In the Long Run

Garry Russ completes the Grandfather Mountain Marathon

In the two-day running extravaganza that is the Anchorage Run Fest (fundraiser for our fellow RRCA club the Anchorage Running Club), a long-time member of the Twin City Track Club quietly crossed a finish line that completed a longtime goal: Garry Russ completed his 50th marathon in his 50th state.

To be clear, he’s completed more than 100 marathons and ultramarathons since he began this quest in 2006. But now he’s run a marathon in every state in our nation.

Below is an excerpt from John Dell’s piece about Garry in the Winston-Salem Journal (you can read the whole article here). With such a big accomplishment under his belt, we asked if he had any words of wisdom to share with runners, those aspiring to run a marathon and those just starting out on the running path.

Regarding marathon running, Garry says, “If you want to run a marathon you can. At any marathon start there are people of all ages, shapes, sizes. They all have a unique journey that got them there.”

And about the running community in general, “Runners are some of the best people you will ever meet. No matter the distance you want to run, other runners will help you train and succeed,” he says. “They are easy to find; just ask.”

And what helps motivate him to face down these challenges, he has two quotes that inspire him: “You must do the thing you think you cannot,” said by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and, “What’s the fun in trying if you know you can do it?” said by endurance race designer and director Laz Lake.

Local athlete accomplishes goal of running a marathon in all 50 states (written by John Dell and shared with permission of the Winston-Salem Journal)

Garry Russ waited out the COVID-19 pandemic to finally achieve a goal that not many runners can accomplish. Earlier this month, he completed the Alaska marathon in Anchorage to give him 50 marathons in 50 states.

Russ and his running companion, wife Penny, are somewhat local running celebrities because they do most if not all of their training together. Married 43 years, they both started running competitively when their children were out of the house, and they are longtime members of the popular Twin City Track Club.

It’s a hobby that’s also been beneficial to their overall health.

To run a marathon in all 50 states in a lifetime isn’t as easy as it sounds.

According to the running website, only 0.05% of the U.S. population has run even one marathon.

Russ says his favorite is the Boston Marathon, which is one reason why he’s completed that one eight times.

“There’s just something about Boston that is so much different than the others,” he said. “It’s a lot of people’s favorite marathon.”

As for the many states he and Penny have traveled through during this odyssey, he didn’t have a negative thing to say about any of the marathons he’s run.

After accomplishing such a lofty goal, the obvious question is what’s next? Runners love to have goals to keep their competitive edge, and Russ does have something in mind.

“I think Penny and I are going to start doing international marathons,” he said. “That’s the logical thing to do. And the best part is we can do it together.”