People run a Full Marathon in All 50 States? There is actually a 50 States Marathon Club

Posted on Jun 18, 2024, by

Author: Joe Zimmerman

Visiting all 50 States, let alone, running a marathon in each doesn’t just happen overnight. As a casual marathoner I wasn’t even aware that people had this goal until I found the 50 States Marathon Club. With over 5,000 members representing all 50 states, Washington D.C., and over 20 countries, I discovered there were like-minded runners who wanted to accomplish something that tested their stamina and travel agent / logistics skills! In this club I found more than just a common goal. I found camaraderie, support and peers to share the experience of a step-by-step accomplishment. I realized “50 Staters” are from all walks of life, connected by a common goal of completing an organized official full marathon in every state and Washington D.C. My name is Joe Zimmerman and I live in New York City, but I was born and raised in Neenah, Wisconsin.

Currently, I am two states shy of completing a full marathon in all 50 states (and Washington D.C. to boot) and I plan to reach that goal in 2025. The last two states on my list are Alaska in August and Hawaii early next year, This year is extra special for me though because my hometown race, The Community First Fox Cities Marathon Presented by Miron Construction is one of the four reunion races for the 50 States Marathon Club in 2024. I completed another Wisconsin race years ago but I plan to ‘count’ my 2024 Fox Cities Marathon toward my official total in the 50 States Marathon Club.

While that might seem like a small event, a gathering of the “50 Staters” is actually a HUGE deal to those in the Club. It may not be the Super Bowl, Woodstock or Coachella but so many people have marked the event on their calendar, booked flights and are eagerly awaiting seeing old friends and making new ones. These reunion races bring in thousands of people from all over the United States and beyond. Many members bring their families and friends for support to cheer them on along the course.  And many family members, like my wife Caryn, choose to run other distances such as a 5K or half marathon. No matter what a runner’s preference, the Fox Cities Marathon weekend of events offers race options suited to nearly anyone who cares to lace up sneakers to walk, run or roll. And when you look at the bigger picture, that’s a huge economic benefit to the local community. Visitors, stay for several days enjoying the many wonderful sites, shopping and restaurants, as well as the emerging fall beauty of the Fox Valley.

In my experience, only the best of the best races are chosen to be reunion races. Races that are selected as reunion races are well organized, fun to participate in and have exceptional community engagement and support. For me, organization and course support are all key drivers as I am not an elite athlete who has special support and breaks tape at the finish line. The water stations along the courses for the Fox Cities Marathon weekend of events are known to have some of the most enthusiastic volunteers often in costumes with festively themed aid stations all competing to show the most spirit. All of those reasons are why 

I will be back in my hometown this September to participate in the Community First Fox Cities Marathon.

I won’t be running alone though. My brother, Nick, will be joining me on the course. Nick lives in Rockford, Illinois and visits the area regularly and we are making a point to run this marathon together as our own reunion. We both got into the sport around the same time and have been hooked ever since. While my brother hasn’t taken it as far as I do and has yet to run in all 50 states, he does take running seriously, even starting an ultra-marathon of his own with a friend on the WIOUWASH Trail running from Hortonville to Oshkosh on what has felt like the rainiest day each April for the last two years. 

I love that my brother and I have this connection with each other. Sometimes we even have a little friendly competition out on the course. Last year, in the 2023 ThedaCare Half Marathon he beat me by a crushing one second. He has had bragging rights for a year but in the 2024 Community First Fox Cities Marathon, I am determined to establish myself as the older and slightly faster, relatively speaking, brother.

It’s not all competition though, running, I’ve found, is a very social sport. I have met so many people throughout the country with the 50 States Marathon Club. I regularly follow these friends in the 50 States newsletter and we pick up where we left off when I see them at events. I fully anticipate seeing many familiar faces along the Community First Fox Cities Marathon course this September. Spectators will be able to recognize most of us by our swag. As 50 States Marathon Club runners we often are wearing gear that identifies us, helps us quickly connect and encourage each other, and to share experiences with different events or recent accomplishments. So, when you see our red, white and blue 50 State’s garb cheer us on along the course and show off the pride we have in the Fox Valley and the hospitality that has always brought me back to Neenah which I am proud to call my hometown. 

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