In 2003, as Christine Guetzloff was dying of ovarian cancer at the age of 34, she sat her husband down for an important conversation. "Tom, you need to do something—you're just way out of shape," she told the West Virginia State college chemistry professor. "Look at you, Tom. You're not going be there for my kids and you have got be there for my kids." He signed up for a marathon and started running in between looking after his wife. When she died in her sleep just three weeks later, "I got up after, and I just said to my mom that I had to go," he tells Runner's World. "I ran 15 miles that day." In those first two years, Dr. Guetzloff ran 10 marathons, finding himself in Chicago, Knoxville, and beyond.
Over time, he says, "It sort of shifted from being about Christine, and more about me wanting to run these for myself." In 2010, he decided to run 50 marathons in 50 states before turning 50. He went on a true running spree, ticking off 14 to 18 marathons a year, and even once ran the New England plus Vermont challenge: six marathons in six days. His 50th birthday is coming up in January, and he finished his 50-marathons-in-50-states goal in June. Now he's planning to run his 66th marathon in November and his 67th marathon in January—returning to Disney, where he ran his first. (The first woman who ever entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 returned this year to do it again.)