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Rockville Centre native aims to complete 50 marathons in 50 states

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Randell Hansen had a lofty, yet attainable goal: Run a marathon in each of the 50 states, culminating with the New York City Marathon on its 50th anniversary. He spent a decade checking states off of his list, reaching 46 by last fall. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit and derailed the Rockville Centre native’s plans, just four states shy of completing his goal.

“It’s disappointing. All four of the races this year have been postponed or cancelled,” Hansen said, “and there’s no guarantee I’ll get into the New York City Marathon next year.”

Hansen, who has lived in Sacramento, CA, for almost 18 years, graduated from South Side High School in 1997 and earned a degree in management from Hofstra University in 2001. He is an associate government program analyst for the State Teachers Retirement System, where he has worked since 2004. He said he was looking forward to completing his 50-state mission in his home state about a decade after setting the goal.

Hansen, 41, was not always a runner. Aside from one season of track in seventh grade, he said he mostly played ice and roller hockey for recreation while growing up. About 12 years ago, he completed his first 10K run. While he was training, he saw an ad for a half-marathon and marathon event in Carlsbad the following January, and signed up, running a half-marathon in January 2009.

“I felt tired and sore, but decided to run another half in Sacramento,” Hansen said. At that point, he said, “I thought, ‘I’ve gotta try a full’ and I signed up.”

His first marathon was Run the River in Sacramento in November 2009.

“I felt great, and it felt great to finish,” he said. He took second place in his age group.

He felt so proud to have completed a marathon, he said, he bought a 26.2 sticker for his car. The following year, he ran the California International Marathon in Sacramento, and by the next spring had set his new goal. This goal was inspired by an acquaintance of Hansen’s who mentioned wanting to run a marathon in each state during a conversation in early 2011. It planted a seed, and by that spring, Hansen was headed for the second state, running a marathon in Eugene, OR. He felt good after finishing, he said, and had even knocked a few minutes off his time.

“It seemed like a doable goal,” Hansen said, “and I was already on a mission to visit every state and state capital.”

In the following years, he has run multiple marathons a year, including seven in both 2014 and 2015, and has joined several running clubs, including the 50 States Marathon Club, the 50 sub 4 Marathon Club, and Marathon Maniacs.

Since moving to California, Hansen has returned to Rockville Centre regularly, though last year, his parents moved to Sacramento to be closer to him and his wife, Heather Smith-Hansen. They sometimes meet him at various locales to watch his races, and Hansen said he tries to make vacations out of his trips: he checks out books from the library ahead of time so he can research the city and find the best attractions to see, from museums to historic sites, state capitals or local parks, and will even try to squeeze in a sporting event if possible.

This spring, he was planning on running in New Jersey and Maine, and was going to head to New Mexico in September before finishing in New York City in November. He was accepted as a charity runner for the NYC marathon, fundraising for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s Team.

“I picked this charity because I know someone who’s suffering from the disease,” Hansen said, “and I want to raise awareness and support the research.”

He said he has seen his friend’s condition deteriorate over the past decade, and it’s “heartbreaking” to witness. “There is no cure,” said, “only treatments.”

Though the race is canceled this year, he is still fundraising for the cause and has until the year he participates in the marathon to reach his fundraising minimum. So far, he has reached $595 of his $4,000 goal. Donations can be made at www.hdsa.org/randellhansen.