George Kraehe of Rio Rancho has visited all 50 states, seeing each one a mile at a time — for 26 miles.
He’s a marathon runner and earlier this month, knocked off his 50th state, Montana, after running in the Missoula Marathon in that state’s capital. By the miles, that gives him 1,310 miles under his belt — er, feet.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing the country this way,” he said, happy to often take his family — wife Kelly and sons Benno and Kai — along. (Benno, an intern here at the Observer, ran the final seven miles with his dad.)
Kraehe, 52, said his distance journey began 12 years ago, when he decided to commit himself to running on behalf of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), an organization dedicated to remembering fallen heroes and offering care to families grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the military or as a result of their service.
At the 2018 Missoula Marathon, Kraehe honored U.S. Army Capt. Jeremiah Sipes.
Sipes, a native of Montana, had been shot and killed by a hunter while out on a jog near Fort Bragg on Jan. 1, 2011.
Sipes’ widow, Heather, ran the half-marathon in Missoula, and told KPAX-TV for a newscast that evening, “People don’t forget. And as the years go on, I know you tend to think that people don’t remember and that they’ve forgotten, and people like George that remind me that they don’t forget and that (my husband’s memory) will always be kept alive, so that’s awesome.”
Now that Kraehe has completed his list of 50 marathns in 50 states — and run a dozen marathons in the past 12 months — Kraehe says he’ll take some time off, enjoy “a nice, long break ... at least six months.”
Now, he’s given himself a new challenge: to run a marathon on every continent. He’s two down (North America and Asia), with five to go.
Kraehe grew up in Santa Fe, attending Santa Fe High School and competing as a sprinter on the Demons’ track & field team.
“I wasn’t very good,” he recalled.
Then, before his senior year, he was sent to the West Point Prep School, then in New Jersey, which led to enrollment at the “real” West Point. He transferred to Yale, where he competed on the rifle team.
“I never really liked to run,” he said. “I guess I wanted to be a lawyer; I was lacking imagination.”
He went to the University of Texas law school, obtaining his law degree in 1994, and lived in the Lone Star State for eight to 10 years.
He was living in New Mexico again from 2002-06, starting his half-hundred log of marathons at the Albuquerque Marathon in 2006. He also ran in the grueling Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands.
Kraehe has served his country. To sum that up, here’s how he’s described in Small Wars Journal: “(He) is an Assistant U.S. Attorney and National Security prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice. He is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and is presently assigned as a legal advisor in the Office of the Judge Advocate General. He also currently serves as an International Humanitarian/International Human Rights Law instructor for the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies, with past deployments to the Sahel, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. He also served combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Kraehe worked as a researcher for Harvard Law School’s Program on International Law and Armed Conflict. He holds his B.A., cum laude, from Yale University, a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University, and a master’s in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford.”
“I love my job,” he said, on a recent casual Friday, when he added he’s also in the New Mexico National Guard.
Yeah, that’s impressive, but what about those 50 marathons?
“I used to run (for a good) time, so I’d be thinking about my pace,” he said, having completed a handful as a top-three runner in his division. “I’d play a numbers game. Now, my goal is like four hours, 4:15.”
He’s run the prestigious Boston Marathon, completing that a year before the bombing, and another — in Kabul — that had only 27 runners entered.
He has competed in the zany “Goofy Challenge,” which consists of a half-marathon on one day, then a full marathon the next day.
“I was running half-asleep,” he said.
Some of his favorites have been the Chicago Marathon in 2010 (where he ran his personal best), the Little Grand Canyon Marathon in Utah in 2009 (because of the course’s beauty) and the Boston Marathon (because of how difficult it is to qualify for). He also has finished the Walt Disney World Marathon, the San Francisco Marathon and Rock ‘n Roll marathons in Las Vegas, Seattle and New Orleans.
If nothing else, running 26.2 miles on a monthly basis has helped Kraehe stay in shape.
“Certainly there are health benefits — physically and mentally — and, as an Army officer, too, it’s part of being a leader, showing people what can be done, setting an example.
“I consider it part of my military life to run marathons,” he added, hoping to someday, in addition to running a marathon on the other five continents, to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., targeting next year for that.