Their goal was a half marathon in every state.They did it. What's next?

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Courtesy Cheryl and Joe Biesiada
Cheryl and Joe Biesiada, feeling emotional after completing their goal of running a half marathon in every state plus Washington, D.C. This was at the Anchorage RunFest, Aug. 22, 2021.

Cheryl and Joe Biesiada of Springfield were both euphoric crossing the finish line at the Anchorage RunFest half marathon on Aug. 22, achieving their goal of running a half marathon in every state plus Washington, D.C. Thanks to cooler weather, Cheryl ran one of her best races of the year. With a surge of energy, she passed people from the halfway point to the finish line. Finishing ahead of Joe, she shared his joy when he crossed the finish. Cheryl placed third in her age group with a time of 2:00:07.

Cheryl and Joe have been pursuing this goal together since 2016, although they don't run at the same pace, don't run together during races and train separately. In 2017 they told Illinois Times they planned to complete a half marathon in all 50 states by the time Joe turned 70. (See December 2017 Capital City Senior). At that time, Joe had checked off 24 states and Cheryl 25. They intended to make Alaska their 50th state in August 2020. The pandemic delayed their plans by a year. In spite of adding only one new state in 2020, they completed their quest a month before Joe turned 71.

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Courtesy Cheryl and Joe Biesiada
Cheryl and Joe Biesiada receiving their 50-state half marathon awards at the 50 States Half Marathon Club annual meetup race, the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Utah on Sept. 11, 2021. Cheryl planned her races to make this her 100th half marathon. Cheryl chose the cup for both her 50 states and 100 half marathons awards; Joe chose the crystal award for his 50 states award.

One benefit of turning 70 is that the competition diminishes in the 70-99 age group. Joe ran the Springfield half marathon in October, placing first in his age group, finishing in just under three hours. He has knee issues due to arthritis and isn't committed to running more half marathons. He will continue to run/walk with a group of local guys who call themselves The Flying Turtles. Joe's new goal is to golf in every state. Cheryl, 63, intends to keep running as long as her body holds out. "There are so many races on my bucket list," said Cheryl. "It is nice to do the races I want to run and not worry about what state they are in." She plans to run 15 or more half marathons in 2022, including the Avenue of the Giants among the redwoods in California and the Yosemite Vacation Race.

Due to the pandemic, Utah was their only new state in 2020. They ran the Zion Vacation Race in February, just as the pandemic was unfolding. That was Joe's only half in 2020. Cheryl retired from SIU School of Medicine in May 2020 and needed something to keep her busy. She started running before Joe and had already set an additional goal of running 100 half marathons. She and a friend found races within driving distance, and Cheryl added nine races towards her goal between September and December 2020.

Cheryl and Joe enjoy the camaraderie and motivation of the 50 States Half Marathon Club. They are somewhat unusual for the group. For many couples, one person is the runner and the other their supporter. The annual meetup race for the 50 States Club was the Revel Big Cottonwood in Utah on Sept. 11, 2021. There Joe and Cheryl received their official 50 states half marathon awards. That is also where Cheryl ran her 100th half marathon, her 13th in 2021.

Since then, Cheryl has completed five more, including the Colonel Sanders half marathon in Corbin, Kentucky. This was special since her maiden name is Corbin, and she received an artisan ceramic bowl inscribed with Corbin for winning her age group.

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Courtesy Cheryl and Joe Biesiada
Cheryl at the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine. This is the lighthouse shown in the movie where Forrest Gump concluded his cross-country run.

Some runners are only there for the race, but Cheryl and Joe love to travel. By running in every state, they have enjoyed exploring America's small towns and big cities, coastlines and mountains, national parks, quaint villages and everything in between. They visited Glacier National Park prior to the Missoula Half Marathon and afterwards went whitewater rafting with other members of the 50 States Club. When the Monterey Bay Half Marathon was canceled due to fires in California, they traveled two hours south to Paso Robles to run a smaller race, where Cheryl received a bottle of wine for winning third place in her age group. They went on to visit Hearst Castle, sea lion colonies, Big Sur and Pebble Beach Golf Course. They ran the Asheville at Biltmore race, toured the Biltmore mansion and finished the day at the Biltmore winery. After running the Jackson Hole Half Marathon, they explored Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. A race in Tenants Cove, Maine, was a favorite. They stayed one mile from the lighthouse shown in the movie where Forrest Gump concluded his cross-country run.

The Biesiadas are living life to the fullest in retirement. Cheryl is only recently retired. Joe retired 12 years ago after 39 years with the City of Springfield as a water engineer at the water treatment plant. They look forward to many more adventures.

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Courtesy Cheryl and Joe Biesiada
Whitewater rafting in Missoula, Montana, with other members of the 50 States Half Marathon Club after finishing the Missoula Half Marathon. They had a bonding experience when their raft tipped and all but two ended up in the water.
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Courtesy Cheryl and Joe Biesiada
Cheryl and Joe with Frank Shorter (center) at the Heartland Half Marathon in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2016 where Shorter was the guest speaker as a supporter of local races. Shorter won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Olympics and silver medal at the 1976 Olympics. Now approaching 70, he is an attorney who campaigns against doping. Cheryl and Joe enjoyed having a 30-minute conversation with this icon of the running world.
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Courtesy Cheryl and Joe Biesiada
Cheryl and Joe have five children and seven grandchildren, scattered around the country. Cheryl’s goal is to get them all together in one place. Center - Youngest granddaughter Sophia. Right - Cheryl with Cheryl and Joe’s sons Liam and Collin

Karen Ackerman Witter met Cheryl and Joe Biesiada many years ago through the Springfield Road Runners Club. She has enjoyed following their adventures and accomplishments through Facebook.

About The Author

Karen Ackerman Witter

Karen Ackerman Witter started freelance writing after a 35-year career in state government holding various senior leadership positions. Prior to retiring she was associate director of the Illinois State Museum for 14 years. She is the past president of the Kidzeum Board of Directors and is an active volunteer...

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