Local 50 States Marathoner Looks Back at 2013 Boston Marathon

By: Christian Deiss


(Hurricane, WV) –  Someday I want to runs a full or half-marathon, but in the meantime I recently met a local runner who has run a marathon in all 50 states.  Jeff Ranson, currently a part-time pastor at Gateway Christian Church in St. Albans, completed his 50 for 50 marathon feat last year in Maui, Hawaii.

Before a recent track practice of my Hurricane Middle School Track team, I talked to Mr. Ranson about running in general.  I asked Mr. Ranson, out of all of his marathons, which one was his favorite, “The last one I was in Maui and that was pretty special.  That was my fiftieth state and I really liked that being my fiftieth, because my brother (Steve, a preacher in Indiana) did that one with me, which made it even more special for me.” The running preacher is a native of St. Albans and currently resides in Hurricane.

In 2013, the Boston Marathon was marred by fatal bombing at the finish line.  Ranson was a participant in that year’s race and shared his memories of the event with me, “It was highly emotional.  I was hearing from about mile 22 or 23 on about a bomb or some kind of problem at the finish line.  But no one was telling us any details so we just kept running.  There were water stops like normal, there were still people cheering us on, but when we got a half mile from the finish line, Homeland Security had barriers across the road, which stopped all of us right there.”

Ranson continued to tell me what emotions were going through his mind at that point, “It was strange because all they told us was that there was a bomb event.  They didn’t tell us how serious, if anybody was hurt or if anybody was killed.  My family, like a lot of the other runner’s families were at the finish line waiting for us, so we didn’t know if they were affected or not.  Catching back up with them was very emotional.” The 63-year runner is set to run in this year’s Boston Marathon, Monday, April 18.

I find running in cold challenging so I thought running a 26.2-mile race in Alaska would be tough one to accomplish.  To my surprise I found out from Mr. Ranson it wasn’t as tough as I thought, “You would be surprised, it wasn’t that cold.  The one I did was last June; it was the Mayor’s Midnight Race.  That time of year It never really gets ark in Alaska, it was a little cool, but not too cold, with race time temperatures in the 40’s.  For just about any runner, that’s perfect for running 26 miles.  In that race I was hoping to maybe see a moose or a bear, since some of the course was through a wilderness area, but maybe for the better, I didn’t see any.” Ranson believes he has run in 80 to 85 marathons, doing multiple races in his home state and North Carolina.

As a member of my track team, training is expected because I am racing in meets to represent my team.  However, for Mr. Ranson, running is just one of his passions, “I don’t think what I do is training, I just like to run.  When it is a beautiful day outside I just like to go out and enjoy it and do so by running.  I don’t really compete, I don’t want to beat the person next to me, I just want to run.  The real reason is that I really like to eat and since I run I think I can eat anything I want.”

During our chat, Mr. Ranson advised me to just relax and enjoy the sport I love and to my surprise as I was preparing for my first 1600 meter race this spring at Laidley Field in Charleston, I found Mr. Ranson in the stands cheering me on, creating another special running memory for me. Now time to start training for that first half-marathon. 

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