100th marathon is next for Gig Harbor’s Tami Christensen
Editor’s note: This piece was submitted by community member Lee Jorgenson, who is a personal friend of the subject of the article.
My, how life had changed for Tami Christensen.
She grew up in a family of six — parents, a brother, two sisters — on a potato farm in southern Idaho. Theirs was typical of life in the late 1970s and ’80s. They worked hard at home and at school, spent as much time as they could in the vast outdoors, survived without cell phones, the internet or social media.
Her dad was away a lot, but not so much that he wasn’t able to instill strong family values, the rewards of hard work, getting an education and the self-discipline to attain one’s goals.
She got straight A’s in high school and graduated as class valedictorian. She received a scholarship to college, and her dad kept his promise and bought her the pickup truck of her choice for working hard and meeting her goals. The organizational skills she developed in high school would serve her well later in life.
Twelve years went by, and she found herself juggling a marriage and four small children. She had graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and was continuing her education at night school, working on her masters and CPA degrees while being employed full time in her field. Meanwhile, her husband went to school all day, and worked at night so was rarely home.
Her life was a blur that was primarily owned and operated by forces outside of her control. She was busy from daylight until until bedtime with no time for herself.
During this time her family relocated nine times in 12 years, chasing new jobs or graduate schools for her husband. Each move took Tami further from home and her support system.
These were the hardest years of her life, but she had one support system that would never leave her. She was a runner.
Tami Christensen loves her kids, and is happy to nurture and care for them. She simply wanted to be more to them than a maid, a cook, a nurse, or a chauffeur. She wanted to challenge herself and find a path to self-discovery.
The solution for her was to keep running.
She began rising at 4:30 every morning to run, rain or shine. The farther she ran, the better she felt.
She took up running as an adult to balance the sedentary life of her chosen profession. People would say to her, ‘Oh my, you must be exhausted!’ She would just look back without answering, smile, and know that running was saving her soul.
She began to run for more distance. Friendships started to develop, many of them lifelong connections with other women runners. The feeling of greeting the sun every morning, with the wind and fresh air embracing her senses, began to shape her life. As her children grew older, a very tight regimen evolved.
The daily routine
Her runs would end by 7 a.m. By 8 at the latest, they needed to be on their way to school. That left an hour to wake the kids, shower, dress, prepare four breakfasts, make four lunches and hit the road.
Seven years separate her oldest and youngest kids, and therefore she drove to three different schools. Then it was back home, from which she worked as a CPA until it was time to pick up the kids.
Normal family pursuits consumed the evenings … after-school activities, homework, dinner and the like. She would typically finally collapse into bed around 9:30 or 10 p.m.
But at 4:30 the next morning, she was out the door with her running shoes on.
Peace within was coming to her and the knotty tension in her subconscious was beginning to relax. As time passed, she felt confident to tell the little lights of her life to set their own goals, to think big, to work hard, to be happy. To differentiate themselves from others by dedication. A stronger, deeper dedication to their goals would translate to success in life.
After a few years of running, with her distances lengthening and her resolve deepening, she decided to run her first marathon. She chose the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan, Utah. As she puffed and wheezed over the boldly emblazoned finish line some three and a half hours later, she decided to run another one, then another.
The United States of marathoning
An idea morphed into her mind one afternoon: Running a marathon in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. She realized this would take research and planning. Lots of it.
Family vacations began to be organized around her running. The Rock ‘n’ Roll in Phoenix for example, or the Honolulu. She ran the Steamboat Marathon in Colorado, whose course spans some 12,000 feet of mountainous altitude, early in her marathon career. The thin air and steep slopes almost did her in.
She persevered over all those courses. It took a little over 14 years, but she has achieved her major adult life goal of running a marathon in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
She has accomplished this with the help and support of her family, her cadre of running friends, and countless hours spent prepping and planning for future races. There were times when she had up to seven races and all of those corresponding logistics pinballing around in her CPA’s head.
She even found time to write a book (Life On The Run, available at Amazon.com) about her life and running experiences.
A new goal
Her favorite races were, of course, the thrill of qualifying for the Boston Marathon; and the excitement of running through the five Burroughs of New York City.
Another favorite was the Huntington Beach. Just running along the vast Pacific and the inland tracks around the coastal parklands was a treasure. Running the Greek, on some of the same paths as Pheidippides did some 2,700 years ago to warn Athens of a coming Persian invasion at the seaport of Marathon, was a special thrill.
Now that she has nearly reached her biggest goal, and has run in 99 sanctioned marathons, where will she run the one hundredth? The Magnum Opus of her career!
Tokyo, of course. Her sixth race of the Six Super Star Marathons (New York, Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin are the others, the most prestigious races in the marathon world).
This is the fourth time she has applied to the Tokyo. Early in her career she failed to qualify. Then came Covid, which derailed organized racing for almost three years. Finally, she has been accepted. Her daughter is coming with her, and they will stay in Japan for almost a week.
And now her ticket to Tokyo is punched. She is accepted, registered and ready to go. She has completed 2,590 sanctioned marathon miles, with 26.2 to go.
Ninety-nine races run, one more to go. She’s getting nostalgic already.