by Cori Hilsgen
Not every runner can say they have run 69 marathons, but area resident Jeff Janssen certainly can.
Janssen, 53, also has bragging rights for having run marathons in all 50 of the United States, a feat he recently completed Oct. 15 in Des Moines, Iowa.
He has run in marathons with as few as 44 and others with more than 51,000 finishers (New York City last November).
Janssen, who ran cross-country and track in high school at Albany High School, did some distance running for several years after graduating.
He ran the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in 1983 and 1984, as well as the Twin Cities Marathon in 1984.
He then took 19 years off from running marathons during the time he and his wife, Sandy, raised their three children.
He returned to running the Grandma’s Marathon in 2003 and also ran his first out-of-state marathon in Brookings, S.D. in 2007.
Janssen said he didn’t really consider the idea of running in all 50 American states until he met another runner, Steve Mies from Cold Spring, who told him about the challenge he and his brother-in-law, Rich Kellerman, were trying to accomplish.
They invited Janssen to join them at a few marathons and pretty soon he had 10 “under his belt.” Janssen joined the 50 states Marathon Club, a nationwide organization that tracks and certifies the runner’s races.
Each marathon is 26.2 miles, and courses must be certified to ensure they are the correct distance.
Janssen is able to complete most marathons between 3:30 and 3:45 hours. Sometimes he will run a few under that time and others he will run at a slower time if it’s hot or in very high elevations.
“I ran Pike’s Peak marathon in Colorado where we ran up to over 14,000 feet on the mountain,” he said. “Hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Janssen has also completed other races including 5k, 10k and half-marathons. He uses these shorter events to help him train for the full marathons.
Janssen usually runs about 25-45 miles each week, depending on what his work schedule as a police sergeant with the City of St. Cloud and family commitments allow.
He is a member of the St. Cloud River Runners Club and trains with them on a regular basis.
There are several other club members who have also completed marathons in all 50 states. The group often travels to events to run and cheer each other on.
More than 20 club members traveled to Iowa to run with Janssen and celebrate his accomplishment.
Janssen also cross-trains with bicycling and skiing.
Locally, in St. Joseph, Janssen has run every one of the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathons for the past 10 years.
He replaces his running shoes every three or four months, after about 450 miles.
All three of his children (Karen, Eric and Rachel) are also runners. Eric, a computer-science major who ran Division 1 cross-country at South Dakota State University in Brookings, has completed three marathons. Karen, who works at the Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Cloud, ran her first marathon last October and recently is participating in triathlons. Rachel, who is studying nursing at South Dakota State University, has completed several half-marathons.
“As far as what is next, I’m not sure,” Janssen said. “I would like to complete several international marathons with London, Berlin and Tokyo on the radar.”
Those races are part of a series called the Marathon Majors and also include Chicago, New York City and Boston in the United States, all of which he has already completed.
“There also is a Seven Continents Club, which seems easy as I only have six to go,” Janssen joked.
Janssen said he hopes to continue his running streak for as long as he is able to.
“My wife, Sandy, has been very supportive and I could not have done the 50 states without her support and understanding,” he said. “She has traveled with me to many of the races as we have included a marathon on most of our recent vacations and celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary last summer with a trip to Alaska and knocked off another marathon state while we were there.”
Sandy works as a radiologic technologist at the VA in St. Cloud.
Janssen said racing in the 50 states has allowed him to meet many people and travel to and see parts of our country that he is sure he would never have traveled to if he hadn’t run the marathons.
The St. Cloud River Runners invites runners of all ages and abilities to run with them. For more information, visit scrr.org.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.