Remember Bev DiCarlo? She’s the Harborcreek grandma I wrote about in Lake Erie Lifestyle who, after a harrowing and temporarily-paralyzing fall at her home, decided to do a half-marathon in all 50 states by her 70th birthday to raise money for the Gertrude Barber Center.
Well, she did it, completing her last half at the Des Moines Marathon on October 20!
Your goal was to do a half marathon in all 50 states before you turned 70 and you did it, right?
Yes. My original goal was to have all 50 states finished in 5 years (by my 70th birthday) averaging about a race a month. However, I found it was very doable to do several races a month, and many back-to-back races(one state on Saturday and a neighboring state on Sunday). This cut the travel time and helped keep expenses down.
What & when was your final race?
My very last race was the Des Moines Marathon on October 20, 2013 in Iowa. When I returned to the hotel after the race, I threw my running shoes and compression socks in the trash can. My running days are over!
What were your top three races?
I really enjoyed every race; each one has special memories. I met so many runners and friendly people along the way. If I have to choose, I would pick these:
Rock n Roll series of races: These races are always in great locations, big cities, smooth relatively flat courses, bands every mile or so along the way, impressive finisher’s medals and are easy to travel to. I completed RnR races in Washington DC, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Illinois. Various family members joined me so we always had a great time.
Zombie Run, Anchorage Alaska: My 12-year old grandson, Noah Dever, completed his first half-marathon with me. We spent five days traveling around Alaska–great time.
Disney series: The Donald Duck in Orlando Florida, and the Mickey Mouse in Anaheim, California. When you run both races in the same year, you complete the Disney Coast-to-Coast Challenge. The finisher’s medals are big, beautiful and flashy. Bling is nice!!! My son, David, completed the Goofy Challenge: 5k on Friday, 1/2 marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday–all on the same weekend.
Name one you didn’t really enjoy:
The Bear Lake Back-to-Back Marathon and Half sounded so good, that I couldn’t pass it up.
I raced around the Idaho half of Bear Lake on a Friday morning and the Utah half of Bear Lake the following day. However, there was road construction in Idaho and the road crew moved a race route direction arrow so those of us who were not familiar with the race route ran an extra eight miles!!!!!
Which are your worse miles in a 1/2 and how do you get through them?
I really believe you don’t “hit the wall” in a half-marathon as you may experience in a full-marathon. I dedicated my miles to my family members and would think about them, in turn, as I completed the miles. For example, Start to mile 1 is Justin, next mile is Hayley, up to mile 3 is Abby, next mile is Logan, up to mile 5 is Noah, next mile is Rob, up to mile 7 is Karen, next mile is Mikaele, up to mile 9 is Erin, next mile is David (son), up to mille 11 is David (husband), next mile is for extended family and from mile 12 to the Finish Line is always for Aidan (grandson with autism).
How long, on average, does a 1/2 marathon take you to complete?
I run for 3 minutes, walk for 30 seconds and repeat the sequence throughout the race. I use a Garmin watch that keeps track of my pace, measures the miles and vibrates when it’s time to change my gates. I run at a comfortable pace and maintain 12 minute miles; this usually lets me place in my age category and keeps me from finishing last.
Are you glad it’s over…or are you sad it’s over?
I’m glad its done! After I completed 40 states, I just wanted to finish the challenge so I could move on to other projects. However, the races, themselves, were fun and the people I met along the way were great. I now have friends all over the United States. And, of course, I got to brag about Erie everywhere. Several new out-of-town friends completed the Presque Isle Marathon because they heard about it from me.
And Erie is known . . . while Noah and I were enjoying refreshments after the Anchorage race, a fellow runner asked where we came from. When Noah told him Erie, Pa., another runner walked over and said, “Romolo Chocolates!” Her favorite is Romolo sponge candy so Dave and I mailed some to her.
You did all this to raise money for the Barber Institute, which has helped your grandson, Aidan, and his entire family deal with autism. How much did you raise?
As of today, $39,650 has been received by the Barber Foundation. However, I have received emails and notes from other autism support groups all over the United States thanking me for mentioning autism. If my son or I were featured in a news release, radio or TV spot, many readers/listeners contributed to their local autism group. We know about $50,000 was raised from our efforts but unless I was contacted by the agency or group, I couldn’t track it. We are just happy people were motivated to contribute to the cause!
You didn’t spend any donations on your race expenses, right?
Yes; contributions were sent directly to the Barber Foundation or the local autism agencies. We never collected any monies directly. I flew 79,869 miles; drove an additional 35,773 miles and stayed 170 nights in hotels. The only figure I did not calculate was the total cost of this endeavor—my husband, Dave, doesn’t want to know!
Can people still donate?
Yes; the best way is to send a check, payable to The Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation, to The Advancement Office, 100 Barber Place, Erie, PA 16507-1863. Be sure to write “Race With Grammy” in the memo section.
Favorite running shoes?
I wore out 13 pairs of running shoes over the 3 years and 10 months, including the 668.1 race miles (1,336,200 steps) and the 4,850 training miles. I prefer Brook shoes. Proper fit is vital. I recommend getting shoes at a specialty store (such as Achilles Running Shop) because they make sure the shoes fit your feet and your running style.
Are you still vegan? How did that work with training?
I now follow a moderate diet that includes all the major food groups. I avoid all processed and prepared foods. I prefer to eat at home so I know what and how the food is prepared.
What’s next? Any big plans on the horizon?
I am already preparing for my next adventure but cannot release the details at this time. Needless to say, it will still be helping children and adults with autism and special needs.
What advice do you have for other trying to do the 50-state thing?
Visiting each state was awesome; our country is beautiful! Just make up your mind to complete the challenge, put together a time frame, and schedule the races. I found that races listed on www.marathonguide.com were usually well-organized. Other sites I found helpful were www.runningintheusa.com which has a “50 Stater” link (lists back-to-back races) and www.halffanatics.com which lists smaller races. Go for it!
By the numbers:
Here are some fun stats from Grammy’s adventure:
13 pairs of running shoes worn out
51 races (50 states, plus Washington D.C.)
170 nights spent in a hotel
668 total miles
4,850 miles of training over three years & 10 months
35,773 miles traveled by car to races
79,869 miles traveled by air to races
$39,650 (so far) raised for the Dr. Getrude A. Barber Foundation