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Woman to Run 51 Marathons in 52 Weeks for Charity

Photo: Joe Skalsky

By Linzay Logan

On Jan. 30 Elysa Barron ran her first marathon this year—one of 51 marathons she plans on completing in one year’s time. Her goal is to run a marathon in every state as well as Washington D.C., and finish up on Jan. 7 of next year as a way to support and raise money for First Descents, a program that provides free outdoor adventure training from kayaking to rock climbing for young adults, ages 18 to 39 struggling with cancer.

Competitor caught up with Barron 80 days into her Race the States project on an off-weekend after completing two marathons the previous weekend.  Next weekend she has the Kentucky Derby Marathon in the books.

What gave you the idea to run 51 marathons in one year?

Well I definitely wasn’t thinking straight. There are 52 weeks in a year so I figured I could run one in every state and D.C. in a year and raise money for a charity at each race but I didn’t know how to fund raise. A family friend worked for First Descents and it all worked out. It was a happy accident.

What kind of training program did you follow to prepare for this?

Usually I take somewhere between four and six months to prepare for a marathon. I injured myself so this time I only had two months to train. I added weight training to my routine, which has been really helpful. Now, in between marathons I usually only get in one weekly run. I’m thinking about trying out swimming or something else though. But I am also not running as fast as I would if I only had one marathon to run. That helps a lot with recovery.

Do you follow a nutrition plan?

No. Within 15 of running to recovery I try to have a Vega recovery shake with coconut water that the author of the “Thrive Diet” created. I don’t do gluten, sugar or dairy and not really meat. I take fish oil, calcium and vitamin D.

Which marathons that you have run would you recommend?

If you like trail marathons, I really like the Rockin K trail marathon in Kansas. It was though a state park. It was beautiful. Same with Sedona Marathon in February. It was really nice. I like the small ones because they are more personal.

Have you met any interesting people along the way?

I have met all sorts of people. In D.C. I met a couple that got engaged on the course. There was another person doing another similar project, Mission 52, running  marathons in 52 weeks. And I talked to one guy that only went on one or two training runs before running the marathon. Just all sorts of different people.

To follow Barron’s progress on the web, go to, or to learn more about First Descendants, go to


Linzay Logan is the copy editor for Competitor magazine and cares about punctuation probably a little too much. She particularly loves to avoid commas as well as add exclamation points whenever she can get away with it! She also loves to run marathons and half-marathons—probably a little too much. Don’t let her small size fool you; she’ll still try to outrun you anytime. Even though chances are she probably can’t. Have a question or comment for Linzay? Email her at