Father-son duo complete 50-state marathon challenge

Ken R. Yoder ’68, right, often runs marathons with his son, Ben, and his daughter, Karen ’96.

It wasn’t a typical father-son bonding activity.

Ken Yoder ’68 and his son, Ben, set a goal to run 50 marathons – one in each U.S. state. Five years later, they met their goal when they completed the Phunt Trail Marathon in Maryland on Jan. 2, 2011. They’re the only known father-son duo accomplish the challenging circuit.

Ken said it was Ben’s idea to take on the challenge. “We were visiting (Ben) in Boston in ’05,” said Ken. “I’ll never forget his words, when talking about it at Bertucci’s Pizza, ‘Dad, we can do this!’”

So they embarked on a journey of running about an average of 10 marathons a year for the next five years (that’s more than 1,300 miles).

Even though the duo started each marathon together, Ben would usually finish his marathons about an hour or two ahead of his dad. More important than doing well in races, though, was the opportunity to bond.

“Ben would greet me at the finish line, taking my picture and saying, ‘That’s my dad!’” said Ken. “All of a sudden, all that suffering in the last several miles (from about mile 20 on) was forgotten, and I’d be thinking of the next marathon. It was so rewarding and special to me.”

The Yoders aren’t the only people to run a marathon in each U.S. state. In fact, there’s an entire club for people who are up for the challenge (visit 50statesmarathonclub.com), but people can only join after they have completed a marathon in at least 10 states. There are almost 600 runners in the club, and some of them have completed the 50 states challenge multiple times.

Ken and Ben have continued running marathons since meeting their goal, and added more family members to the mix. Ken’s daughter, Karen ’96, and Ben’s wife, Orapin, have joined them. “I’ve often said that running is a metaphor for life,” said Ken. “It’s so primitive, putting one foot in front of the other. It’s in my blood.”

 – By Alysha Landis ’11, in the Summer 2012 Bulletin