Just six miles north of Harrisburg in Raleigh, lives 42-year-old Keith Roberts. When Roberts isn’t spending time with his wife and kids, he’s running marathons or working as a manager in fiber optic installation at Clearwave Communications.
If running a full marathon wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, Roberts has gone to the extreme by completing the race in all 50 states.
“I have a long-term vision for my health,” said Roberts. “Since I started running all of my back pain has gone away. Physically, I was heading towards a path of diabetes and really poor health, but the diet of running has corrected that.”
Roberts has 56 career marathons under his belt since running his first in 2016 at the Shiprock Marathon in New Mexico. On March 17, Roberts ran in his 50th state when he completed the Big Island International Marathon (Hilo Marathon) in Hawaii.
What comes next after you’ve run around the entire United States map?
“My goal for next year is to run in four 100-milers,” said Roberts. “I definitely see myself running or staying active for the rest of my life, that’s one part of it. The other part is sort of our human nature. I’ve come this far, how far can I go?”
Perhaps Roberts' encounter with a black bear in the mountains of Virginia in a 100K race is the reason he’d like to stay in shape.
“Last month I was stalked by a bear,” said Roberts. "Getting stalked by animals because they’re curious happens all the time to runners, but all I had was a trekking pole in one hand and a water bottle in the other when I looked over my shoulder and saw a little black bear 30 feet behind me.”
Illinois remains the only state wher Roberts has run multiple marathons. More specifically, the Main Street Marathon in Belleville, and then the Shawnee Marathon in Harrisburg, which was where Roberts completed his first half marathon of 13.1 miles.
“When I started running I couldn’t even run a quarter of a mile,” said Roberts. “I worked up a little bit, ran a 5K or two, and decided that I wanted to try running further.”
Roberts has since gone on to run nearly 1500 miles in his marathons alone. That doesn’t include his half marathons, ultramarathons, or any of the miles he has poured into his training.
The 42-year-old continues to stand the test of time, as he once ran marathons on eight consecutive days.
“I needed to cross all of the New England states off and I picked up New York on the way,” said Roberts. “While I was running the New York Marathon, a guy caught me and talked me into running a marathon in Maine.”
Roberts' body has held up for the most part outside of some shin splints, but he says recovery is different than most people would think.
“The recovery is more mental than it is physical,” said Roberts. “After a while your body learns to deal with the aches and the pains, and you can run a marathon on Saturday, a marathon on Sunday, be a little sore when you’re back at work on Monday, and by Tuesday you don’t feel it.”
Roberts' love of running has motivated both of his sons to run cross-country.
Next in line for Roberts is the 12th annual Keys100 Ultramarathon in Key West, Florida.
“I’m definitely not as disciplined as great runners are,” said Roberts. “As things go I generally finish in the back half of the race. I run a marathon in about 4 hours and 45 minutes, which is probably a good average.
“I will tell you from personal experience that there’s about 15 percent of people who care about speed and everybody else just cares about getting it done.”
The majority of people will never run a marathon, but in three years Roberts has done just that in every single state and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I definitely see myself running or staying active for the rest of my life,” Roberts reiterated. “I’m curious to learn what my limit is and that drives me to continue on.”