Crazy About Running: Going The Extra Miles

Jet-Setter: Marissa de Luna

Race-morning logistics are challenging enough for any new runner—and that’s only for one race. Add in travel time, strategic planning, smart spending and sleeping in cars, and you’re ready to run with Marissa de Luna across all 50 states and seven continents in under a year, which is what she did in 2013—on a total whim.

“My brother was going to go to Antarctica, and I wanted to go and see the race. And he said, ‘Whatever I pay, you have to pay.’ But I wasn’t running, so he said, ‘Why don’t you run and pay for the race then?’”

What started as a simple sibling agreement for an overseas vacation quickly snowballed into the impressive feat of covering 57 races in just under a year, starting with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon last February to “see if I can even run that far,” de Luna explains. Having only a few 2-mile runs under her fuel belt, the 51-year-old notary from Santee, Calif., successfully completed the 13.1 miles. “It went from something to do to something that was a goal. It’s never too late to do something, so might as well do them all [in all the states],” she explains. “I thought, Oh my God, I can do this!”

She did—sometimes hopping in the car immediately following one race to make it to another state to run the next morning—or even later that day. After crossing the line at the Bare Cupboard Half Marathon in Wisconsin last July, de Luna drove her rental five hours to Illinois to make the 5:45 p.m. start time for the Fitness for America Sports Festival Half Marathon. When races were on back-to-back mornings, de Luna was not a stranger to sleeping in her car at the start line. “If I get there at midnight and have to get up at 4 a.m. to run another race, what’s the point in a hotel?”

Double weekends even crossed international waters, with her first international event being the Punta Arenas Half Marathon in Chile followed by the White Continent Half Marathon in Antarctica the next morning. “Due to weather, it was easier to enter Antarctica from Chile, so we did that race first instead and hopped on a plane five hours later.”

De Luna completed the 57-race streak in Thailand at the Chiang Mai Half Marathon in December. With no DNFs or injuries in 2013, she plans to tackle her first full marathon this year. “If I ran two halfs in a day, I can run a full!” she says. The hardest part of the whole adventure? The planning. “I started with nothing—just a pair of shoes and some tights. There are ways around the financial parts. It’s all about the planning.”

RELATED: Dean Karnazes’ 3 Tips For Injury-Proofing Your Body

More about Marissa:

Favorite shoes: Brooks Adrenaline and PureFlow. “I value sponsors— without them events can’t survive by just runners’ entry fees.”

How many shoes did you go through last year: Two pairs

Go-to energy fuel: “I can eat pretty much anything.”

Most essential piece of running gear: Nike tights with pockets

Personal mantra: “It is hard at the beginning, but always keep in mind how great it feels at the end.”

—Caitlyn Pilkington

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