Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Woman seeks to run 50 marathons in all 50 states

A year ago this month, Nancy Morehead of Pleasanton crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. A few minutes later, she heard an explosion back where she had just been. Then she heard another.

“My husband was a few blocks away and also heard the explosions,” said Morehead, 52. “We got to our car and left as quickly as we could.”

The bombings at the Boston Marathon have not dissuaded Morehead from running races or pursuing her goal of running 50 marathons in all 50 states, a goal she has been chasing since she signed up for her first marathon in 2001 on her 40th birthday.

“I’m halfway to my goal,” said Morehead, who works for the East Bay Regional Park District as an administrative analyst in the police department. 

“I love working for an agency I believe in,” she said. “It's the perfect spot for me because my degree is in recreation and I had a short career as a deputy sheriff.”

Morehead’s job also allows her to get out on weekends to run long distances with her dog, Cooper, a mutt of questionable heritage from the Border Collie Rescue Society. “He has a lot of Border Collie for sure with his herding instincts, intelligence, and great endurance for long runs,” she said.

Morehead’s husband, Skip, is also a runner and has completed several marathons and two Ironman triathlons. “We’ve been married for 30 years,” said Morehead. “Skip loves to travel, so it's easy to convince him to go to another state for a long weekend so I can run a marathon.”

In addition to running, Morehead uses her free time to coach for the non-profit organization Team in Training, which offers training in a variety of endurance sports while raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Having coached swimming and water polo for many years at Tracy High School, she currently coaches Olympic distance triathletes.

Of course, 26-mile marathons are not the only endurance races she runs. Morehead has completed two Ironman triathlons, which consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle race, and a marathon.

But wait, there’s more: “When I turned 50, I decided to run a 50-mile race, so I signed up for the America River 50,” she said. This run begins in Folsom and runs steadily uphill to Auburn. The final miles are steep, but the views of the American River are spectacular.

Asked what advice she has for new runners, Morehead recommends taking 30-60 second walk breaks. In one marathon, Morehead counted 162 people she passed in the last six miles because she had taken short walk breaks each of the 26 miles. “Don't let anyone tell you walk breaks make you slower,” she said. “They make you stronger longer.”

Adding to the wonder of Morehead’s quest to run a marathon in every state is the fact that when she was a younger woman she hated running.

“It took me 40 years to discover that I’m an endurance athlete,” she said, offering this advice to all of us: “Don’t stop trying new things.” 


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