Passion for Running Turns Into '50 States/50 Marathons'
Published November 2010
It’s obvious to see when walking through the halls of the UC Health Physicians Office Building in Clifton and into the office of Arden Wander, MD, that he has two major passions.
The ophthalmologist’s walls, covered with diagrams of the eye and snapshots of him decked out in runner’s gear, exemplify a love for both his profession and for running.
But there is an underlying theme that ties it all together: helping others.
Wander, a 1967 UC College of Medicine alumnus, brings attention to the articles and certificates that detail his triumphs in such races as the New Orleans Marathon, run the February following Hurricane Katrina, and the 9/11 Marine Corps Marathon.
And then he turns and points to a single framed certificate.
"This one really means the most to me,” he says, explaining that it was given to him for running in races that resulted in the accumulation of over $30,000 in funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. "That’s why I do it.”
Wander just recently ran his 68th marathon in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 10 (10/10/10), completing his goal of running at least one marathon in all 50 states. He says about 3,000 people have achieved this goal.
"I was able to complete it with my son-in-law, who often runs marathons with me,” he says, adding that his son-in-law Gary Geis, MD, is a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. "My whole family was there to cheer me on—it was a great time.”
But Wander says he didn’t start out with this goal in mind.
In fact, when he first began running in 1968, it was solely a way to get in shape.
"I needed to lose weight while in Vietnam, and I saw it as a time-efficient way to do just that,” he says.
Wander says when he started, he couldn’t even do a quarter of a mile, but he soon built his way up to two miles and so on until he was running nine miles, three times a week.
"I decided to run my first race in 1984,” he says. "It was two miles for the Cincinnati Reds doubleheader. We finished in the stadium, and I was hooked.”
Wander says he later decided that he wanted to try running marathons and began training with plans of competing in the Chicago Marathon, which he did in the fall of 1997.
"After I completed it, I felt kind of depressed—all of that preparation and it was over so quickly,” he says.
But he had met a man in Chicago who said he had run in all 20 of the Chicago Marathons which impressed Wander and inspired him to keep going.
"I found out there was a marathon happening in Virginia Beach, where my daughter and son-in-law lived at the time, over St. Patrick’s Day of 1998,” he says. "I thought that would be a good fit because I could go out and visit them. My son-in-law got hooked watching and ran the same marathon with me in 1999.”
Wander then got involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s marathon team, helping to raise money for the organization, and began running the Cincinnati Flying Pig races.
"I then discovered that there was a 50 States running club,” he says. "You needed 10 races to get into the club, and I decided I was going to do it.”
Now that the "last race” has been run, Wander says he has "no intention of stopping.”
"I’m already five states into starting over, in addition to continuing to run the Flying Pig every year,” says the Cincinnati native. "It is my favorite.
"Running is a great way to see the country and spend time with my family. It’s also helped to keep me in shape. In addition, I’ve been able to do my small part to help others, even if it is by just letting my legs do the work.”
’It was a blast!’: Geis Explains Race From His Perspective
Gary Geis, MD, a 1997 UC College of Medicine alumnus, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at UC and son-in-law to UC ophthalmologist Arden Wander, MD, ran the Portland Marathon on Oct. 10 with Wander, who completed 50 marathons in 50 states.
Q: Dr. Wander says you got hooked on racing after watching him run in 1998. What about it appealed to you?
A: "It was the first marathon I had ever attended, and it spurred me to run one. Portland was my 16th.”
Q: What was it like running with Dr. Wander on his 50th race?
A: "It was a blast! The entire family met in Portland to cheer him on. It was such an experience to run it with him, finish together and watch his family celebrate with him.”
Q: What do you like about running? What is your goal?
A: "I’m not going for 50 states. I run one to two races per year to stay in shape, allowing me to continue playing other sports. However, I would love for my kids to observe me and Ardy running marathons to promote healthy lifestyles for them. My 7-year-old daughter is already running up to two miles with me.”