It’s rare for an 18-year-old runner to set a world record. But Ryan Betz might have done so.
He has run a half-marathon in all 50 states, all in the past four years. The Park Tudor High School (Indianapolis, Ind.) senior said he will ask the Guinness Book of World Records for verification.
“As far as I know,” he said, “I’m the youngest to ever do it.”
He was influenced to cover the 13.1-mile distance by the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. He averaged about one half-marathon per month, but there was a nine-day stretch last July in which he ran three. He ran one up a mountain in Hawaii and another in a Kansas trailer park despite a broken foot.
“Pretty much everyone thinks I’m insane,” Betz said.
His first victory came in his last race, on April 26 at Bismarck, N.D., where his time was 1 hour, 41 minutes, 55 seconds. There were only eight other finishers, including his mother, Holly.
His mission has been to raise $100,000 to create an endowment allowing inner-city students to attend Park Tudor tuition-free. He has raised more than $40,000 with the help of his website, ryanrunning.org.
“It’s been an amazing journey as much as an achievement,” said his father, Kevin Betz, an attorney.
Along the way, Ryan has grown 12 inches (to 6-3), attracted publicity for his cause and on his 18th birthday met the world’s premier distance runner — Britain’s Mo Farah, who won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships.
Betz conceded that he ran the half-marathons for training, not for time, but has dropped his 1,600-meter time near 4:30. He would like to earn a college track scholarship, so he is heading to Phillips Exeter (N.H.) Academy in a bid to drop more seconds.
“The whole project has given me a great sense of America and all the different people that you meet, from New York to California,” Betz said. “It’s such a diverse place. You can find good people wherever you go and different cultures. I’ve run in every state, but I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of America.”
David Woods also writes for the IndyStar