I forget exactly when I decided to run a marathon in all 50 states. I would like to say that I came up with it all on my own, but it was probably when I read about the phenomena (and its associate clubs) in Runner’s World. Like deciding to do my first marathon the idea grew on me fairly quickly once the seed was planted. I like variety and exploring and the marathon was a natural vehicle to justify both. It’s a big enough race that you invest enough time into that you can justify traveling.
So far I have completed 12 states. I also ran a marathon during my deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan but, fortunately, those are not US states (although sometimes I’m not sure if our congress is any more functional). At the moment I try to do about two races a year. There are some folks who have the time and money to do over a race a month. I respect these people, but this is not my style (or budget). I like to do each marathon with full effort and preparation.
The one drawback to this project is that I do not have the time or money to do unnecessary marathons. Even if I find an amazing marathon, it is doubtful that I will get back to it anytime soon. So far this has not bothered me. I respect my friends who are on their 3rd or even 13th Boston Marathon, but the same part of me that loves trying a new beer also loves trying a new area.
I have not gone to a bad one yet, although some have been more fun than others. I primarily rely on the reviews in MarathonGuide.com to make sure I find good races. So far my top 3 favorites have been:
1. The Boston Marathon – You cannot beat the history of this race or the crowd support. It is also amazingly well run – they’ve have had over a century to work out the kinks. And I will never forget being able to hear Wellesley College from over a half-mile away.
2. The Bataan Memorial Death March – I am glad I got to do this while there are still surviving members of the march. The day before the race my wife and I got to hear one of the survivors tell his story. It really put my race-day discomfort in perspective. This was good because there was a lot of it. At mile 6 I realized that my good time so far was because I had a 25 mph wind at my back. For the next 7 miles as I went uphill, I ran into the wind. Everyone should do this challenging course while they can still see some of these people who fought during one of the most desperate moments in US history.
3. MDI Marathon – This was my first marathon. It is run during the fall on Mount Desert Island (home of Acadia National Park) in Maine. The leaves are at their peak and you have some beautiful stretches running along the rocky coast.
Other honorable mentions so far: Ogeden Marathon (Utah), Missoula Marathon (Montana). Next up is the Rockin’ K Marathon in Kanopolis, Kansas. Never heard of it? Never been there? Neither have I, and that’s what I love about this project.