of course if you’ve missed part 2 just go here and if you missed part 1 just go here.

In my last post I covered off on South Dakota’s race. That brings us to our Wednesday in Wyoming! I’ve got LOTS to talk about for hump day.

First, let me start off by saying the course in Wyoming was breathtaking.


Sunrise on the ranch is what I call morning glory!

It was an out and back course on a family ranch (thank you Jensen family). Terrain was loose gravel and dirt, mostly flat with one hill leading up to the turnaround. This was where we first got to experience the “turnaround crew” or as others called them the “ice guys” (photo to come for Day 5 recap) . They were 2 of the many amazing volunteers. These 2 guys spent countless hours at the turnaround cheering everyone on and offering water and ice (it was a HOT HOT day). They gave out free hugs too.

The morning started with a speech from Roger. He had asked that this day be “Boston Day” and that people wear blue and yellow. He was ponying up $5 for every person in blue and yellow up to $500. Long story short, Roger lost over a hundred pounds and he did it for the main reason that he wanted to run the Boston Marathon because his dad had run it. And simultaneous to that he wanted badly to raise money on behalf of his niece Julia who’s been battling with Cystic Fybrosis.




Boston Day!


Red Sox in support of Boston worn by none other than Clint our amazing race director!


Good morning!

Because the course was made of loose gravel and dirt, I opted to wear these lovely zebra print gaiters that my friend Shishaldin made. (She made them for all 5 of us. And two different patterns too!)

Gaiters made with love. Thanks Shishaldin!

Gaiters made with love. Thanks Shishaldin!

So the only teensy weensy problem on this day was my tummy…..not sure if it was the fast food we had the day before or nerves or what but I was REALLY uncomfortable for the entire run. And there were times were I had no choice but to walk and pray for the “urge” to pass. Thankfully I made it to the finish before heading over to the lovely “powder room”.


At least my $11 blue capri pants purchased the night before from Walmart were a success!

Between Roger’s speech in the morning and then feeling physically ill, my emotional state became compromised for sure. I think it was at about mile 12 that I started to cry. But it wasn’t really a bad cry. It was a GOOD cry. I had that moment where I realized how lucky I was to be able to travel and run and experience life.

There were a few more highlights of the day….a new friend Daniel was closing in on the finish line for the half just as I was closing in on it too….only I still had to complete 2 more laps. But Daniel was struggling those last few minutes and I picked up the paced and supported him and cheered for him and got him to the finish. Of course then I gave him a congratulatory hug and went back out for my final 4 miles. (This was my slowest day. 2:43 finish time.)


Daniel wore superhero shirts every day and came in first place for all 5 halves. All were between 1:42 and 1:55. Amazing!!!

Another highlight was getting to know two really inspirational guys. Meet Grant and Aaron:


These guys are working towards completing 50 marathons this year, raising money for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for spinal cord injury research. You can find out more about their efforts and donate here. There was also another runner who had a graphite prosthetic. I didn’t know his story until just today when someone shared this article.


Slow time….fun gaiters…..my favorite state sign of the trip….and more bling!

With Wyoming complete, we headed back to our cabin but not before making a stop at the state line for a photo op:


To be continued.

Question: If you could only see one would it be a sunrise or a sunset? Ever had a runner’s trots issue?


Welcome to Part 2 of my recap of the Center of the Nation Series. Of course if you’ve missed part 1 just go here.

So we’ve covered off on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and the first of 5 marathon/half marathons which was in North Dakota. Tuesday we ran a course in the geographical center of the nation: Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

Center of the Nation Belle Fourche South Dakota

Center of the Nation Belle Fourche South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Lisa

Before I go on about the race itself I wanted to tell you about a really cool connection that happened partly because of this video and this video and partly because of Belle Fourche being the location. A local resident of Belle Fourche, Tim was getting back into running after some time away from the sport. He saw a few of the Dicks Sporting Goods “Run For” videos (that Lisa, Roger and I had been a part of) and even shared them with friends and family after being inspired. Shortly after, while looking for races on Active.com he noticed 3 in a row that had Belle Fourche listed as the location. It intrigued him and so he emailed the race director Clint. Next thing you know, he came on board to help scout out some courses for the middle 3 events of the series and also participate in the half marathon on Tuesday (and volunteer on Wednesday and Thursday). On Facebook we had a special group for participants of the series and Tim spotted Roger’s name in the group first. Well, after some conversations we finally got to meet Tim just as soon as we landed at the airport. Tim is a pilot and was actually on Roger’s plane coming in.


