Paul Mansour, '94, To Mark 50 Marathons In 50 States With Latest Race
By Tony Scott

Paul Mansour, '94, has run a marathon in 49 states with the goal of running one in each
of the 50 states. His next race, in his 50th state, is in Alaska on June 22. (Photo from
Paul Mansour)

Johnny Cash once sang about how he’d “been everywhere, man,” and Paul Mansour, ’94, is about to say he’s “run everywhere, man.” At least in the United States. 

When Mansour crosses the finish line at the 2024 Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska on June 22, he’ll have run a marathon in all 50 states. It’s a goal that began with a bet from a friend in 2002 that he didn’t have enough time to prepare for that year’s Chicago Marathon.

“I decided to take on marathons at the age of 30, with the Chicago Marathon in October 2002,” he said. “It all started with a bet that I couldn’t do it. In August of that year, a close friend of mine said I had two months to prepare, and that was not enough time. That bet would change my life forever. Just a few years later, I was on a crusade to run a marathon in all 50 states.”

Mansour has competed in 55 total marathons since 2002, including the Paris Marathon in France and the National Marathon in Washington, D.C. 

Growing up in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the child of Egyptian immigrant parents, Mansour was involved in athletics, playing football for Fremd High School, but he said his family didn’t have the means to do a lot of traveling. With the exception of a childhood trip to Egypt, he’d never been out of the country, and he had only visited two states – Michigan as a young child and Indiana when he was a freshman at NIU. So he looked at the goal of running marathons in 50 states as a way to expand his travel experiences as well.

“I’m like, wow, this would be great, why don’t I do all 50 states?” he said. “In 2003, I got injured – I was going to run the Chicago Marathon and didn’t. But before my son was born, I ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Ohio in 2004, and that was the second state. So, I had this mission of doing all the states in the Midwest first, because I could drive there.”

In addition to running, Mansour is passionate about NIU. He met his wife, Kerry, ’96, at NIU and they and their four children, Michael (20), Thomas (17), William (14) and Lucinda (14) often attended NIU football games in the children’s younger years. 

“In many marathons, my wife and children would join me and be my cheering section; early on in my marathon journey, I would often pull inspiration from them cheering me on,” he said. “I would also use the NIU fight song to pull me through: Forward together, forward, there is victory in view…Huskies, come on now, Huskies, and win for NIU!”

Over the years, Mansour also has had “run buddies,” many of whom are fellow NIU grads who keep him motivated. Mansour also has a furry friend, his dog, Jazzy, who joined him on his practice runs when she was younger. Jazzy is now 14 years old and can no longer join him for runs but walks with him after his runs.

“The memories of our runs together are priceless. I would often pretend she is running with me when I would need the extra strength to finish my marathons,” he said of Jazzy.

Mansour, who is currently director of continuous improvement at the packaging distributor TricorBraun, manages to squeeze in morning runs while traveling for work, which he does several weeks out of the year. In some cases, he would mark off a state by running a marathon - he gave one example that combines skillful time management with Huskie grit. 

"At times, I have been opportunistic to find a state to run a marathon in while traveling for work," he said.  "More recently, I was in New Jersey for business in 2022.  As I prepared for the trip, I realized I could run a marathon in Connecticut. Since I ran a marathon in the previous month in Wyoming, I knew I was prepared enough to run in Connecticut. It took me an Uber ride to a train ride in New York City, a two-hour wait for the train, and then a 150-minute train ride to finally make it to Hartford, Connecticut. The next day, I ran my 46th state marathon."

"After the race, I flew to Louisville, Kentucky, to visit my oldest son who attends the University of Louisville for the night. The next day, I drove back home to Wheaton, Illinois, another five-hour drive. The following week I would knock out my 47th state marathon in Mount Desert Island Marathon in Maine. As I reflect on this journey, I knocked out a lot of memorable things.  It was all worth it!"

Mansour said he applied only to NIU and described himself as an average high school student when it came to grades. But once he was accepted at NIU and knew how much his parents sacrificed financially to help him succeed in school, he made it a point to go above and beyond academically and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance. 

“My NIU experience was amazing,” he said. “It helped mold me to who I am today. Perhaps with a chip on my shoulder, graduating from NIU gave me grit; I wanted to show the world what an NIU grad brings to the table. Today, I may be working with people that perhaps have more prestigious degrees, but I know the work ethic I developed at NIU is unmatched.”

Mansour has needed that tough work ethic as he has finished races across the country, but he exudes confidence about this next race that will mark state number 50. He knows that he will have a cheering section of his family and fellow Huskies rooting him on from all over the country and the world.

“I like that we start off with views of the water, and then almost a third of the way through getting to the downtown area. I like that I will see the finish, something to look forward to,” he writes on his website.

Mansour is also running for a good cause, encouraging those rooting for him to donate to the V Foundation, an organization that raises funds for cancer research named for Jim “Jimmy V” Valvano, a famous college basketball player, coach and broadcaster who died of cancer at age 47 in 1993.

Reflecting on the adventures he has had while traversing 49 states, Mansour said he has enjoyed meeting a variety of people along the way.

“Every time I’ve done a race, people are just amazing,” he said. “Not only from running, but when we’ve been to museums and out to restaurants traveling, the people have been so kind. That’s what I try to get out of it when I run all these marathons through all these different parts of the country. I’m just blessed and fortunate that I took on this crazy goal.”