St. Cloud River Runners Present…

Feat of the Feet

Oak Forest woman runs marathons in 50 states

July 1, 2010
By Alan Macey

She might never get her own ticker-tape parade down Michigan Avenue.

But what Boonsom Hartman, a 52-year-old wife and mother from Oak Forest, has accomplished in her 18-year running career certainly merits one.

This diminutive runner is the first (and only) woman from Illinois to run a marathon (26.2 miles) in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. not once, not twice, but now three times.

And she is only the 21st person from the entire nation to have achieved this feat of the feet, so to speak.

Hartman, who began running for stress relief at age 34 and now has run 217 marathons to date, is what you might call a marathon maniac. In fact, that's the name of one of the running groups she belongs to (Marathon Maniacs).

Hartman completed her first "50 States and D.C." trip around the nation in December 2003 at the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii. She finished her second cross-country tour in June 2007 at the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.

And most recently, Hartman finished her third batch of marathons in all 50 states and D.C. on March 28 of this year at the Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May, N.J..

Other members of the 50 States & D.C. club tell Hartman they don't know how she does it.

"I don't know either," Hartman will tell them, with a chuckle.

But it's definitely got something to do with "inner strength" - something with which Hartman's spirit overflows.

A member of the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club, Hartman still vividly recalls her very first race as a novice runner. It was the club's 4-mile Fools' Run in April 1992.

Hartman managed to place third in her division, finishing in 33 minutes. Later that same year, Hartman finished her very first marathon - in Chicago - and found herself seriously bitten by the marathon bug.

Once she turned 50, with 152 marathons behind her, Hartman set her sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon and working on her speed. Women between ages 50 and 54 have to run a marathon in 4 hours and 5 minutes or less in order to qualify for this prestigious 114-year-old event. Since she turned age 50, Hartman has, indeed, gotten faster and stronger. She has managed to qualify three times for Boston - most recently five weeks ago at the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in St. Joseph, Minn.

Hartman was planning on "taking it easy" that day in Minnesota - after all, she had just run the Big Sur Marathon (her favorite) in California just 13 days earlier (with a time of 4:35:10). And just six days prior to that, she ran Boston in 4:18:27. So she deserved to take this one easy.

But the weather was great that day in Minnesota, and the course was flat - so Hartman flew.

"Somehow everything worked out that day," Hartman said. She finished third in her age group in a speedy 4:02:57 -in plenty of time to qualify for next year's Boston race.

"I can't wait until I turn 55," Hartman said. "I'll only need a marathon time of 4:15 then!"

Hartman never fails to thank her husband of 27 years, Scott Hartman, for the "100 percent trust and support" he has given her.

"He knows when I have a goal. He goes out of his way to help me and to make sure it happens. Scott has told me that as long as I qualify for Boston, we'll go there. I appreciate everything he does for me. I always tell him someone should do a story about him!" she said of her husband, with whom she has four grown children.

Also a runner, Scott Hartman is trying to reach a goal of his own: running a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in all 50 states. He's got about 27 states under his belt so far.