Pam Iyer on the Road
This land is my land, this land is your land from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters… this land was made for running free. Pam Iyer of Fort Collins didn’t sing this modified verse when we talked, but I left with the tune in my head. That and “fitty nifty united states…from 13 original colonies…”
Between January 2009 and June 2011, Iyer, then 56, raced 13.1 miles or longer in every single state, beginning in Carlsbad, California and ending in Kona, Hawaii. She ran through cacti, along sea coasts, on an island, in redwood forests, in a cypress swamp, in vineyards, on horse trails, through Amish country, over covered bridges, to Hoover Dam, around Crazy Horse Monument, past banks of snow so high she couldn’t see the ocean from the coast road course, past many state capitols, and to the fifty-yard line in the Rose Bowl Stadium.
Forty-two times she won her age group, 55-59 or 50-59 in smaller races. She won a hand-carved bird on a tall stand that she could hardly get home in the Dismal Swamp race Florida, a dog tag with her name imprinted in a Memorial Day race in Lenox, Massachusetts, a hot wheels VW bus in Michigan, and a piece of rock from Crazy Horse Monument. She ate chocolate at every aid station at the Mud and Chocolate race, was handed a flashlight to get through a mile-long tunnel in Wisconsin, zig-zagged in and out of cacti and clambered up enormous boulders in Arizona, sloshed through a downpour in Connecticut, and baked in 95-degee temperatures as she climbed endless steps in the Double Dipsea in California.
Iyer works in the office at Rivendell School and, except during the summer months, squeezes her races into weekends. She’s learned so much about accessing cheap air fares that she feels qualified to become a travel agent. She found a $98 round-trip to Oklahoma and another time drove to California so she could fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii rather than taking the expensive flight from Denver.
Fond memories are running the Colorado Half Marathon with her daughter, Kristin, doing her first, and completing a race in Napa Valley with Rachel Pettit, an 11-year-old student at Rivendell.
Iyer’s fastest race was a 1:37 in Deadwood, South Dakota, her slowest is difficult to compute since several of her races were 25 k trail runs, longer than the 13.1 mile distance. But she doesn’t care much about times. What she loved most was visiting different parts of the country, getting to know the people and the culture, and using the little time she had to see the local sights.
In Alaska, the half-marathon started in downtown Anchorage close to the J. C. Penney’s store, but racers were warned to beware of moose once they got out of town. She ran with 8,000 others on the coast in Long Branch, New Jersey and with several dozen in Iowa—destination a town called Marathon.
When Frank Shorter presented her award in Kona, he learned she was from Colorado and kissed her on the cheek.
Iyer says maybe she’ll do the whole routine over again.
Update: June 25, 2014. Pam is already making her travel plans for this coming fall. She continues to do a half marathon somewhere once a month.