Jennifer Janus SpeaksUp

Saturday, May 4, was my 42nd marathon, in my 37th state: Wisconsin! It was a perfect day for running, on a flat, beautiful course in Kenosha, along the shores of Lake Michigan. My daughter, Julia, was my traveling companion, and some friends who now live in Wisconsin met us and stayed with her while I did my run, then met me at the finish line, where I got to high-five my girl just before my finish.


I don't know exactly when I decided to try to run a marathon in each of the 50 states, but I do know it was during the four years when I was living in San Antonio, Texas, and my husband was in the Air Force medical corps. We didn't have kids yet, and once the marathon bug bit, running the states sounded like a fun way to keep things spicy. It has been. It's exhilarating and exhausting, as I struggle to balance family life with the logistics of training and traveling to increasingly distant states to achieve my goal.  


Sometimes I get to the start of another race and think: “Why didn't I just pick half marathons?” However, I know that if the goal wasn't hard, it wouldn't carry with it the same reward. 


I've run up to and after two pregnancies and a bilateral mastectomy (preventive, as I have the BRCA1 gene mutation). I sometimes struggle with depression, and definitely struggle with stress -- running helps with those things. I run to feel better mentally and physically, and to be a better wife, mom, employee -- person. Seeing the states is a good motivation, and it's also a perk.


Folks always ask me what my favorites have been, and there are a few memories that stick out:

1. The Marine Corps Marathon (which I don't really count as a state, but rather, D.C.) in October of 2007 -- my sister and brother-in-law were living on the campus of Georgetown, where he was working on his Ph.D. and my sister was a hall director. They watched my twin boys, who were two at the time, and brought them out on the course in a stroller so I could give them a kiss during the run. The emotion of that race with all the veterans running, plus getting to see my babies, makes that race stick out. 


2. Boston in 2018. I've run Boston twice -- the first time was in 2012. It was a hot year and included a long stop at the medical tent, so I was happy to qualify again and finish with a better time. It was cold and rainy last year, but the weather made me feel strong and powerful, and I got to redeem myself.


3. Providence Rhode Island and the Rhode Races in May 2014. The race was great, and partially on trails which made my legs happy, but the thing that I remember is that my husband and I stayed in a VRBO houseboat from which we could walk to the start! Awesome!


4. International Bay of Fundy in Lubec, Maine. This race was partnered with a girls' trip with one of my oldest and dearest friends who now lives in Iowa. Bonus: running into Canada, and getting to see the Bay of Fundy at low and high tide.


5. Trails of Glory outside of Las Vegas -- my first trail marathon, and an adventure with my husband, who ran the half. During the marathon there, I got lost briefly, and that ended up with me making two new friends (who almost got lost, too).


6. The Montana Marathon last fall -- another girls' trip with a visit to Yellowstone after the race. Awesome scenery!


7. Whatever is next! (Utah, in June, in this case).


As I look at my list of races, I can remember something about each one -- of course the more vivid memories are of the more recent runs. The coldest one? Asheville, N.C. on the grounds of the Biltmore. My fastest? Blooms to Brews in Washington State. My slowest? Maybe that first Boston! My first one? Baltimore, in 2001.


What I love the most about this maybe-crazy goal is that it takes me to new places, where I get to see our beautiful country on foot. I get tired of training, yes, but it also keeps me sane and lets me spend lots of hours and miles with my training buddies, without whom I might not succeed. Sometimes I feel discouraged, and almost always if I'm off on the road alone, I miss my people at home, but at the end of the day, my running adventures have shown me who I am and what I'm capable of, and they have also revealed to me the goodness of God, of my family and friends, and so many others around me.


Julie Basinski