As I search for races to do in each and every state, my eye landed on a running festival in Frederick, Maryland. Knowing my college buddy, Evan, lived in Maryland, I asked him about it and he said, “Let’s do it!” So, we did it.
I drove up on Friday, stopping in Farmville, Virginia first. It was a bit out of the way but I haven’t been back there since I left five years ago. When I was in grad school, I had a wonderful opportunity to teach at Longwood University for one year. I met some of the best people in the world there at the university and it had been too long since we had seen each other. It was also good to hear that the department is expanding and that things are well in Farmville! It was also nice to see that the hotel Weyanoke has been remodeled and now offers some nice dining options and an incredible rooftop view of Farmville. This was very needed in Farmville!
After my visit, I then hit the road again. This time I was headed north to Frederick, Maryland. I was nearly there when it became dark. Then, the sky opened up and we were down to 20 mph on the interstate. It was pouring! I finally made it safely to my hotel. I’ve never been so relieved to see a Super 8! Incidentally, this is a nice Super 8! It had great reviews online and I was impressed.
The next day, I headed out to explore Frederick. This is one of my favorite parts of these races; exploring new territory! My buddy Evan would be coming into town around 3:00, so I had plenty of time. I found downtown, parked the car, and headed out on foot. I was so impressed. Frederick is a very nice little town. New Market is the main street where everything is. Coffee shops, restaurants, book stores, little breweries, ice cream shops, candy stores, and churches line the street. Some store owners passed out balloons to kids. Other stores had local artists doing chalk artwork on the sidewalk outside their shops. Dare I say it’s like Asheville but cooler? (ha) I loved the architecture of the homes and buildings and how no two buildings or homes were the same.
Then, in the distance, I noticed some spires that must belong to a prominent church in Frederick. As I got closer, I could tell it was an impressive structure.
A lady was outside potting some plants and I commented that she had a beautiful church. “Psst!” she said. “You should see the inside.” She then told me of how they had paid professionals to paint the outside of the church and they had done a terrible job. “See that spot?” “See where they messed that corner up over there?” She went on and on. I just thought the outside looked rustic (ha). She said it was going to cost them a million dollars to have it repainted. Wow. I seriously just thought it looked old and charming. We all see things different, right?
She then invited me to stop by at 1:00, when the tours began. I looked at my watch and realized that I had just enough time to grab some lunch and then I could be back for that tour.
I had some incredible totchos at a restaurant on New Market street. For those that don’t know (I didn’t), totchos are nachos that have been replaced with tater tots. They were amazing! I needed the carbs, ya know? 🙂
I made it back in time for the tour and I was one of the only people who showed up. I was so excited! I was afraid a crowd would show up and I wouldn’t get to talk to the guides as much. Once inside, I was greeted by the friendliest lady. She told me of how proud she was of this church, of how they were all like family and that many of them had family ties to the church that went back over 200 years! She told me that George Washington was only six years old when the church was built. She encouraged me to sign the guest book and I gladly obliged.
She told me of how the church was needed as a hospital for Civil War soldiers, but the benches (still original!) were bolted to the floor. That’s how they were built into the church. So, how were they going to treat soldiers with all those darn benches in the way? There was only one solution and that was to build a floor on top of the benches! So, that’s what they did. That’s why today there are no blood stained floors. The flooring was removed when the church was no longer needed to treat soldiers. How bizarre is that? The picture below is off the soldiers being treated.
As I walked through, I was asked to turn around and look up. There was the biggest organ I had ever seen. I think she told me it had 300 pipes. It was huge! It was installed in 1950 and is only the fourth organ the church has ever had. I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the ceiling is.
Two of the stained glass windows in the church are original. They were actually a very unattractive yellow/orange color. All the other stained glass has been bought by folks who are memorializing their lost ones. Sixteen families are memorialized in the stained glass windows. I regret not getting pictures of those two remaining, original windows.
I liked the windows depicting battles and victories best.
A chair was roped off toward the front of the church. That was the chair John Adams sat in when he visited the church. No one else is allowed to ever sit in it. Sure was tempting, though (ha). Incidentally, the benches, as I mentioned earlier, are original. However, they did make them just few inches wider so that they would be more comfortable. I guess we’ve expanded over the decades, right? haha
I was then told of how each piece over the altar had been donated over the years, and of how the scenery had changed over the decades. They had pictures of how things looked across the decades. It was so interesting.
