Loy completes 50-state challenge

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


For many recreational runners, completing one marathon or a handful of marathons with the 26-mile course is a feat by itself. For Shawn Loy, she had set the goal for herself that she wouldn?t stop until she ran a marathon in each of the 50 states of the United States.

Earlier this month, she accomplished the goal. As she crossed the finish line of the Maui Oceanfront Marathon on Jan. 14, it marked the 50th state she completed a marathon in. She recalls running two miles in the dark after the event began at 5 a.m. and then ran more in the hot Hawaiian sun. She said part of the trail was along a mountainside. She also said that she saw several humpback whales in the ocean as she ran along the oceanfront. The humidity was 87 percent by the time she crossed the finish line. While Maui marked Loy?s 50th state, it wasn?t her 50th marathon. She has competed in 79 marathons and has a boxful of awards, ribbons and other keepsakes to commemorate the events. These include several jackets from the Boston Marathon as well as marathons in Chicago, Illinois, and New York, New York.

?I ran my first marathon in 2006,? Loy said. ?The first one I ran was the Des Moines marathon and I had started running when we moved to Washington. There wasn?t much else to do here and thank goodness the YMCA was here and I was able to connect with people and get outside and get running.?

As she began running marathons on a more regular basis, she became part of the 50 State Marathon Club, based in Houston, Texas. The club currently has 4,386 members in all 50 states and 17 foreign countries. The members have run a combined 281,000 marathons. To even become a member, Loy had to run 10 marathons in 10 different states. She also belongs to Marathon Maniacs. She said there are some members who walk marathons and even groups that do marathons in wheelchairs.

Loy recalls getting to know plenty of other marathoners during the last 12 years, meeting people in one place and seeing them later in another state or location.

While she has completed the 50-state goal, she is also a member of the Sub-Four, 50-State Marathon Club. She said she has to rerun two marathons to become the first woman in Iowa to complete all 50 states in under four hours. She needs to redo marathons in South Carolina and New Jersey.

Over the years, Loy recalls some of the ways she has managed to attend marathons in other states. in some cases, she has driven to the marathon and slept in her car. She said she has slept in retail store parking lots in the past to keep down expenses.

For the special 50th marathon, Loy said she and her husband Mark had decided to make it a special event and take an extended vacation. They left Washington on Jan. 6 and spent a week in Maui before the marathon, during which time they were part of a missile false alarm. Loy said she did little to prepare in Maui for the marathon.

The day of the marathon, she got up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the start at 5 a.m. The contest started early due to the heat and humidity of Hawaii. Loy said she had to wear a headlamp while running in the dark.

After completing all 50 states, Loy said she is turning her attention more to overseas marathons. She has run in Capetown, South Africa last year. She said she wants to finish the ?majors,? which includes, New York, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin and London. She also said she wanted to run the Marine Corps marathon in the fall. She said that for the Marine Corps Marathon, she is running it to benefit St. Judes Children?s Research Hospital and has to raise $3,000 for it. She is also trying to give back to newer runners, including running as a pacer during marathons and being one of the directors for the KeWash half marathon in April.

Today, the list of 50 State Marathon Club members shows 50 states next to Loy?s name.

?It has been a good journey,? she said. ?I look at all the cool places I have been. I have run by three different oceans, the gulf, the great lakes: I have run in mountains, swamps and deserts. I have had two marathons that have started at midnight. I have run a marathon that was indoors and you had to run 150 laps. I felt sad a little because the journey was coming to an end and this has been part of my life for so many years. It was kind of an end of my journey with all these great places I have been and these great people I have met.?