A Conversation with the 50 Staters

By David Yon with Cynthia Christen, Ron Christen and Cathy McCarty


Most of us understand well the demands of running a marathon to the best of our abilities – push your body beyond it reasonable limits and hope you can make it to the finish line before you crash. It takes a certain level of courage and fool hardiness to hit it just right. Ok, now imagine trying to run one of these in all 50 states plus our nation’s capital. That requires enormous reservoirs of endurance and persistence. I suspect it means climbing on a plane or getting in a car when you have gotten sick of doing so. But it also means experiencing great variety and meeting a lot of special people. Those who have succeeded belong to a very exclusive club. GWTC is lucky to have three within its membership and they were willing to tell us a bit of their story. Cynthia and Ron Christen and Cathy McCarty ran 42 of the marathons together and experienced a very unique journey they will never forget. So how many provinces are there in Canada?

Q. Wow, 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Do you have a list of your marathons and the order you ran them in?
A. Yes, all three of us keep a detailed list. (See attached list).

Q. Ok, probably a trite question, but I have to ask, “What was your favorite and why?”
A. Ron and Cathy: St. George and Big Sur. Cynthia: St. George was my favorite because of SW red rocks and geology, great weather, and lots of downhill for my second 2nd fastest marathon time.

Q. Which one was the hardest?
A. All: With no hesitation from any of us, Delaware was the hardest because the rain caused the ground (it was totally off road) to be extremely slippery, the course was poorly marked and it was measured using an aerial photo instead of on the ground. It was LONG, had one crazy loop to do twice with a stream crossing each time deep as your thighs. Cynthia: I called it “The Mighty Mississippi” because it had a strong current and lots of slippery rocks.

Q. And which one was the most memorable?
A. Ron- Columbus, OH because it was my first time to qualify for Boston, and Detroit because was my fastest. Cathy – NY Marathon, because both my parents were there, and the Bataan Death March Marathon in New Mexico because of the race’s was memorial purpose and because I had relatives were there. Cynthia- Grandma’s in Duluth, MN because it was her first.

Q What is the greatest number of marathons you have run in any one year?
A. Ten

Q. How about in a row?
A. We have done several 2 weeks apart.

Q. Was this a group project for the three of you?
A. Yes

Q. How many did you run together?
A. We ran 42 marathons together.

Q. So how many marathons have you each run now?
A. Ron – 56, Cynthia – 57, Cathy – 53. Some of those were 50Ks, which do count toward the 50-states goal.

Q. Given your extensive experience how would you describe the “perfect” marathon?
A. Weather is the most critical factor. Ideal is from high 30’s at the start to low 50’s at end, little or no wind, no precipitation, great scenery, not flat, not cantilevered roads, great traffic control-or best is little traffic, stocked aid stations no more than 2 miles apart, and nice people with whom to run.

Q. How many 50 staters are there?
A. There are a few hundred members of the club, but less who have finished all 50 states and even less who have presented proof.

Q. Is there an “official” list somewhere?
A. Yes, there are 2 clubs, 50 States Marathon Club and 50 States and DC Marathon Group. They both list the finishers of the 50 states, or 50 plus D.C, which we did also. (See http://www.50statesmarathonclub.com/50dc/index.html# and http://www.50anddcmarathongroupusa.com/)

Q. Have you talked to others who have done the same thing?
A. Many, and almost to the person they are great people, just like Gulf Winds’ members. We love to see them at the various races, and some of us even go to a particular marathon to see a friend finish the 50 states, or reach some other goal.

Q. So, what motivated you to make running a marathon in every state a goal?
A. It was Cynthia, the least athletic of the threesome, who saw the Big Sur ad at the expo at the Marine Corps. Marathon and stated that if we want to go to California, why don’t we try to do all 50 plus D.C. When we started to do the math, running two a year, which is a frequent recommendation, would have us as representing our nursing homes before we could finish. So, we just started adding races. We realized that if you do one every 4 to 6 weeks, there really was no need for more than a 12-15 mile training run in-between. That was appealing, especially with training through a Tallahassee summer.

Q. What was your fastest marathon and what was your slowest?
A. Ron’s fastest was Detroit in 2000, Cathy’s was Tallahassee in 1991, and Cynthia’s was Columbus, Ohio in 1997. The Delaware marathon was the slowest for all of us.

Q. What was the most difficult marathon to travel to?
A. Trestle Valley in Minot, ND. We had three flights to catch, which is always tough and nerve-wracking with the possibility of delays. There were several to which we flew and then drive for several hours, but that was less difficult overall.

Q. Describe a typical training week for us?
A. Ron runs once a week for whatever distance Cynthia says is appropriate for our long training run, usually between 6 and 18 miles. Cathy runs four times in a good week including the long weekend run Cynthia prescribes. Cynthia runs three times a week, with two of those usually with the dogs and one being the long weekend run. Let us add here, that if we didn’t have another person relying on us to show up for that long run, we probably wouldn’t have reached the goal.

Q. How did you plan your travel?
A. Cynthia would first make reservations at the hotel/motel and find out their cancellation policy. Then she would check a map and Travelocity to get an idea of what flights were available and their cost. Sometimes we would book them with Travelocity, but usually we would go through the airline’s website. Cathy would make the rental car reservation. There were several marathons we just drove to.

Q. Did you travel much during this time that was not related to a marathon?
A. Not much. Ron went on 2 international birding trips (he doesn’t work during the summer as the ladies do), Cynthia went to Europe last fall with her father and uncle to celebrate her father’s 80th birthday, and Cathy traveled to see relatives in Ohio and Arizona.

Q. Do you plan to keep running marathons?
A. Ron – yes, Cathy and Cynthia are uncertain, but at least will do half marathons.

Q. What is next for you?
A. We plan to go to the Canadian provinces and territories (13). That’s much less than 50, but those marathons are only held from May through September, and the travel distance is greater overall. (Sounds to me like all three are already planning more marathons.)

Q. What piece of advice would you give someone who wanted to run a marathon in all 50 states?
A. Try to get a local running partner to do it, too. Talk to runners who have run in many states to get an idea of the quality of each race, join the 50 States Marathon Club when you get 10 states, be flexible in your schedule, and remember this– the 50 states finisher t-shirt may only cost $15, but its estimated value is $30,000, the cost of completing the goal.

50 Staters’ Race Schedules