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HomeSFRRC 50 States Club

SFRRC 50 States Club

On a rare occasion a marathoner gets the idea of running a marathon in each of our 50 States. It sneaks up on us perhaps and then it becomes a quest. Over 1500 runners world-wide have accomplished this feat, but it is very much still considered a small and elite group. In March 2020, we went from having two club members in that rarified air to three. The San Francisco Road Runners officially have another 50-States Club member -- the great Chau Smith. SFRRC's second inductee to have completed a marathon in each of the States was Lynne Langlois (SFRRC official Club Ambassador in 2019 and forever an ambassador for us and the sport of running) and she flew to watch Chau complete her 50th. Sandy Naidu is also a member of this tight group of runners. 

Our Champion (always and now especially): Chau Smith

It is with great joy that we can bring this uplifting story to you all. We held back on sharing it immediately because word of the difficult coronavirus situation/health orders was beginning and we needed to first be attentive to that. But, earlier in March, Chau Smith completed her quest of running a marathon in each of the 50 States. 

With her family all present, she crossed the finish line at the Big Island International Marathon in Hilo, Hawaii. And in the process also won her age group by over 7 minutes. 

She has been back home self-quarantining (like the rest of us) for the past 14-day with her husband. They are safe and in good health!

With our hearty congratulations and admiration, Chau! 👑🌟

For us at the San Francisco Road Runners Club, it’s been a great joy to watch this all unfold. We could not ask for a more gracious and fantastic representative than Chau… always wearing our SFRRC shirts or hat for her races and training and beyond that her kind and loving persona. Thank you for being so good to us, Chau. We are so proud of you!! And honored to call you one of ours, a San Francisco Road Runner. To her family, thank you for sharing Chau with us.

To the right with her kids and grandkids after completing her 50th!

This journey of hers began without her knowing 24 years ago with her first marathon in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She told us that she had seen an advertisement in the mail about the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training. Chau had just found out that a dear customer who had Chau alter her wedding dress was diagnosed with Leukemia. Then her friend’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia. So Chau decided to raise money for both of them. She got most of the funds from her friends and family but ended up putting in her own money to make up the required amount to qualify for a marathon of her choice. She chose the Cape Cod Marathon.

Chau never thought of running a marathon in each of the 50 States. She was working long hours and sponsored 25 people from Vietnam here (her two sisters, two brothers and their families). She could only afford to run marathons around Kansas City and the Midwest.

As things freed up, she and her husband Michael decided to run around the world. Their idea was to run a marathon on each of the 7 continents. After we finished she got excited about doing the Triple 7 and Triple 8 Quests.

Eventually, Chau thought that she and Michael could run a marathon in the 50 States after they retired. “You know, get a van and travel from state to state,” she told us. It didn’t work out exactly that way but they did a lot of traveling this past year to take part in marathons around the United States. Michael was a good runner when they began in the 90s, she told us. And said that her husband was the one who got her into running. Most of the races they ran together. But, in the last couple of years, he needed to cut back to half marathons because of knee problems. 

To join in the celebration of Chau's 50th State Lyyne Langlois (one of SFRRC's other 50 Staters) flew to also be present. 

And Chau and Michael just having a ball post-race! 

If you're curious about this 50 States Quest...

The graph to the right is from an article the BBC did on the rise in the popularity of running a marathon in each of the 50 US States. When looking at it, keep in mind that the teal color is of those who have actually completed the 50 States. The darker bar is of those who in in the process (and have been certified along their journey).  

Are there rules to races being counted. Yes.

- The event shall have a minimum of 10 finishers.

- It must have a minimum of 60 days' advanced publicity in a running publication, magazine, newspaper, website or race brochure.

- The event must either start or finish in the state being counted. A marathon that runs into two states counts as one.

In our conversations with Chau, here are a few other questions we asked her:

What was your most memorable marathon? (well, maybe two or three memorable ones) 

Of course the first one in Cape Cod. At the Friday pasta dinner, Bill Rogers was there as a guest speaker. He was really popular then. Both my daughters went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, the same school that Bill Rogers went to so the connection was wonderful. The Great Wall in China was fun. Of course then Athens, Greece was among my most favorite. 

What did the journey of running the 50 States (or running, in general) bring to your life?

I started out running to relieve stress. Then, soon I get hooked, feeling good. But later on, the friendships I gained were most important. Seems like runners can share stories about running, and understand each other while it is a whole different language to non-runners. 

What has being with the San Francisco Road Runners Club meant to you?

Being with SFRRC is so much fun. I can run with the group 5 days a week if I want to. The speed sessions are fun too. I enjoyed the Saturday long runs and Sunday trail runs. Most importantly there were other fun activities, such as the running camp. Oh, boy, I felt like a kid again. The Christmas party (dressing up), then bowling for the first time ever. Lastly, getting together at local shoe stores. It was always fun to see well-known speakers, like the woman Olympian - Magda Boulet. Also the food and post-run gatherings. How can you not like all of that? Of course, San Francisco is the most beautiful place to run. I could be out there all day! 

What words of advice would you give to someone who is training for a race?
It is like going to school. You have to do your homework. When the test day rolls around you will be fine. 

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