RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WSAV) – What can draw a northerner to Georgia? For 68-year-old Terry Hartsock, its Iowa’s winter weather, her son, Richmond Hill resident Dr. Adam Everett and her love of running.
“I love Iowa but there’s a number of months when I don’t love it as much. Down here, I can walk out the door and you know, do seven-eight miles and not have to worry about falling on the ice.”
An avid runner who has participated in every half marathon in the USA, Hartsock has been running for years, even before she decided to take it “seriously” in 2010. That’s the year she began training for half-marathons, a road race of 13.1094 miles, exactly half the distance of a full marathon.
“My friends talked me into doing it. In my running group we have a really strong running group at Muscatine Running Friends,” said Hartsock.
Two years in, at the age of 58 years old, Hartsock did what not everyone her age could even imagine themselves doing, running a 5k, half marathon and full marathon in three straight days. Hartsock was joined by Muscatine Running Friends group members Nancy Shell and Teri Lyon.
“The Goofy Challenge was our first really major accomplishment that we did. That is huge because it’s in three days. You have no sleep. You have to get up at 3:30 in the morning to catch the bus to get to the race start. In the half marathon, there are 22,000, so you start in waves, and they set off fireworks. I mean this is Disney, so it’s a huge thing. So, we did a 5k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.”
That’s what set the group on that path of running a half marathon in every state in the USA.
“So, we were sitting around after it was all over and said, ‘Hey, if we can do this, why don’t we do all of the rest of the states.’ and that’s how it got started.”
Hartsock, Nancy Shell and Teri Lyon traveled together between 2012 and 2022 to run a marathon in all 50 states.
Some people considered Hartsock and her group’s age and had doubts if they were able to finish what they started.
“We were really old, and a number of people questioned whether we would be able to finish it because of our age, but once we set out to do it, we did it.”
It took Hartsock, Shell and Teri Lyon 10 years to finish their goal and the path wasn’t an easy feat.
“We had a lot of major life things that happened, but we kept going. One of the girls lost her husband, I’ve had four surgeries, including a new hip and I was told that I would never run again, one of the girls lost both of her parents during those years,” Hartsock said. “So, we’ve been through a lot together, and we decided, we started, we’re not stopping.”
Shell said, “We faced illness, injuries, COVID canceling races, and deaths in our families. It brought the three of us very close. We aren’t just part of the Muscatine Running Friends; we are now the “Muscatine Running Family!” Teri Lyon’s motto, ever since she started the Muscatine Running Friends group in 2007 is “Keep Running; Keep Smiling!”
Throughout the journey, Hartsock said her race in Georgia at the Critz Tybee Run Fest in 2013 was special.
“We were on the Island, and we could see the water and it was in a cold part of the year for us, so coming down here was perfect running weather down here, so it was a nice break from the Midwest winter.”
She continued, “Tybee, the island, the whole ocean vibe, all of that, we really liked it, it was really fun. We stayed right on the island for three or four days; it was really great. Then we went into Savannah and we did everything.
Another memorable moment — running into a bear in Anchorage, Alaska.
“He was sitting on the path, not kidding, he was just sitting there. He lumbered over and he sat down and of course, it stopped the race. I for one was not going to go around him, but not everybody stopped. But it was pretty cool and then he just got up and lumbered off.”
Since competing in every state, Hartsock said she has slowed down a lot due to her age and for medical reasons, but she is still quite active and continues to set goals.
“I do a run-walk because I just have to take care of what I have left, so I do a lot of walking and much less running. For me, I’m curbing the miles of actual running because I want to be in the 100 and up age group. Some of the races, the age group go from 60-99, which is a crazy thing to do, but they do, and so my friend and I said we’re going to do the 100 and up age group. We’re going to make sure there’s a 100 and up age group. So, that’s our goal, to live that long.”