How COVID-19 Changed My Attitude About Running a Half Marathon in All 50 States

As you may at least partly guess from the title if you didn’t already know, I’ve had a goal for several years now to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I only had three states left before COVID-19 hit and the world pandemic began. Three stinking states. I was supposed to run my final states- New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa and finish on Labor Day weekend, 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, I haven’t been able to run a single race this year.

My half marathon in New Mexico was pushed back from April to November, so I suppose that could in theory still happen but I’m not holding my breath on that one. The race in Minnesota was also technically pushed back but the severe lack of communication from the race director made me never want to run that race ever. The race in Iowa was turned into a virtual race. Since my whole plan is to run a race in all 50 states, I’m not doing that one.

Believe it or not, I’m not feeling the least bit upset over the way my lack of races has panned out this year. Sure, initially I was sad and disappointed but I fully understand why these races couldn’t take place. At this point, I’ve come to the realization that like so many other things in my life, these races are completely out of my control.

Since I’ve started chasing this goal, it was a huge priority for me to run as many races as possible in a year and still spend some time in each state. I was limited both by time off at work and my budget. In the beginning that meant one state/half marathon in each season, so four races each year. When I had run all of the southern states, that mostly meant (there were one or two exceptions) I was down to running during the spring, summer, and fall because I had no desire to run a race in Minnesota or any other northern state in the winter.


I also made sure my daughter was able to go to each race, which meant finding a race during one of her school breaks so I didn’t have to pull her out of school. So far she’s been to every race with me since she was born. That will change if I’m able to run the race in New Mexico in November because she’ll be in school then and doesn’t want to have to make up the school work since she’s in high school and the course load is pretty intense. So far the only state she hasn’t been to other than my remaining three states is Pennsylvania. That may change to New Mexico and Pennsylvania, but as I said, we’ll see.

During these past few months of the pandemic I’ve had some major life changes made by someone else, not me, and I’ve had to roll with the punches. I felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me and it has taken time to adapt. With time things have gotten better but I still have a long ways to go.

As a result of the pandemic and the changes in my life, I feel like my goal to run a half marathon in every state has evolved into something different. Not less important because I still very much want to finish this quest and it’s still a high priority but it’s just different now. Before the pandemic I felt like one of my top priorities was to make sure I found a half marathon that would fit in with my family’s schedule and to run at least three races a year. Now, however, I don’t feel such a burning pressure for that to happen.

I know in my heart that I will finish this quest and run in all 50 states but I’m letting go of some of that pressure to make sure I find a race during all of my daughter’s school breaks. For example, I won’t be running a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break next year. 2021 will be the first year I haven’t run a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break in as many years as she’s had a spring break (she’ll be a sophomore in high school starting next week).

Even though I tried, I was unable to find a half marathon in Minnesota or Iowa during her next spring break. Rather than spend countless hours searching for a race, I used a couple of vouchers I had won from a contest with an airline and booked us seats to Oregon during her spring break. I’ll find other half marathons to run and if I have to wait a bit longer to run them, so be it.

For years I thought 2020 would be the end of my big journey but now I know that’s not going to happen. Who knows when I’ll be able to finish running a half marathon in all 50 states? I know it will happen and when it does it will be all the sweeter. The pandemic has changed me in so many ways, some bad, some good, but with regard to this goal, it has just put some things into perspective a bit for me.

What about you? How has the pandemic changed you?

Happy running!



Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US, which I completed in 2021. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

21 thoughts on “How COVID-19 Changed My Attitude About Running a Half Marathon in All 50 States”

  1. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been thrown a curve ball in your personal life. 2020 has been such a challenge for many, and I’m not even talking about the pandemic. I’m still looking forward to the day you race in MN so we can meet up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t wait until I can race in MN and we can meet up! I think my last 3 races will be some of the best ones just because I’ll appreciate them so much more now!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Donna, I think your attitude toward your goal is a good one. You will get there. I probably don’t need to point out to you that your daughter has only 3 more years until she graduates and flys away. I didn’t start racing (even though I did run) until my youngest graduated from high school, so you are already far ahead of me. If you ever want to visit PA and run a race together, you and your daughter are welcome to stay with us. Seriously. We have 4 bedrooms and only use one! There are a bunch of tiny half marathons happening fairly close to us even this fall. The limit on gatherings is 250 people, so some small races are popping up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I just might take you up on your kind offer. PA was going to be the only state my daughter hasn’t been to (although now if I actually can go to NM in November, that will be one of 2 states she hasn’t been to) which I always thought would be a shame for her to miss. She and I would love to meet you and running a race there would be great. I’ll keep that in mind and see how things go this fall. Cross country starts in November here now, which is actually a huge blessing because of the heat.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had it all planned to finish in 2023 before I turn 50 in March of 2024. I’m not exactly confident about races in the beginning of 2021. I have 19 states to go so I’m revising my planned finish date to the end of 2024. 2020 is definitely the year we all are reminded life doesn’t always go as planned and thats ok.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry your races and your goal have been put on hold as well. You sound like you’re dedicated and I’m sure you’ll get there, just at a different time than you originally thought. My whole life story is about how life doesn’t always go as planned, so 2020 is just another notch reinforcing that lesson with me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I also had the same goal. Some years I did manage 4 half’s; most only 2-3. For me it was always the proverbial journey: I never wanted to zip in (for the most part) just for a weekend; I wanted to explore & often spend a whole week per state.

    Even before the pandemic life has been throwing a lot of punches my way. Even when I set the goal, I knew there was a good chance I might not finish — I started at age 50. I’m 58 now and not even quite halfway through. It’ll be what it’ll be. I haven’t given up on the goal either, but I’ve also had to accept the real possibility it might not happen.

    I have no doubt you’ll finish though! This too shall pass & 3 states are definitely doable in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This goal that we share is most definitely about the journey rather than just checking off boxes. Even if you don’t reach all 50 states, you will have had an incredible journey going to the states you did. If you’re like me, you have gone to some states you probably wouldn’t have otherwise gone to, and that’s been enlightening.
      I’m a very determined person so I know I will finish whether no matter what! I’m so close now!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always said that even if I don’t finish I’ll have fun trying!

        So far, actually, I think we’ve hit the ones we like or thought we would like. Which is why the Midwest is a black hole — I’ve never been there. We started out doing the ones we could drive to. Those are almost finished. Then it was one near WA, where my SIL & MIL live. Sometimes just states we wanted to go to. I’d say where do you want to go, I’ll find a race. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The pandemic has really taken the wind out of my sails.
    I’ve found that I prefer to race than train and I am only motivated to train when I have a race to train for.
    I used to train all winter to run Boston. Now, even when the weather is nice I have very little motivation to go out for a run.
    My running club ran the Juneau virtual half this year and several of us plan to go to Juneau to run the full marathon next year. We are optimists!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Races are a huge motivator for many runners, myself included, so yes, that’s been tough. It’s so sad about Boston this year.
      I’ve heard the race in Juneau is a good one. I ran a half in Anchorage and wasn’t that impressed with the course to be honest. Alaska in general on the other hand was just as beautiful as I thought it would be. That’s a great idea to run the marathon with your running club next year. I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So sorry that you couldn’t finish this year. You are so close that you know that it will come and it will be even more meaningful.

    I had the goal this year of running one half each month so 12 this year. I had most of the races picked out and signed up for…then the pandemic. Ran Jan & Feb. March, April & May were virtual ones and then I realized that it wasn’t the year for such a goal. I was disappointed at first but not as sad as I thought.

    I have discovered the love of walking and hiking and that wouldn’t have happened if I was training and racing all the time.

    Maybe I’ll try again next year or may be not. We’ll see. Racing is not as important as it used to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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