This is what it looks like at Christmas. Wow…
They’ve had to expand twice over the past 275 years and, unfortunately, both times they had to relocate the cemetery that was by the church. That’s right, some of those graves have been moved twice! The tombstones were placed along the walkway to the church as a way of memorizing them and to try to make up for having to move the cemetery twice.
They have services at the church every Sunday but the crowds have been dwindling. That is concerning to the church and they hope that numbers begin going back up. The Christmas and Easter crowds still fill up the pews, however.
A lady who attended the church made a timeline of the church’s history and a timeline of our nation’s history. She put the two together and it was so impressive. She was a former employee of the Smithsonian. She did this for the church’s 275th anniversary.
This church was the first church in the United States to have an official Sunday School program! How cool is that? They call themselves the pioneers of the Sunday School movement.
They were also the first Lutheran seminary in the U.S.
At the end of the tour, I was handed over to a retired Lutheran minister. He was so elderly and pitiful. He showed me the grounds and how it takes 38 parishioners to manage it and keep the flowers looking nice and the buildings all cleaned and in tip-top shape. This is just one of the landscaped areas.
He began to tell me how discouraged he had become; how he sees the interest in church dwindling. He smiled as he told me of decades long ago when so many people would pack the churches to hear his sermons. He seemed tired. We talked for the longest time and I hope I made him feel a bit better.
I told him how much I had enjoyed our talk and he wished me luck in the race.
Speaking of which…it was time to meet Evan at the Fairgrounds to get our race packets!
I hurried down the streets to my car and then headed over to the Fairgrounds. I picked up my packet and met Evan. I was so glad his wife came because I had never met her. She also had their two-year old daughter and months-old son. They seemed like such a happy family. It was good to see them and to see them doing so well.
We all went out for some good old Italian that night to carb load and visit. I had the best spaghetti! Oh my gosh….
We parted ways for the night and said we’d see each other bright and early at the race. We dreaded what the weather might hold, and rightfully so.
I woke up and looked outside. It was just cloudy. I then looked at my phone and pulled up the radar. “Oh no.”
As we gathered at the starting line, the sky just opened up. People, I’m not talking just heavy rain, I’m talking absolute deluge! It was almost comical….almost. It literally started pouring just minutes before the start of the race. The mayor of Frederick welcomed us, then blew the air horn, and off we were. Trudging through water….lots and lots of water.
To make a long story short….it rained the whole race. Deluges came and went but we trudged onward. I actually don’t mind running in warm rain. Not that I would take advantage of this but one runner commented, “Hey, at least when it’s raining and you need to pee you can just pee. Who’s gonna know?” LOL
The worst hill of the race was mile 11. That just tears your heart out, ya know? My time had been so good and then that dad bern cotton pickin’ hill came along. It was so discouraging. But, I just pressed onward until I finally heard the finish line. In the good races you can hear the finish line before you see it.
To finish out the race we rain a lap around the track they show horses on at the Fairgrounds. That was the hardest turf to run on! It was so muddy and sloppy I could hardly get traction. That was rough.
So, with this race I have now ran a marathon or half marathon in six states. I have a long way to go and running in every state will not be easy. But I’m going to do it, so just be patient. We are going to have a HUGE party in Crossville when I knock out that 50th state (ha). I hope to grab Georgia and Kentucky this fall.
Each race has it’s own stories. I’ve been working on a book about my first marathon in Marquette. It’s called Mile 21. It’s a hoot of a story! (ha) Knocking out these first six states has been a heck of a journey, and I can’t wait to see what stories I’ll have to tell from the other 44 states!
Thanks for reading my story. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to tell as I knock out these other 44 states!
I never dreamed I’d be a runner and here I am on my 30-something race. I didn’t even start running until I was 27. Heck, I heard of a 80 year old woman who started running just here recently. She said she never thought she’d be a runner (ha).
Anyway, do something to surprise yourself and don’t get discouraged when you fall off the wagon. The more battle scars you have when you cross the finish line the more interesting your stories will be. 🙂
You all take care.