There was a time when I aspired to visit all 50 states. It wasn’t on any bucket list. I didn’t keep it in a wish-upon-a-star jar.
It was something I wanted to be able to claim I had done. And maybe one day I will. But I’ve been stuck on No. 39 for a long time … somewhere between Vermont and Wyoming.
That’s why I admire David Ladner. Not only has he been to all the states, he now has run a marathon in every one of them. Quite a feat of the feet.
This is a year of significant milestones for David, and they all come with nice, round numbers. He began running 40 years ago in college. He will turn 60 years old in July. And his trip to Hawaii on Jan. 21 was the symbolic 50th finish line on his accomplished journey to every state in the union.
He has scuttled 26.2 miles across the terrain in the Garden State of New Jersey and the Golden State of California. He has endured rain, wind, heat and humidity from the Sunshine State of Florida to the Great Lakes State of Michigan.
David once completed four marathons in four states on four consecutive days. That’s almost a quarter-million steps in 72 hours. Makes my feet hurt and shins splint just thinking about it. He ran a marathon in a small college gym in Goshen, Indiana, that consisted of 207 indoor laps.
Have size-12 Altras, will travel.
I think you’ll agree the Aloha Marathon was a nice gig to complete the circuit. (Of course, the race was held eight days after the false ballistic missile alert that had everybody running.)
David is an interesting guy, a counselor and a field nurse who is the father of three children and grandfather of 10. His daughter, Annie Ladner Biers, calls her dad a “remarkable, faith-filled man.”
He is a self-described “dog whisperer.” He plays the guitar and banjo and lives on a street called Music Row in Smarr. (That makes him, in Monroe County vernacular, a “Smarrtian.“)
Maybe it’s not so remarkable to be running at 59, but marathons? That’s the equivalent of dashing from Rumble Road to Harley Bridge Road – without taking the bypass.
David’s life was set in motion at an early age, growing up in a single-parent home in Birmingham, Alabama. His family’s house was across from a golf course.
“The pro would give lessons, and I would be out in the fairway with my baseball glove catching balls,” he said. “I would run myself crazy, having the time of my life.”
He didn’t play sports in high school. He played drums in the band. If you saw the 2015 movie “Woodlawn,” his alma mater, Banks High, beat Woodlawn at the end of the movie. It was played at Birmingham’s Legion Field in front of 42,000 fans — the largest crowd to watch a high school football game in Alabama.
Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter were the kindling that sparked his interest in running. Rodgers captured four Boston Marathons and four New York Marathons. Shorter claimed the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, and is the only American athlete to win two medals in the event. (He won the silver at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.)
David took P.E. classes in tennis and would dash from his house to junior college every day. He ran his first marathon – the Vulcan Marathon in Birmingham – on Nov. 11, 1979. A year later, it was more of a “marry-thon” when he got married.
Competing in races became more difficult when his family began worshiping as part of the Seventh-day Sabbath. By attending church on Saturdays, he was unable to participate in races between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday.
He stays away from the marquee marathons, like Boston or New York. He prefers not to have to deal with the large crowds and all the distractions.
He usually can remember his times better than the years he ran them. But it has never been about winning trophies or ribbons for his age division.
He trains about 40 miles every week, so he is a moving target.
There is a spiritual side to his running. He has a route he calls the “Road to Emmaus,” named after where Jesus appeared after his crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb. On his “Road to Damascus,” he begins with12 miles as “Saul,” then returns as “Paul.”
As he gets older, he expects the lengthy marathons will come with less regularity, and he’s fine with that. He plans to keep running until there is nothing left in the gas tank. The race is not always to the swift.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.