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About Steve Wagner

My running and athletic career began on an an icy spring morning in 2006, when I found myself at the start of the Fargo Marathon as a newspaper reporter. For more than 10 years, my inclination was to head home from work, plop down in front of the television and unwind from a long day. Weekends might include a round of golf, a little mountain biking and an occasional hiking trip. For several summers, I spent summer weekends on the lakes of Minnesota, chasing walleyes, and I'd take an annual pilgrimage to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. But the start of the marathon changed me, even as a spectator. The positive vibe and contagious energy prompted a simple vow: run something, anything, the following year. A group of co-workers graciously agreed to run the 26.2-mile relay. That experience prompted me to start entering smaller local races and then a half marathon. Soon, against my initial objections, I began training for the 2008 Grandma's Marathon. My journey as a runner began then, serving as a greater purpose than the destination. That journey continues. The path has taken me to the starting and finishing line of 15 marathons. During my journey, I've found a true passion for the path less traveled, particularly country roads, trails and the Ragnar Relay series. To this end, my running isn't about destinations, rather discovering my limits in an experiment of one. It also opened the door to possibilities, and piqued my interest in triathlons even before my first marathon. In July 2012, I finally jumped into the world of triathlons, completing a first sprint event. Now I've set out to compete in more triathlons, while staying true to my running passion. Along the way, I hope to discover new horizons, learn more about myself and break through personal boundaries.

Chasing hills

With just 15 days remaining until the start of the New York City Marathon, I went chasing hills today near Hawley as part of my final preparations in this long buildup to this once-in-a-lifetime race.

As I set out for one of the final pieces of the training puzzle, it struck me that I’ve been on the road quite a bit over the past few months: no less than four trips to the hills to build leg strength for New York City’s bridges. That’s more than 90 miles each way from home.

The gravel roads and Minnesota hills have been a staple in my training for more than 6 years – ever since I realized a steady diet of them would help prepare me for Grandma’s Marathon. In many ways, it’s a retreat where I can get lost in my thoughts, away from the bustling city, and batter my body into submission and test my mental limits. And, with so many long runs in the hills, I have a frame of reference that gives me a good indication of how my fitness stacks up to previous marathon training.

Today, about 2 miles into a 14-mile run, a guy pulled up next to me in his pickup, and we had a nice chat. For the next mile, we talked about running (years ago, he ran Grandma’s Marathon and his family ran in relay races), my upcoming race in New York City and a little bit about cycling. It’s conversations like those that make running fun, and reminds me about the camaraderie of our sport’s community.

The Glitter Jar

Some mornings it’s not so easy rising at quarter to 5. And the thought of pulling on a few thin layers to head into the crisp, cool autumn air doesn’t provide the motivation I need to continue the daily trial of miles.

After pulling on pants and a long-sleeve shirt, I set off into the pre-dawn air and push off. Soon steps carry me south of Grand Forks, where silver sprinkles spilled from a glitter jar adorn the deep indigo sky.

In a few weeks, my horizon will be filled with the night skyline of New York. This, I tell myself, is every bit as impressive. And worth the 4:45 alarm.

In three of the past 4 weeks, I’ve logged at least 70 miles. Even at my best, and fastest, I never put in these miles.

It’s helped to have a streak, especially one that I can’t seem to end.

This past Saturday, as I found myself racing the Fargo Mini Marathon, I recalled how much I despise racing in cold weather. While running in cold weather can be offset by layers, and good company, there’s little about racing in the cold that can comfort me. It was the 2012 Twin Cities Marathon – where the actual air temp at the start dipped to 25 degrees – that prompted me to declare my retirement from marathoning.

But it was the guarantee of the New York City Marathon, a once-in-a-lifetime race, that lured me back into the rigors of training. Along the way, I’ve overcome injuries, doubt and blows to my confidence and ego, and in turn I’ve been blessed with some of the best running days of my life. My love for running, once tormented by injury and personal struggles to return to form, was fueled with miles of determination. My spirit has been renewed, on the heels of two fall half marathons, with the belief that anything might be possible.



How will it end?

From my Facebook news feed, it looks like there’s been some pretty amazing efforts by runners. Congratulations to all the people who have finished races, including today’s Twin Cities Marathon. Here’s the website to search for TCM results.

Also, I was reminded  about a great race every fall in north Moorhead – the Filthy 5K hosted by Beyond Running. I couldn’t quite make it this year, but this great fun run is a great way to celebrate the spirit of running and I’d highly recommend it next year if you’ve never had a chance to participate.

There was also some pretty big news in the running world lately – and I’m not referring to the marathon world record broken at the Berlin Marathon. While that’s a pretty big deal, our region saw a major move when Fargo Marathon Inc. announced it purchased the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Read the story here.

That could really be a game change for the running scene as Mark Knutson announced they’ll add a marathon to the event schedule, and considering the emphasis on marketing and building a rock concert-like atmosphere, this one could draw a lot of runners who are looking for a viable option or alternative to the Twin Cities Marathon.  A race website has already been setup and it was being promoted this weekend in St. Paul.

On a personal level, there are 4 more weeks to the New York City Marathon. This past Saturday, I hammered out a grueling 18-mile run in the hills, and I am tweaking my training as I enter the final month of preparation.

But I’ve been wondering how my streak of consecutive days will end. At this point, it seems like there should be some significance to the end of The Streak, but I haven’t found a good way for it to end. Truthfully, it’s gone on much longer than I thought it would, but it likely won’t end in the next week or two because of my mileage goals.

Two streaks did come to an end this weekend, though. Since some time in July, I had run more miles than the previous week. Going back further, my weekend long run had been longer than the previous week, too. Still, I managed to pile on 60 miles in a “cut down week” before having one or two big mileage weeks.

The Streak, which I started simply to keep myself going, has to end sometime this month as I give my body time to heal and rebuild itself for the marathon challenge ahead. But how will it end?