MY 50 STATES MARATHON JOURNEY
I first heard about the 50 States Marathon Club in the spring of 2012. I went to Indiana for a marathon and a fellow Marathon Maniac club member was celebrating her finish of the 50 states. I did the math and realized at this point I had already done five states. I discovered that you can join the club once you have ten states completed. It was another year before I hit my tenth state and joined. From there, the craziness began. It became a nine year obsession that involved my husband taking all his vacation time to travel to races with me.
It got expensive to fly or drive to just get one new state, so I started doing multi state events on a trip. Several times I would do a race in one state on a Saturday then immediately hop in the car and drive to do a race in another state on Sunday. One time I did a series of races that was five marathons in five states in five days. Looking back I counted 16 flights to races and 17 road trips by car or RV.
I’ve seen some pretty cool things on this journey. I’ve seen a moose, cougar, bald eagles, snowy owls, whales, loose dogs and a few crazy creepy dudes. I’ve run on highways, trails, bridges, railroad trestles, and boardwalks. I passed everything from state capital buildings to cornfields. And I’ve run some places you normally can’t. I got to experience running a lap on a Nascar speedway, a loop at Churchill Downs, and across the football field at the Marshall University stadium carrying a football to the end zone finish line. I even once ran a mile underwater in the tunnel between Canada and Michigan. I’ve done marathons in temperatures from 10-90 degrees, on beautiful sunny days and also in snow, driving rain, mud, 50 mph winds and once had to go thru nearly waist deep water in frigid temperatures. Some courses were in amazing forests or mountain ranges while others were entirely on the beach and yet another was a series of loops through a parking lot.
I had things go wrong along the way. One race was cancelled because of a hurricane, twice we had flat tires, I was sick for a few races, and one time I had a stress fracture in my femur that required surgery. I also DNF’d (did not finish) a few ultra marathons and had to go back and repeat the states. I nearly didn’t make it to the 50th state because my husband broke his leg the week before and needed surgery.
I’ve eaten mounds of bacon and drank probably a hundreds dixie cups of beer along the routes. I took up every offer for a “free hug” by a spectator. I listened to podcasts and music, but mostly I talked to the other runners. I’ve run races with friends, my husband and even my brother. At my last race I wore a bib on my back that said it was my 50th state finish. Tons of people congratulated and cheered me on, but the most special was when a man named Steve Fuller passed me. He wished me well on my journey and told me he was the first U.S. citizen to finish a marathon in every state back in 1986.
Many times I finished in the middle of the pack, a few times I’ve come in last and one time I was fortunate enough to take first place female at a marathon and fifth overall. People often ask me what I got for winning the race, well- I got the same medal everyone else did, and maybe some bragging rights.
For finishing my races I’ve received everything from a tiny ribbon to probably one the biggest finisher medal ever made. My real reward though was seeing this great country, while my husband drove me from race to race. It was making friends in each state. It was crossing the finish line with one of my border collies. It was seeing the sun rise and set while I ran marathons all over the U.S.
I’ve now accomplished something that less than 1,500 people have done. I sit here and shake my head because it all went by so fast. If I could do it all over again...well, maybe I will. But don’t tell my husband just yet.