JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska runner hit a milestone that took him 16 years to reach when he crossed the finish line at a marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
When Juneau runner John Kern finished the Williams Route 66 Marathon this week, he completed his goal of running a marathon in all 50 states, the Juneau Empire reported Thursday.
"It was a great run. That's the one thing that people don't realize — is that every run is like starting over," Kern said. "You never know what it's going to be like. It's 26 miles — anything can happen."
The retired Juneau Capital Transit superintendent ran his first marathon in 2002. He kept running, aiming to qualify to race in the Boston Marathon. That goal led him to seek out races in other states, and he has now completed 66 marathons.
About five years after his first marathon, Kern reached his qualifying time in the Frank Maier Marathon in Juneau. The next year, he was at the starting line in Boston.
Afterward, Kern's goal was to run 10 marathons in 10 different states, sending him into a trajectory of racing in all 50 states.
Kern said the joy of reaching the finish line and the strong sense of community that the races offered kept him going.
"You have the infusion of endorphins, and I find that it lasts for three or four days, sometimes a week afterward, where you just have this great feeling — you just finished a marathon," Kern said.
Kern completed the Tulsa race in 4 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds. He was 346th overall and third in his age group.
"I was coming along, and the last sign post I'd seen was mile 22," Kern said. "And next thing you know, I'm coming up on mile 24, and I thought, 'Wow, now I really got this. There's only two miles left.'"