Alumni Spotlight

50 Marathons, 50 States: Burke Races to Cross the Halfway Mark

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Most fitness enthusiasts raise their own bar long before they reach their goal. With 18 marathons complete – four this year – Yanique Burke '06 has already added three international races to her 50-race list – Berlin, London and Tokyo.

“Every year I add a race,” Burke explained. “Year one I did one race, year two I did two races. Now I’m running four or five a year.”

With a marathon practically every other month – add to that training, travel time, and planning – Burke has little time outside work as a partner with Gordon & Silber in New York.  

“I plan life around my work, training, and races,” she said.  “My family and friends work around my running. My running friends are now some of my closest friends, given how much time we spend together and the shared commitments.”

Her 17th race was in Little Rock, Ark., and in April she ran in Louisville, Ky.

The irony is I wasn’t an athlete in high school or college, she said. “I moved to Brooklyn from Jamaica when I was 12.” She commuted to Stony Brook University, and beyond her time at Albany Law School, hasn’t lived outside New York City since.

“I’m seeing the country through these races,” she said. “It’s more than traveling from race to race. It’s a way to experience all the cultures in our country. I might never have visited Nashville or Alaska.”

Look for this story and more in the AlbanyLaw Magazine, mailed to all alumni in July.

To illustrate the camaraderie and support of the running community, she described her experience in West Virginia, where she mistakenly booked a bed-and-breakfast inn 35 miles from the race, with no cell service and no car. “I met a fellow racer the night before and she said she’d be happy to pick me up in the morning. She drove 35 miles out of her way to get my friends and me at 5 a.m.  We all try to take care of each other.”

A few races into the all-states journey, Burke recruited two friends to join her. “Now I have partners to make it all easier, and more fun,” she said. “Along with the positive social component, the group travel helps all of our budgets.”

On Tuesdays she runs three miles, Thursdays five miles, and Saturdays she runs 13.1 miles, a half-marathon, up to 20-plus miles.

When she started the marathons, she strove to improve her running time, her fastest clocking in at four hours flat in Las Vegas. Now with two friends in tow, she’s satisfied with simply completing the races. However, to qualify for Boston, based on age and weight, she needs to cut her time by 20 minutes.  Burke, of course, is confident she can do it. 

Her first race was Nov. 16, 2013, in Richmond, Va. She looks to finish her 50th in five years, and is already concerned about her post-quest emptiness. “I’m taking swimming lessons,” she said, laughing sheepishly, one eye already on the Iron Woman challenges. She has a 7-continent goal – she has six continents to go.

“At work, everyone always asks me about my next city, my next race,” she said. After law school, Burke worked at two small firms, then Costello, Shea & Gaffney for six years, before landing at Gordon & Silber. 

She remembers finishing her first half-marathon and realizing she had plenty of energy in reserve. “I think that’s the moment I realized I need to run a marathon.” She can tell you where it started, but she can’t tell you where it ends. Two weeks after her New York City marathon, she ran an “ultra” – this one 60 kilometers, or 37.2 miles—around Central Park.

A member of the National Black Marathoners Association and the New York Runners Club, she knows many people pursuing the 50-state challenge.

“The training can be a grind,” she lamented, citing the endurance of cold temperatures – she likes the cold – rain, hail, and the sweltering summer heat of New York City, which she doesn’t like. “But there’s a euphoric feeling with it all comes together in the race and that makes it all worth it.”