published Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Local runner sets goal of running marathons on every continent

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Truman Smith

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    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Truman Smith has run marathons in all 50 states.

In 1996, Truman Smith's wife told him to find a hobby.

He'd already run 8 marathons at that point, so he figured it was a good activity to build on.

Fourteen years and 74 marathons later, Mr. Smith, 63, has run in all 50 states and is aiming to marathon in each of the seven continents. He recently ran the Great Wall marathon in China.

If ever Cheryl, his wife of 38 years, finds being the wife of a marathoner tiresome, he said he affectionately reminds her: "I believe you told me to find a hobby."

What made you decide to run marathons around the world?

It was a way to see the coutry and actually touch the land that you wouldn't normally touch. You actually spend four hours out on somebody's highway really being in the atmosphere, seeing whatever the state's all about.

What memories do you have of your first marathon?

Just training to get there. I started that hoping I could run a 5K. I ran (one) out at Northgate Mall, it was a brand new mall back then. I was so thrilled and pleased that I was able to get 3 miles. Then I set my sights on a 10K. I ran my first half marathon out in Collegedale. After, I told some of my friends I would never run a marathon because that was so tough.

In 1987, I ran the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, and that pretty much got it started. Lots of people can run 20 miles. It's that last 6.2 that you never know how it's going to turn out. I've experienced a few good days and a lot of struggles.

You recently returned from China. How was it doing a marathon there?

The Great Wall marathon was the toughest marathon I've done to date. That was my 82nd marathon. There's a section you do on the wall, and is has 5,165 steps you have to negotiate. All the steps were not uniform; they varied in height and the tread on the steps was different. It was made that way for military purposes when the enemy tried to charge the towers, they couldn't get a running cadence up the stairs because the stairs were not uniform. I told somebody, "Well it stopped the Mongolians and it's stopping us too."

Why run so many marathons?

It's the person I happen to be, the kind of person who wants to see what's on the other side of the mountain.

What would you say is the most memorable marathon you've participated in?

Anything on Highway 101. It runs up and down the Western side of the United States. I ran the Big Sur on Highway 101. I ran Newport, Oregon, and it had a piece of it on 101, then I ran Port Angeles, Washington, and it ran parallel to Highway 101, so I got to see all of that coastal highway. Alaska was a sight to see too. It was on the longest day. The sun never goes down there in June; it's pretty much daylight all the time.

You wish to run marathons on all 7 continents. How do you anticipate Antarctica will be?

I look at Antarctica as a physical challenge. There's nothing there perhaps, there's no outlet stores or malls. My curiosity is just wild about going across the Drake Passage. There's a 10-day time on a boat, then one day they set us free one day to run a marathon. There's one that's directly at the South Pole. That's a little bit of a different animal.

Fast Facts

Family: Married since 1972 to Cheryl; 2 sons and a daughter, 4 grandkids, one on the way.

Runs: 35-40 miles a week.

Goal: To run 100 marathons.

Best marathon time: 3:35, 1988, Huntsville Rocket City Marathon.

Worst marathon time: 6:21 Great Wall, (before that, 4:38 Erie, Pa.).

What's next: Mt. Kiliminjaro.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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