In 2004, Randell Hansen, a 1997 graduate of South Side High School, ran his first 5-kilometer race. Four years later, he completed his first 10K.
Hansen, 38, finished second in his age group in 2009 during his first-ever marathon in California, where he now lives. “One thing led to another,” said Hansen, who has completed 38 more marathons since his first, spanning 36 states. He hopes to run one in all 50 states by 2020.
He isn’t your typical serial marathon runner. Growing up in Rockville Centre, he only ever joined track and field in seventh grade. The idea of running a 26.2-mile race in all 50 states didn’t enter his mind until he visited Minneapolis years later in 2011, and met a runner named Kevin, who had that goal.
Back on the east coast earlier this month to attend his 20th South Side High School reunion at Kasey’s, Hansen traveled to Connecticut — the 36th state on his quest — for the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 14, which he finished in 3 hours, 8 minutes and 20 seconds.
His personal best is 2:57:56, which he notched in Cleveland in 2014, but his most memorable race, he said, came the month before in Boston, a year after two bombs erupted near the renowned race’s finish line, killing three and injuring hundreds.
“There was a lot of emotion going into it,” Hansen said of the race. He spent years trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, which attracts 500,000 spectators and roughly 30,000 racers each year. “When I got into Boston…I worked hard for it, put effort in,” Hansen told the Herald. “It’s like a team getting to the Stanley Cup Finals, to be rewarded for the hard work. It makes it more meaningful.”
Seeing much of the country while on the road racing, he still has not run a race in his home state of New York. He is eyeing the New York City marathon, the largest in the world — with more than 51,000 finishers last year — and must post a time of 2:55:00 or better in an upcoming race to apply.
Not all of his races have been in big cities. Perhaps his most unique running experience came in 2013 at the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon, a few hours north of Las Vegas, where he placed third overall. Hansen has placed in the top 3 in his age bracket nearly a dozen times.
“Running out in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night, you’re pretty much all by yourself,” Hansen explained. “You don’t have many spectators out there really at all and you’re just on this two-lane highway.”
The training never stops for Hansen, who said he normally runs three times a week — anywhere from six to 12 miles each time, working up to nearly 20 miles in preparation for a race — and also mixes in weightlifting and biking. He has joined the 50 States Marathon Club, as well as Marathon Maniacs, which he entered in 2014 after running three marathons in a 90-day span.
Hansen is scheduled to run his next race in Manchester, N.H. next month, and plans to race in Birmingham, Ala. in February. Other states he has left include New Jersey, West Virginia, Kansas, Rhode Island, Maine, Indiana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Kentucky.
Many of the roughly 60 classmates he saw at his high school reunion are aware of his goal thanks to Facebook, he said, and he brought his 2017 Boston Marathon medal to show some of his former peers.
“They think what I’m doing is just spectacular,” he said, noting that the main support comes from his wife, Heather Smith-Hansen, and his parents. “Even my colleagues from high school are my big cheerleaders in this quest of mine.”