Marathon Madness: When Running 50 Marathons in 50 States Makes Sense

Liz Merritt
October 11, 2016
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It is the No. 1 question people ask Cory Hove: “How do you do it?” When you discover he crossed the start line four years ago on a mission to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 months beginning at age 50, that question makes all the sense in the world. The next question may be, “Who’s crazy enough to do that?”

“It’s not crazy,” Hove says emphatically. “I just met a lady who just finished what I’m doing, and she’s 63.  She just started running 6 years ago!”

For non-runners, 26.2 miles of pavement-pounding self-discovery sounds hellish, at best. But for those endurance athletes who get a bigger rush from crossing a finish line bathed in sweat than winning the Lotto, this is nirvana.  At 54, Hove puts in about 40 training miles a week and knocks out an average of one marathon a month. “I’m not doing any secret training. I just train smart,” he says.

How 50 Marathons in 50 States Started

50 marathons in 50 states

Four years ago, Cory Hove embarked on a mission to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 months beginning at age 50

Hove says he was inspired to embark on his extraordinary journey after reading a book written by ultra marathon legend Dean Karnazes.

“He actually did a bunch of mega-ultra distance races and then decided to do the 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days,” he recalls. “Holy shit! When I got done with the book, I literally said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”

The recent finish of a 50-mile ultra marathon fueled his confidence. Based on that experience Hove mapped out a timeline and committed to 50 marathons, 50 states in five years.

Boston Qualifiers Only

As if that wasn’t challenging enough, he piled on the requirement that all races would be Boston Marathon qualifiers, or BQs. This meant running every race in under 3 hours 30 minutes. Today, that bar is 3 hours 40 minutes because Hove moved up to the next age group.

Although Hove’s marathon mission began in April 2012, the BQ challenge came about 3 months in at the Sogonapmit Marathon in American Fork, Utah. “I can remember standing at the start line and talking to two guys who looked like my Dad, but actually they were in my age group. They said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re doing the 50 states.’ It was a high-five moment. And then they started talking about their times and how they were going to do the race in four to five hours.”

Never satisfied with status quo, Hove upped the ante. “I needed to make a change in the plan, or there will be nothing that distinguishes me from all the others doing marathons in 50 states. My race times would be the difference. That was my aha moment. I want to be in the elite group that says they have run all 50 states in a BQ time.” He laughs, then adds, “It took me four times to get Utah!

50 marathons in 50 states

Hove (2nd from L) celebrating another marathon finish with his training partners.

Just for the record, 509,000 runners in the United States completed a marathon in 2015, according to www.RunningUSA.org. And the number of runners who have done a marathon in all 50 states in under four hours? “Only a handful of Americans have met this goal, and less than 300 have met the minimum membership requirement to run a sub-four-hour marathon in 10 states,” according to www.50sub4.com.

Fueling Body & Soul

“Running is no different than life,” Hove reflects. “You’ve got to find the pleasure, or you get burned out. You’ve got to find your happy place. If you can’t, you’ve got to take a break, or it will kill you. We need ebb and flow in our life and our training.”

Hove says he’s been lucky. His body has held up pretty well, with minimal injuries in the last four years. “Is it taking a toll on me? Absolutely. But I’m listening to my body and doing what I need to do to recover.  I’m fueled by breakthrough runs, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time to recover and get back by the next race.”

Hove has seven more BQ marathons before his journey ends and will chronicle the last legs of his journey here on BOOMbaby.me.

He is not alone in his quest to run marathons in all 50 states. The 50 States Marathon Club members do the same, but not necessarily at the same pace. Entry into the group requires runners to complete at least 10 races in their 50-marathon quest. Marathon Maniacs is another popular club for marathon-obsessed runners.

Not for Sissies

Running 50 marathons in 50 states is a huge commitment, no matter your age. As a Baby Boomer, Hove’s life is in a place that allows the time and travel freedom to achieve his goals.

“When we’re in our 50s, the kids are out of the house, we’re getting ready to retire, we’re mature, and we have the financial means to do the things that we want to do,” he says. “When you look at all the expenses, someone in college isn’t in a place in their life that they can do this. It lends itself to people who are older.”

Hove spent most of his career in nursing and is now a massage therapist and self-described house husband. His wife, Judy, is an emergency room physician. “I’m essentially retired, and we’re ready to downsize our life.”

Lessons Learned Along the Way

So what’s the biggest lesson so far? “This last year, this challenge turned from an assumption to a focus,” Hove explains. “I can’t just assume I can do this anymore. I come back from one race feeling like Superman, and then the next race I have to dig really deep into the hurt locker. It’s really interesting emotionally how we go up and down.

“Mentally, I’m getting to my limit on what my body and mind want to do with the marathons. Today and yesterday, I’m feeling some of the love coming back, so that keeps me going.”

Cory Hove is an avid runner and lifetime athlete who lives in Mesa, Arizona, and claims the Southwestern desert as his training ground.  His 35-year athletic career has included cross-country running, mountain bike racing, road racing, adventure racing, triathlons, marathons and ultra-marathons. Read more about Hove’s epic running journey at his blog site.

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  1. Pingback: Ultra Runner, Baby Boomer Sees the World One Race at a Time

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