Alan “Madfeet” Higgins entered into an elite group Sunday in Springfield when he completed his 26.2-mile marathon run.
The New York native, who has friends in the Twin Cities, became one of just over 1,400 runners to earn the distinction of running a marathon in all 50 states.
“It’s been an amazing journey and I’ve met some amazing people along the way,” Higgins said earlier this week during a speaking engagement at the Bloomington Golden K Kiwanis gathering.
“It started in 1998 in Orlando (Florida, where he now resides). I didn’t have the intention of running all 50 states. It just kind of happened. Before I knew it, I had run in several states.”
Higgins was introduced to the 50 States Marathon Club, which you can join after running in 10 different states, early in his running career. There are 4,500 members in the 50-state club.
“Finally, 15 years later, I had the 10th state,” added Higgins. “I would go online and find different states and before I knew it, and 20 years later, I finally completed it.”
The 56-year-old Higgins, who is a mail carrier when not running, has now competed in 74 marathons or 1,938 miles.
“I was hooked after running the first one,” he continued. “I started running when I was 18 and have always been a runner. I enjoy the freedom of the run and the release I get from everything else in my life during the run.”
Higgins conservatively estimates he’s spent between $100,000 to $125,000 on his hobby with airfare, hotels, meals, rental cars, entry fees and running shoes.
“Once I started having to fly to these events each marathon was coasting me $12,000 to $15,000 per race,” he added. “The more west I went, the more the price went up. The trips to Hawaii and Alaska cost $5,000 apiece.
“It’s a very expensive sport to be in, but when you spread that out over nearly 21 years and 50 amazing vacations, it is priceless. I can always make more money, but I can’t make more time as the saying goes.”
Higgins said he can get about six weeks out of a pair of running shoes, which cost between $100 to $150 a pair.
“I have a lot of yardwork shoes in the closet,” Higgins said with a laugh. “I go through a lot of shoes because I’m what they call a heel-striker. When I come down, my heel hits the pavement first. That wears the soles out a lot faster. It’s like tires on a car. You wear them down a lot quicker.”
Higgins once ran six marathons in six different states (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado) in six days.
“I would literally run a marathon, get in my car and drive to the next state,” he said. “My feet were very swollen at the end.”
His two most memorable marathons occurred in Jacksonville (Fla.) early in his career and Sunday in Springfield. Part of the reason he took on the challenge of running all 50 states was to honor his mother.
“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985, so I ran in a breast cancer awareness marathon in Jacksonville,” he added. “My mother survived it, so breast cancer to me is dear to my heart.
“It’s an organization that I have supported my entire life. I have friends—we’ve all had friends—who have had breast cancer. My gift is my feet. I can run. I can raise money. I’ve raised a lot of money for its awareness.
“This last run (in Springfield) was probably the most memorable, though, because I had all my family at the finish line waiting for me to finish. My son put the medal around my neck. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
Higgins’ fastest marathon was his first one when he clocked 3 hours, 47 minutes. Early in his career, he ran for times. Now he runs more in the back of the pack with the 5-hour runners.
“I’d rather be back in the pack where it’s more fun actually. I ran several marathons in the sub 4-minute mark, and that’s a pretty fast pace, but it wasn’t as fun,” he said. “One year I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore. The reason was because I was running hard and I wasn’t enjoying myself. I backed my time off substantially and was able to take my time and take pictures while I was running. I have a lot of memories of my later marathons. The earlier ones where I ran hard, I don’t have a lot of memories.”
What is Higgins' goal now?
“There is no goal,” he said. “I would like to run as long as I can as long as I stay healthy. I want to go to Canada and run all the provinces and I want to continue to raise money for great causes. I guess that’s a goal.”
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