Julie Musselman started running competitive races 15 years ago as a way to help cope with the death of her husband, Bill — the former Gophers and Timberwolves coach.

"I felt myself spiraling out of control. That whole year was about putting one step ahead of another," Musselman said. "I needed to do something with a sense of strength."

It's safe to say she found it. And once she started, Musselman kept going until she made history.

Upon completing the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Marathon in September, Musselman became the first woman known to have completed sanctioned marathons with Boston Marathon qualifying times in all 50 states.

"I was so nervous going into it. I could barely get a bagel down. I've had 50 bagels and 50 bananas before 50 races, but this was different," said Musselman, 49, who finished the race despite rain and sleet in 3 hours, 48 minutes and 20 seconds, besting the Boston qualifying standard for her age group by nearly seven minutes.

"It was fun to have it done. You're always waiting for something to happen."

It was a double dose of relief since Musselman thought she had completed the quest a year ago at the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Las Vegas.

As it turned out, a previous marathon she had run in Wyoming wasn't a sanctioned race and therefore didn't technically count — a fact that became evident after a Runner's World article this past summer featured the eight runners (all males, but not her) known to have completed the quest.

Like many running goals, Musselman's had modest beginnings.

She ran her first marathon in Oregon, where she and Bill had lived before he fell ill and died in May of 2000 — doing much of the training with her then-toddler son, Max, in a jogging stroller. She didn't know much about marathons at the time, but she was fast enough that members of the pack she ran with on race day told her she had just qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Musselman ran Boston and a few others over the next decade, while also remarrying and having a daughter. By May of 2010, she had completed six marathons in six states.

But she caught the 50-in-50 bug from a fellow runner, and she couldn't shake it. On two occasions, she ran a marathon in one state Saturday and another in a different state Sunday. She wanted to finish all 50 before she turned 50.

Mission accomplished. So now what? Well, runners never really do slow down. Though Musselman said she has no plans to recircle the states or do all the continents, she did sign up for Twin Cities Marathon and plans to run Sunday.

"I haven't slept in my own bed for 48 marathons," Musselman said. "I'm just doing it for fun."

Michael Rand