The miles melted away, almost without a thought, as I followed the winding road from Two Harbors, Minn., to Duluth during the 35th running of Grandma’s Marathon. Often, those big balloons marking each mile, seemed to arrive quickly, as I found myself lost in the run.
Beforehand, there was little indication that this marathon would be different than many of the others I had done. At least before the Chicago Marathon last fall, I felt ready to run fast. My legs felt electric then, but as I readied for the start of Saturday’s race, nearly every aspect felt automatic.
Once the marathon started, I slipped into a comfortable pace. By mile 3, I had caught up with the 3:20 pace group and stayed near a large group. For a couple moments, I wondered if I would keep their pace. At mile 7 I ditched my long-sleeve shirt and at mile 9, a decisive point came. I chose to pull ahead of the pace group and run my own race. Many of the next miles just seemed to slip by. At the halfway point, when I hit the timing mat at 1:39:12, I jokingly teased myself that I wanted to run an even split for the second half.
Many miles later, as I ran up Lemondrop Hill, I realized it might be possible to stay in front of the pave group. At mile 24, the possibility of a personal best set in and I found myself pushing. My mile splits hadn’t dropped and marathon mantras from the past replayed through my head: Run with the heart of a lion. The final full mile, as we turned into the stiff wind off Lake Superior, went by so fast, and a few friends cheered me on. It turned out to be my second-fastest mile of the race, setting me up for a near personal best and a second-half split of 1:39:02.
It marked the first time I had run a negative split in a marathon. It also gave me some sense of redemption, a feeling that Chicago wasn’t a fluke for me. And proved, to me at least, that some days are simply special. Like that day last October in Chicago, this past Saturday proved to be one of those special days.
A short while after finishing the marathon, I exchanged messages with Eric Loeffler, the supremely talented distance runner from Fargo, to learn her ran a blistering 1:05:55 in the half marathon – more than a minute faster than his huge PR a month ago in Fargo and less than a minute off the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying standard for the marathon. Congrats on an awesome race, Eric.
On Sunday, The Forum also published the names and times of several other area runners who finished Grandma’s this weekend. Congrats to the following runners:
Area menâ€™s leaders: Jeremy Peterson, Detroit Lakes, Minn., 3:01.14. Jacob Gallagher, Lisbon, N.D., 3:05.12. Mick Askegaard, Moorhead, 3:14.21. Dan Stueve, Fergus Falls, Minn., 3:17.42. Steve Wagner, Fargo, 3:18.14. Toessawat Suparat, Moorhead, 3:20.15. Daniel Stueve Jr., Fergus Falls, Minn., 3:21.12. Brandon Huether, Lisbon, N.D., 3:22.39. Tristan Simetkosky, Fargo, 3:22.57. Jeff Kava, Barnesville, Minn., 3:23.20.
Area womenâ€™s leaders: Gina Aalgaard Kelly, Lisbon, N.D., 2:59.10. Betsy Norby, Detroit Lakes, Minn., 3:41.17. Kaley Steidl, Fargo, 3:49.15. Angie Hodge, Fargo, 3:52.44. Jodi Baumgartner, West Fargo, 3:54.44. Kiersten Norby, Detroit Lakes, Minn., 4:01.28. Michelle Turnberg, Fargo, 4:10.25. Sheri Steidl, Fargo, 4:14.01. Diane Rusness, Fargo, 4:17.24. Kimberly Christianson, Fargo, 4:17.25.