Amy Cole Flynn '92 did not have a background in running when she picked it up in her hometown of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. She signed up for a 5K race in Martha's Vineyard and would run when she had time, learning along the way that she really enjoyed it. Her enjoyment turned into a goal of completing a marathon in every state, her first being the Boston Marathon.
"The first time I ran it, I ran as a fundraising participant for Boston Children's Hospital," Flynn recalls of her first Boston Marathon, "My youngest daughter fell off of the monkey bars and broke her tibia, and received her care there. I couldn't think of a better way to give back to such a wonderful institution."
After running that first Boston Marathon in 2010, Flynn set the bar higher; she adjusted her goal to include running a marathon in all 50 states as a Boston qualifier which, in her case, would be 3 hours and 45 minutes. It did not strike her as being a "big deal" until she competed in Fargo, North Dakota and connected with a group of elite male runners who told her that this is an extraordinary goal for a female runner.
While she runs, she has a playlist on an iPod shuffle, a model so old that she can no longer update it. She has made a choice not to run with her phone or a watch to track her splits.
"I have a playlist, but I don't even know what is playing anymore as I run," she said.
Her status as a runner has gained recognition and she now tests shoes for New Balance while she trains, though when she lines up for a race, she loyally wears a pair of Brooks.
Flynn's goal has taken her across the country and she has participated in over 70 marathons, currently averaging two marathons per month. For some races, she is only in the state for 24 hours and for other trips, her daughters and mother will accompany her and learn about the culture of their destination and try out local cuisine.
“My daughters (Cora and Megan) and my parents (Barbara and Jack Kidder) are my biggest fans," Flynn said. "It has been an incredible journey for the girls as they have traveled with me on several occasions, choosing states on a map that hangs in our home. This has also given them the inspiration to set and achieve their own goals."
In January 2018, Flynn completed her final marathon in Maui, Hawaii, with her daughters and her mother at the finish line to celebrate. In completing her goal, Flynn joins a small, elite group of less than 5 female runners to have ever accomplished this feat to date.
For those starting out with running Flynn shares, "Be confident in yourself and try to have fun with it. It’s all worth it in the end."
Photo Credit: Victor Sailer