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Fifty States, Fifty Marathons

By Ellen Samsell Salas

“It was an adventure. I can’t believe we did this,” says Canton native Ken Locke, who with his wife Amanda has accomplished a mighty feat.

Fifty states. Fifty marathons. Together. In only eight years.

Amanda downplays their feat saying, “It wasn’t pretty. We didn’t train. We didn’t eat right. We are not fast. We just went out there and did it.” Our attitude was, “let’s enjoy it,” says Ken. With times from four to eight hours, beating the clock wasn’t their goal.

Amanda, a paralegal, started running in 2008. Ken, a retired captain with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office (CSO), now with Cherokee County School District Police, had already logged marathons when they started running with a group from the CSO (he has run 66 total). Amanda joked that after one marathon, she had to do at least one more to be able to call herself “a marathoner.” She has now run 56.

Their busiest year was 2016. The couple ran 32 marathons in 32 states, including one seven-day stretch of seven marathons, or 183.4 miles, in seven states — with no injuries.

“That was tough,” laughs Amanda. “We would run, finish, hop in the car, and drive to the next.” Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming meant three races in three days. Mississippi and Louisiana? Two in two days.

If races were within 800 miles of Canton, they drove. Greater distances required flying. Out on Friday, grab a few hours of sleep, run 26 miles, then (often without even showering) fly back to Atlanta. “We looked for events that could fit into a weekend,” Ken says. For Alaska, Ken and Amanda splurged, taking vacation time.

The couple ran in heat, cold, rain, and sleet. They pushed through 26 miles on the sands of Texas’ Gulf Coast, tackled Kentucky mountains, and the rocks, roots, and mud of a trail run. “It was not a luxury trail,” jokes Ken. But only once, when Ken got heat stroke at mile 23, did either runner quit a marathon. He returned and completed the same race a year later. Amanda has nursed a disconnected ACL, which will require knee surgery in January.

Ken and Amanda agree the rewards have exceeded their expectations. They are grateful to have run for charities and to honor veterans. They experienced the excitement of the New York Marathon, seeing humpback whales in Maui, and running past national monuments in Washington, D.C.

“We met wonderful people; we saw places we will revisit.” Most importantly, says Amanda, “We did it together.”

On August 21 in South Dakota, with Mount Rushmore as a backdrop, they completed their 1,310.94-mile adventure. Celebrating with Marathon Maniacs friends, they cried, and for the 50th time, awarded each other their medals.

What’s next? “Maybe visiting each NFL football stadium,” says Amanda. Their advice to other weekend warriors considering taking on this challenge: “Do it. Believe in yourself, and you’ll do it.”