STRAWN -- Runner Amy May didn’t start her career to become “one in a million,” but her bucket list that started the size of sewing thimble has grown to epic portions over the last seven years capped with completing a full marathon in every single state in the U.S.A.
There is no more elite status for an amateur marathoner than becoming a member of the 50 States Marathon Club that boasts only 4,662 members world-wide.
May’s running career started as a journey of healing following a relationship breakup and her moving back onto her home turf in the Gordon and Strawn areas.
What started as therapy began a journey of healing and led to a mission of outreach for May, who recognizes how lucky she is in being able to mold her work and family around her running.
“If it weren’t for my mother (Linda) I would never be able to have come this far,” May said. “She watches my daughter, Emma, when I am gone, and both of them are my biggest supporters.”
May tries to include her mother and daughter in what she calls her “race-cations” which are generally short. When she goes by herself to a marathon, the trips might be even quicker and includes a schedule of leaving on Friday, running on Saturday and heading home that afternoon.
Most of May’s running adventures also include some form of outreach toward the homeless or a charitable type of organization. Runners usually get a backpack or sack of goodies which contains a variety of items such as energy bats, moist wipes, Band-Aids and more.
Over time May’s reputation as being “the bag lady” has grown and other runners have reached out to help her out with donations of their own. One runner even gave up her entire collection of 50-state bags when she heard May was adding toiletry items and other things and giving the bags to those in need.
“I didn’t start with the idea of handing out bags to the homeless, but I saw what some of the other runners were doing to help the less fortunate,” May said. “It just kind of grew from there, and now I pretty much do it at every single race I attend.”
If May isn’t handing out bags at a race, it’s because she is involved in some other form of helping her fellow man and being a part of Ainsley’s Angels of America is one of her passions.
“Being an ‘Angel Runner’ for Ainsley’s makes it possible for children and adults with physical and mental handicaps to be included in running events,” May said. “Together We Shall – that’s the motto.”
Runners push along wheelchairs, carts and even bikes to give the handicapped the opportunity to feel the experience.
In completing 7.1 full marathons a year on average over seven years (she completed 100), May has achieved her goal of running a marathon in 50 states, and now she plans to double up that total while also throwing in all seven continents. May has unsuccessfully entered herself into the lottery process to run marathons in Berlin and London, which is tough due to so many applications.
If May were a world-class runner instead of just being classy, she would be a shoo-in for the events, but running hasn’t been about times.
“In the beginning, running was about time, but I realized I’m an endurance runner and I’m not out there to win races,” May said. “I fell in love with the people and the culture surrounding marathons.”
While all her races are fun, they can be extremely challenging both physically and mentally. May recalls this year’s Possum’s Revenge 69-miler Marathon at Possum Kingdom Lake as being her second most challenging race. Considering May has run two 100-mile marathons that’s a pretty good ranking.
“The heat and rocky terrain were tough,” May said. “Throw in the sand it got even worse.”
Some of the races May takes part in tug at her emotions and heartstrings while also taking a physical toll on her body, and each year she looks forward to taking part in the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon honoring World War II veterans in White Sands, New Mexico.
“Mr. Ben Cardin is a 99-year-old Air Force veteran, and he runs the first couple miles of the race every year,” May said. “Every year, veterans come to the race, but each year, that number gets a little smaller.”
State number 49 was Massachusetts for the Tough Ruck Marathon, where she raised more than $600 for the Military Friends Foundation. The marathon came about due to the Boston Marathon bombing and the banning of rucksacks and backpacks during the event. Tough Ruck is held the day before the Boston Marathon, and those taking part are the first 1,000 official runners of the Boston Marathon.
Heading out to run a marathon isn’t always serious business, and as often as she can, May includes Linda and Emma in her adventures turning her race-cations into trips to national parks and other areas of interest.
In business for herself for the last 12 years with a house-cleaning and pet setting operation, May can’t afford to dilly-dally too long on trips.
“If I don’t work, then I don’t get paid,” May laughed. “I’m grateful to my clients who are understanding about my passion even if they do think I’m a little crazy for doing it. They have all been very supportive.”
What began as a journey in healing has turned into a career of running and giving, and May has more than 100 total marathons under her belt. May’s “medal wall” at home looks more like a retail store for coaches needing to buy trophies than awards won by a single marathon runner.
“I tell young runners don’t ever let people tell you that you can’t achieve something you want,” May said. “With God, anything is possible if we set our minds and work toward our goals.”
God and a little bit of luck have been on May’s side as she has miraculously avoided injury while pursuing her goals -- 50 states in seven years is an impressive sporting accomplishment.
State number 50 was Hawaii and came in late June of this year when May completed the Kona Marathon and slipped the medal around her neck much to the approval of Travis the Travelling Giraffe.
Travis is a gift from Emma, so May would know her daughter was thinking about her when she ran when she first started. Travis has been at her side during the Haberno 100K in Cat Spring, Texas and he crossed the finish line hand-in-hand at Kono when she completed her goal.
Things are far from over for May as she is headed to Berlin (finally got picked) in September and the Bahamas in January. She is overjoyed her stepdaughter, Eva, has announced she wants to try her hand at running a half-marathon.
As if she isn’t pressed for time, May is the VP of the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Partners a friend and advocacy group for the park. May and Emma have started volunteering at CARE (a pet rescue started by Peggy McQueary) and some of her additional volunteer times includes serving as a board member of the Strawn Chamber of Commerce.