The very idea of running a marathon in each of the 50 United States would grab just about anyone’s attention.
But would it raise your eyebrow a bit if we told you Pennridge High School graduate Kellie Shimer completed one of those 26.2-milers while pregnant?
Oh, and with twins?
And that after finishing that one marathon in Maryland in the fall of 2016, she ran another in Tennessee a short while later?
Well, believe it.
The quest to achieve this goal started nearly 20 years ago and ended last Sunday at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Marathon with a crowd of family, friends and well-wishers cheering at the finish line.
By all accounts, Shimer (maiden name Smith) is one of only 30 female runners to have accomplished this amazing feat.
Along the way there were plenty of stories to tell and tired feet to rub but it sounds like it was all worth it.
The genesis of the idea began after Shimer, now 39, graduated from Moravian College. Thanks to her dad, Bill (a longtime coach), she had become a star runner at Pennridge and later competed for Moravian’s cross-country team.
Once out of collegiate competition, she was looking for another challenge.
“After college I wanted to try to do a marathon,’’ the Richlandtown resident said in a telephone interview. “I did a couple and then it might have been the fourth one, I just thought it might be fun to travel but also a way to travel to visit all the states and see things I normally wouldn’t go to. So I thought it would be a fun way to travel with friends and family.’’
She looked online and saw there were some official guidelines for those looking to join the nation’s elite. All the marathons had to be certified for Boston Marathon qualifier measurement standards and all 50 would have to be completed in under four hours.
Shimer ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2006 to get things started, then Florida in 2008. After completing another in Chicago, she started thinking about the other 47 states.
“I thought this was fun, where else can these marathons take me,’’ she said. “That’s when I decided to do each state.’’
Crucial to the success of the venture at the outset was the presence of her husband-to-be, William, also a runner. The two met while competing for Moravian and when the 50-for-50 prospect came up, he was totally on board.
One key aspect was a travel plan. Getting to all 50 states can be costly, so there were times when the couple would head out west and combine two states at one time.
As would expect, there were a few hiccups and glitches along the way.
“Well, there was one canceled in Mississppi, so we had to go back twice,’’ she recalled. “Marine Corps (Washington, D.C.), the weather just didn’t work out that day. It was rainy and windy and I didn’t make good choices. At the beginning, I was standing in the rain just to get to the start. But I still met my criteria. I wasn’t smart, I didn’t realize how far it was from the bag check to the starting line. Then I couldn’t find the pacer. I learned it’s good to stick with the pacer.’’
Of course, when the pandemic came along, that provided its own unique forms of adversity.
“We knew it was going to be tough,’’ said Shimer, a Title 1 teacher at Souderton Elementary School. “One of my goals was to finish all 50 before the boys (John and Jacob, born in 2017) reached kindergarten.”
But she managed to get through the obstacle course of the health crisis, finished about 15 marathons since March, 2020 and wound up in A.C. on Sunday with a crowd sporting green T-shirts which read “Kellie’s Crew.’’
Her sister, Krista, had the shirts made. Did we mention she ran alongside Kellie for that aforementioned Maryland Marathon and was also pregnant at the time?
“Everybody pitched in,’’ Kellie said. “My sister ran some with me. My husband ran some with me. So it was definitely a group effort.’’
Is there another challenge in the works?
“A couple of people have suggested doing the five world major marathons (New York, London, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo),’’ she said. “That might be awhile. Quite expensive and we have young children.’’
This much we know: After running two marathons while pregnant with twins, anything is possible.
“We checked to make sure everything at Maryland was OK,’’ she said with a laugh. “Now we tell the boys they’ve already run two marathons!’’
Her dad probably knew she was bound for great things in running when she took part in Pennridge’s 4 x 800 relay team which finished second in the PIAA state championships in 2000.
“Kellie was a soccer player but she really loved running,’’ he said. “I convinced my children that running was a good thing.’’
Bill – who has coached cross-country, winter track and spring track at Pennridge for more than two decades — was on board, too, when she made it known she would be running in far off places such as Alaska and Hawaii.
“We’re all very proud of her,’’ he said.
“At the beginning she said this is a goal I would like to do. “The beauty of it is you’re traveling, you’re getting to each state. You want to do it but you want to take advantage of seeing some things.”
And seeing some things she did.
There are a lot of people who can’t wait to find out what she sees next.
David’s New Day 5K, 9 a.m., Warrington. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
Black Cat 5K, 9 a.m., Chalfont. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
A Run for the Heart 5K, 9 a.m., Warrington. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
Andy Schram Memorial 5K, 10 a.m., Richboro. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
Canal-O-Ween 5K, 3:15 p.m., Yardley. Contact www.runningintheusa.com