Motivational Cartography

Sticking to long-term goals can be challenging, especially when one of them is to run a long distance race in all fifty states. The frenzied pace of the early years eventually stalls as other life commitments take priority. Plus, it never helps when one of your three remaining states is West Virginia.

But the goal is very much alive and I fully intend on getting to that last finish line. I’m still running, but I’m no longer in perennial marathon shape. I spent the summer literally changing gears by hopping on a bike and spanning the entire state of Iowa. The new sport reinvigorated my love of endurance sports and pointed me toward an inevitable triathlon in the future. I found that biking was fun in a way that running rarely is: easy, or at least much easier. When you’re used to long runs, it’s literally a breeze to bike for an hour, or even forty miles. Just like running though, if you bike long enough, you’ll eventually meet thresholds that test your heart, legs, and lungs.

Day 6/7 of RAGBRAI, 380+ miles in, still smiling

But during that time, I ran several races, and one of them was a half marathon that I didn’t write about. That oversight was part of this recent decline in running-related blog output. In fact, everything is down this year: mileage, blog posts, races, and desire to get up super early before work.

It has all extended the projected end of my 50-states goal. At one point, I thought I could be done by 2016, but then I got into the Berlin Marathon. Then the goal became 2018, but side quests into ultra-running and biking changed the nature of 2016 and 2017. At the moment, I don’t know when I’ll be done, even though I’m very, very close. In times like these, I can always use a good motivator, and I know just where to find it: in a map.

My most recent 50-states map

Readers of this space know that after every new state, I update my color-coded map with a shiny new addition. It’s a giant, lumbering Photoshop file that has far too many layers for what looks like a pretty basic map. I rarely see maps like mine because not everyone has the patience or software to make one like it.

But recently, RaceRaves solved that for everyone.

I’ve been using and doing my best to promote the site since it launched, since I really like the interface and I’ve been friends with its creators for several years. Its functionality, interface, and commitment to the running community make it one of my favorite sites for the sport. However, their latest addition to the user experience is, for diehard runners like myself, their best so far.

They make a pretty damn good map of your running adventures.

My current RaceRaves map (I have yet to write reviews for several states from 2011 and before)

Prior to this tool, map-making sites were either very rudimentary or not at all running-specific. But now thanks to the running nerds behind RaceRaves, anyone on the 50-states quest has a colorful, well-designed, and easy-to-use map of their progress. To create your own map, you list the races you’ve run, write helpful reviews of each, and watch as each state gets filled in. The map above is mine, and you’ll notice that several states aren’t filled in. This is my fault, as I haven’t reviewed all of my races on that site yet, despite earning the coveted title of Chief Lunatic.

The best part is, it doesn’t require painstakingly moving layers around in Photoshop.

So now I have two sources of motivational cartography, each showing me the scant real estate left to cover in my quest. But this is just me — if you want your own map, become a member (it’s free), add your completed races, and watch as the map fills in, with each new bright pop of color standing in for an accomplishment.

About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

3 Responses to Motivational Cartography

  1. Patty says:

    It’s so nice to see a post from you! I just ran the Marshall University Marathon in West Virginia last month for my 49th state and I highly recommend it! The race is basically flat, with one hill that you run up twice, and another longer incline that you run down the first loop and up the second. The race organization is fantastic, the swag is great, and the medal is very nice! The best part is they hand you a football as you run onto MU football field (you get to keep the football) and you run down and back on the field and cross the goal line! This marathon is now one of my favorites and I plan to run it again someday. Good luck with your last 3 states!

  2. tootallfritz says:

    I’ve wanted to do RAGBRAI for well over 10 years! I just can’t justify the time away from my kids. Awesome adventure! As for the 50 State goal. It’s still there. The amazing thing about that type of goal is that it is what we make it. In my opinion, if it consumes me, then it’s not going to be fun (for me). I’m not going to stop living life so I can channel all my time, energy & $$ into that one thing. I know many wouldn’t agree but that’s my philosophy. I run random marathons that appeal to me for various reasons, frequently not furthing the 50 State goal. Next year, I’m doing a full Ironman in Lake Placid. Good news, that marathon will count for NY! I will get in a marathon in all 50 states but I don’t really have a timeline. #longtermgoal 😁

  3. Mike says:

    Like a new track from my favorite band, I always look forward to a new post on Dan’s Marathon. And obviously I have a more personal appreciation for this one – thanks for the shout-out! Here’s hoping every traveling runner and 50 states hopeful finds the new RaceRaves map feature motivating and rewarding. And one important note to add: you can earn that bright new pop of color (and the associated dopamine hit) just by adding a race to your Past Races table, no review necessary! We want all runners to find value in the site, not just those who are likely to post reviews.

    As for individual goals, as long as you’re enjoying life and still able to run 10 miles at the drop of a hat, it’s all good. Do keep me in mind when the time comes to take the plunge and color in WV — that one stays gray until you’re ready!* (*Offer expires in 2020, give or take)

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