Anntriniece Napper had her grandmother in mind.
Ten years ago, Napper, a teacher at Cromwell Elementary School in Memphis, raised $3,000 for the American Stroke Association to run a marathon in Hawaii in honor of her grandmother, who suffered a mild stroke. Four years later, Napper’s grandmother passed away from conditions unrelated to a stroke.
Still, Napper never lost her passion for running. In fact, she first began running marathons regularly in 2003, but the way Napper puts it, “I’ve been a runner my whole life.”
Nowadays, the 37-year-old Napper has become a fixture among marathon runners across the United States. So much, in fact, that for the past five years, she has appeared in long-distance races in various states throughout the country. She doesn’t plan to stop until she runs at least one marathon in each of the 50 states, an ambition she set out to pursue seven years ago.
So far, it seems the former Memphis Whitehaven High track and field star is on pace to accomplish the rare and monumental feat. As of September, Napper has run 38 marathons in 37 states. By year’s end, she would have completed 11 races, the most she has run in a calendar year since she fully embraced the sport seven years ago. She is expected to complete her final 10 marathons some time in 2012, with her last run likely to take place in New York.
While Napper describes traveling to different cities virtually every other week as “adventurous,” the St. Louis native said running a variety of marathons, by and large, is an ideal way to view the country.
“I feel like people live in the United States their whole lives and they don’t get out to see where they live,” Napper said. “I figured if I go to every state, I get to see where I live as a citizen of the United States.”
As she draws closer to her mission, Napper has already appeared in marathons in every southern state, many to which she actually drove. The farthest she has driven to run a marathon is to Appleton, Wisconsin, or 727 miles. Now with scheduled races in North and South Dakota, New Mexico, Alaska, Rhode Island, Oregon and New Hampshire, among other destinations, Napper is using an array of frequent flyer miles.
Given a majority of her leisure time is spent traveling to compete in races, Napper conditions sparingly, running anywhere between 40 to 45 miles per week. Her casual training sessions also include swimming and biking. Additionally, Napper is a vegetarian who rarely alters her eating habits, particularly days leading to a race. Among her favorite foods are fruits and vegetables, pancakes, pasta and rice.
“I mean, you don’t have to overeat,” Napper said. “Just eat enough for your body. I usually eat the night before a marathon. Most of the time, I’m not starving after a marathon.”
Besides competing in long-distance races across the country, there are always occasional memories about which Napper cherishes.
“Last year, I met some friends in Connecticut,” Napper recalled. “They said they were going to do back-to-back marathons. These people were in their 50s and 60s. I said, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I do it, right?’ So one day, I drove to Indiana and did a marathon on Saturday and then drove to West Virginia and ran a marathon Sunday."
Surely, while running consecutive marathons in Indiana and West Virginia, she had her grandmother in mind.
Andre Johnson is a freelance sportswriter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. This story is featured in the October issue of Memphis Sport Magazine.