Jared Ellerbrock is going the distance.
Jared Ellerbrock is going the distance.
On Sunday, May 11, he's scheduled to reach the halfway mark of running a marathon in each of the 50 states.
The 33-year-old Gahanna resident will run his 25th marathon in Wilmington, Del.
Ellerbrock already has completed some of the bigger, well-known marathons, such as the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon and the Big Sur that runs along the coast in Carmel, Calif.
"But I really love the small ones," he said. "One of my favorites is the Hatfield-McCoy in West Virginia."
He said the Hatfield-McCoy is a neat marathon because of its hometown feel.
"The town you finish in is tiny, Williamson, but you start in a town in Kentucky next to it," he said. "It's popular for 50-staters. If you want, you can run it twice to count it for Kentucky and West Virginia. When you finish, it's like the whole town is there."
Though he finished long after the first-place winner in 2008, he said, ladies were waiting to escort him to the food after the race.
"They sit you by the fountain to rest," he said. "They cater to your every need. It was like they had a meeting and said to make sure we felt at home. At other races, they herd you through like cattle."
Another memorable marathon was on an indoor track in Northfield, Minn., in 2010.
"Proceeds went to a girls cross country team," he said. "Each runner had a corresponding female cross country person to count your laps. She became your personal cheerleader, and she would get her friends involved."
During the last lap of the race, he said, all of the girls cheered his name.
"The race coordinator said, 'How often do you get 50 college girls screaming your name?' " Ellerbrock said. "I'm usually an hour behind, so it was neat to see the winner finish that one."
Ellerbrock said he made a point to participate in a marathon called the annual Bataan Memorial Death March early in his journey because of the declining number of World War II veterans.
The march honors the WWII heroes, who were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.
On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. They were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles.
The Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the memorial march in 1989 to mark a page in history that included so many native sons. The 26.2-mile course takes place at the White Sands Missile Range, circling a mountain known as Mineral Hill and veering along dirt and sand trails.
"You have 90-plus-year-olds waiting for you to finish," Ellerbrock said. "A few active military run the race with full gear on their backs."
Although the Bataan race offers special meaning and purpose, others, like the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Las Vegas, provide entertainment along the route.
"At Rock 'n' Roll marathons, they have bands about every mile on the course," Ellerbrock said. "There's usually a big-name band at the end."
At the end of his race, he found Bret Michaels, lead singer of 1980s popular glam-metal band Poison.
Ellerbrock also has completed races in Alaska, through the French Quarter in New Orleans and on the Notre Dame field in South Bend, Ind.
He began the challenge in 2007 after his older brother, Matt, a chiropractor with a focus on sports medicine, noticed his less-than-stellar physique, he said.
"In 2003, I was 230 pounds at 23 years old, and I had been the 98-pound weakling growing up," Ellerbrock said. "My brother gave me some ideas, and I went to the gym and did average workouts."
He raced with Matt in a 4-mile Beer Bottle Open at his hometown of Columbus Grove, near Findlay.
"He beat me," Ellerbrock said. "I had a goal that I had to beat him; then I just kept running."
He maintains a lean 170 pounds today.
Since he started the quest for a marathon in every state, Ellerbrock and his wife, Gayle, have added a daughter, 3, and son, 7 months.
That has significantly changed his 30-miles-per-week training schedule, he said.
"I run at 4 a.m. because of the kids," he said. "This weekend, I got 20 miles in on Saturday before most people got up. The rest of the day was hauling the kids around."
He plans some marathons along with family vacations and goes it alone on others.
Ellerbrock might be saving a marathon in Ohio to finish his goal of 50, as the Buckeye state isn't on the schedule yet.
This fall, he's tentatively planning a marathon in Chicago.
He said he hopes to complete the other 25 states within 10 years.
Ellerbrock said mentioned a 50 State Marathon Club, though he isn't a member.
In the running community, he said, the new challenge is to run a marathon on each continent within a specific period of time.
Ellerbrock, a Huntington Bank information-technology manager, said he just likes doing well in marathons.
"At the end of the day, it keeps me in a place that if I want an extra ice cream cone, I don't have to feel guilty about it," he said.