Forty-nine marathons in 49 states will become 50 in 50 for an Atlanta woman running the Chattanooga Marathon this weekend.
Elizabeth Simon, a Cox Communications director, has been saving Chattanooga for last in her 11-year journey to run a marathon in every state.
"I wanted to do something close to home [as the last race]," she said. "Chattanooga is only two hours from where I live. I hadn't done Tennessee, so I wanted to save a state for last where I could have a lot of people there to cheer me on and see me finish this goal."
Simon had always been fairly active - she played soccer in high school and intramurals in college. And after college, she took up running to stay shape. But she never consider herself a "runner."
It wasn't until after graduation that Simon's job made her worry about her health.
"When you're at a desk job, you have to be active - and I really like to eat - so I had to do something to make sure I wasn't gaining weight," the 39-year-old said.
Then in 2005, a friend from church asked her to run a 5k and she obliged.
She found the race atmosphere addicting, she said.
The next year, the goal-oriented wife and mother of four decided to run one 5k every month. The next year, it was a 10k every quarter. Then, two half-marathons.
By 2008, she decided she wanted to run a marathon. So in March of that year she did.
"From there, I was like, 'What do I do now?'" she said.
Simon found a 50-states marathon club and thought that would be a great goal to have. About 1,500 people have completed the feat.
The next 11 years consisted of 5 a.m. mornings and race after race after race.
She's raced the famed Boston Marathon and the less-famed Delaware Marathon. One year, she ran 12. She's run four in five days. She checked off Alaska and Hawaii both last year. She's even won three. Her favorite was the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.
This weekend's race won't feature an overall victory. She expects to finish about two hours behind her normal 3.5-hour pace.
And this time, her family is going to run with her. Three of her children and her husband will be running the marathon relay. Her daughters, 13-year-old Lizzie and 10-year-old Brianna, will run six miles. Her 8-year-old son, Alan, will run seven. Her husband, Rob, will run the final 7.2 miles with her as her youngest son, Peyton, waits with friends and family at the end, where they'll celebrate Simon's accomplishment at Chattanooga Brewing Co.
Next, Simon wants to complete the six Majors: London, Berlin, Tokyo and Chicago plus the already-completed New York and Boston marathons. From there, she'll continue running some marathons but wants to stick closer to home.
"To hear these types of engaging stories, it brings warmth to our heart," Chattanooga Sports Committee President Tim Morgan said.
Simon's final race on her 50-state journey will start and end in the Tennessee Pavilion.
The Chattanooga Marathon, now in its fourth year, typically has started on Broad Street outside High Point Climbing Gym and ended at the pavilion.
It'll be the one major change to this year's race.
"We listened to our community partners, specifically the Chattanooga Police Department, and they made a recommendation. We also believe we'll be able to amplify the experience by having everything start and finish in one location," Morgan said. "It will be more spectator friendly and easier for everyone to engage."
The change will allow spectators to see the start and finish of the race in one location while giving them easy access to the city's bike-share program for those who want to go along the course to support runners. It also helps with traffic along Broad Street.
The course is expected to be fully open and runnable despite expected race-day rain. Director Brian Myrick has been monitoring water levels and the course to ensure there isn't flooding. The marathon and half marathon both will begin Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Organizers expect about 1,500 people Saturday for the 5K races and 2,000 Sunday for the marathon and half marathon.
Contact staff writer Mark Pace at email@example.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.