Colorado woman looks to lofty goal at BR Marathon

One of the more popular goals for regular marathon runners is to compete in at least one race in all 50 states, but not many have tackled the task like Elysa Barron has.

A 31-year-old resident of Ouray, Colo., Barron has been on a quest to not only run marathons in every state plus Washington D.C., her goal has been to complete the task in 52 weeks.

Barron, who freely admits, “I wasn’t thinking straight,” when she came up with the idea, will be on hand Saturday for the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon as she nears the finish line of her overall goal.

The Baton Rouge Beach Marathon also features a half-marathon with both races starting at 7 a.m. at Wampold Memorial Park on Stanford Avenue. Runners will follow a winding, double-loop course through the LSU campus, City Park and back around the LSU lakes.

This year’s race is expected to have 1,000 entrants with approximately 300 running the full marathon. Including Barron, runners from 40 states will be competing.

Samson Kipchirchir won the 2010 race with an event record time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 57 seconds. Traci Falbo was the women’s open champion completing the 26.2 mile course in 3:14.20.

This will be Barron’s 47th full marathon since Jan. 30. And, while many runners approach the event seeking to run a personal best time, her goal has been to finish not just one race, but 51 races.

“You definitely run it slower than if you were doing just one race,” Barron says of her race strategy. “The key is recovery, and not running your fastest time ever.”

Barron will complete here 51-marathon schedule in the coming weeks as she visits Hawaii, Delaware, Texas and Nevada. It’s a journey she couldn’t have finished on her own.

During the early part of her quest, Barron worked in Ouray as a children’s ski instructor until warmer weather came. There have been dips into her personal savings, and also a boost from her parents and brother, who pooled together their frequent flyer airline miles to help with travel costs.

Then, there have been donations in the form of time from a local chiropractor and a trainer, and six pairs of running donated by a shoe store.

Now on her sixth pair of shoes, Barron said the idea that you could run races in every state in a year’s time appealed to her, but she also saw it as an opportunity to help others. It eventually led her to First Descents, a charity that works with cancer patients and survivors ages 18 to 39.

“Originally, I just wanted to do this for whatever cause was connected with each race, but then I found First Descents,” Barron said. “They sounded like they would fit very well with my project.”

Barron is listed on the First Descents website, a place where supporters can donate in Barron’s name to the charity. It is an organization that provides free outdoor adventure experiences such as mountain climbing and kayaking for young adult cancer victims.

“The main thing is the non-profit, not only to raise money but to let people know,” Barron said. “Right now, (First Descents) is mainly on the West coast, and they want to spread out and become more accessible.”

Being accessible is something Barron enjoys when she’s runs a race, and gets the chance to talk about her charity.

“I’m very happy when I’m running with someone and the (51-state) project comes up, “ Barron said. “They’ll say I know someone perfect for that, and they’ll have a connection with First Descents.”