My goal is simple: to run a marathon or ultramarathon in each of the 50 states plus DC by age 40. Here are the stories behind my efforts...42 down, 9 to go!
Better with Age
Pavel made an alarm clock unnecessary
When invited to the 50 sub 4 Marathon Club, I joined without really thinking I’d ever complete the task of running all 50 states in under 4 hours. Then I met Shannon Hays. And then I started getting consistently faster. Before I knew it, I had secured my 17th sub 4 hour race in Rhode Island. And that is how a stretch goal is born…
I ran what is now Thunder Road as my second marathon in 2004 and finished in 4:39. It doesn’t get any more game-time-decision than registering 36 hours before the race, but there’d be no better time to secure my NC “re-do”: convenient location plus I’m in shape for the JFK 50 mile next week. Added bonus? This would be the first time I’d repeat the same course- an opportunity to measure success.
No potty lines for us!
Our neighbors, Kevin and Anna, were both doing their debut half marathon and offered a ride to the race. Imagine my surprise when I learned that we’d be warming up in the gym at Kevin’s workplace, only 2 blocks from the starting line. VIP style! Not only did we enjoy a heated warm up area, it was the first time I’ve ever NOT had to wait 20 minutes in a porta potty line prior to the start.
At 30 degrees during the first few miles, I was grateful to have opted for a warm jacket instead of a t-shirt. Second to an injury, the worst thing for next week would be getting a cold. Just as I hit the 10K mark in 49:55, the best sign of the day appeared: “Worst Parade EVER- Where’s My Candy?!”
While the gradual hills I remembered from this course were present, the many turns were more so what threatened one’s time- we never went longer than a half mile without turning. Despite this, I was able to maintain 8:20ish miles and felt fantastic at the half, clocking 1:48:37.
The race organizers held this event one month earlier than in previous years- good move. The Fall weather brought spectators out in full force, tailgating the race in parking lots and front yards of residential areas. As I ran by, one of the groups started screaming, “Alaska girl! Alaska girl!” As it turns out, we ran a 10K together a couple weeks prior. Even among 5000 participants, there is a unique small world camaraderie among runners.
The best moment of the day happened around mile 18, a point where I usually struggle. My best friend, Allison, goes to a crossfit gym that is situated on the marathon course. Between heavy ropes and tire flips, she caught sight of me and ran out to give me a big hug. She also confirmed how fabulous the bright pink flower in my hair looked! I was high off of that encounter for at least 2 miles afterward and hit mile 20 in 2:46:32.
Mom would NEVER say "Almost there!"
My best attempts in striking up conversations were unsuccessful- there simply weren’t a lot of talkers at this race. Something I would have loved to discuss with a running partner: Kanye West blaring from the speakers at a Boyscout hosted aid station around mile 23. It tickled me to grab water from an 8 year old alongside some pretty obscene lyrics!
Just to get it on record, here’s what you don't want to say to as a spectator: “You’re almost there!” Until I’m about a quarter mile from the finish line, I want no part of that and am positive others would agree. A final 5K might seem like ‘almost there’ within the scope of 26.2 miles, but a runner would rather hear something like: “Nice legs!”, “You’re a machine!”, or “Will you marry me?”
137th/900 runners, 21st female OA
Despite being well within my 4 hour goal, I'm competitive and put the hammer down during the last mile to pass a few ponytails in front of me. I was able to see Mom on the final stretch with her cowbell and sign that read “The Suz”- perfect! Finishing in 3:39:42 not only fulfilled my sub 4 hour for NC, it was a full hour faster than my younger self on the same course.
At age 23, I remember getting up the morning of this race and thinking, "26.2 miles will be the longest I will ever run." My goal was to beat P Diddy’s NYC time of just under 4:30. Post race, I was worthless for a good 48 hours.
This is not a post 26.2 face plant, it's mid-burpee.
Seven years later, I own over 30 marathons, three 50Ks, and a 50 miler. I have completed the Boston Marathon, which took a qualifying time 45 minutes faster than P Diddy’s. In attempting to run a marathon or ultra in each state, I’ve crossed 32 off the list. Post race, I’ve done another marathon (in running circles, that's a “double”) on 2 occasions. Today I did burpees.
Better hardware than '04, too!
Regarding my stretch goal, will it be realistic to run sub 4 hour marathon “re-do” states in my 40s? Sure. Ginette Bedard, 3:45 marathoner at age 77, has a more simplistic approach to the long term, though: “I just want to get out there and EARN my day”.