Running Down a Dream

When Brian Baleno sets a goal, he usually achieves it.

Play collegiate soccer. Check. Earn a UF MBA. Check. Self-publish two books. Check.

Run a half-marathon in all 50 states. Believe it or not, check. What was supposed to be a training regimen for a marathon took on a life of its own, and Baleno (MBA ’08) chronicled each and every challenging step in his new book, “50 Halfs From First to Last.”

Baleno, 36, promised himself that after he received his UF MBA he would run a marathon. He prepared by competing in half-marathons, the first of which took place in Chattanooga, Tenn., in February 2009. He ran a second half-marathon in Winder, Ga., and a third in Talladega, Ala. That’s when he came up with the idea.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ve already run a half-marathon in three states,’” said Baleno, “‘Why not do all 50?’”

It took Baleno about 32 months to complete the task, which is impressive considering he took a year off between the first two half-marathons. The undertaking was made easier thanks to his position as a Global Automotive Business Manager at Solvay, a global chemical company. Baleno travels frequently to China for work allowing him to accrue frequent flyer miles and hotel points to help offset the cost of racing all over the country.

Baleno admitted the endeavor had its rough patches. Seemingly endless flights, checking into hotels at all hours and waking up at 5 a.m. to compete had its drawbacks. But the experiences of running alongside the Pacific Ocean in California and in the shadows of snow-capped mountains in Alaska, and finishing one race at the 50-yard line in Notre Dame Stadium were precious. Being able to relive those experiences, and have others share them is why Baleno wrote the book.

“When you’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t sink in,” Baleno said. “But then you’ll be sitting on a plane or in your room, and you start to realize everything that has happened. It’s surreal.”

“50 Halfs From First to Last” is not Baleno’s first literary work. In 2012, he released “+One,” a story about an investment banker forced to choose between love and his career. Baleno had to put the work on hold while he was pursuing his UF MBA.

“Working full-time and working on the MBA was like having two jobs,” said Baleno, who participated in the Professional Two-Year Program. “After I graduated, it was amazing the number of hours that opened up.”

Baleno is working on his third book, a fictional tale about a newspaper reporter engaged to an attorney involved in insider trading. Baleno said he has always been interested in finance, and the industry makes for a rich and intriguing setting.

“I’m really passionate about that,” Baleno said. “I always wanted to be an investment banker. I guess in some way it’s the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t trade my current job, but writing provides the opportunity to explore that in a different way.”