Running a Marathon in All 50 States

Westfield native Gina Chupka is completing her dream of running a marathon in all 50 states. Boston is her final test and homecoming.

Gina crossing one of many finish lines. Photo provided.

Gina crossing one of many finish lines. Photo provided.

Gina Chupka’s completed 52 marathons in 49 states. But the one marathon that’s eluded the Westfield native is Boston, and in two short weeks, her goal of running a marathon in all 50 states will be completed. The 36-year-old spends her days working on renewable energy as a chemist at the National Renewable Energy lab in Colorado and her evenings training for marathons. While she’s thrilled to be completing this goal, the real mission is to raise money for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which raises money for cancer patients and their families to help pay for utility bills and fund pediatric brain cancer research. Chupka took a break from training to talk to us about running her 53rd marathon, what her advice is for beginners, and her favorite marathon of them all.

So you’ve run a marathon in every single state?
Once I complete Boston, hopefully. Fingers crossed, right?

Do you plan on continuing on this journey or are you done once you hit your 50th state?
No, I’m definitely going to run more. So I signed up to do Boston and Big Sur, so I’ll be doing Big Sur a couple weeks after the Boston Marathon. It’s on April 28th.

How long is the recovery time for you, usually, after you run a marathon?
Because I’ve done so many, my recovery time is I think a lot shorter. I’m usually sore for maybe two days or something, and not very sore. Not compared to the first one I ran, that’s for sure.

Which marathon is your favorite so far?
Pike’s Peak for sure, is in Manitou Springs, Colorado, so close to home. You basically run up Pike’s Peak up the bar trail to 14,110 feet and then back down. Definitely my all-time favorite race, I’m going to be doing it for the fourth time this year. A lot of the same people do it every year, so you get to see the same people again, and it’s just a really fun race.

What put you on this mission to run 50 marathons?
It didn’t start off as being something I was going to do, but I think what happened is my friend and I ran one in Colorado and then one in Utah together, and then my husband’s brother was running in Wisconsin and I went there, and then someone’s like, “Oh you’ve run in three different states now, so you should run one in every state.” And I found out there’s the 50 state marathon club, and I said, “Alright, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna run a marathon in every state.”

Have you practiced the Boston course?
I am a little bit familiar with Boston only because I usually watch it. Like last year was really interesting, you could watch the televised part and you could see different parts of the course and where the runners were. I love Boston because I grew up near there, and I’m a huge Boston sports fan so that’s why I kind of saved it ’til last.

You’re running for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. How did that come about?
I went on to the Boston Marathon website and started looking at the charities, and the Joe Andruizzi Foundation definitely resonated with me. I think just reading the stories about the patients on the website and hearing the struggles and how the foundation just really helped them by providing some financial assistance to them while they were fighting for their life. And I really thought that was important because when you’re trying to fight for your life, you shouldn’t be worried about feeding your family or keeping a roof over your head. I just really felt like the foundation was just doing a great mission for people and that’s why I wanted to run for them.

So this being your 54th marathon and your 50th state, what advice do you have for first-time runners?
Definitely put in the training. Building up your running miles slowly. Definitely go slowly, because if you build too fast you can get injured. I think training for your first marathon you don’t want to have an injury because that’s just so discouraging. Take your time, build up your miles slowly, just a continuous, rigid set plan. That’s what my friend and I did for our first one, and we trained six months and it was a lot of work.

How do you stay motivated and get over the mental and physical roadblocks?
A lot of times I think to myself that I’m very fortunate that I can even run a marathon, so if I start to feel like I just want to give up or I want to quit, I always think to myself, “There’s people out there who don’t have legs who can’t run, or you’re very fortunate to have what you have, and keep going, you can finish this.” That, oftentimes, gets me through. Sometimes if I’m listening to my iPod, you can find a good song and that helps me get through, too.

How do you stay in shape for all these marathons?
I swim. I just learned how to swim properly this year, so I’ve been going to a coach that’s teaching me the proper technique. I actually enjoy swimming more than I thought I would. So I enjoy doing that with my husband, and we also like to ride bikes together. It kind of keeps us doing things other than running.

What are some of your favorite pre-race foods and drinks?
I definitely am a pasta person. I do carbo load the night before with pasta, it’s been my traditional… you know they say if you do something and it works, don’t change it? So I usually have a pasta dinner beforehand, and you know sometimes I will have a beer, it depends. There are carbs in beer, right?

What about post-race? How do you recover?
I definitely have a beer after a race, that’s for sure. You’ve got to have one of those, and a lot of water, that definitely helps. I’m not that hungry usually after a race, so I tend to kind of relax. My husband comes with me quite a bit to the races so we can sit together and talk about the race, and we usually go for a nice big dinner afterward. By the evening I’m definitely hungry.

What are you looking forward to most about Boston?
I think having my parents there. I’m really excited that they’re going. They are still in Westfield, and they are coming out and they actually bought tickets to stay in the Joe Andruzzi Foundation tent at the finish line, because I was really worried that they wouldn’t be able to get down by the finish line at all, because I’m assuming it’s going to be very crowded.