Running the 50 States!
02/29/2016 07:59AM ● Published by Nancy Babin
Gallery: Running the 50 States! [8 Images] Click any image to expand.
The Emerald Coast is no stranger to high standards of athleticism in running. We have exceptional high school athletes, a local full-distance Ironman race, ultra-marathons, a number of 10K and 5K distance races, and this year we’ll see the inaugural Destin Marathon.
Enter Destin locals Joan Foreman and Nancy Mann. Since they ran their first half marathon together in 2001, Joan and Nancy have run 97 half marathons, six marathons, a 50-miler, and countless 10K and 5K races. In 2012, they qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon. In 2014, they took on the Nashville Ultra 50-Miler where, despite a temperature of 29 degrees with 20-mph winds, they persevered, with Joan being the oldest individual to finish the 50-mile event since its inception.
On their plate for this year are another seven half marathons. Not including the extensive list of races with distances shorter than a half marathon, their total number of miles comes to a whopping 1,478 miles raced. Not bad for two septuagenarians! That’s right - Joan is 74 years old, and Nancy is 70 years old.
So how did they get started? The first race for each woman was the two-mile Presidential Run for Fitness in Washington, DC, Joan in 1986 and Nancy in 1989. They each then joined the Annapolis Striders running club, which is how they met, and raced a number of short distances. It wasn’t until 1996, when they had registered for a 10K race in Bermuda, that they decided to also sign up for their first half marathon the following day, which was Nancy’s 50th birthday. They had never run 13.1 miles and had no previous training. To add to the challenge, they experienced monsoon-like rains during the 10K race and both soaked their only pair of running shoes! The next day, they laced up those damp shoes and ran the distance. To their surprise, Nancy finished third in her age group!
With their impressive list of achievements, Joan and Nancy are part of an elite group of runners who have completed a half marathon in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. They are also on track to completing an additional half marathon in each state capitol, with 36 capitols completed to date and six more scheduled for this year. Their achievements don’t stop there – these women have also taken on a new challenge to complete an island half marathon race each year!
For most people, preparing for and running just one distance race is a big deal. You have to consider nutrition, time, cost, and of course the physical training and mental preparedness. So how and why do they do it?
Physically, their current training regime includes 20 miles a week, with a 10-miler every so often, and bike riding a few times a week for cross training. They also run a number of local races along the Emerald Coast including the Bushwacker 5K, McGuire’s 5K/10K in Destin, and the Double Bridge Run in Pensacola. When they’re not running, these ladies plan and coordinate the considerable logistics for the trips including race registrations, hotel and car rental bookings, and maintaining the race spreadsheet.
Both women see immeasurable benefits from their training and running. They enjoy the physical fitness, the socializing, and traveling. Oftentimes they share plans with runner friends to travel and race in far-off places such as Hawaii, Alaska, and Switzerland. As part of an older demographic of runners, Joan and Nancy are not alone in the benefits they reap from regular running and exercise. A 2014 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states, “Evidence over recent years demonstrates that participants in endurance activities and other competitive sports are, on average, older, participating longer than ever, and able to compete with and even outcompete historic comparison groups and younger competitors.”
However, the number of miles they’ve run hasn’t been without its challenges. During a race in Baltimore, Nancy experienced severe heatstroke with her body temperature reaching 108 degrees. Since then, they’ve been careful to avoid races where the temperatures reach extreme highs. And just last year during the local Round the Bay Relay, Joan was running the last portion of the relay for her team when a truck that was turning right onto Eglin Parkway hit her as she was near the curb. Despite a rough fall and a fractured nose, Joan was determined to finish the race for her team. After being checked by a medic, she completed her portion and victoriously crossed the finish line.
Despite these incidents and other injuries along the way, both women agree that they greatly enjoy running and plan to continue as long as possible. Their advice to new runners, and their general mentality towards running, is to “participate in the races, enjoy it, listen to your body, and if possible, finish the race still standing.” They advise interested runners to join local running clubs (such as the Northwest Florida Track Club) and to research half marathon websites (such as the Half Marathon Club, Running in the USA) to connect with other runners and to discover fascinating race locations, history, landmarks, and festivals On the Coast and the USA.