Sagedahl races coast-to-coast

FAIRMONT — For many people, running in and completing a marathon is something that they’d like to accomplish.

For Stacey Sagedahl, that was her first goal as she ran the Twin Cities Marathon 20 years ago with her brother-in-law Eric Tostrud.

Since that first race, the Fairmont High School graduate has finished a marathon in all 50 states and raced another in Washington, D.C.

“I always enjoyed running, but my brother-in-law wanted me to run the Twin Cities Marathon with him,” said Sagedahl. “It’s funny because when we’d finished we both said we’d never run one again.”

Sagedahl completed her goal of running in each of the states – one she set after running her third marathon (the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996) – with a race in Hawaii in March.

“After my first race, my brother-in-law suggested that I try to qualify for the Boston Marathon, since I was only 7 minutes away from the qualifying time,” said Sagedahl. “That led to me running in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I earned a spot in the Boston Marathon. By then I had run in three states, so the idea was suggested and I went with it.”

Running in 51 marathons over 20 years requires running in multiple races per year and a few times, Sagedahl ran three or four marathons in the same year.

“What I figured out is that a lot of races are held in the spring and in the fall, and in the beginning I tried to do one or two a year. By the time I was getting close to finishing, I would do those three or four so I could reach my goal,” said Sagedahl. “In some ways it was helpful to run a couple close together – it makes it easier to maintain that conditioning.”

In 2001, one of the marathons that Sagedahl competed in was the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Ind., where the finish line was on the 50-yard line of the Notre Dame football field.

In Georgia in 2003, Sagedahl raced the Chickamauga Battlefield. At the Bismarck Marathon in North Dakota in 2002, Sagedahl raced to win the women’s race with a time of 3 hours and 47 minutes, finishing behind 10 men for 11th place overall.

“There were definitely some unique races that I ran. Running in New York is cool because you run through the city, but that’s tough because of all the people. Washington D.C. was also neat because you got to see a lot of the city,” said Sagedahl. “The North Dakota marathon had about 100 competitors, and I drove home after the race with some champagne and told my parents we should celebrate.”

“In Alaska, they showed us the difference between bear and moose scat. It was important in case we ran across one or the other on the trail.”

Throughout her years of running these races, it was always just as much about the trip as the course and actual running.

“I think that part of why I really enjoyed it was because I’d try to go maybe Thursday or Friday before a race to wherever it was, but then I’d stay a day or two after to really enjoy the city,” said Sagedahl. “And I had my parents, brother, brother-in-law and sometimes friends that would make the trips with me, so that was great to get fun trips out of it, too.”

Not only did the goal require a lot of preparation and planning, but also took time to train.

“I typically would run about three or four times a week for 3 to 6 miles, with a longer run around 15 miles on the weekend,” said Sagedahl. “But I also think that part of what helped me to never get injured is my cross training. I play league tennis and broomball year round as well. So even though I wasn’t running, I was still getting cardio.”

“It was tough at times to find a race to run in each state. Some had lots of options and others, like Delaware, didn’t have many choices,” said Sagedahl. “So it was all about timing for those and seeing when I could fit each one in.”

Sagedahl ran everywhere from Maine to California, with both of those races holding special memories for her.

“The race in Maine, we ran through Acadia National Park and it was really hilly and difficult, but it was a beautiful course. And the Big Sur in the California was great to run along the coast and it was very scenic course,” said Sagedahl.

Racking up about 1,000 miles running each year, Sagedahl has worn out her fair pair of shoes, but in 2011 she ran a time of 3:32 in Michigan for her personal-best time.

“I would have liked to race under 3:30 probably, that would have been great, but I would have to have gotten more serious about my training to reach that,” said Sagedahl.

And now that Sagedahl has run all over the country, she is finding enjoyment in the activity even more now.

“As I finished my marathon in Hawaii, I heard them announcing my name, and I got choked up and was trying to hold back some tears,” said Sagedahl. “It was exciting to accomplish it and I was a little relieved. … Now it’s nice to not have to worry about travel and training, I can just run because I feel like it and that is nice.”

After racking up countless miles on the road, through the air and on her feet, Sagedahl has accomplished her impressive goal of literally running all over the country.