Carolyne Gatesy, owner of Main Street Center LLC in the town center, recently completed her 15-year goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the country.
On June 3, Gatesy completed her final 13.1 mile trek in Pennsylvania to finish the Independent Series Half Marathon in Berks County, Pa.
Upon finishing, Gatesy said she popped open mini bottles of champagne with friends as her emotions ran wild.
“It was fun, it was a relief, it was elation, it was relaxing,” recalled Gatesy, “I celebrated. It was getting a goal done that had been so long on my shoulders.”
Her journey began in 2007 when Gatesy ran her first half marathon in Maryland, but the cross country tour didn’t become a goal until 2010 when she completed half marathons in Florida, Louisiana, and Maine.
A dozen years and hundreds of miles later, the former Division I swimmer crossed the finish line in her fiftieth state.
Gatesy said there were “so many beautiful runs” across the nation and certain ones stood more than others.
Last summer she completed the Mayor’s Half Marathon in Alaska, where she saw several moose along the trail and had to yield to nature in The Last Frontier.
In California, she ran the Avenue of Giants Half Marathon where she ran around and alongside the massive sequoia trees in the Redwoods State Forest, calling the run “spectacular.”
Indiana was unique because part of the course is the two-and-a-half mile loop around the Indy 500 track inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But perhaps the most memorable was in Utah where she followed the lead of Gena Davis and Susan Sarandon, who played Thelma and Louise in the blockbuster hit film from 1991.
“We ran the route they drove before they drove off the cliff,” recalled Gatesy, who added the race began behind a replica of the infamous car and the people manning the water stations dressed like Brad Pitt’s character from the movie. “It was a really fun run. I love Utah; there is much to do there and so many outdoor activities.”
Gatesy said that the marathons became only part of the experience, and that the unintended benefit was seeing the nation’s hidden gems across the country.
“There were places that I went to that I didn’t know I’d enjoy,” recalled Gatesy, who would use an app to find the unique landmarks in each state. “You discover new places and learn more about them and become a fan of that community.”
People also made the expedition enjoyable.
Prior to setting the lofty goal, Gatesy met a group from Texas at the Hartford Marathon, who were attempting to complete the 50-state quest. She said she became close with the group and they would often make the runs together. They still get together for “girls weekends” around the country.
Gatesy also met many strangers along the way that made profound impacts on her runs and her life.
“There are really interesting and very friendly people out there from all walks of life. You could be running next to someone that is a garbage truck driver one day and the next day you are running with a lawyer,” she said. “It’s funny because you might share stories with them that you wouldn’t even share with your best friend.”
She described the running community as “very close-knit and very welcoming” and recalled training for the races as “meditative.”
“When I started I had two younger kids and I was running more than one business at the time, so it was a time I could get out of the house and no one could call me,” recalled Gatesy, who has been a business owner in Glastonbury for over 30 years. “Running was almost like a religious ceremony. It was a time to get out and clear your head.”
Because of scheduling, there were times when Gatesy would run multiple half marathons in a short time period.
She hammered out five in a five-day period after flying into Montana and then driving to North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska to accomplish 65.5 miles of running and the hundreds of miles of driving over the handful of days.
Sometimes she would run multiples just for the heck of it. This January she decided to checked Hawaii off the list and ended up doing a pair of half marathon during the trip – one through the scenic gardens of the of The Aloha State and another along the ocean side
For most of the races, the schedule was the same. Gatesy would fly or drive to a destination a day or two ahead of the race, run her half marathon, check out the highlights of the local city the following day before heading back home.
But it didn't always go according to plan. During her first visit to Mississippi, Gatesy was hit in the head by an articulating arm (the device used to let cars in and out of parking garages or parking lots) while leaving the expo the night before the race. She spent the night in the emergency room and was unable to race the following day. The Hospitality State proved to be not-so hospitable, but she would return later for her redemption run on a separate trip.
Prior to her first half marathon, Gatesy said she wasn’t much of a runner. She grew up in Torrington and was a swimmer throughout her youth and would eventually break records in the pools at Purdue University.
She said the lung capacity and muscular strength from swimming allowed her to transition into a distance runner.
Gatesy added that the running has taken a toll on her body, requiring multiple foot surgeries, so for now she is doing a lot of walking and has begun swimming again.
Her new passion, which started on her nationwide running adventure, is reaching the highest point in each state. So far she has checked off about half the states of the list but doesn’t want to commit to making it a goal and instead just wants to enjoy the peacefulness of the hikes.
“I love hiking,” stated Gatesy, who now resides between Glastonbury and New Hampshire, “It is so beautiful and meditative. It’s similar to running, but without the pounding.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin