Goal for Washington woman: 50 marathons, 50 states

TACOMA, Wash. — Tami Christensen doesn’t get hung up on labels.

“I’m a dancer, not a runner,” she said. “I’m a CPA, not a writer.”

But that didn’t stop her from becoming all of the above.

On Sept. 3, Christensen, a 37-year-old who recently moved to Tacoma from Liberty Lake, self-published a book called “Life on the Run.”

The book is loaded with stories and lessons learned during her ongoing attempt to run a marathon in every state.

“It’s about facing failure and finding courage,” Christensen said. “You think there are these boundaries on life until you learn they are self imposed. Once you break through those in running, you can transfer that to other areas of your life. And it opens your world, and there is nothing stopping you anymore.”

Christensen has run marathons in 40 states and Washington, D.C. She expects to finish her goal sometime next year.

On Aug. 27, she ran her first race local race, the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon. She finished third in the women’s division and 10th overall.

Between running and writing, raising four children with her husband, and settling in to her new surroundings, Christensen stays quite busy.

“Running is a good endurance builder for life,” she said.

Christensen recently carved out a few minutes to field a few questions about her project and her passion for running.


—Q: Where did this idea come from?

—A: One person who I always admired and found really interesting was my grandma. She had traveled everywhere. I loved how she was so knowledgeable about the world and different people and cultures. She was open-minded and loving. She had this philosophy that you could make a friend out of anybody.

I, of course, wanted to be like her. She had visited all 50 states and she told me about all her adventures. I thought, “Gosh, I would love to visit all 50 states.” I also love running. Running a marathon in every state is the perfect excuse to travel. At that point, I’d already done 10, so I was already 20 percent done. So I was like, let’s just ride this thing out. I think it will be fun.

—Q: Has anything been more difficult than you expected?

—A: The logistics. That’s one of the things that took me off guard. I didn’t really think about that. I just thought how fun it would be to run and explore the different states.

—Q: How did you get into running?

—A: I was a cheerleader in high school and a dancer. I didn’t start running until I was 23. I ran a half marathon and somebody said that with that time you could qualify for the Boston Marathon. That blew my mind because Boston is huge. That’s when I thought maybe I should give it a try. What do I have to lose aside from my pride?

I qualified in my first marathon (in Utah).

—Q: So you and your husband have four young children (ages 4-11), how do you find time to run?

—A: Being a mom and I was an employee for some of that time as well, that’s a priority. Running is a hobby. I love it, and I make time for it by getting up really early. But in terms of how it fits into the rest of my life, it comes last.

—Q: You said you ran a marathon while pregnant with each of your children. Is that as incredibly challenging as it sounds?

—A: The farthest along I was was 4 1/2 months. You have to make sure you hydrate well, eat well. Your goals shift. I just ran a marathon when I ran it as hard as I could and it was 3 hours, 4 minutes. I didn’t have to think about anything except crossing that finish line. When I had the babies, I had to make sure my heart rate wasn’t too high and breathing was right. My goal shifted from wanting to finish fast to just wanting to finish and have a good time.

—Q: Do your kids watch your races?

—A: The two older ones are interested in it. They’ve seen me come home from races with the medals and they get excited. They’re proud of me. Another thing I want to show my kids is that you are never too old to set a goal and work really hard. They’ve been there when I’ve bonked at races, and I’d say this wasn’t really such a great race for mom. And they’ve been there when I’ve done well and they’ve come up to the podium with me.

So, they’ve seen what hard work looks like. They’ve seen what failure look like. … That’s what is most rewarding for me. Now, I can look my kids in the eye when they are struggling with something I can say, “I totally get it, but I also believe in you and go work a little harder.” They know that I’m not only saying that I’m also experiencing it.

—Q: What will you do when you’re done with your 50 states project?

—A: I would like to get fast enough to make the (2020) Olympic trials. I have nothing to lose. I’ve run 46 marathons and I’ve had a few where I’ve really crashed and burned. The funny thing is, nobody really cares. That took away a lot of my fear of trying to do something even thinking I might fail.

The worse thing that’s going to happen is I don’t make it. The best that can happen is it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.

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