471.6 miles down; 838.4 miles to go. Loyola Campus Ministry faith formation minister Oliver Goodrich, 37, is 18 marathons into his mission to run one in all 50 states before he turns 50.
As faith formation minister, Goodrich works with retreats and Christian Life Communities (CLC).
Growing up, Goodrich — a native of Houlton, Maine — said he wasn’t athletically inclined, but became inspired when his good friend and godmother, Julie Ray Brown, 54, started running for a friend who was going through breast cancer treatment.
“I was in Massachusetts and [my friend] was in Texas,” Ray Brown said. “It’s not like I could send her flowers or meals or anything, but I wanted to take on something in my body that would remind me of the strength that was being required from her to go through cancer.”
Just weeks into training, Ray Brown said she was forced to stop due to her own breast cancer diagnosis.
Goodrich said he was determined to conquer the 26.2 mile race in solidarity with Ray Brown and her friend. This eventually inspired him to try to cross the finish line in every state. While he has run in 18 different states, Goodrich has altogether run 21 marathons.
At the time of Ray Brown’s diagnosis, Goodrich was living in a small town called Rowley, Massachusetts near Boston. His “godfamily” — a group of good friends, including Ray Brown, from his church in the Boston area — decided to help run and raise money for cancer research and other patients, including Ray Brown.
“When Julie was diagnosed, my whole community said, ‘Okay, if this is how Julie showed her friend that she was going to be in solidarity for her this way, we are going to do this for her,’” Goodrich said.
Goodrich ran his first marathon in 2009 in San Antonio. He said Julie and her friend made it through treatment and were able to run a half marathon that day, making it one of his most memorable marathons.
Ray Brown also said the race had special meaning for her.
“It was empowering thing to say ‘hey, I may be 43 years old, but I got a lot to do,’” Ray Brown said. “I got a lot ahead of me and the race was one thing to say that.”
Goodrich said his father, who also ran the race that day, has been another source of inspiration for him. He said his father began running in his late 40s to manage his health, and has since run 67 marathons.
“When I was in college and in my 20s, I started to go to races to cheer him on, and it was really inspiring to watch the running community,” Goodrich said. “People come in all shapes and sizes, all levels of ability. I’ve seen marathoners with no legs, marathoners with no arms. I’ve seen marathoners who are extremely overweight.”
He said watching these races helped him recognize his own potential.
“I think as somebody who, for a good part of my life, was overweight and didn’t think that I had a lot of athletic prowess, it was really inspiring to see what people were capable of doing when they set their mind to it,” Goodrich said. “I would get teary as a spectator.”
After his first marathon, Goodrich said he would never run another but on the flight home, something changed.
“I said [to my father] ‘you know, I think I could probably do it a little faster’ and that was really when the dream was born to do another one,” Goodrich said. “I just kept doing one or two a year, and then I really started to enjoy doing it.”
Lauren Schwer, the associate director of Campus Ministry and Goodrich’s boss, said she went with him to Ohio to run a half marathon while he ran a marathon. She said they also ran a relay race together from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago.
“He’s a great teammate,” Schwer said. “He’s constantly thinking of others, his mission is really about bringing joy to other people. Part of his ability to be kind and be helpful is through care for self, whether that be his running habits or his choice of eating healthy and thinking about how he can be a better person for others.”
Goodrich said it usually takes him 4.5 hours to run a marathon and his personal best was completed in Philadelphia with a time of 4.10 hours. The world record is 2.01 hours, according to Runner’s World.
Goodrich trains about 18 weeks before a race. He said he runs five miles every day or every other day during the week, with a longer run on the weekends. The distance of the weekend run gradually increases as the weeks progress, he said.
Goodrich said it’s hard to choose a favorite state that he’s run in, because they all are different.
“Each state has its own feel and its own energy,” he said. “The races are different sizes, which changes the experience, so it’s fun to experience each one on its own terms.”
Goodrich said he’s run in a variety of different settings — one of his favorites was a smaller race in Alaska with about 30 people.
“It was through a national park in the Copper River Delta in the panhandle of Alaska and there were glaciers off to one side,” Goodrich said. “I stopped counting bald eagles when I [counted] into the 30s. It was just this beautiful spot and so quiet and serene, so that was definitely one I’ll remember for a long time.”
Goodrich said another unforgettable moment was when he ran on familiar streets during the Chicago Marathon in 2016.
“It was so cool to run through my city and get to see it from a different angle, to be running on these major streets that are shut down for you and to get to see all these people that I knew along the race course and see so much love from the fans,” Goodrich said.
Maddie Cahue, a senior global and international studies major, has worked closely with Goodrich as a CLC leader.
“I think it’s incredible and really inspiring. I think it’s also really cool just because his story with running is really heartfelt,” the 21-year-old said. “It goes to show it’s more than just running and becomes this practice of self-care and can be something that is spiritual or a good way to connect or disconnect.”
Ray Brown said she and Goodrich have talked about running another race in the future.
Goodrich said he’s set to run three races in new states this winter. He’s headed to Charleston, South Carolina in January, Phoenix in February and Hawaii in March to run on the mountainside of Mauna Kea, a volcano on the main island.
“Next year will be my tenth anniversary of running, and I might do 10 races,” Goodrich said. “I have to celebrate.”