Boonsom ‘Lipstick Lady’ Hartman – 150 Marathons And Counting

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Park Forest Running & Pancake Club member Boonsom Hartman in the home stretch of her 150th marathon last month. (Photo: Scott Hartman)

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— In 2003, Park Forest Running and Pancake Club member Boonsom Hartman reached a plateau few runners ever achieve: running a marathon in every state, plus Washington D.C. She reached this goal in 11 years.

It took her just 3½ years to do it all again.

Last month, on June 23rd, the mother of four completed her 150th marathon at the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, becoming a second time finisher in the 50 States & D.C. Marathon Group U.S.A., only the 31st person ever to make that distinguished list, and the first person to do so from the state of Illinois.

Managing to catch up with Hartman Sunday morning, we sat and talked about her running career at the Bob "Bird" Steven's Memorial on Chestnut Street in Park Forest, just after she and several other runners had completed runs through the woods ranging anywhere from 2 to 7 miles. Hartman was a friend of the late Bob Stevens.

Hartman credits her doctor and friend, Mark McKeigue, with inspiring her to run her first race.

“When I first became a runner, I told him, ‘I can’t do it!’  He said, ‘I’ll run with you!’  He believed in me.  Besides my husband, Dr. McKeigue believed in me.” 

McKeigue convinced Hartman to enter her first race in 1992, the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club's Fool’s Run, promising that he would be there too. McKeigue told her to arrive early.  So Hartman did so, showing up a full 2 hours before gun time.  While most races just divide runners by age and gender, the Fool’s Run, which was held near April 1 every year, was famous for its ridiculous race divisions.  In Hartman’s first race, she finished "Third Female Polar Bear".  She and McKeigue ran the 4 miles in a respectable 33 minutes.  Toward the end of the race, she recalls Dr. McKeigue telling her it was time to “Kick in,” or step up the pace for the finish. 

“’I can’t kick in!’ I told him, ‘You kick in!’”

Hartman, an Oak Park resident, joined the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club for the first time that April.

But on October 25, 1992, Hartman discovered her true passion when she ran her first marathon ever in Chicago. She recalls it took her four hours, thirty minutes, "and something," to finish.

She told her husband Scott, "‘Honey, I can’t wait to go on another one.'  After the first one I got hooked.” She ran her second marathon soon afterwards in St. Louis.

Boonsom says Scott is her biggest supporter, following her in a van, when possible, playing music to inspire her to continue.  Her favorite is We're Gonna Make It by Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, featuring the line, "Don't you ever give up, don't you ever give in!"

Since then, Hartman has run several marathons a year, “When I first started, not a lot.  But the last couple of years, the most is 20.  I only did one 20, and then after that, 17 a year.”

Hartman insists there is an important distinction between runners who run all 50 states, and those who run in all of the states plus Washington, D.C.  “Not everybody does D.C.”

The Lipstick Lady

Hartman does not try to achieve a PR [personal record] or PB [personal best] in her marathons.  She runs marathons for the sheer joy of finishing, and likes to look good when crossing the finish line. Her husband Scott meets her at the 25th mile marker with her lipstick, which she pauses to apply, “I just go to finish, because everybody knows me.  They just call me ‘Lipstick Lady.’  They just all cheer for me.” 

Two of her favorite mottos are, “It’s better to look good than to feel good,” and, “To finish is to win.”  Why?  “Because when you look good, people know you.  They don’t care how you feel, they remember how you look,” she says with a chuckle.  “If you look good, people think you feel good.  They always say, ‘Oh, look at the Lipstick Lady!  She’s always happy!’”

Originally from Thailand, Hartman has run marathons in Canada, but prefers the United States, "I like this country so much.  A lot of my friends, [in] every state I go to, they all just say, ‘Oh!  The Lipstick Lady is here!’  Let’s get her picture!  Let’s get her autograph!  Everybody cheers me on.”

She speaks of one incident at the St. Louis Marathon last year while waiting in line to use the Port-a-Johns.  “I was waiting in line to go to the port-a-potty, one person was behind me, and she screamed out, ‘Oh my God!  I’m standing behind Lipstick Lady at the port-a-potty!”  Here she chuckles, “I mean, how many people are so happy, they get to go to the bathroom [after me], I kid you not, even my husband gets a kick out of this."

What motivates her to keep running 17 or more marathons a year? “I love to go out to eat, before and after a marathon.,”she say, “I just think I’m so happy, so fortunate, that I can do this.  I mean, it doesn’t matter how fast, how slow I’m [running], I’m enjoying my life.  I’m doing something to make me happy.”

Many marathons, including Chicago, host large so-called “carb-loading” dinners the night before the big race.  Does Hartman have a particular diet the night before a marathon?  “No, I can have pasta, I can have noodles, I can have Thai food, I can have Chinese food – I can have just about anything.” 

Hartman does not stick to a special diet, “I eat anything I want,” she says, even though her doctor warns her.  She has hypoglycemia, “When you have hypoglycemia, guess what?  No sugar, but I might do the opposite.”  At this point, Boonsom paused the interview for a few seconds to ensure that her fellow runners had enough to drink, “Everybody get Gatorade?”  She brought enough for every club member who ran through the woods this morning.

Her favorite marathon is the Big Sur Marathon in California, with a run along the coast.  Friend and frequent running companion Margaret Brady recalls one experience after the Big Sur Marathon when she and Boonsom accidentally walked into the volunteers’ tent instead of the runners’ tent after they had completed the race.

“We mistakenly wandered into the volunteer food tent area.  People came up to us, they offered us mixed drinks, there was a big buffet, we thought, ‘Man, do they treat their runners right!’  Little did we know we were in the volunteer [tent].  And then, when we met up with our runner friends, they had like one wilted banana…”

“…and a yogurt!  Banana and a yogurt!” Hartman chimes in.

Brady continues, “…and we had this big buffet!”

Hartman is a member of 5 running clubs:

Boonsom Hartman's 151st marathon will be the Leading Ladies Marathon on Sunday, August 19 in Spearfish, South Dakota, an all-woman marathon.  This will be quickly followed by the Run With The Horses Marathon in Green River, Wyoming, on Saturday, August, 25.  During the week between the races, in her "down time," she and Scott will kick back a bit and go hiking.  Then it’s off to Albuquerque for the New Mexico Marathon, a special treat for her birthday (August 31).  She will follow Albuquerque with a trip to Erie, PA, for the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle, September 9.

Four marathons in four consecutive weekends. What else is there to do this fall?

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