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Long-running Goal: Finish Marathons in All 50 States And D.C.

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DALLAS - Angela Tortorice of Dallas remembers Memorial Day 1994 as if it were yesterday. Putting on a bathing suit made her much too self-conscious. She wished for a flat stomach and lamented lugging an extra 15 pounds.

The next day, she went to the track at her apartment complex. She walked a quarter-mile, then ran a quarter-mile. She consistently ran and walked during the next six weeks until she could finally run one mile without stopping. She repeated the process until she could run two without stopping. For the next three years, she ran at least three miles daily.

Those tentative steps launched a six-year odyssey.

One mile at a time, she built her stamina until she could run 26.2 miles. She completed her first marathon in October 1997. One race led to another, each presenting new opportunities. This fall, she completed her goal of running a marathon in each of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia.

"I think anybody can do it," said Tortorice, who describes herself as an average person. "It's just a matter of making yourself be disciplined. Once you do something every single day at the same time, you form a habit."

Her first three weeks were miserable, she says. Then her body began accepting the change. After six weeks, it expected to run.

Tortorice made herself run every weekday. She feared she would get out of the habit if she did any less. She also ran for fitness. She said the marathons didn't help her shed her extra weight, but she feels healthier and in better shape.

"I'm super slow," she said. "That's all my goal has been, just to finish and get through these marathons. The last thing on my mind is what my time is."

Tortorice, a CPA for TXU, didn't set out to run even one marathon. She blundered into it by meeting interesting people who motivated her to try new things. She learned about running at White Rock Lake while talking with a fellow runner. She hadn't known that hundreds of runners converge at the lake to run 9-to-11-mile loops on weekend mornings.

"It was such an incredible thing, going out there on a Saturday morning for the first time," said Tortorice, who lives six-tenths of a mile from the lake. "It was wild to see. Where had I been all my life?"

That life-altering discovery became a way of life. She has spent most Saturday mornings at the lake ever since. She gradually added mileage and in 1997 decided to train for Dallas' December White Rock Marathon. That October, she ran the San Antonio marathon to prove to herself that she could complete one. Then she ran the Rock.

In the spring of 1998, she joined the Galloway Marathon program to improve her speed. One day, as her group began a 22-mile long run, she commented aloud: "It's kind of crazy to run 22 when you can run four more and get a medal."

She told the group there was a marathon in Tupelo, Miss., the following day and wondered whether anyone was interested in running it with her. Julia Saige of Dallas said she would go. So the pair ran back to their cars, packed and left for Mississippi.

In Tupelo, Tortorice ran alongside a man who had already run marathons in all 50 states. He planted the idea in her head. A year later, at age 32, she decided to make the 50-state club by the time she was 40.

Family, friends, and friends of friends have shared travel and lodging costs. Sometimes she even camped out to save money. She became an expert at using discount travel Web sites.

The biggest challenge proved to be scheduling states with few marathons. For example, she realized she had to do North Dakota and Vermont in the same weekend last spring. Otherwise, she would have had to wait an entire year to complete her goal.

She flew to Bismarck on a Friday to run her North Dakota marathon on Saturday. Then she flew to Boston, arrived at 10:30 p.m. and drove four hours to Stowe, Vt. She slept from 2:30 until 6 a.m. before running the Stowe Marathon.

Tortorice achieved her 50th state when she finished the Portland, Maine, race on Oct. 2.

"I don't feel like there's a letdown," she said. "If anything, I'm excited that I've done it and that I can move on. I'm going to take care of things I've had to put off."

In addition, she's experiencing a newfound freedom to run wherever and whatever she wants. For now, Tortorice said, she's concentrating on speed work.

"In running all those marathons, you don't get faster," she said. "You get slower. I want to get back on the track."

Boston is looming out there ... if she can qualify.



A new challenge for runners emerged in 1995 when the Antarctica Marathon became a reality. Since then, many adventurous runners have completed a marathon on every continent.

Four men achieved the goal in 1995. Since then, hundreds of others have joined the exclusive group. One of those is Steve Kipisz, 43, of Plano, Texas. He completed the goal in December 2001 in Vina del Mar, Chile. Since then, he has run what he describes as odd and unusual races. He did the 100-mile Himalayan Stage Race in October 2002 and the Inca Trail Marathon in June.


(c) 2005, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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