Mike and Kristin Kiss of Palatine celebrated a unique milestone on Sunday: They completed their 50th half-marathon -- one in every state -- and all in under 100 hours, or less than two hours apiece.
They chose the Maine Half Marathon, the 13-mile course along Portland's inner bay, for their ultimate race, for its fall foliage and relatively flat terrain.
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They crossed the finish line hand in hand, to the cheers of 30 friends and family members, including fellow members of the Tri Club at the Buehler YMCA in Palatine. They also completed their goal, of finishing the half in under two hours, at 1:45:23.
This summer alone, they ran half marathons in south suburban South Holland, Missoula, Montana; and Anchorage, Alaska.
They started their self-imposed challenge in December 2009 at the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, where they literally ran down the strip to the finish line.
"We started to think that this would be an awesome way to see the country," says Mike, who works in corporate banking. "Neither of us were really runners when we started this, but we were looking for ways to spend time together."
The couple met at Barrington High School, where both were athletes. Kristin played varsity tennis and Mike played soccer, though he eventually quit, ironically enough, because he didn't like all the running.
Both attended Indiana University and ran a 5K as a fundraiser, but it wasn't until they finally ran a full marathon in Champaign they decided a half-marathon was enough of a challenge for them.
"We weren't totally debilitated afterward," says Kristin, who works in corporate communications for Zurich. "We still had energy left to explore the different cities."
And breweries. The couple had fun checking out microbreweries at their locations -- including Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, ME, whose owners opened on Sunday just to help the Kiss couple and their cheering section celebrate their accomplishment.
In completing 50 races, the couple figures they ran one a month.
Mike Kiss' favorite was the "Run Crazy Horse" in South Dakota, which took runners from the Crazy Horse Memorial through downtown Hill City and a loop on the Mickelson Trail.
"I loved it for the scenery and the sheer beauty along the course," he says.
Kristin Kiss' favorite was the Eugene Half Marathon in Oregon, which starts at historic Hayward Field, site of the U.S. Olympic trials and weaves through the University of Oregon and across the Willamette River.
"It's just a fun town," she says. "They understand running and really come out to support the event."
Now that they have met their challenge, they concede it's somewhat bittersweet. But it doesn't have to end, they say.
They're thinking about throwing down a new challenge, such as running races in each continent, or different islands and U.S. territories.
But will they each offer microbreweries? That is the question.