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Forestville Grad Can Join Select Company With Run

Patti Muck, shown at her race in Nebraska. which she completed in September 2021.

Forestville alumna Patti Muck is set to participate in the King Salmon Marathon in Cordova, Alaska, on July 16. While completing any marathon is an accomplishment, for Muck, crossing the finish line at that one will take on a major significance.

Upon the completion of the upcoming event , Muck will have completed a marathon in all 50 states, cementing her status as a member of the 50 State Club. According to 50statesmarathonclub.com, the club currently has just over 5,000 members countrywide, so while Muck will not be the first to accomplish this feat, the achievement is not any less illustrious.

Muck got her start in running from a very young age. When she was 8 years old, she remembers beating an 11-year-old girl in a race at her dad’s company picnic. She said that her dad’s reaction to that at the time could still be part of her motivation for running today.

“He was so proud of me,” Muck said. “I think that feeling has stuck with me.”

Muck’s love of running continued into high school, where she looked to join the track team. Girls’ sports teams were in their infancy at Forestville High School in the mid 1970s, and track wasn’t one of those sports available, causing Muck to request joining the boys’ track team, becoming the first girl to do so.

Patti Muck runs in the Bear Lake Marathon in Idaho. Submitted photos

“When I was a senior, we did get girls softball, basketball, and volleyball but not track,” she said. “I asked to join the track team and I was allowed on it. I was a terrible track runner, but I was proud of being the first girl on the team.”

Following her graduation from Forestville Central School in 1976, Muck made her way to Duke University, then to Houston, Texas, where she has resided since. In 1997, she ran her first marathon in Houston, and upon completion, she actually thought it would be her last.

“It was as hard as could be,” she said. “I thought I’d never do it again. Then it becomes like an addiction and all the people you run with are different, off the wall and crazy, but it’s a good crazy. You get to know people well through training, tell stories on the road, and it becomes really, really fun.”

Muck said the 50 State Club didn’t seem realistic until around the time she completed her 10th state, but since then, it has been her goal to complete the club by the time she turned 60. While she will soon turn 64 with one only Alaska remaining, accomplishing her goal will gladly come better late than never, as it was more about the journey for her anyway.

“It seemed impossible but then you start collecting them state by state,” she said. “You see cool places and travel with friends, each trip becomes a special adventure.”

One of the challenges of continuing to race is that father time comes for everyone. Muck said her best time to finish came in Austin, Texas, in the late 1990s, which she finished in three hours and 45 minutes. Now, she said she’s happy to finish within five hours and 15 minutes, and while her time has certainly slowed, her enjoyment of the races has not.

“You slow down consistently, but the joy doesn’t change,” she said. “It still makes you happy.”

As the states continued to check themselves off, she said each one became more about what her and her family and friends could do during each one. She mentioned Nebraska as the state that surprised her the most, causing her to put it off. However, upon completing it this past fall, she said the experience was a blast.

“It was beautiful,” Muck said. “The people were the friendliest people in the world, it was a great course, and we met some great people there. … It really surprised me. So many places have beautiful things you’d never expect.”

The upcoming marathon in Cordova will be a similar experience, in terms of destination. Her brother, Steve, his children, Muck’s own children, and her friend, Lisa Monacelli, will be in attendance. Muck said she chose this event more for the extracurricular activities that will follow its completion.

“We can eat all the salmon you want after the marathon,” said Muck. “I thought that sounded cool. When I finish, we’ll go kayaking, hiking, and see a glacier. We try to make them destination races.”

Muck said the biggest thing any runner wants to avoid is the DNF — Did Not Finish — next to their name in the results, though one DNF led to her most motivational race. While trying to complete Tennessee, her first go round featured a snowstorm, streets full of slushy ice, and frigid temperatures that led her to hitchhike back to her car. But the next attempt in Tennessee made that all worth it.

“I was all alone on the course and I was crying and freezing,” Muck said. “But when we went back to Memphis a few weeks later and did the St. Jude’s marathon, that was one of my most inspirational. We raised money in honor of my nephew, Nick Muck, who passed away in his late 20s. It was a special time for us, and I don’t regret the DNF.”

As for what’s next, Muck said she wants to continue running, with the only one thing eventually stopping her. With how healthy running keeps her, both physically and mentally, she hopes to be able to do it for much longer.

“I want to run until I die,” said Muck. “The New York Times did a feature on older people who do senior Olympic track events. They’re so proud and I want to be one of those. My hope is to finish Cordova and then I hope I can finish half marathons. If I have to go to 10ks, I’ll do that. I just want to experience it.”

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