Lansing at Large: Lansing runner finishes 50 state marathon


When Isabelle Schweitzer crossed the finish line of the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 13, she wasn’t just completing yet another 26-mile, 385-yard road race. Isabelle was finishing a 1,310-mile journey that stretched from Hawaii (Hilo Marathon) to Maine (MDI Marathon), and from Alaska (Salmon Run) to Florida (Gasparilla Distance Classic), a 50-state epic that took her 27 years to complete.

What seems like an insurmountable journey began in gym class at the University of Maine.

“In my junior year, I read ‘Aerobics’ by Kenneth Cooper as part of my gym class,” Schweitzer said. “We ran as a group and by the end of the class, it was enough of a routine for me that I just kept going.”

Schweitzer has run 30 to 45 miles per week most weeks since. She slowed to a walk at three months into her three pregnancies or aqua jogging while injured.

“The endorphins kick in after about two miles,” she said. “But I also like what I see. I like being outside just to listen and look at things. You know, I run when I travel anywhere. You don’t go as far, but you see more than with a car. Running always makes me feel good.”

Schweitzer worked up to running half marathons and then went the whole route for the first time in Tuscon, Arizona in 1981. She ran several more over the next four years but moved to half marathons after she had a daughter and then a son. In 1991, she ran the full Sugarloaf Marathon and continued to run in local marathons in Maine and New Brunswick.

“But I didn’t improve running one marathon a year. When I started running two or three a year, I would build conditioning and improve.”

“You just do it one mile at a time. You do five miles and it feels good, so the next day, you do six miles and it just builds up. I never really used a training plan. Eventually, you are up to 21 to 23 miles two weeks before the marathon.”
She moved to Champaign, Illinois in 2001 and added marathons in Minnesota and Ohio.

“I heard about ‘The Flying Pig’ marathon in Cincinnati. Well, you have to run a race called ‘The Flying Pig’ so I drove down there.”

Schweitzer and her family moved to Lansing in 2003. She works at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell doing data extraction and her husband Peter directs Cornell’s genomics facility.

“That’s when I got the idea to do marathons in 50 states, instead of repeating races in the same states.”

The years went by and the states ticked off at the rate of three to five a year.
“I did the Boston Marathon when I was 49 years old. It’s hard but very exciting to be there.”

Some of her races were as remote as it gets.

“The Salmon Run in Alaska was one of my favorites. You can only get to Cordova by plane or ferry and it’s run in a small fishing town with a few hotels. ‘TripAdvisor’ has the taco truck as the number one restaurant. Only 28 people ran in the race. We ran through a national park past glaciers and mountains. It was spectacular.”

But she has plenty of other notable races.

“Another favorite, The Leading Ladies marathon in Spearfish, South Dakota was all women runners. You start at the top of a mountain at sunrise and run down into town.”

Finishing all 50 states doesn’t mean she’s ready to hang up her running shoes just yet.

“I will stop running when it stops being fun. Training last winter stunk. When I ran my first race this year, in Arkansas, I was wondering ‘Am I going to finish this? Is this it?’ But, the summer was great and I was 17 minutes faster in Hartford than in Alaska, so I am motivated to keep going. Plus, there are many places I would still like to visit, and if hopefully, run.”

While the running was a solo effort, Schweitzer had a team of support throughout her journey.

“I could not have done this without support and encouragement of my husband Peter and my kids Meredith, Christopher, and Emily,” Schweitzer said. “Also, my boss and co-workers, Erin Goodrich, who traveled to four races with me, and my friends Diane Beckwith and Diane Nangeroni, who came to my fiftieth state race in Hartford.”

Her next quest?

“I have run marathons along three of the Great Lakes and am looking at running along the last two. I might do more of the Canadian provinces. Maybe run overseas in Finland or Sweden.”

Tomorrow though?

“I am going running. Eight to 10 miles.”

Treats for Troops
Donate your extra candy to our service men and women as part of Operation Gratitude. Drop off your extra candy at our drop boxes located at the Lansing Market (Customer Service Center) and the Lansing Community Library. Donations will be accepted from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7.

Book Sale
The Lansing Community Library will hold a book sale Nov. 2 from 3 to 6 p.m. and Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the library basement.

Crow Talk
The Friends of Salt Point will host speaker Kevin McGowan who will talk about “The Uncommon Crow: Hidden Life of a Familiar Bird” Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Lansing Town Hall.

Dr. Kevin McGowan, ornithologist, author, and educator at Cornell ‘s Lab of Ornithology has spent a lifetime studying the rich intellectual, social, and emotional lives of crows. Kevin’s followed generations of these extraordinary birds, revealing their keen aptitudes, exceptional abilities, and intricate social lives. This humorous and entertaining presentation is free and open to the public.


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