Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” could have been written about Anne Rentz’s running career.
Rentz, a 65-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, said she ran her first marathon in 1996 after meeting some friends in a running group. Since then, 165 more marathons have followed in 49 states.
Rentz’s quest to conquer the U.S. map concludes Sunday in the City of Trees Marathon in Boise.
So why Boise? It just worked out that way, she said.
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For Rentz, running is as much a social experience as it is a physical one. And when she crosses the finish line near Park Center Park, there will be almost 30 friends and family waiting to welcome her with celebratory hugs.
“I’ll probably cry,” Rentz said. “I’ll probably be very relieved ... (But) this won’t be the end of my running. I plan on running forever.”
Rentz’s journey across the country was not necessarily planned from the start. As she began getting more serious about running, she saw her friends gradually completing their 50-state challenges. That was enough encouragement to get started.
But for someone who had never done “anything athletic” before running, joining the 50 States Marathon Club was a lofty goal.
From her first marathon in Washington, D.C. more than two decades ago to Sunday, the completion of her journey signifies far more than physical accomplishment. It marks a determination her daughter Katie Crockett could not be prouder of.
Crockett remembers her mother’s first-ever race, a 10K in Atlanta called the Peach Tree Road Race.
“She started walking a mile every day at the park up the street. Not only did she complete the Peachtree, she kept on going and she is still having fun doing it,” Crockett said. “Along the way, she has done amazing things, been to all 50 states and met many, wonderful people who have become lifelong friends.”
Because of costs, Rentz said she normally doesn’t get to explore the cities and states she visits for her races. Her trip to Idaho is an exception. She will spend four days in Boise and said she is looking forward to riding the trolly through town. Plus, 26.2 miles gives a person plenty of time to take in the surroundings.
Jeff Ulmer, the City of Trees Marathon event director, said that this will be the fourth or fifth time someone has finished a 50-state challenge in Boise in the 16 years of the event. Many people have already run the Chicago or Boston marathons by this point in the year, and Boise in October is about as good as it gets.
Ulmer said he tried to give Rentz as close to bib No. 50 as possible to commemorate her achievement; she will wear No. 150, he said.
“It’s really cool,” Ulmer said. “(The celebration) is pretty festive.”
For Rentz, just as important as finishing a marathon in state No. 50 are the people she has met along the way. The friends she has met through running have motivated her to keep pushing when it would be easy to call it quits. Those are the people who await her at the finish line.
“The camaraderie keeps me going. ... I got hooked pretty early on,” Rentz said. “Everything about it has been a great experience. It’s really changed my life.”
Sunday is the icing on the cake of a journey Crockett has seen her mother accomplish from start to finish.
“I remember her looking at the entry form for the Peachtree Road Race in the newspaper and saying, ‘That looks like fun. I want to do that someday.’ And then she did,” Crockett said. “I am incredibly proud of her.”