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Cathy Powell's 55th Marathon in 50 States

Charbel Daniel

Just Keep Swimming

If you were to ask me why I run, the bumper sticker on my previous car would tell you "Running is Cheaper than Therapy." In my case that hasn’t actually been true between flights, hotels, rental cars, registration fees, sneakers, running gear, and food but it has definitely been more fun. I needed something for me that wasn’t work, or work, or work, or raising 4 children alone that I could just go out the door and let the crazies out for a short time. I have been in EMS for about 28 years. I started on the local fire department volunteering as an EMT for several years before working fulltime with Mercy Ambulance which became Baystate Ambulance and is now Medcare.

I didn’t do track or cross country in school and did my first 10k when I was 37. It was a home town race and the only one I did for a few years. I never ran more than 6.2 miles until friends at the local gym were doing a “run for coffee” which was 12 miles. I wasn’t going to jump from 6 to 12 miles so I thought I think I can do 8 so I met them part way out and finished the run with them. If felt great to do the extra couple of miles so I thought why not try and run 10 the next weekend. Weekends are for long runs usually 10 miles and everyone was encouraging. Ten miles on weekends turned into training for my first marathon 26.2 miles; I was 41 years old.

I qualified for Boston which meant I would be doing another marathon. It was never my intention when I started running marathons to run one in all 50 states but the friends I was running with were and still are always up for an adventure so we would go places as a group to keep costs down and I had family all over so I would plan a visit and a marathon. I just kept ticking off states. The more I traveled and more people I met I thought; why not me I can do this I don’t have a time limit to get it done and it was fun.

How can running 26.2 miles be fun. For me it has been a blast. I have traveled all over the United States by every mode of transportation to get to these marathons and have met the most amazing people. People think I have done a lot but I have met people who have run hundreds of marathons, all ages, and people of all shapes and sizes. I look at it as amazing people doing amazing things and everyone has a story. I feel privleged to hear them. And when you are out pounding pavement, it’s hot, humid, freezing, raining, you can’t feel your fingers or toes, or sweating your butt off; you talk to people you don’t know and help each other put one foot in front of the other to get to the finish line because that is the goal. Some days are easy and some you wonder “how am I going to do this” but you do because you know deep down you can; I “Just Keep Swimming”.

Early on while visiting my daughter in Tenneesee she made me watch Finding Nemo; hence Just Keep Swimming. I had a migraine and vomited all night and a marathon in the morning. I came all that way spent the money to get there I was not going to miss out. It was hot, humid, and I had nothing in my system and still a bit of a headache. My daughter dropped me off near the race start in the morning and her parting words to me were, “Mom Just Keep Swimming”. I did and I have been telling myself that through every marathon since when things get ugly. My daughter is an artist and I proudly wear a tattoo with a pair of sneakers with 26.2 and Just Keep Swimming around them that she designed for me.

What started out at as marathon in the Spring and another in the Fall turned into several in the Spring and several in the Fall. Sometimes doing one on Saturday and traveling to another state to do another on Sunday; sometimes three in two weeks. There have been some crazy travel plans and logistics but its nice when family and friends share it with you. My brother has done a marathon in every continent and has joined me on several state adventures doing back to back marathons. Which qualified us to become members of Marathon Maniacs. We have also traveled together and ran in Antarctica and Africa with Marathon Tours out of Boston. My friends who train with me have joined me in Ohio, Louisiana, Deleware, California, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and will be with me when I go to Hawaii. My family has also been with me on several trips to different states. I took my oldest daughter and grandbaby to Alaska for several days and another to Chicago for the Chicago Marathon. I wanted to make sure if I was going to run all the states I wanted the three big marathons; Boston, New York City, and Chicago and each was an unbelievable experience. But the smaller ones you see areas you wouldn’t normally visit and its great to have people come out of their houses and cheer you on, the kids high five, and everyone offering support.

So what started out as needing to run off the crazies, get some exercise, and do something for me, has turned into an amazing experience and I feel blessed every day that I have been able to do this. I have seen this country and met so many people that I still just go Wow I am so lucky. I told my family two years ago I had a plan to finish my 50th state and it would be Hawaii and I wanted them there when I crossed the finish line. My weekly running friends got the same invite because we had all been on this journey together. They may not have been in every state but they trained with me and got the stories when I came back. Next month my family and I travel to Hawaii along with my running buddy Julie to conquer the 50th state. My family is running shorter distances but Julie will be with me every step of the way as she has on so many marathon courses to again share laughs, stories, pain, and a very big accomplishment in my life. I have my 50 state Finisher shirt purchased and will be waiting for me at the finish line along with my family. I get goosebumps every time I think about how close I am to this accomplishment and I know there will be tears along the course as there always is when I have almost finished another race. This won’t be my last race it only means I can travel where ever I want for the next one and come next Fall there will be a next one.

Cathy, as you embark on your 55th marathon in Hawaii, we wish you the best of luck. We are extremely proud to have you as part of the MedCare family and look forward to welcoming you home after another successful triumph.