Topeka couple celebrates running a marathon in all 50 states

Brad and Marla Rhoden starting running marathons in the 1980′s
Local couple celebrates running a marathon in all 50 states
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 9:20 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Thursday night, friends gathered at Garry Gribble’s Running Sports Store on Wanamaker Road to celebrate Brad and Marla Rhoden’s running accomplishments -- much to their surprise.

“I knew we were having a “Topeka to Auburn” signup night for that race and we have a shoe rep here, a Brooks shoe rep here, so there’s a little extra going on, but the turnout’s kind of overwhelming for us,” said Brad.

“A lot of the folks who are here have been a part of our running group for years,” said Marla. “They’re really good friends too.”

The couple has been running marathons since the 1980′s -- Marla ran her first in ‘83 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Brad’s first was in ‘87 in Omaha, Nebraska.

A few years back, they decided to run a marathon in every state.

“You hear about the 50 state clubs or whatever and we thought, maybe we need to be doing that, we run marathons all the time,” said Marla.

They were able to not only run but explore the sites of the country.

Brad said, “Our journey to New England in 2019 was a week plus journey where we were able to get three marathons in, and we spent time at the basketball hall of fame, we spent time at Gettysburg, and just saw a lot of things.”

Some people run, most don’t run marathons, and some don’t run them in other states. Both Brad and Marla have crossed more than 100 marathon finish lines.

“Especially with last year, all the issues that came up. I had some health issues and the pandemic and I honestly didn’t know if I’d be able to do it but it was motivation to get out and keep going,” said Marla. “So the fact that we were able to do it means a lot.”

Brad said, “We’re well beyond 60, as we age, it’s something we can look back on and be really proud of that we’ve done.”

Marla said two years ago they ran back-to-back marathons in Hartford, Connecticut, and Newport, Rhode Island. It would have been tough to finish on her own power but the running community comes together to see everyone succeed.

“I had a tough time that year but the race director came out because I was still out on the course and he actually walked with me the last part of the last mile because I was leaning and he wanted to make sure I was okay, so he walked with me to the finish,” she said. “Things like that where people go over and above is really just heartening.”

The couple knows how hard it is to get started to train for a marathon, or even get outside to exercise, but it all starts with taking the first steps.

Marla said, “We get really excited, probably as excited as they are, when they get through their training and complete it because it’s really contributed to our lives so to see other people do it is really exciting.”

Brad said, “You don’t have to run a marathon to be a runner. Just getting out there and running or walking or exercising period, is very, very beneficial.”

Brad wrote on a piece of paper that showed their stats over the years that his most memorable marathon was Boston in 1994 where he ran his best time (2:52:34) and finished alongside Marla. They got married two months later. Marla ran her best time at Boston in 1995 -- 2:50:48.

In addition to their celebration, the Sunflower Striders will be hosting a kick-off to sign up for the 40th Topeka to Auburn Half Marathon on Saturday, January 15.

You can sign up to run online -- click here. The money raised will go towards local high school cross country and track teams and Sunflower State Games. It features a point-to-point rolling hills course with a 9 am start or the course of your choice if you choose the Virtual option.

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