Del Mar runner has finished a marathon in every state

Adan Chinchilla
Adan Chinchilla at the finish of the Atlantic City Marathon, becoming a 50 States Marathon Club finisher.

Del Mar’s Adan Chinchilla has officially joined the 50 States Club, running a marathon in all 50 states.

Chinchilla knocked off his last state, New Jersey, by crossing the finish line in Atlantic City Marathon on Oct. 17, decked out in American flag racing gear, bright blue shoes and matching socks.

It took him seven years of seriously working toward his goal: “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Chinchilla, who will turn 53 next month.

He was determined to complete the Atlantic City Marathon despite battling plantar fasciitis and a calf injury. Back home, he was hobbled for the first couple of days but as a cap to his accomplishment, he ended up running the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon that Sunday, Oct. 24.

2021 has been his most productive year, finishing 11 marathons and ticking off Michigan, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Oregon, Alaska, Iowa and New Jersey.

“I really wanted to finish,” Chinchilla said of his heavy mileage this year.

Currently, there are 4,893 members in the 50 States Club, representing 21 countries. Between all of the runners, they have completed 335,000 marathons.

“The most amazing part of the whole thing is everybody I have met,” he said of his 50 State Club friends, all chasing the same big goal.

In Anchorage, he said it was like a high school reunion, seeing all of the people he has met at races from Hawaii to Maine.

Chinchilla ran his first marathon in 1996 with the Chicago Marathon. There was a long gap until he would take on his second, in 2013 at age 44.

In 2012, he had signed up for the New York City Marathon but it was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. He entered the lottery for 2013 and got in, running it in 4:08 and feeling pretty good. He thought: “I have to do more,” tackling the Cleveland and Los Angeles Marathons the next year.

While running the Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah (while dressed as a skunk) he saw a man wearing the 50 States Club finisher shirt.

“I want that shirt,” he decided. All he needed was another 1,179 miles and 45 more states.

A highlight of his 50-state stretch was Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas because it’s run on the strip at night. He earned his PR (personal record) in that race with a time of 4 hours and 57 seconds in 2014.

The craziest weather he experienced in his 50 marathons was this February in Michigan—it was a frozen 17 degrees in the Groundhog Day Marathon and it took a lot of courage just to take that first step and get out of the car. The course led runners through the snow and there was whiskey at the water stations. Did he partake? “Oh absolutely!”

His hottest race was Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota, when the temperature was 98 degrees and humid, “People were dropping like flies in that one,” he said.

A lot of planning went into his 50-state journey, it was a difficult task figuring out the logistics of flights, hotels, car rentals. It was trickier with some of the more remote races, like the White River Marathon in Cotter, Arkansas (three hours from Little Rock in the Ozarks) and The Hatfield McCoy Marathon in West Virginia.

For the Hatfield race this year, he flew into Charlotte, North Carolina and drove about five hours to stay in Williamson, West Virginia about 30 miles away from the start line in eastern Kentucky. The marathon could count for one of two states as the race starts in Kentucky and takes its heavily wooded and hilly route into West Virginia.

“West Virginia was spectacular,” Chinchilla said of the historic points along the course and the mountains. “It was just so beautiful there.”

Visiting every state in the union he saw a little bit of everything.

He went to Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, from Albuquerque to Pensacola, Baton Rouge to the streets of Pittsburgh.

He ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, a run to remember the 168 people whose lives were lost in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. He did 26.2 miles through Oregon’s Sauvie Island, running by fields of crops like peaches, corn, strawberries, blueberries. “That made me smile,” he said of the simple pleasure.

He raced in rural Waushara County in Wisconsin and through all five boroughs in the New York City Marathon, finishing in Central Park: “There is nothing like it,” he said of New York’s iconic race.

In Colorado, the day after his Nebraska marathon, his friends convinced him to run a 50K —and so, Chinchilla added the extra five miles of a 31-mile ultramarathon to his running log.

Adan Chinchilla's medal rack in his home.

“Sometimes it’s good days and sometimes it’s hell,” he said of running these long distances. His mental trick is breaking up his races into manageable chunks: “I just think little by little,” he said. Mile by mile, state by state and little by little, a little became a lot.

Some of his marathons came in bulk: he participated in several multi-day, multi-state series through an organization called Mainly Marathons.

The Center of the Nation Challenge was six marathons back-to-back in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.

For his 50th birthday, he completed the New England Challenge which was six marathons in six days in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

In early 2020 he finished Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, and in the fall completed Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, Arkansas and Kansas. Chinchilla had participated in the Moderna vaccine trials and the later year marathons included various pandemic protocols such as masks, staggered starts and limited capacity. Some of the race fields were very small—at Georgia’s Skidaway Island Marathon there were only 25 marathoners.

Now that he’s been everywhere, he said nothing he’s seen has compared to home, running the beaches and trails in his beloved Del Mar, California.

“You cannot beat Del Mar,” he said.

With his 50-state quest conquered, Chinchilla said his focus will shift to the Escola Primaria de Makandzane Project, a nonprofit that he founded with his partner Mitchell Brean. The nonprofit achieved 501c3 status in 2019 and is dedicated to helping school children in the remote village of Makandzene, Mozambique.

The couple has paid their own way to take trips in 2017 and 2018, delivering loads of school supplies packed in their own suitcases. The village has two small huts for the school but most classes are held under the shade of a big tree—the nonprofit’s hope is to raise enough money to build a seven-classroom building. They hope to return this December.

Chinchilla said Brean has been a good sport to tolerate his marathon madness over the years and he has finally convinced him to run a marathon with him. The avid travelers are signed up for the Antarctica Marathon in 2024 (2022 and 2023 are already sold out).

Once he gets Antarctica down, he might not be able to resist a run at the Seven Continents Marathon Club.