Eisenhower Marathon, April 9, 2011 – Kansas, my 48th State!

We left for Kansas City, MO, very early on Thursday morning, and arrived around in KC around 11am central time. We were starving so we picked up our baggage and our rental car and headed for Arthur Bryant’s BBQ shortly after leaving the airport. After a very filling lunch, we drove on to Abilene, passing through Manhattan and Topeka, about a 2 hour drive. Abilene is a small town (6500 population) in the middle of Kansas farm country. It’s claim to fame is as the home town of Dwight D. Eisenhower (hence the name of the race), and the Eisenhower Presidential Library and boyhood home are located right in the center of town. We checked into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, just north of town, and then explored the downtown area a bit. We stopped at the one bookstore in town and looked at some of the other shops, One of the most intriguing places we visited was the Greyhound Hall of Fame. There we met the two friendly resident greyhounds, retired from racing, and learned quite a bit about the raising of these dogs and the racing culture. I am not a gambler and so the betting aspect held no interest for me, but those dogs are just so appealing that I would have adopted several on the spot. My husband reigned me in, reminding me that we had a little Yorkie waiting for us at home, but I think with a little bit of work I can talk him into getting a retired greyhound for our next dog. We had dinner at a local Subway and then back to the room to wind down and sleep.

Next morning, we slept in (which for me meant 5 am) and had breakfast at the hotel. At 9, we drove to the center of town and toured the Eisenhower Library and Museum (which included his boyhood home). We then had lunch at Mr. K’s Farmhouse Restaurant, supposedly a favorite place where Ike liked to dine. Very downhome atmosphere, tablecloths vinyl, napkins cloth, food good, especially the homemade apple pie. Packet pickup began at 2pm back at the Eisenhower center, so after lunch we headed back there – I got my bib, chip, and short-sleeved tech tee shirt (bright blue with white and yellow letters, attractive and it fit for a change). The packet had a better map (the one on the website was impossible to read with my aging eyes) with all the aid stations marked and other useful information. Since the course was on roads, we decided to drive the actual course. I am glad we did, because it gave me a much better idea of what I would be up against on race day. The major part of the race was on highway 15 which would be completely closed to traffic for 6 hours and then would reopen, with slower racers having to deal with traffic but there is a 3 mile section in a somewhat shady park that runners go through both going and coming. Small but easy to see yellow signs with red arrows marked the route and were especially helpful in the park.

Race day dawned clear and cool, 66 degrees, and temps were expected to reach 90 degrees. Yes, you read that right – 90 degrees!! While I spend a lot of time training in hot humid weather, doing a road race in that kind of heat, with no shade except for a bit in the park, was daunting. However, for me, warm is better than cool, so I was not really worried. We left the hotel for the starting line at 6:15 am and watched people arrive. There was a breakfast for runners and guests but just the thought of food at that point was unsetting to me. And there had been a pasta dinner the evening before, but we missed that as well, so I can’t describe the food or whether it was worthwhile to attend. One report I had read stated that the meal was typical high school cafeteria type food. Since I usually skip the pasta dinner unless I want to hear a speaker, we hadn’t planned on going to this one.

The race began 5 minutes early (first time THAT ever happened) and marathoners and half marathoners all lined up on Buckeye Avenue, the main street in town. The 5 and 10 k races began a half hour later. A group from Chicago sang the Star Spangled Banner, we all counted down from 10, and we were off! Of course, most of the group were half-ers and at the 6 1/2 mile point, they turned around to head back to the finish line( which was also the starting line). It got pretty lonely after that; for much of the race I was by myself, out in beautiful Kansas farmland, with some friendly neighbors cheering me on and the wonderful and patient volunteers at the aid stations. I took my jacket off and tied it around my waist at the 2 mile marker, since it was already starting to get warm. I was glad I had decided to wear a short sleeve tech shirt and my Maniac singlet, with just the jacket to keep my arms warm in the early stages. At least a dozen other Maniacs were there, so I was glad I wore my ‘colors’ so I could be easily identified. On the way to the turn-around, I was a bit concerned that it might rain, with thunder and lightning (and possibly a tornado or two – after all, this IS Kansas, the land of Dorothy, Toto, and Oz) but the weather remained clear and warm.

Though this was a small race, with fewer than 200 people doing the full marathon, I did recognize a few familiar faces. Jerry from Illinois passed me with his familiar jog. He is faster than me for the first 5-6 miles of a race and then I usually catch up to him with my steady but fairly speedy walking gait. He took a neat photo of me as we passed each other at the turnaround.

I think the heat was starting to get to most folks and several runners began to slow their pace as the sun and humidity both rose. However, I was definitely in the back of the pack – just a half dozen or so people were behind me. I passed a Maniac from Florida who had also been at Live Oak and earlier I had seen Larry Macon, another Maniac, at some point on the out and back (he was ahead of me).

Funny, distances here seemed similar to those in the high desert of Nevada when I did the Extraterrestrial 51k – landmarks looked much closer than they really were. With the roads so straight, I would think the next mile marker was very close but NOT SO – it was very disorienting. I was glad to finally reach the finish line, just making it with 10 minutes to spare before the 6 hour time limit. Finished 3rd in my age group. I went in to the Eisenhower Center to change my clothes and wash up before we left and by the time I came outside, the finish line banner was being dismantled and timing mat was rolled up – although my friend Jerry finished in 6:39 and the last finisher at 7:03, so the race organizers and volunteers stayed to make sure that these determined participants got an official time and medal. That was very reassuring.

We drove back to Kansas City, checked in to Embassy Suites at the airport, ate a filling meal at Hereford House, and then to bed for an early flight back to Florida.

All in all, a good race to do in Kansas. Now only 2 states left in my 50 state quest.

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