Three Greenwood residents have put together a plan to see all 50 states during the next 10 years.
They’ve already witnessed the famed mansions of Newport, R.I., and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. During a two-hour time period, they traveled through the five boroughs of New York City.
But their goal is not sightseeing, trying new foods or taking in regional culture. Julie Wood, Sheri Hamm and Dawn Hawkins are seeing every state in the U.S., one 13.1-mile race at a time.
Wood, Hamm and Hawkins are attempting to run a half-marathon in every state over the course of a decade.
Meet the Runners
Home: Center Grove area
Occupation: Clinical development liaison at Eli Lilly
Why she’s running the 500 Festival
Mini-Marathon: “We’ve been to all of these different races, and besides the Disney Marathon, the Mini is one of the best-run and best organized. A lot of races could learn from them.”
Occupation: Second-grade teacher, Indian Creek Elementary School
Why she’s running the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon: “I like to have another race scheduled instead of just running day in and day out. It helps me focus. I have it on my calendar. Plus, running is my time for me. Often, when I come home from school, it’s a good time to think through my day, think through the lessons I taught.”
Home: Center Grove area
Occupation: Educational leadership instructor at Ball State University
Why she’s running the 500 Festival
Mini-Marathon: “I have a love of running.”
Though they’ve already done the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, it has become a tradition to run their hometown race. The three women are training to run it again in May.
“If we weren’t doing this, I’d probably go every year to Florida to the beach for vacation. This is better,” Hamm said.
The idea to go to all 50 states came from the runner with the least amount of running experience.
Before 2007, Hawkins had never run before in her life. She was overweight and looking to get physically fit. Joining the wellness ministry at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, she had started weightlifting, walking and taking cardiovascular classes.
An instructor encouraged her to try running. Though progress was limited at first — she could barely run to the end of her street — Hawkins eventually built up to two or three miles. She signed up for the 2008 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, finishing with a time of 2 hours 54 minutes.
From there, she was hooked.
“Running is a stress relief, and it’s a chance to be with friends. They give that accountability. A lot of the people I run with love the Lord, and it’s nice to have that accountability. We’re talking about Scripture and praying for each other. That’s special to me,” she said.
Hawkins wanted to do another race. She convinced her family to take a holiday trip to Orlando, Fla., coincidentally going the same time as the annual Walt Disney World Half-Marathon.
Hamm, who was Hawkins’ roommate at the time, also wanted to go. A runner since she was in high school, she had done only a few long-distance races herself. But they wanted to experience one of the country’s largest running events together.
While on the plane, they talked with other runners, who talked about their goals to run in all 50 states.
“Sheri and I looked at each other at the same time and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Hawkins said.
Wood joined their team a few races later. All three women are connected by the running group at Mount Pleasant Christian Church. Wood started training for her first Mini-Marathon in 2006.
Both Hamm and Hawkins were talking about running their 50 half-marathons. She thought it sounded like fun and joined in.
“It’s the experience of just being with two great friends, sharing our faith while on our trips and seeing such incredible places,” Wood said.
The women build their trips around vacations and breaks from school. Wood, who will step down at the end of the year as superintendent of Monroe-Gregg School District and will be teaching at Ball State University, has to pay attention to breaks in the school year.
Hamm teaches second grade at Indian Creek Elementary School and plans her races around long holidays and summer vacation. Hawkins works as a clinical development liaison at Eli Lilly, so she has more flexibility in the time she can take off.
The women have run half-marathons all over the country. Hamm and Hawkins, having started earlier, have completed 14 races. Wood has done 11. They have run in big marathons, such as the 35,000-runner Livestrong Marathon in Austin, Texas.
They’ve been in the middle of one of the biggest sporting weekends in the world when they participated in the Derby Festival Mini-Marathon, built around the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky.
When they completed the U.S. Air Force Half-Marathon in Dayton, Ohio, they ran past a corridor of military planes to the finish line and a stealth bomber flew over before they started.
For Hawkins, her favorite experience was doing the New York Half-Marathon. The course took them through the famed city, over the Brooklyn Bridge and in front of millions of people cheering her on.
“I was probably three hours behind the people in the lead, and there were still people stacked six or seven deep along the route when I came through. It was incredible,” she said.
The United Healthcare Half-Marathon, conducted in the old-money seaport city of Newport, R.I., was the most beautiful, Wood said. Runners passed the palatial mansions of the Vanderbilts, Astors and other famous families, before bordering the thundering ocean.
The women are looking to run their next races in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Tuscon, Ariz., in February and March.
Because their running schedule typically includes four or five long-distance races each year, the women maintain a regular regimen to stay in shape. They will do runs of three or four miles during the week then run 10 miles on Saturday mornings.
Hawkins aims to run 30 miles a week, bumping it up to 35 or 40 miles before a race.
“We’ll start backing it up to 12 or 13, maybe get up to 15 a few weeks before. So mentally, you don’t get tired at 10,” she said. “If I just run 10 every weekend, I’ll hit that mark and get tired.”
While their larger goal is to hit all 50 states, the women try to make room every year for the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. The race through downtown Indianapolis and out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains one of the best run and fun events they’ve seen.
The constant cycle of races also helps the women stay motivated. When they finish one race, they always have the next to look forward to on their schedule.
“Having a race keeps you focused,” Hamm said. “For me, it helps promote a healthy lifestyle. My kids get to see me have goals and exercising. I try to make it fun and emphasize it’s OK if you don’t like running. Find something you do like to do to remain active — swimming or football. Just do something.”