Mary Karen Noonan won’t be trying to finish the half marathon at St. Luke’s FitOne on Saturday in record time. She is going to appreciate all 13.1 miles as she ticks off the final item on a major accomplishment.
All the while, she plans on wearing what she describes as a “loud” shirt. What it will say is simple, but will say a lot.
“THIS IS MY 50TH STATE.”
The 66-year-old New Yorker has spent close to two decades working on a running goal — to complete a half marathon in all 50 states. Noonan has done at least one in 49 states. Idaho is the last.
“I’m just so excited, I’d have laughed at you if you ever told me years ago I’d do this,” Noonan said. “It’s been such an incredible experience, but at the same time, I’m ready to be done!”
Noonan never considered herself much of an athlete, but she did enjoy running as a hobby. Living in upstate New York, she started to run half marathons near her, including in other states like New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. With her sister alongside, they also tried to tie in runs when on vacation or seeing family.
“It kind of dawned on me that I’d done them in a few states and looked around online and realized there was a 50 states club,” Noonan said. “Then I decided that I’d try to hit all 50, because my kids were grown so I had more time. It pulled me out of my comfort zone, gave me a goal and also, it’s just fun to visit all these places.”
Initially, Noonan considered them “races,” but now jokes that “I call them ‘tourist runs,’” enjoying what she sees instead of focused on her time.
The 50 states challenge has taken her to spots she never would have imagined. There was one in a small town in central Wisconsin, a toasty one in Nevada where the event ran reportedly out of water and even one in Alaska around a lightly inhabited island that ended with a salmon roast.
“Once I’m done, I’m not sure what I’ll talk about with people because any time I mention that I’m trying to do all 50 states; you get all sorts of questions,” Noonan said with a laugh.
Noonan has spent recent days researching FitOne and the Boise area. She is eager to take part in the half marathon, as she said some of her favorites have been in Wyoming and Montana. She also has been to north Idaho but has never visited Boise.
It surely will be a trip to remember.
“It’s going to be the most spectacular one for many reasons,” Noonan said. “My husband is coming with me, and we are just going to have a fun weekend in Boise. After I run, we’ll have a beer — or a couple — to celebrate.”
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.