In Search Of

In Search Of...The Running Man: Part 1

A La Crosse Man is embarking on an amazing marathon challenge

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Running has always been second nature for John Blanchar. "I ran in high school track. They didn't have cross country back then."

And for years following high school John competed in the occasional race. "I would do 5K's and 10K's around town and start training about a month before."

But in the late 80's John joined the River City running club - and ignited a passion. "I did my first marathon in 1989 in Chicago. It was a hot day. And it didn't go very well. It was a struggle. I said - no more. That lasted about a week."

"I think it's kind of like childbirth," says John's wife Sue.  "It was grueling during and right after. But then you give it a little time and you're ready to do it again."


And do it again - he did. For the next decade, John ran one or two marathon's a year. "It was something I could do well."

""I can't understand what people think about step after step after step after step," says Sue.  "Considering that I don't even like to drive 26 miles to Sparta let alone run 26 miles.  It's not my thing."

And after years of marathons in a handful of states, John got an ambitious idea. "He started talking about running all 50 states."

Run a marathon in every single state. "Yeah. This is something to do."

State after state, he left his footprint across the country.  But John Blanchar is a man who loves a challenge, and it turns out 'standard' marathons weren't quite enough. So in the middle of his strive for 50 states - he upped the ante.

"We started at a 50 miler at North Shore, Minnesota and did that a few years and then we decided to bump up to the 100 up there."

In fact his longest race to date is 119 miles. It took 24 hours. Begging the question, "why would anyone do that?!?" "Just to see if you can do it. It's a challenge. To see if you can push yourself to the limit."

"It's way beyond me," says Sue. "But there are a lot worse hobbies he could do!"

Kansas, Iowa, Arizona, Pennsylvania, one-by-one, run-by-run, he collected medals and memories along the way. "I pretty much a story from all of them."

But there is one run John would like to forget. A run in July of 2001 when he left his house with one life, never knowing what fate had waiting for him back home.

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