South Side High grad runs 50 marathons in 50 states


Former Rockville Centre resident and South Side High School alumnus Randell Hansen completed his goal of running marathons in all 50 states last fall.

Hansen finished the New York City Marathon in 2021, leaving only two marathons left to go, in Maine and New Mexico. The following year he took part in the Sugarloaf Marathon in Kingfield, Maine, finishing in 3 hours, 8 minutes and 36 seconds. He followed it up last October by completing the Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 3:23:37.

“Certainly altitude was a factor with my time,” Hansen, a 44-year-old civil servant who now lives in Sacramento, California, said of his run in Albuquerque. “Along with my body out of whack, being sick a few weeks earlier. We did have ideal running weather, though, with cloud cover and some sprinkles, which kept temperatures down.”

His 50-marathons-in-50-states quest took Hansen almost 13 years.

“Well, I completed my goal last October, and they have all been done in under three and a half hours,” he said.

When he began running, his initial goal was simply to finish the races, but when he saw his finishing times, it motivated him. In 2018 he joined the 50sub4 marathon club — for those with the goal of running sub-four-hour marathons in all 50 states — after he saw a runner at the 2017 Marathon to Marathon event in Iowa wearing a club shirt.

“When I saw that I had all of my finishes in under that time, I joined them as well,” Hansen said, “but I made the three-and-a-half-hour threshold a personal goal as I was coming to the end.”

Hansen lived in Rockville Centre from 1980 to 2002. He graduated from South Side High in 1997, when, he recalled, he wasn’t much of an athlete. Nearly a decade later he took up running, starting small by competing in 5Ks, then working his way up to 10Ks and half-marathons.

“After I ran the Eugene Marathon on May 1, 2011, and finished in 3 hours, 15 minutes and 17 seconds, I was encouraged with how much I improved,” he said, “and realized I could qualify for Boston if I just continued to train.”

He became inspired to run a marathon in each of the 50 states in 2011, after a chance meeting at a hockey game with a runner who had set that goal.

“I always loved traveling,” Hansen said. “I decided from there to make it my goal … to try and accomplish something not many people have done.”

Of all the marathons he has run during his multi-year mission, his favorites, he said, were Walt Disney World (2013), Cleveland (2014), Little Rock (2014), Boston (2014, 2017) and New York City (2021).

“They all had their attributes,” Hansen said, “but I based them on the atmosphere, the course, the scenery, the crowd support — and my finish times.”

Despite his hope of running in one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, in Berlin, he was not selected in the lottery. The charities he applied to represent didn’t have any openings, and his previous finish times weren’t fast enough for him to qualify.

Nevertheless, Hansen said that he and his wife, Heather Smith-Hansen, still hope to visit Germany and take in the sights. Next year, he said, he plans to register for marathons in London and Tokyo.

“If a trip is being made to the destination of the event, I might as well do a vacation around it and see and explore the sights,” he said. “Also I feel I have some unfinished business with some states, as I think I may want to revisit some of them, and maybe do a different race in a different city or town.”

Hansen said he is thankful for the support of his family and friends throughout his journey. “I have a lot of encouragement and support from my wife, parents, cousins, aunt and uncle, co-workers, and friends from South Side High School,” he said.