Faculty and Staff

Murrah Finishes Marathon Quest, Is 1st Place in Age Group

The Maui (Hawaii) Marathon course features 17 miles of oceanfront terrain and begins with a Hawaiian blessing, hula dancers and a conch shell performance.

And as dawn broke on Sept. 16, Dr. Valerie Murrah was well into her 26.2-mile quest past a volcano, sugar cane fields and other breathtaking scenery – on her way toward having completed a marathon in each of the 50 states.

Murrah, chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry’s Department of Diagnostic Sciences and General Dentistry, not only finished the marathon – she was the winner in her age group, with a recorded time of 4:14:13.

She also qualified to run next year’s Boston Marathon.

Murrah received encouragement and support at a School sendoff Sept. 11 in honor of the marathon that would mark the completion of her goal.

Colleagues showed their support for Dr. Valerie Murrah’s quest to complete her goal of running a marathon in each of the 50 states. Murrah’s 50th state in her quest is Hawaii, and she will run the Maui Marathon on Sept. 16.

She began running almost 30 years ago, when she was a student in dental school. Her first marathon was Big Sur International Marathon in California in 1991; after that race, she began to entertain the idea of 49 more races in 49 more states.

Since 1994, she has run about four or five marathons a year, she estimates.

The marathon in Hawaii celebrates her personal endurance as much as her physical endurance.

“In real life, as in a marathon, you cannot let yourself slip,” Murrah said in a 2006 interview with the University Gazette. “Your patients are counting on you. Your colleagues are counting on you. Your students are counting on you. So it teaches you a great deal of self-discipline, but it also gives you a lot of self-esteem. Bottom line, it tells you you can go the distance when it gets tough. When it really gets tough, when your mind wants to quit, your body wants to quit, you choose to keep going.”

So Maui doesn’t mark an ending – just a significant milestone.

“After about my 15th or 20th marathon, I joined the 50 States Marathon Club. There, you find all sorts of people who are doing different quests. Some of them do the Canadian provinces. Some do the seven continents. Some do 100 marathons. All of those options are within my radar.”