Roger, Lisa, Tim, Sally and Elvia. Photo courtesy of Tim

Never did I personally think that the video I was part of would reach and inspire so many. I was actually just excited to share my story of how I got into running. But meeting Tim, who says he felt like he was meeting celebrities, made me realize that those videos were pretty darn impactful and successful! (you can also check out this other video of Roger that is pretty darn amazing too.) And what a total pleasure it was to meet Tim. Nothing better than to meet super nice people all over the country who share similar interests.

Ok, on to the course. The course was situated right at the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce center. It was mostly narrow concrete sidewalk with one stretch along a paved street that was also an out and back course with the full marathoners doing 12 laps and half marathoners doing 6. (the only difference was that the start was sort of in the middle so you went to the right and back to center and then to the left and back to center.


It’s Marathon Man


the bulk of the course was just like this. (more on the handcyclist in my next post!)

I really loved this course. This is where the realization came that the week would feel way more like a family get together than a week of races. (I think on day 1 I was still anxious about how I would really be able to run 5 straight double digit runs and I wasn’t as chatty.) There were runners and walkers of all ages (i think even in their 70s!) and paces which, combined with the course lap repeats left ample opportunity to smile and cheer for others. The biggest cheerleader was a marathoner named Alicia. She didn’t miss a beat, with our names written on our bibs, she was right there chanting “way to go Sally!” I’d nod and give her a thumbs up or sometimes just blurt out “ditto”. I’m terribly awkward and can’t get sensible sentences out when i’m running =)

Most often when I travel with my friends and they are signed up for the full while I run the half we basically say goodbye at the start and I see them later on after they’ve finished so I was really excited to see them every couple of miles. I was so impressed with not just the volunteers and organizers of the event, but the participants too. Everyone seemed to lend a hand picking up trash. Some half marathoners turned into cheerleaders or aid station volunteers when they finished their running. I found myself being the “paparazzi” and taking lots of pictures. I finished the half in 2:29 but have to say I really took it easy and was quite relaxed compared to Monday where I pushed hard. And by the end of this day I officially had conquered something new….back to back half marathons.


Half Marathon Finishers! Photo courtesy of Tim

Half Marathon Finishers! Photo courtesy of Tim

On this particular course it was almost 90 degrees by the time my friend Lisa was about 22 miles in and she was trying hard to stay cool. Even pouring cold water on her running tights. (someday i’ll post about how I think marathons are THREE times harder than half marathons but temperatures can really cause those last 10 miles of a marathon to be extremely difficult. It was about 20 degrees cooler when I finished my half.) Mike immediately went over to Lisa and started to walk along with her and then called me over. We walked for a while together and I think that helped distract Lisa from the heat. It felt like our training runs where we’d chit chat. And I discovered that I hadn’t really experienced Lisa in the final few miles of a marathon. She was funny! Reminded me of a happy drunk! It might have been dehydration and sun stroke but I noticed it for the remaining days as well. Roger is a numbers guy. With this event being 5 marathons in 5 days in 5 states he thought it’d be cool to finish each day in 5 hours. And so after finishing Monday technically in less than 5 he waited a few minutes before crossing the finish line to get an official time of 5 hours. And so Tuesday, he did the same. Elvia was really enjoying her time on the course. She was like the mayor, just striking up conversation left and right.

ironic that the 4 full marathoners matched?!

Just before the start. Ironic that the 4 full marathoners matched?!

Once we were all finished we piled into the car, made another quick trip to Walmart for a few more groceries and I also picked up a pair of blue running capris for the following day’s run. (Yep, I broke a cardinal rule of wearing something new on race day. I’m a rebel! More on the reason I needed blue pants in the first place in my next post!)

We then headed back to our lovely cabin and I cooked dinner for everyone. This is actually quite funny as I’m not a big cook. And the meal was a hit! I think that right there is a huge PR!


That’s potato, egg and cheese that I’m whipping up. A great pre-race meal. Photo courtesy of Lisa

family dinner

Family dinner! Photo courtesy of Lisa

Another successful day! Another run was done! And off to bed we went because we had another 4am wake up call to get ready for our Hump Day run in Wyoming…..to be continued.


7 days of highlights in one post….doable? Nah! Let’s just call this post Part 1 (Arrival into South Dakota, Sight Seeing and Day 1 race in North Dakota.)

