SOME PEOPLE ARE BORN RUNNERS. I’m definitely not one of them. In school, I quit my soccer team on the first day because the coach told us to run just one lap around the field. But after graduating college, I was uncertain of the future, trapped in an abusive relationship and plagued by an all-consuming depression I needed to escape.
Runners, I reasoned, weren’t depressed. The runners I saw on the street all looked happy—if I was a runner, maybe I could be happy, too. So I laced up a completely absurd pair of shoes and ran, then walked, then ran, then walked. One day, I realized I could just run. Although I couldn’t call myself happy, I could call myself a runner. For the next two years, my inconsistent 3-mile therapy sessions were enough. But when I found myself in the middle of a crumbling marriage at the ripe old age of 23, I felt the need to go farther.
The next few months, I ran more than ever. Running took me out of a volatile house and allowed me to sort through thoughts, feelings and tough decisions. One day, I ran past the 8-mile mark on my longest run ever, which turned into 11 miles when I got lost.
Figuring 13.1 miles wasn’t that much farther, I signed up for a half marathon the following weekend. As I crossed the finish line, I swore never to do anything that stupid again. And yet, just a week later, thirsty for a challenge (or perhaps more free Gatorade), I registered for my first marathon.
While choosing my first 26.2-mile race, I learned just how many marathons there are. I discovered that there are historical, feud-themed and pig-themed races, ones that go through farmland or through big cities, and ones that give you medals, beanies and mason jars. I wanted to experience them all.
I set a goal to run a marathon in all 50 states before turning 30. I’m now 28 years old, divorced and 35 states into my quest. My love of free sports beverages has evolved into a love of free beer (the hydration choice of champions!) and my therapeutic 3-milers are now more like 3-hour long runs.
I’ve had fast-for-me marathons and slow-for-me marathons (more slow than fast). But in every race I’ve made new memories: square dancing at mile 2 of the Fargo Marathon, swinging on the tire swing at mile 9 of the Hatﬁeld-McCoy Marathon, and taking a Jell-O shot at mile 14 of Route 66.
Travel writer Timothy Cahill once said, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than in miles.” Countless memories, lifelong friends, more than one slight-overshare conversation and 44 marathons later, I have to say I agree.
44/35: The number of marathons ran in the number states as of May 2014
4:14:28: Current Marathon PR
1:50:33: Half Marathon PR
Favorite Foods: Avocado, cheese, and black beans
My Secret Obsession: Negotiating with car dealers.
Current Goals: run a marathon in all 50 states and break 4 hours
Favorite Workout: Long Run
Pet Peeve: Inconsiderate travelers