It wasn't easy, but Fargo runner finishes '50 States' marathon club quest

Centennial Elementary third grade teacher Sue Smith and her husband, Dan Smith, pose with student Aubrey Lazur at a celebration of the kids running 26.2 miles over eight weeks. Jeff Kolpack/The Forum

FARGO — The third-grader at Centennial Elementary in Fargo looked at the large finisher medal from the Little Rock (Ark.) Marathon, and with his eyes as wide as can be, posed the question to Dan Smith: “You got this?”

The child had a point. The medal was so big it could double as a hot plate. Certainly, it was bigger than the medal he was wearing around his neck as part of Sue Smith’s class. The kids ran a total of 26.2 miles over the course of eight weeks with Dan, Sue’s husband, being part of the final-day celebration.

Dan Smith's finisher medal at the Little Rock Marathon is bigger than most. Forum photo

It was appropriate. The Fargo resident has run 75 marathons since his first in 2011 and that includes status in the “50 States Club,” a quest that involves running at least one marathon in every state. He’s one of only a handful of North Dakotans to accomplish the feat.


The club will present Smith with his “50 States” trophy this Friday before the 15th running of the Sanford Fargo Marathon on Saturday morning. How appropriate.

Fargo was his first marathon.

“That was my first,” he said, “so that is going to be special.”

There’s more to this club thing with Smith. He achieved titanium status with the “Marathon Maniacs” club, which calls for a runner to complete 30 marathons in 30 different states within 365 days. He is the second person in North Dakota, and the first male, to do that.

“They definitely got slower and slower and they got more painful,” he said with a grin.

The races came in all shapes and sizes. There was a hot and humid marathon in Florida. There were extreme downhill races in Colorado and Oregon. Six days after running downhill in the Rocky Mountains, he ran the Hatfield McCoy Marathon in Williamson, W. Va., where at mile 25 his calves begged to differ that the race was a good idea.

“I was at a standstill for a few minutes,” Smith said.

In all, however, there’s not much standing around. Ever. Smith is able to take advantage of a work perk at Delta Airlines, where he works in the information technology department, to fly around to different events.


“It’s not happening without that,” he said. “I love my job.”

Smith just turned 50 years old in April, which adds to the magic of his “50 States Club” status. His quest turned into a geography lesson of sorts for his wife’s class. With each passing marathon, the students colored the state that he ran.

Sue Smith, thanks to a grant from the school’s Parent Teacher Organization in conjunction with an apparel company discount, outfitted the students with “Flying Half Fanatics” T-shirts, which is the kids arm of the national “Half Fanatics” club.

As the kids were filing out of the room for the day, Dan Smith was asked about future races. He was asked if he thought about retiring from running.

“I heard the question,” Sue said from several feet away, wondering about the answer.

Dan knocked off the last of his 50 states recently in Hawaii.

“Literally, two hours after Hawaii, he was like, what now?” Sue said.

Dan said he’ll certainly keep running.


“But I have a big hole now,” he said. “I don’t know what my goal is and I feel like I need to do something. She loves it when I tell her I think it’s going to be ultramarathons.”

If the goal is ultramarathons, and next year’s class gets in on the act, it may have to expand the time table it runs twice a week. And maybe the medals should be as big as the Little Rock Marathon.

What To Read Next
Get Local