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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.

Stopped in my tracks

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”John Bunyan

Out on a short run, I heard my phone make a ping sound, letting me know I had just received a message. More than ever, I’ve been attempting to multitask and figured the message had something to do with the upcoming benefit for Jason Boutwell.

As I ran, I glanced at the message. It forced me to stop in my tracks as the emotion prompted by another person’s generosity forced me to catch my breath. Truthfully, I was a bit surprised and overwhelmed by the commitment.

And so the past few weeks have passed – marked by long, long work days and lower leg problems that make running next to impossible. Except in occasional, small doses.

My spirit has been buoyed by the generosity of others and the opportunity to help a friend.

His battle isn’t over, and it won’t be as simple as we hoped. But Jason will fight valiantly and beat cancer. When he does, he’ll be a spokesperson and champion to find a cure for others.

Those participating in any event during the Fargo Marathon weekend have a way to contribute. There are several ways to help Jason, a husband, father of four, and a uplifting friend who has raised money for Down Syndrome awareness.

Make a commitment to join Team Boutwell: buy a shirt from CI Apparel in Fargo, collect pledges for miles you’re completing in a Fargo Marathon event, donate an item to the silent auction set for May 17 or make a contribution to the Jason R. Boutwell Fund through any Bell State Bank and Trust location. Additionally, we need people to attend the benefit, and the silent auction will have terrific items, including autographed donations that Bison fans will certain want for their memorabilia collections.

About the shirts: Team Boutwell organizers are asking $40 for black shirts/tanks for women or black/gray shortsleeve shirts fort men. The fee covers the shirt cost and provides proceeds to help defray expenses related to Jason’s battle against cancer. Shirts should be ordered by April 25. For more information or to order, contact Billie Carlson. She can be reached at billiecarlson@cableone.net.

There is a lot of work being done, by amazing people, and more details will be available soon. Follow this blog for information as it becomes available.

For the runners out there, I’d ask that you consider making a difference through the simple act of running. Find people who are willing to donate $1 for every mile you complete at the Fargo Marathon. Then collect the money and send it to the Jason R. Boutwell Fund at the bank, or donate it online (a website will be available soon).

If 10 people find 10 others willing to donate $1 for each mile completed, the cumulative impact can be profound. If those 10 runners each run a half marathon, that’s $1,300 to the fund. Add in others who are willing to do the 5K, 10K or marathon, and we can help a family.

Personally, I’m signed up for the half marathon, and despite some painful leg issues, I will be running. If you’d prefer to pledge to my run for Jason, please send an email to me at run4distance@gmail.com.

Finally, I want to share with you just one of the commitments that I’ve received for the silent auction, the one that stopped me in my tracks. Legendary marathoner and motivational speaker Dick Beardsley, who will be a speaker at the Fargo Marathon this year, has pledged autographed copies of his books and a photo from his famous duel with Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon. Dick didn’t even hesitate to commit when I asked, and he did so in record time.

In the next few weeks, there will be some other announcements of some cool memorabilia for the silent auction. But, in advance, I’d like to thank Dick for his generosity.

No one’s watching

After a few miles of Saturday’s 30K trail run, I was trailing a group of runners when a guy approached from behind and asked to pass.

It couldn’t have been better timing as I pulled to the right, and then followed him as we zoomed by a handful of runners. “Might as well take advantage of the downhill,” I quipped.

In the brief conversation that ensued, one of his comments struck me. Probably because I’ve said something similar back when I was a bit more nimble and fleet of foot.

“You never know when you’re going to have a stellar day,” he said before racing off.

He was right. Plus, if you’re going to put in the training, you might as well make the miles count. If the day is right, you might just surprise yourself.

Negative thinking focuses on what might go wrong on race day: poor weather, a bad spot in the race corral, feeling a little less than optimal.

The opposite is true, though, too. What if everything goes right on race day? Are you prepared to capitalize on good conditions, some extra pep in your legs, a turn of fortune? Some of my best races came when I didn’t feel it would be a good day. All of the good ones – which is most of the races I’ve done – have one thing in common: a personal belief that things will go right. Sometimes you just need to hang in there long enough.

It all comes back to not knowing when you might have a stellar day. Often we can surprise ourselves if we are open to the possibilities and are willing to push ourselves.

So what will you do when no one’s watching?

The other day, as I was out for a recovery run while on vacation, I saw three words painted on the side of a school: Commitment. Character. Courage.

The next time I want to log easy miles, instead of intervals or a tempo run, I’m going to think about those words because I know when summer rolls around, it will be apparent what I did when no one was watching.

Collateral benefit

A few days ago, Jason and I chatted on the phone, catching up on where life stands.

Not surprisingly, the conversation finished with a deep sense of inspiration from the words of my good friend. Even with a cancer diagnosis, Jason has one of those personalities that makes others smile, laugh and focus on the important things in life. He brings perspective.

And so it was his telling of a story that hit home with me. Ten years ago, after watching a former NDSU football teammate struggle with health problems, Jason said he made some personal choices – like buying the best life insurance he could – as a result. He described the decisions he and other former teammates made as a collateral benefit. While it’s painful to watch family and friends suffer, the collateral benefit can be giving us the wisdom, knowledge and strength to have a positive impact on others.

It’s conversations like the one with Jason that provides perspective on the most important principles in life. To make the most of our days, what are we doing to make others’ lives better? Relationships and connections with people are more important than possessions and job titles. Do the people who matter in our lives know what we think and how we feel?