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50 marathons in 50 states: Raleighite with ALS makes history

Andrea Lytle Peet completed 50 marathons in 50 states — something doctors said could not be done with ALS.

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Andrea surrounded by supporters at the finish line of her last, and 50th, race in Alaska.

Photo by Shannon Murphy

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Meet Andrea Lytle Peet: a Raleighite, triathlete, and the first person with ALS to complete 50 marathons in 50 states. An incredible marathon accomplishment on its own, Andrea’s feat was done while she fought the progressive neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, most commonly known as ALS.

Andrea was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 at the age of 33. In eight months, this healthy athlete went from completing a 70.3-mile half Ironman to walking with a cane.

After the diagnosis, doctors had told her that there was “no use” in exercising, but Andrea and her husband, David, strongly disapproved of this mindset. They were determined to prove physicians — and themselves — wrong. And they did just that.

Born and raised in Raleigh, Andrea has moved around a bit with David, but her diagnosis ultimately brought her back to the City of Oaks in 2016 to be with family.

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What Andrea thought would be her “last triathlon.”

Photo provided by Andrea Lytle Peet

The couple bought a recumbent trike for Andrea to participate in what she thought would be her last triathlon. Maybe it was the runner’s high once she reached the finish line, but this one “last” race led Andrea to her journey of finishing a marathon in all 50 states.

The mean survival time with ALS is two to five years. It has been nearly nine years since Andrea’s diagnosis. The power couple now spends time focusing on their nonprofit Team Drea Foundation and promoting their upcoming documentary “Go On, Be Brave” by Durham-based independent film company Fly Squirrel Films.

Andrea + David graciously welcomed us into their home to share Andrea’s resilient journey. We chatted about her favorite race memories, tattoos, the documentary, and good eats.

What advice do you wish someone gave you in your first year of battling ALS?

Andrea: Enjoy the time that I have. The only thing you can control is your attitude.

David: You still have a lot of life to live. Hopefully going forward, if we reach enough people, especially clinicians, the message will be just that. And it will not only be that, but look at this person who has lived her life with ALS in this way. It’s what you make of it.

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Learn all about Andrea’s milestone tattoos in her documentary, Go On, Be Brave.

Screen shot via Fly Squirrel Films

Do you do something special to celebrate year milestones with ALS?

I have a swallow tattoo on my arm for every year living with ALS. Swallows are a symbol of hope. [One swallow even has a mask in its mouth to represent the COVID-19 pandemic.]

What is your favorite marathon memory?

My 50th race in Alaska. Fifty people came with us for that final marathon.

Where are your favorite Raleigh spots?

Sola, Boulted Bread, Sosta Cafe [pro tip: according to David, they have the best sandwiches in town], Infinity Hundred Farms, and FRESH. Honorable mention: Fiesta Mexicana in Cary.

How can Raleighites get involved in supporting the end of ALS?

Learn more and support the Team Drea Foundation. Grab tickets to the hometown premier of Andrea’s documentary “Go On, Be Brave” at The Carolina Theatre of Durham on June 17. Support Sola’s 10th annual Hot Mini 5K to raise money to end ALS on September 16.

David embracing Andrea after a race.

David is Andrea’s biggest fan.

Photo provided by Andrea Lytle Peet

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