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Nifty Fifty

Hoosier marathoner takes country on foot

Hank Snow’s 1962 No. 1 hit, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” wasn’t written about Bruce Speth, but it certainly could have been.

On a rainy, wet and cold Oct. 12, the 63-year-old Indiana native crossed a finish line in Maine and accomplished what only 742 others had before—running a marathon in all 50 states to become a member of the 50 States Marathon Club.

No amount of sleet, rain or snow could stop Speth from realizing a goal he set for himself more than 10 years before.

“It didn’t bother me, I was so happy to run,” Speth said. “Because this is the day I am going to accomplish my goal. It didn’t matter that the conditions weren’t ideal.”

Becoming a member of an elite running club wasn’t Speth’s first goal in the world of marathons. Speth set out to qualify for the world’s oldest marathon, the Boston Marathon.

At his fifth Chicago Marathon in 1998, Speth approached the start/finish line needing to finish with a time of 3:25 or better to qualify for Boston. He crossed the finish line 3:20:33 later to make his goal a reality.

“That marathon in 1998 was one of those special ones,” Speth said.

After running the Boston marathon in 1999, and again in 2000 and 2004, Speth set his sights on his latest triumph.

Maybe a better song to relate to Speth would be, “Travelin’ Man,” by Rickey Nelson. No, Speth did not find a pretty senorita, an eskimo or a china doll, but he did find some nice scenery and even a few relaxing moments by the beach.

“For me personally, when I go on vacation if it’s not for a marathon, the first thing I want to do is put on my running shoes and get a feel for the area,” Speth said. “On this trip through the states, I’ve seen a lot of interesting places.”

His list of races and marathons reads like a concert tour T-shirt, with stops in 2011 that include New Jersey, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, North Carolina and Delaware.

He’s run down the strip in Las Vegas, up to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles and across the Golden Gate bridge. The only hiccup in Speth’s cross-country pursuit was a torn medial meniscus in 2008 at a Des Moines, Iowa, marathon. Speth learned a very important lesson that day.

“The goal is to finish and finish all 50 states, not to run a faster time,” Speth said.

Four years later, with a healthy knee, he accomplished his goal. He now enjoys the experience and doesn’t push through the race.

Bruce has a shirt that has all the 50 states on the back. As he completed a marathon in each one, the state got a stamp with a smiley face.

When asked if he really had a smile for every race he ran, he laughed and replied, “When I finished it, I was smiling, maybe not during it. Everyone of them wasn’t necessarily enjoyable during the race, but when I finished I was smiling.”

Speth who resides in both Clinton, Ind. and Bloomington, is still uncertain of his next goal, if there is one. All seven continents? The Canadian Provinces?

“People have asked me that. I just want to sit back for a little bit in the glow of this,” He said. “I am not sure, I’ll have to think about that.”

The obvious hurdle to that feat would be Antarctica, but Bruce might be in luck. The 14th Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon is scheduled for March 7, 2013.

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