50 Marathons in 50 States before 50- How a Single Run Led to Running Around the USA
If you’re a parent, you know how chaotic days can be. Tiny humans choose what time you get out of bed, the occasional argument that dino nuggets aren’t an option for breakfast, all while making your morning coffee, and watching the clock to make sure everyone gets to where they need to be on time. Parent life is hard, and it’s easy to get lost amidst the beautiful chaos that it is. Allison Richter knows all about this and found she needed to carve time out of the day that was just hers. As a wife, a mother, a full-time teacher, she didn’t get a whole lot of time to herself without having to attend to someone else’s needs. So when she decided to throw on a pair of running shoes, she had no idea she had made a monumental life choice.
Richter was in her early 30s when she picked up running again. After downloading the helpful app Couch to 5k she found herself eager to push her limits and consistently progressed through longer distances. Richter’s natural progression eventually led her to take on her first marathon in San Francisco, and once she experienced just how capable she was, the fire was lit. She soon ran her second in AZ and got into the NY marathon in 2007 on her first try!
Marathons were becoming somewhat of a norm in life for Richter, when someone mentioned to her the 50 marathons in 50 states challenge. Without putting much thought into it, she said, “I want to do that. I want to run 50 marathons in 50 states before I turn 50.” Soon Richter found herself training 4x/week and traveling across the country near and far to check off another state. A few times she even went as far as running doubles, meaning she ran two marathons in two different states in two consecutive days. For a handful of these checkmarks, the marathon was a reason to take a mini family vacation, for others it was a trip amongst fellow marathoners. At times there were solo trips which Richter came to appreciate as she could bask in the temporary silence.
The marathon themselves were fulfilling to Richter, but the pre-race vibes were what really left an impression on her, “I loved being at the start line and feeling that sense of everyone coming together to do something good for themselves. Everybody’s out there with a different story behind them, I love being in that race atmosphere and hearing them do the national anthem, and everybody kind of comes together and it really feels like a community.”
Richter recalled some of her favorite races including the Marine Corps Marathon, “it begins and ends in Virginia, but I loved running through D.C. You run by so many monuments and so much of history that you can think, Martin Luther King made a speech here, this is where the President gives his inauguration speech there’s just so many things you get to see along the way.” Or the Great Potato Race in Idaho, “It was windy and we were able to kind of hang out from the wind inside this big maintenance shed that was out there. So we’re all standing there, and there are pitchforks on the wall and riding lawn mowers and we’re in the middle of nowhere really, but then someone says today is my friend’s birthday and she’s running her first marathon and I want us all to sing happy birthday to her. So we’re all singing to this perfect stranger, in a maintenance shed, somewhere in Boise, Idaho. Silly memories like that made these fun, but other times it was about the people. Any time I got to see someone I cared about it was great. When I ran NY I got to see my brothers, I saw some friends when I ran Chicago, my parents came to a few races with me, so a lot of the time it was about the people I got to see along the way.”
49 races down and Richter had her very last race to go. She had always planned for it to be in Alaska and although she had it planned in 2020 as a big celebratory vacation with her family, COVID had other plans. Instead, in August of 2021 Richter and her husband flew out to Alaska where she crossed her 50th finish line. “It was a little bit unreal. I couldn’t really believe that it had all come together. I really feel like I’m just getting started, I’m going to be 50 years old next week and I don’t feel at all like, well I’ve kinda done it all just going to ride it out and see what the world brings. I don’t feel like I’m done marathon running, I feel like marathon running really just opened my eyes to what I’m actually capable of and that I can always do more.”
After twenty years of teaching, raising two kids, running 50+ marathons covering hundreds of miles, Richter has just turned 50 and is about to graduate from nursing school. Amazed at her success so far, I asked Richter what kept her going throughout the years of this challenge and if she ever experienced a moment of doubt in completing all 50 marathons. “Absolutely. When I was training I always thought, Oh my gosh what if I can’t do this? But then after I did it I realized I’m never going to win. I’m not out there to compete, I’m out there to participate. There’s no pressure. I can go as slow as I want. I can walk, I can run, I can do a combination of the two, and so I’ve sort of settled into my very comfortable marathon pace of 4 hours and 45 minutes and I’m totally fine with that. I’ve certainly gone a little fast and certainly gone a little slower, but I’m always out there to just finish. So that takes all the pressure off and I don’t worry about whether or not I could do it. After the first 6 marathons, I stopped worrying about whether I could do it because I knew I could.”
Richter now hopes to backpack around the world with her husband. She has plans to travel to Europe this summer and hike the Tour Du Mont Blanc which covers 110 miles in the Italian, French, and Swiss Alps. Aside from that, she continues to challenge herself by keeping a daily run streak. She’s now on day 1,704 and counting…
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