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Marathoner's passion has taken her to 27 states — she's eyeing all the others, too

ST. PETERSBURG — When Jill Hill gets out her calendar to plan a vacation, she doesn't care about amusement parks or luxury resorts. She's looking to run.

"It's been really great for the whole family," said the 51-year-old marathoner. "We've been all over the place."

Hill, a social studies teacher at the Canterbury School of Florida, stumbled into marathons by accident.

"I had signed up for a half-marathon in Tallahassee," she said. "But the day of the race, there were thunderstorms and tornadoes, so they canceled it."

The race organizers said she could apply her entry fee to the following year's race, or to a full marathon scheduled for just a couple of months later in Tallahassee.

"I figured that I had a couple of months to train," she said. "So why not."

That first 26.2-mile race was in 2003. Since then, Hill has run marathons in 27 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. "My goal is to make one in all 50," she explained. "I figure I have plenty of time."

"Marathoners tend to peak later in life," she continued. "I plan to still be running marathons when I am 75."

Hill's husband, Paul, a former Marine aviator, now works as a commercial airline pilot so she flies for free. He and 19-year-old daughter Evan like to run, so it isn't hard to persuade the family to accompany her.

"Most marathons have other races associated with them … 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons … so there is something for them to do," she said of family members who don't want to do the full marathon.

Hill has also ventured off by herself — as when she did the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

"I had to sleep in a little pup tent in the middle of the desert," Hill said. "It was pretty serious."

She met some real characters on the course, including a long-distance truck driver, who told her everything she could ever want to know about the nation's interstate transportation system.

"I told him I couldn't talk because I would use up all my oxygen and not be able to run," she recalled. "But I also told him that I was a good listener, which helps pass the time."

If you think you could never do a marathon in 2013, Hill would try and talk you out of that notion. With planning and discipline, Hill thinks many people could surprise themselves.

"It is easy to overtrain," she said. "But I have been able to cross-train with walking and I think that has helped me avoid injury."

The best bet for somebody just starting out is to join an organized group. Hill has trained with USA Fit Tampa Bay, which usually starts its program in the summer with a target marathon in winter or spring.

"It really makes a big difference," she said. "The training is much easier when you are part of a group."

Terry Tomalin can be reached at tomalin@tampabay.com.

A few of JILL Hill's

favorite marathons

Fulton YMCA Marathon

Fulton, N.Y

Completed: October 2011

Why? "Any race in upstate New York during the fall is great … went apple picking as a family; drove to Niagara Falls; ate Buffalo wings in Buffalo!"

Kona Marathon

Kona, Hawaii

Completed: June 2006

Why? "Hawaii is awesome!"

Next year's race, the 20th annual, is scheduled for June 23. The course runs along the spectacular scenic shoreline of the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii. Go to konamarathon.com.

Minneapolis Marathon

Minnesota

Completed: June 2009

Why? "The Mall of America and the host hotel had a small water park indoors."

Next year's race, set for June 2, starts downtown and runs along the Mississippi River. The route takes runners into historic Fort Snelling and onto scenic Pike Island where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers come together. Go to minneapolismarathon.com.

Bear Lake Marathon

Garden City, Utah

Completed: June 2008

Why? "Stayed overnight in a KOA cabin; went horseback riding; visited the Oregon Trail museum and drank the best raspberry shakes in the U.S."

Nestled in the mountains, this small tourist town is celebrated for its large turquoise blue lake. Next year's race is set for June 8. Go to mammothmarathons.org/

bear-lake-marathon.

Mayor's Marathon

Anchorage, Alaska

Completed: June 2005

Why? "Spent several days before the marathon traveling with family and friends; stayed at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska."

Organized by the University of Alaska, this Boston qualifier drew more than 4,000 runners from 49 states and multiple countries last year. Next year's event is scheduled for June 22. Go to mayorsmarathon.com.

Wish list for 2013

(No, she won't really do them all, but these are the races Hill is considering.)

First Light Marathon, Mobile, Ala. (Jan. 13) firstlightmarathon.com

Inaugural Asheville Marathon

on Biltmore Estate, N.C.

(March 3) ashevillemarathon.com

Shamrock Marathon, Virginia Beach, Va. (March 17) shamrockmarathon.com

Paris de Marathon, France

(April 7) parismarathon.com

Shires of Vermont Marathon

at Bennington/Manchester

(May 19) shiresofvermontmarathon.com

North Olympic Discovery Marathon at Port Angeles, Wash. (June 2) nodm.com

Missoula Marathon, Montana

(July 14) runwildmissoula.org

Who runs marathons?

Men

58.8 percent

Average age: 40.3

Average time: 4:27:11

Women

41.2 percent

Average age: 36.6 Average time: 4:54:25

Number of finishers in 2010: 503,000

Source: marathonguide.com

Want to run your first marathon? Check out these groups

USA Fit Tampa Bay: For both beginners and more advanced runners who want to complete a marathon. Training runs are in St. Petersburg and usually start in July. tampabayfit.com.

Take . . . the First Step: Carrollwood running coach Lynn Gray emphasizes overall fitness in her training programs suitable for all fitness levels. firststepprograms.com.

Tampa Bay Runners: Has been operating for more than 25 years and has programs for all levels in running, biking and swimming, weekly runs in Temple Terrace and Carrollwood, and social events. tampabayrunners.com.

Tampa Progressive Training Team: Geared for serious runners and triathletes, this group holds practices at the University of Tampa and the Clearwater High School track.

runprogressive.com.

St. Pete Road Runners: For runners and walkers at all levels, the group offers programs in St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg, including boot camp training. sprr.org.

FishHawk Road Runners Club: This East Hillsborough group offers 1-mile runs to marathons, and emphasizes trail races as well. fishhawkrunning.com.

To learn more about marathon running,

go to marathonmaniacs.com.

Who runs marathons?

Men

58.8 percent

Average age: 40.3

Average time: 4.27.11

Women

41.2 percent

Average age: 36.6 Average time: 4:54:25

Number of finishers in 2010: 503,000

Source: MarathonGuide.com

Want to run your first marathon? Check out these groups

USA Fit Tampa Bay: For both beginners and more advanced runners who want to complete a marathon. Training runs are in St. Petersburg and usually start in July. www.tampabayfit.com.

Take . . . the First Step: Carrollwood running coach Lynn Gray emphasizes overall fitness in her training programs suitable for all fitness levels. www.firststepprograms.com.

Tampa Bay Runners: Has been operating for more than 25 years and has programs for all levels in running, biking and swimming, weekly runs in Temple Terrace and Carrollwood, and social events. www.tampabayrunners.com.

Tampa Progressive Training Team: Geared for serious runners and triathletes, this group holds practices at the University of Tampa and the Clearwater High School track. www.runprogressive.com.

St. Pete Road Runners: For runners and walkers at all levels, the group offers programs in St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg, including boot camp training. www.sprr.org.

Fishhawk Road Runners Club: This East Hillsborough group offers 1-mile runs to marathons, and emphasizes trail races as well. www.fishhawkrunning.com

To learn more about marathon running,

go to marathonmaniacs.com.

Marathoner's passion has taken her to 27 states — she's eyeing all the others, too 12/14/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 3:30am]

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