Let’s start with a quick refresh for anyone who doesn’t know what the Center of the Nation Series is.

Mainly Marathons caters to runners and walkers looking to complete a marathon (or half marathon) in each of the 50 U.S. states by creating multi-day series’ of races throughout the country. The one I particiapted in this past week was called the Center of the Nation Series. It consisted of a marathon (or half marathon) for 5 consecutive days starting with North Dakota on Monday, South Dakota on Tuesday, Wyoming on Wednesday, Montana on Thursday and Nebraska on Friday.

I ran all 5 half marathons while my friends Roger, Lisa, Elvia and Mike ran the FULL marathons all 5 days.
None of us had run that many back to back events before.

Cast of characters:

5 friends

5 friends

We all arrived in Rapid City South Dakota by lunchtime on Saturday and got into our rental car to head to Mt. Rushmore for a little sight-seeing before reaching our final destination which was this AMAZING cabin in Whitewood, South Dakota (about 30 min from the airport) that Roger found.

Running on the ledge

Running on the ledge


5 days of running coming right up!

our home away from home

our home away from home

We took a “family” trip to Walmart to buy some food and other needs for the cabin. We also used the parking lot as our mobile office since we all had cell reception there. Our cabin’s only drawback was it’s lack of phone and data service. I’d get the random text through and if you sat on the toilet bowl and pointed your phone toward the window you’d get enough service to upload a pic to Facebook. I think that was a true eye-opener for me to realize I DO have an addiction to being “connected”.

Sunday was our one and only day to sleep in. We got up leisurely and had breakfast. Then we packed overnight bags and piled in the Suburban to head a few hours north to Bowman, North Dakota for our packet pickup. We made a few pitstops along the way to get a picture at the state line between North and South Dakota, and to add a bit of team spirit to our van with some nifty paint crayons.


adding a little spirit to our ride


Welcome to North Dakota!

We drove through Buffalo North Dakota that has a population of less than 200! And then we got to Bowman….a “big” town of 2000 people.


We headed to packet pick-up and buffet dinner and then back to the motel we had for the night to get some shut-eye.

picked up our bibs, shirts and top portion of our medal

picked up our bibs (oops it’s in the envelope), shirts and top portion of our medal

Monday morning we were off to run our first of 5 at a campground area near the Bowman Haley Dam.

cold and windy but we're ready to go!

cold and windy but we’re ready to go!

The course was an out and back of just over 2 miles (full marathons did this 12 times and half marathoners did this 6 times) mostly a packed gravel surface with a little loose gravel at the turnaround. It was EXTREMELY windy with gusts that were easily 30 mph. And there was one hill on the back part which of course had to be going INTO the wind making it a very challenging section of the course. On the other hand going out and down the hill was super speedy. I personally ran strong and knew that i’d have to conquer that hill 6 times so i pushed hard everywhere else and then slowly trotted and even walked at times up the hill. There are so many pros about an out and back repeated course. We had our cooler and knapsacks at the start and were able to shed layers, get more water or fuel etc every couple of miles. Also at this spot is where you get a rubber band for each lap completed so you could track how many laps you had left. There was also the most AMAZING aid stop I’ve ever seen. They had water, gatorade, sandwiches, cookies, chips, olives, first aid items, sunscreen and so much more. Let’s just say by day 5 I started experimenting with Reese’s peanut butter cups as fuel. SCORE! I finished in 2:16.

North Dakota: CHECK!

North Dakota: CHECK!

It was actually one of my top 3 fastest half times. Had there been no wind I might have even finished a bit faster. Out of 59 people I was 8th overall and 5th female. THAT NEVER HAPPENS! But since this event really is heavily run by the full marathoners and overall most runners were about quantity of races vs speediness I got a chance to feel like a rockstar. (that was quickly over with by the time we got to day 2 as I got slower. HA)

My full marathon superheros finished strong and managed to get up that hill in the wind an additional 6 times more than me hence making them superheros. Lisa decided to throw me a Japanese Animé pose just before crossing the finish line.

North Dakota 26.2 Done!

North Dakota 26.2 Done!

We piled in the car and headed back down to our cabin in South Dakota where we showered and relaxed, soaking our feet in the hot tub.



Then it was off to bed by 8pm so we’d be ready for our 4:30am wake up call to get ready for day 2…to be continued

Question: Ever run back to back marathons? What’s your wildest running story? Ever been to the Dakotas?