This was a birthday trip – I was about to turn 40 in February and wanted to take a family trip somewhere fun. Adam loves Texas and the girls had never been that far west. I did some searching and found this marathon, which I fell in love with from the start. The Miracle Match Marathon has a great story. The marathon was created by one of Waco’s firefighters, C.W. Whorton. An honorable 100% of their proceeds support Be the Match, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. In addition to contributing financially, the race supports the program by allowing folks to join the National Marrow Donor Registry on race weekend. Since its inception, four of Waco’s firefighters have donated marrow or stem cells to patients in need and likely hundreds have signed up for the Registry (39 in 2018, according to their website).
Throughout the course you will find information on Mile Marker Honorees – individuals who have been affected by stem cell or marrow donation and for whom that particular mile of the course is dedicated in honor. This is a race that is all about doing good things for those who need some good, and I was all in.
An added bonus is the fact that the race is held in Waco, Texas, and my family happens to be huge fans of the show The Fixer Upper. We were convinced that Chip and Joanna Gaines would want to come to cheer me on.
This was the one other race course, besides Sugarloaf, that I drove before the race. I was concerned about the hills and wanted to get a sense of what was in store. I didn’t know if the warnings on the website were just a “everything is big in Texas” thing, but it’s true – the hills are big. In fact, there were a few sections where I walked as part of my racing strategy, and that proved to be a very good choice. For example, I walked some of the hills in the McLennan Community College campus (around mile 20), and this gave me what I needed for a strong final 10K.
Near the beginning of the race you run through Baylor University. I was a little confused by some of the twists and turns through here, so don’t be afraid to speak up and confirm with officials that you are on the right track. You then navigate through a residential area, which had some decent rolling hills and is the least beautiful of the areas on the course.
I knew what was in store, though, and that pushed me forward, even if the scenery didn’t. My husband and kids parked at the Waco High School to lend me support, and this proved to be perfect timing. The high school is right after you get out of the residential area, somewhere between mile 10 and 11. The wind kicked up at this point and I knew I was about to head onto Lakeshore Drive and into the hills. I really appreciated the “send-off” support because I needed some motivation. After seeing me, my family was off to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum to kill some time while they waited for me to finish. My husband LOVED the museum and the girls thought it was interesting too, although Adam was clearly the bigger fan. https://www.texasranger.org/
The rest of the marathon after Waco High School is very pretty and very challenging! Definitely save your energy for these 15 or so miles. At mile 24, there is the Jacob’s Ladder Challenge, which I did NOT do. Check out the page detailing it, though, because it is one of the fun twists that makes this marathon unique. https://miraclematchmarathon.com/general-info/jacobs-ladder-challenge/
In the last mile or two, I recall being in a park area that had a single painted line running down the middle of the paved path. All I remember is focusing hard on that line. I was spent at that point and just wanted to get to the end. Before I knew it, I heard the cheers from the crowd and thought I heard one of my girls yell out in support. That was all I needed for the final push. I remember having to get up one more hill from the park path up to the finishing line on Waco’s Suspension Bridge, which seemed like torture. But the bridge is a fun place to finish, and there’s a great party when you are done, with fajitas and beer (which I do not drink – Adam always benefits from my beer tickets!). Plus, the swag was great – a neon beanie that I still wear running for visibility, and a metal water bottle in addition to your shirt.
The medals are handcrafted by Tim Anderson, Engineer and Equipment Operator with the Waco Fire Department. Tim Anderson is also a stem cell donor. I believe that he also makes the medals for the age-group awards, which are very cool. I was lucky enough to receive one.
Of note, we stayed at a nearby hotel and I was able to go back and shower before the awards ceremony. I wish I could remember the name of this hotel, and searched my records for it, but I cannot. I don’t recall having any trouble finding a good hotel in the area, though. I mention this just because there was a decent gap of time between my finish and the awards ceremony, so you would want to be mindful of that.
I really love this race and would return in a heartbeat. The people were great, the course was challenging, the scenery was beautiful, there were fun little additions that made it memorable, and I found it very well organized.
Onto the other fun stuff, since this was a family trip too! We flew into Dallas/Forth Worth, which was a direct flight from Boston. We stopped by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which was so awesome, I am still gushing over it. https://www.moneyfactory.gov/fortworthtxtours.html Admission is free and you do not need reservations for the self-tours. The audio tour kept the kids engaged and there were lots of interactive exhibits. Plus, you get to watch our money get made as you walk through the production floor on a suspended walkway overhead. I highly recommend this stop.
From there, we went to the Fort Worth Stockyards. https://www.fortworthstockyards.org/ This is such a fun area! We watched the daily cattle drive from up close and the kids tried out the Cattle Pen Maze. Adam surprised me in some chaps when I toured the corner of one of the great shops, and we had a fabulous BBQ dinner at Riscky’s Barbeque. https://risckys.com/risckys-bbq/ Riscky’s had a good gluten free selection and something for the entire family.
From there we spent a really fun evening at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk. https://www.fortworthstockyards.org/play/billy-bobs-texas They have free line dancing lessons every Thursday night at 7 p.m. – the girls and I gave it a try and had SO much fun! There’s also this really cool wall of hand prints and autographs from dozens – maybe hundreds – of artists such as Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash. Don’t hesitate to bring your kids to this honky-tonk on a weekday night – it was not an adult-only venue. Yes, there is drinking and dancing, but nothing worse than what you see at a wedding!
We also hit up the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo before leaving town. I highly recommend this as well. We have a lot of country fairs in Maine, but it is so much fun to go to a Texas fair. We had never been to anything like the rodeo before either, and it was truly amazing. People think marathoners are a little nuts . . . those men and women are really nuts!
Also, right there at the Fair you can go to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. http://www.cowgirl.net/ We really enjoyed this museum, where you get to learn about more than 750 accomplished “pioneers, artists, writers, entertainers, humanitarians, business women, educators, ranchers and rodeo cowgirls,” such as Annie Oakley, Georgia O’Keefe, and Sandra Day O’Connor. There were lots of interactive exhibits on display and I dare say the girls were inspired.
The only sort of flop on the trip was our visit to the Waco Mammoth National Monument. I thought that the dig site was super cool, but I guess the girls were not impressed with the bones in the dirt. Every time I bring it up I get lukewarm responses. However, it does not take long to explore, is super cheap, and you are not going to see anything else like it back home. https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm I’m glad we went, even if the response from the girls wasn’t overwhelming.
Finally, no trip to Waco would be complete without a stop at The Silos and Magnolia Market. The girls ate some delicious cupcakes, we bought t-shirts (Addy’s appropriately bearing the slogan #demoday), and we played soccer in front of the Silos. We also found our way to the Harp Design Co. Shop, where we picked up the beautiful wall hanging of the contiguous 48 states that makes up my profile picture on my Instagram account. Sadly, Chip and Joanna did not come out to extend their good wishes for a successful race, but maybe next time!
This was such a fun trip – a true favorite!
“A goal is just an awesome way to force growth on yourself.” – Deena Kastor