On November 8, 2009 I was standing outside of a high school in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, stretching my calves out before a half marathon. At that point I had run two or three halfs and I was excited to be doing another. As I stretched, I started talking with an older woman who also stretching just a few feet away from me. As we talked she told me that if she finished the race that day, it would be the 50th state she had completed a half marathon in.
I did not see her after the race, but I assume she finished. After the race I drove back to New Haven and somewhere on I-95 near New London I decided that I, too, was going to run a half marathon in all 50 states.
(Erica made me this shirt for Christmas a few years ago. I wear it during each of my races and then mark the new state when I finish)
I was not a runner until 2002 when I was 36 years old. I had tried to like running several times before that, but it never stuck. It was always way more pain than pleasure. It wasn’t until the age of 36 that I realized that I could slow down if the running started to hurt. Slowing down made all the difference. Suddenly, I began to see what other people like about running. There were times when everything felt smooth and fluid and for entire miles it could feel good. I got hooked.
Between 2002 and 2009 is ran 5Ks and an occasional 10K. I was never a speed demon, but I stuck with it pretty devotedly. (Just to be clear here---“devotedly” for me means I would run 3 or 4 times a week. I have never been, and will never be, a person who runs every day.) Once a year I would stretch it out and do the New Haven Road Race 20K, which translates to just over 12 miles. That race opened the door to trying a half marathon.
I liked the first one I ran and decided to do a half marathon every year in November to celebrate my birthday. For two or three years this arrangement worked for me.
But then I met that woman in New Hampshire.
There is a history of both heart disease and cancer on both sides of my family tree. Some portion of that history is due to habits and behaviors, but some other portion is due to genetics. I cannot change my genes (CRISPR technology is still way too expensive for me to get the at-home gene editing kit), but I can adjust my habits and behaviors to lessen my risk of developing some cancers and heart disease.
Running is an easy way to do something good for my body.
It is also an easy way to do something good for my mind. It is a reliable way to get some time alone and just be in my body instead of in my head. Rather than say any more about this part of running, I am going to move on. There is little that is more tedious than reading other people’s writings about running.
In fact, I am shocked you have even made it this far. Thank you.
Anyway, It is now 2017 and I have run half marathons in 25 states. The most recent was Washington back in September. It has been a long 5 months of inconsistent training since Washington. Tomorrow I am heading to Arkansas, where I will run in the Little Rock Half Marathon on Sunday morning. All goes well, it will be state #26.
To tell you the truth, I can sometimes have a hard time with follow through. I have good ideas and make big plans…and then let them fall away. I am fairly well shocked that I have actually stuck with this one. And now that I am halfway to my goal, it would be stupid to stop. I have Arkansas this weekend; Green Bay, Wisconsin at the end of May; Jackson Hole, Wyoming in June; and some as-yet-undetermined state in the late fall.
Funny how random life can be sometimes. If I had not walked over to a quiet part of the high school parking lot in Portsmouth to stretch a bit before that race in 2009, I would never have set this goal for myself.
Wish me luck!