Donna Swanson is just like all the other 20,000–plus runners in this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Savannah.
Except she’s trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.
Except she just turned 60 years old.
The Michigander says Savannah will be the 42nd stop in her nationwide marathon tour, begun in 2004.
“I’m running a marathon in Delaware in December, so after that and Georgia that will leave seven states: Texas, Oregon, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Virginia, and Vermont,” Swanson says.
Swanson keeps what even a much younger person would consider a breakneck pace, running 4–6 marathons a year, generally traveling with her husband.
“I typically drive to the location if it’s within 10–12 hours or less. Anything beyond ten we usually fly. Fortunately I rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles!” she laughs.
Of the marathons she’s participated in, she cites the Mount Deseret Marathon in Maine as perhaps the most enjoyable.
“It’s certainly one of prettiest. And it’s very hilly, so it’s not easy,” she says. “You go through parts of Acadia National Park and a lot of really darling little seaside towns. And it’s in the fall, so the colors are gorgeous.”
Swanson also has high praise for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington.
“It’s basically a guided tour of the whole DC area — you run past all the great monuments and all those famous buildings. You’re running right through the Smithsonian.”
Swanson jokes that she could have “cheated” and counted the Marine Corps Marathon as being in both Virginia and the District of Columbia, “but I decided it was only fair that it count just as one or the other.”
Every now and then she’ll even pack two marathons into a single trip.
“On occasion I’ll do that, but rarely,” she says. Recently I ran one in Hartford, CT, and the following Saturday on in Newport, RI. But I usually don’t have the luxury of taking a full week. And normally they’re not that close together, so there won’t be any injury problems.”
Indeed, she says that her main goal these days isn’t just to finish the race, but to do so with no injury.
“The more you’re running the less concern you have about time – if you’re running six a year it’s pretty hard to be running a real fast time. I’ve been fortunate enough to win my age group in a few recent marathons,” she says.
“Having said that, my times are much slower than they used to be. My goal right now is to complete marathons uninjured.”
Swanson began running when she was 27, and was already running her first marathon only a year later.
“I got hooked pretty quick. Plus I really love to travel, so running in new places is a big part why the whole 50 states thing is wonderful. It’s a great way to get a feel for an area.”
So if she just wants to enjoy the ride, why still run marathons, the most grueling race there is?
“Running a 5K or 10K is a great accomplishment, but obviously a marathon is a different story. In a marathon there always comes a point when you’ve got to be mentally tough and gut it out. I like that challenge,” she says.
“I’ve always said if you can run a marathon you can handle anything in life.”