Running: Orland Park man completes marathons in all 50 states
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media July 3, 2012 10:34PM
Orland Park resident Michael Stluka, who in June ran a marathon in Hawaii to complete his goal of running a marathon in all 50 states. | Jeff Vorva~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 5, 2012 6:13AM
He’s run everywhere, man.
Three days before turning 51, Orland Park’s Michael Stluka competed in a marathon in Kona, Hawaii.
By crossing the finish line there June 24, Stluka completed a dream that started in 2003 of completing a marathon in all 50 states.
In Kona, Stluka ran the course in 3 hours, 47 minutes, 11 seconds, good for third place out of 26 in his age group of 50 to 54. His time was 47th out of 371 participants.
According to the 50 States Marathon Club, just 702 runners have run a marathon in every state, and Stluka is one of just 25 to have done so while completing each in under four hours.
Not bad, considering Stluka’s first marathon experience was his worst.
Flash back to 1997, when Stluka ran approximately 25 miles in the Chicago Marathon.
“I passed out on mile 25 and woke up at Northwestern Hospital,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
A month later, he finished a marathon in Alabama. In 2003, with a handful of states under his belt, the former Beecher High School track and cross country standout decided to shoot for all 50 states.
Along the way, he’s dipped below the 3-hour mark three times, including a personal best 2:54.40 at the Chicago Marathon in 2001. He finished in the top 2 percent in that event — 464th out of 28,774 participants.
Some of the events he ran in were the Boston Marathon, the Rock and Roll Marathon in New Orleans, the Big Wild Life Run in Alaska, the Walt Disney World Marathon in Florida, the Route 66 Marathon in Oklahoma, the first Mississippi Blues Marathon, the Gobbler Grind Marathon in Kansas, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in Ohio and the Christmas Marathon in Washington.
Stluka has run with Frankfort’s Luigi Buffone in 45 states. He frequently has raced with his brother, Tom.
Stluka said one of the most rewarding races came on March 6, 2005, in Little Rock, Ark. He raced with former Beecher, Crete-Monee and Palatine cross country head coach Steve Currins, who is an assistant coach at Palatine.
“This is a guy I still look up to,” Stluka said. “I still talk to him and get advice from him. I got to run every step of the way with him. It was an honor to run with him the whole way. In a marathon, you can talk for about the first 15 miles. After that, you have to start saving some energy and you don’t want to talk. For that marathon we talked a lot until about that point.
“Just being with him was awesome. As I said, I looked up to him my whole life and I got to run a marathon with him.”
Despite his worst experience coming in the Chicago Marathon in 1997, Stluka said that overall, that event is his favorite.
“Site-wise, fan-wise, it’s the best,” he said.
Now that he reached his goal of running in 50 states, Stluka has a couple of options for future ventures.
The Commonwealth Edison crew leader’s next project is to attempt a 50-mile run. He wants to run in Germany. He might try to run in every marathon in Illinois.
Running all 50 states at least twice also is a possibility.
“My brother (Tom) is 32 states into this,” he said. “If I run with him to finish the 18 he needs, I’ll be close again. We’ll see. Not that I’m going to quit, but I have to see what I want to do next.”