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50 marathons, 50 states for Bradenton's Van Duzee

The party is Sunday in Maui, which is the finish line for Chuck Van Duzee, who needs one more marathon in one more state to have run a marathon in all 50. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t save Hawaii for last?

Well, Chuck Van Duzee.

“I had no intentions of going to Hawaii or Alaska,” Van Duzee said. “I never had the desire to run all 50 states.”

Some people, like Bradenton’s Bill Ouchark, crisscross the country 26.2 miles at a time to become a “50-Stater.” In fact, Ouchark, who is also running Sunday in the Maui Marathon, will finish his second tour of the country the following Saturday when he runs the Hampton Marathon in East Hampton, N.Y.

Ouchark will complete 50 Part II while running all 50 marathons within the same age group — 40-44.

Van Duzee’s journey was long and winding and will take 244 marathons to complete.

A traveling party of 10 runners from Bradenton, that includes Van Duzee’s wife, Esther, will travel to Hawaii for Chuck’s big day, though to Chuck, who is 70, it’s just another long run with friends.

“I like the sport. I like the distance,” he said with a shrug.

His goal was never to set running shoe in all 50 states. His goal was basically a road trip with the guys that at some point included a marathon.

“Seven or eight guys to a room and a case of beer,” he said. “We loved it.”

Van Duzee was 41 when he ran his first marathon, the Lake Ontario Marathon in Rochester, N.Y., on June 1, 1980.

He ran 10 more in New York before venturing to Washington, D.C., for the Marine Corps Marathon in November 1985.

Some of his running partners were running the marathon and talked Van Duzee into joining them for a long weekend in D.C.

“That started the road trips,” Van Duzee said.

The next state was Florida: the Brandon Marathon in 1987. Then Boston in 1988. Then Virginia Beach in 1989.

Along the way Van Duzee would meet runners using that race to knock off another state. Van Duzee was basically running until the beer was cold.

“The guys I used to run Marine Corps with, we all finished within 10 minutes of each other, but nobody talked about what time they were going to run or their pace,” Van Duzee said. “It was just guys talk. And we’d all meet each other at the beer truck.”

Van Duzee’s best marathon time was the 3 hours, 15 minutes, 51 seconds he ran in Rochester in 1987 to qualify for his first Boston Marathon. He has since run 10 more Bostons and has qualified for the next Boston, too.

The marathons picked up once Van Duzee retired and he and Esther moved to Florida.

In 1990, Van Duzee ran nine marathons. In 1991 he ran 15.

He has also taken his race overseas, running marathons in Athens, Berlin and Koln, German; Iceland, Stockholm and Paulliac, France.

The race in Paulliac included wine stops. Esther and Cristy Snellgroves, who is also running Maui, ran ahead, while Van Duzee and Ouchark made it a point to sample the best local wineries had to offer.

“Bill and I had a full glass of wine at every wine stop,” Van Duzee said. “That was probably the most continuous fun I had at a marathon. It took us six hours.”

Actually, it took them 5:59.

Van Duzee used to correspond with a runner he’d meet every year at mile 16 of the Virginia Beach Marathon. They’d run together for a mile or so than their paces would force them to separate until they’d meet again near the 16-mile marker the next year.

He has friends all over the country and some in Europe thanks to similar running paces, which these days, has Van Duzee finishing around 4:30, which is good enough to qualify for Boston.

His favorite marathon course? He doesn’t have one, though he really enjoys running Sarasota and Jacksonville. He’s run Jacksonville so many times he can recite the course.

“Go up to the light, make a right. Go a mile and a half, make another right ...”

Van Duzee’s accidental pursuit of 50 states took off when he started running with Snellgroves, who is also making a run at 50 states.

Snellgroves was running marathons in North and South Dakota and another in Nebraska. Van Duzee tagged along.

“It was the road trips,” Van Duzee said. “But all of a sudden I had every state but Alaska and Hawaii.”

He has Alaska.

Come Saturday night, he’ll have Hawaii, too.

Roger Mooney, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.