KAYSVILLE -- Davis High School librarian Jennifer Harward, 42, knows a few things about marathons.
Harward finished her 81st marathon on Dec. 7, in Delaware, qualifying her for the 50 States Marathon Club. She has now run a marathon in every state.
Harward said she didn't start running marathons with the goal of running in every state. In fact, she didn't deem herself a qualified applicant to run a marathon until she traveled to London in 2003. There, she came across the London marathon just as some of the final runners were coming in -- at 7 and 8 hours -- dressed up in pig and chicken costumes.
"When I was younger, I always wanted to run a marathon, but I had convinced myself it wasn't something I could do, until I arrived in London and saw those runners at the end and thought, if those people can do it, then so can I," Harward said. "If you saw me, you would never think I run marathons. I learned though that it is just a matter of commitment."
Harward came home from London and signed up for marathon in Salt Lake and used a non-runners training guide for marathons for guidance. She was hooked, and started running in two or three marathons a year in Utah and surrounding states. By 2010, Harward had decided running a marathon in every state was her new goal. She began by running in two to three marathons each month.
"If you think about it, you've got to do long training runs in preparation for a marathon, and I don't like those very much, so I've found if I do a marathon every two to three weeks, the marathon is my long run. I'm in a constant state of taper for a couple weeks with a long run at the end," Harward said.
Hayward said seeing new sights was a big reason behind her goal. For 20 years, she worked as a U.S. History teacher, and, "This was a great way of tying my passion for travel and seeing these historical sites with my love of running," she said.
At first, Harward said, everyone thought her love of marathons would go away. But she admits it actually became an obsession. "There are so many unhealthy obsessions out there, so if I'm going to have an obsession, it might as well be this."
Running so many marathons can get expensive with travel costs, sign-up fees, and running shoes -- she's gone through 30 pairs of running shoes over the years. She said she learned how to leverage her airline mileage credit card and often leaves for marathons on a Friday after work, runs the marathon on the weekend, then flies home Sunday night, so she doesn't miss any work.
"It's a balancing act, trying to do it with the least amount of spending as possible, and the least amount of missing work," Harward said.
Harward said it's hard to pinpoint which marathons have been her favorite, but she has fond memories of the London and New York Marathons.
"Those cities are so iconic because every time I turned a corner, I saw something that I had seen in a movie or something that had historical significance," Harward said.
Hawaii, she said, was the marathon she struggled with the most because of heat, humidity, and dehydration. Had it not been for what she refers to as her guardian angel, a fellow runner who helped her the last three miles of the 26.2 run, Harward said she wouldn't have completed that marathon.
During her marathon journey, at one point, Harward was inspired to start raising money to coincide with her running. Harward decided to sponsor each state and donate $26.20, a dollar a mile, to the Pat Summitt foundation for Alzheimer's research.
"It's been kind of life-changing for me because I have taken something that could be interpreted as a selfish goal, and given me an opportunity to turn it into something to give back," Harward said.
Even though she hit her 50-state goal, Harward said she still plans to run several marathons a year.