Ultramarathon runner slows down after 50 states

Mon, Jul 5

Lisa Smith-Batchen isn't running anymore. She can't.

After the ultrarunner ran 2,500 miles -- 50 miles in each of the 50 states -- in just 62 days, maybe that doesn't seem surprising. Especially considering that less than halfway, Smith-Batchen badly rolled her left foot.

She was distracted, her head turned to talk to someone, and a pothole snuck up on her, as potholes will do. That was in Texas, state No. 23. There were still roughly 1,350 miles to go.

Though the foot swelled and the pain was intense, Smith-Batchen wouldn't stop. She couldn't. After all, she -- and her friend Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd, a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini who runs in her full habit -- was "Running Hope Through America," her latest effort to raise money for and awareness of AIDS orphans. And hope can't be derailed by a minor flesh wound.

"Needless to say, the day after I finished the run I saw the orthopedic doctor and I have a very broken bone," Smith-Batchen said.

She didn't know that in Texas, though, so Smith-Batchen did everything she could to treat the injury -- used ice, compression, etc. -- and then continued to do what she's always done: Put one foot in front of the other, and count the miles.

"I never lost my focus even when I was down and out and dealing with extreme foot pain," Smith-Batchen said. "My goal all day every day was 5 miles at a time."

Those miles add up. There were sleepless nights, dramatic support crew breakdowns and many, many new pairs of shoes. Smith-Batchen went through 15 pairs and the 61-year-old Sister Mary Beth went through four pairs in the 1,000 miles she logged in support.

Smith-Batchen plans to retire from ultrarunning competition and hopes someone else will pick up where she left off, and continue to run to raise money for children's charities.

Smith-Batchen isn't running anymore, but she won't stop hoping. She can't.