On August 19, Jacqueline Johnston Kanekuni, ’82, completed the Anchorage RunFest half marathon in three hours, 12 minutes, and 38 seconds. She finished 464th overall and 280th for women. Her daughter Sammy Jo finished one second ahead of her.  
But why would a Frederick, Maryland resident go all the way to Alaska to run a half-marathon when there are so many races available closer to home? 

For Kanekuni, this race was the culmination of a quest 11 years in the making. By running and completing the Anchorage RunFest, she attained her goal of running a half marathon in all 50 U.S. states. 
Kanekuni was always an athlete, and always a runner. She ran her first five-kilometer (5K) race in 1978, while she was a Gallaudet student. Since then, she has completed 10Ks, 10-milers, half-marathons, and marathons – four of them. Today, at age 64, she plays pickleball regularly.  

In 2012, Kanekuni set for herself the goal of running a half marathon – that’s 13.1 miles, mind you – in all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. The first was the Rock ‘N’ Roll USA half marathon in the District of Columbia, the last the aforementioned RunFest Anchorage. In between, she completed 49 races in 49 states. Her progress was interrupted for a time by the COVID-19 pandemic. She had scheduled six runs during this period; all six race organizers cancelled their in-person races. Most offered virtual options; participants could run locally and submit their times to the race sponsor. However, Kanekuni wanted to physically go to all 50 states. 

The numbers are staggering. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. Multiply that by 50 states, and you get 655 miles. There are also race registration fees, travel, lodging, meals, and more. Kanekuni estimates that each of her trips cost $500 to $1,800.  

Jacqueline Johnston Kanekuni

Each run was an adventure, Kanekuni says. She ran in winter, summer, fall, and spring. She experienced superbly well-organized races and poorly organized ones, temperature extremes, rain, snow, sleet, high altitudes, hilly terrain, all the trials and tribulations of travel, and even a race that was canceled because of inclement weather. She powered through leg cramps and the other injuries endemic to long-distance runners. She had to fly to Minnesota and drive several hours to North Dakota to run in that state’s half-marathon. She has favorite states and not-so-favorite states. We won’t tell you too much here, because Kanekuni is writing a book in which she will chronicle her odyssey.  

The common thread for Kanekuni, though, was the exhilaration of completing a “half” in each state, one state at a time, a few states per year. Alabama, check. Alaska, check. Arizona, check. It took 11 years, but Kanekuni is now a member of an elite group – the few thousand runners worldwide who have achieved this feat – a half-marathon in each state. She believes that she may be the only deaf woman to have reached this pinnacle. 

Someone keeps records? Oh, yes. There is a Fifty States Half Marathon Club. There are Facebook groups devoted to this avocation, or this obsession, depending on your world view.  

Kanekuni did not do this by herself, of course. She counts her husband, Alan Y. Kanekuni, ’74, and her two daughters as her biggest supporters. Her younger daughter, Sammy Jo, ran several races with her, including the first and last. Kanekuni also ran with groups of friends, and met other deaf runners by chance during some of her races. They developed instant camaraderie, and stayed in touch afterward. 

Kanekuni now has piles and piles of T-shirts, a stack of race bibs, and a box of finisher medals from all but one of her 51 races. (Why she doesn’t have that 51st medal is a long story, but she did finish that race.) She also has a lifetime of memories. Want to know more? Watch for the book. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating her on this stellar achievement. 

Travis Clevenger

Closer to home, two Gallaudet alumni and current employees accomplished another feat of body, mind, and spirit on September 16. Brian Bennett, ’13, swimming coach in the Athletics Department, and Travis Clevenger, ’07 & G-’09, Student Accountability Coordinator in Student Accountability and Restorative Practices, completed IRONMAN Maryland, a swim-bicycle-run competition held in Cambridge, Maryland.  
An IRONMAN consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run. If you are doing the math, that’s 140.6 miles in all. This year’s swim on the Choptank River was shortened somewhat because of rough waters, but the rest of the event stayed intact. The bicycle ride was through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, and the marathon-length run through picturesque, historic Cambridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Bennett, in his third IRONMAN, finished in 13 hours, 44 minutes, and 40 seconds, while Clevenger, in his first effort, crossed the finish line in 14 hours, 19 minutes, and 31 seconds.  

Brian Bennett

Bennett said, “This being my third IRONMAN, I was so excited to have the support of my family, friends, and now my colleagues and the support of Gallaudet University. I am excited to continue on and keep improving to be an even better athlete and example for my swimmers and all student-athletes at Gallaudet.” 

Clevenger said, “My experience at Cambridge was incredible. I especially enjoyed riding and running along the beautiful scenic routes. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without the support of my family; shout out to them for their sacrifices as well! As I have stated to others, I am glad I finished, but I am not happy with my times/results. Sorry, family, but we are signing up for IRONMAN again!” 

We’re tired just thinking about all this. 
Congratulations, Brian and Travis! 

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