What Counts as a Country?

I’m trying to run 50 marathons in 50 countries. This seemed like a straight forward goal until I realized it wasn’t. Countries and borders can change overnight (see: Ukraine). My passport was due for renewal in December so I spent the month looking for places I could travel without a US passport. As you might expect, there were not many places:

  • US Territories (US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and 9 other uninhabited territories)
  • Canada and Mexico by land only (need passport to fly)
  • Closed-Loop Cruise (originate USA, basically transit visas)

I have no interest in doing a cruise, Canada is cold and Mexico is far. That left me with the US territories and birthed the question: What counts as a country?

Does a marathon in Guam or Puerto Rico “count” as the United States? If I run in the British Virgin Islands does that count as the UK? Is a marathon in Palestine really Israel? What if Jordan absorbs Palestine?

I’m hoping I won’t be compelled hang up the spikes after (or before) my 50th marathon. I love traveling so grabbing a few more medals would be more of a technicality than anything else. Just something to think about.

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