MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Meridian’s Evelyn Watkins is just the 4th woman from the state of Mississippi to become a member of the 50 States Marathon Club – an organization for those that have run a marathon in every state. Watkins’ journey into running began in 2006 with goals of improving her fitness. Three years later, she ran her first marathon in Memphis in December. Seeking qualification into the Marathon Maniacs organization, Watkins realized she already had run in many states and wanted to set another goal.
“I ran another one – my fifth and sixth marathons just to qualify for that organization,” Watkins said. “By that time I had six or seven states. So I looked at the calendar and was like oh I have seven states, might as well go to 50.”
Watkins completed that goal on September 9th, 2018 in Bozeman, Montana – taking just under nine years to run a marathon in each state. Former running partner, Tim Irvine, ran the Memphis Marathon with Watkins.
“We ran the first one together and it was both of our first marathons. I’ve since run 5 total and she’s on 65,” Irvine said. “And now Evelyn is going on almost 10 years. I mean that’s – I can’t even imagine that. That’s a long time to keep your eye on the ball. But she always had this ultimate goal of reaching 50 states and going to 50 states.”
Evelyn’s quest was a logistical and physical challenge – she often had stints where she completed multiple marathons within the same weekend. At one point she ran six marathons in six weeks. Yet her journey also introduced her to new people and new experiences.
“Along the way I meet friends and family and other, you know, meet people who are doing the same thing I am,” she said. “I have a friend in Lincoln, Nebraska so I stayed with her and ran the marathon there in her hometown. I have a friend in Rhode Island that I met through running…I have a friend that I travel with who lives in Jackson so she and I were doing states together.”
Her husband, Wes Watkins, has also traveled with her to many of her races in other states.
“It kinda teaches you how kinda how similar everyone is, you know, how everyone has kinda the same goals and kinda the same likes and dislikes,” he said. “It kinda lets you see more than just what you see on a daily basis.”
On October 28th, Watkins completed her 65th marathon in Meridian during the Magnolia Marathon for which she is the race director. This race is Watkins’ second marathon since her final state race. The past nine years have taught her much about her own ability to reach her goals.
“Your body is adaptable to your environment,” she said. “And if you train properly, you can pretty much do anything you set your mind to – you may not be the elite, you may not be the elite. You may not be the fastest or the best, but you can still finish. Anything is possible. Challenge your limits.”
Watkins is the third woman from the Meridian area to accomplish the 50 states feat (Lori Ladd, Iva Lightsey).