Monday, February 20, 2012

50 States...Almost 2/5 of the Way There

Rick and I are heading to Virginia next month to run our 20th state in our quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.  Though it may seem like we've got a long way to go before we start celebrating, I do think we can be proud of the work that's gotten us here.  I never thought back in 2001 when I completed my own state of Alabama that I would be here today!  Now each and every one of these 19 states holds memories for us--states that I may never have traveled to if not for this goal.  We are seeing so much of our country and enjoying the running at the same time!

I thought it would be fun to look back and see when I've completed the 19 states (Rick has done the same states but some in a different order than mine).

Alabama (1)

Tennessee (2)
Georgia (3)

California (4)

Arizona (5)
Florida (6)
Ohio (7)
Kentucky (8)

Mississippi (9)
North Carolina (10)
South Dakota (11)

Wisconsin (12)

Hawaii (13)
Iowa (14)

Louisiana (15)
West Virginia (16)

South Carolina (17)
Missouri (18)
Illinois (19)

I know that some "50 Staters" are people with more time and resources for travel, but if you are young (or have a young family) and are looking for some tips to make this goal a reality for you, read on.

Top 10 Tips From a 19/50 Stater:
1. Run when you can afford to.  The year where we ran the most states was 2004.  We had just gotten married and were "DINKS" (double income, no kids).  We took advantage of the opportunity and ran like crazy.  We knew we would have kids down the road.  That year, we wanted to accomplish all we could while we could.

2.  Don't stress if you have zero states in some years.  In 2006 and 2007, I ran no states.  I was having our babies!  No worries!  That's life.  This goal will never be more important than my family is to me.  

3. Enjoy some big trips.  We have great memories of our only plane-trip states--California, Arizona, and Hawaii.  All were big, expensive trips that included some sightseeing and other touristy things as well as the race.  On the other hand...

4. Not all states are going to be big trips.  Rick and I have learned how to drive up the day before, run the race the next day, and drive home after the race.  Not the most glamorous way to do it, but it works.

5. To go along with #4, drive to all the nearby states first.  This is pretty common-sense.  We live in Alabama, and we are working on hitting all of the states within a doable driving distance before doing any more plane-ticket trips.  Some 50-Staters even do "doubles," hitting two states all within the same weekend, but I haven't tried that yet (nor do I think I can complete two marathons in one weekend!).  

6. Enjoy each race's uniqueness.  I really think Rick and I have gotten good at this one.  We like the contrast between large and small races.  We comment to each other on the unique things that each race has to offer.  We talk about what we enjoyed along the courses and have found such variety within just these 19 states so far!

7. Be prepared to be surprised at your favorites!  In 2009, I ran both Hawaii and Iowa.  I bet you think you know which one was my favorite race, but you're probably wrong!  I actually LOVED Iowa and its beautiful fall colors and temperature and disliked Hawaii due to the course being alongside a road and it being hot with no shade!  I love being surprised like that!  I love learning more about my country by truly experiencing it!

8. Get creative to make the trips work for you and your family.  Now that we are a family of four, we have had to be creative to make marathoning work.  We travel to where a babysitter (relative) lives or we take them with us (free trip for them!).  We combine our marathon trip with sightseeing for our children.  We do things that we know our kids will get excited about and enjoy too, even if it means all we have time for is a quick shower before heading out after the race.  We visit parks and children's museums (we have a reciprocal nationwide pass).

9.  Have a planner and a dreamer.  The reason that Rick and I work so well is that I am the dreamer and he is the planner.  I was the one who originally came up with the "dream" to run a marathon in every state.  Without plans, I would be nowhere!  That is where Rick comes in.  He is able to plan the travel dates, routes, hotels, and even training programs that carry both of us to the race.  So I guess we are a good balance (though I think it is obvious that I got the better end of that deal!).

10. This one is important: REQUEST LATE CHECK OUT AND VERIFY IT!  Rick and I had a horrible experience in a hotel once where our stuff was bagged up and put outside of our room because the maids didn't know we had a late check out.  We NEEDED back into that room for our showers.  Uh, lesson learned for us!

If you are also trying to achieve this goal, I would love to hear your experiences.  What states/marathons do you recommend that we have not done?  What tips do you have to share?  


  1. I love this! I should write a post like this, although you have thoroughly covered it all! I have not run in Iowa so you will have to tell me which one you did that you loved so much. And I too have been VERY surprised at which ones I loved and which ones I thought were just okay. I still have 19 states and I have to be okay with that for now... since it is baby time for me! :) But seeing my mom work on this goal well into her 50s (age) has made me more patient with my states.

  2. Okay, I have some faves to tell you about.

    Boise, Idaho - Great potato marathon - beautiful and fun!

    Seattle, Washington - Seattle Marathon. Good course and this is a beautiful city, although it may very likely be raining (it was for my marathon but I did not mind it).

    South Hero, Vermont - Green Mountain Marathon - talk about beautiful fall colors - this one is amazing!

    Anchorage, Alaska - Mayors Midnight Sun Marathon. I only did the half marathon when we went, so I will have to go back. But this one is lovely!

  3. That's a lot of states to race in. I've only run in Alabama but this year I'm running in AL, FL, GA, and TN.

  4. Fantastic! I've got a friend doing the same - she knocks my socks off!!! Add Detroit to your list - check off MI and running in Canada too (heading out there is October with a bunch of friends - gonna be a blast!)