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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.

4 years in the making

“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity / To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment / Would you capture it or just let it slip?” – “One Shot” by Eminem

A couple weeks ago, while sorting through some gear for running in the dark, I found my first iPod – loaded with forgotten playlists that carried me through thousands of marathon training miles.

So, late last week, I plugged it in to charge in advance of the Wild Hog Half Marathon this past Saturday. After running some early morning miles, I swung home to let Coby out of the house for a few minutes before heading to the race. In my brief layover, I picked up that iPod and scrolled through the playlists. This was going to be fun as I had long forgotten the order of some of the songs.

But I couldn’t help but notice two playlists – Ragnasty 1 and Ragnasty 2 – in honor of the Great River Ragnar Relay. Lucky for me, about a mile into the half marathon, “One Shot” by Eminem came up on the playlist.

The opening lyrics are fitting considering my goal – the New York City Marathon – has been 4 years in the making. And it’s pretty certain it will be a once in a lifetime run for me because the difficulty in gaining admittance (I’ll never qualify with the tough guarantee race standards and the chances of winning the lottery are about as good as my odds of retiring early on Powerball earnings).

As September winds down, and my training undergoes some fine tuning for the final 5 weeks, I’m grateful for this marathon buildup. It’s allowed me to establish my morning running routine, the weather has been phenomenal, and injuries have melted away. Now it’s just a matter of battling through training fatigue to tweak my fitness for race day, and have some fun along the way.

As I look ahead to October, I thought it would be a good time to share some photos – one of my view at the start of the half marathon (literally at the back of the pack), a couple from a visit with Coby to College Gameday in Fargo a few weeks ago and some of the adorable Golden retriever who seems to always convince me to give him extra treats.

A grand race

The day proved to be fitting for the third annual Wild Hog Half Marathon and related races – in a word, perfect.

Among the best half marathon courses I’ve run, the weather, volunteers, spectators and overall race organization was spot on. To top it off, runners received nice race shirts (the neon orange if perfect for those runs falling outside of daylight hours, which will be quite frequent this time of year) and probably the heaviest finisher’s medal I’ve held.

Even with the swag, the course proved to be my favorite part of the Wild Hog festivities. I’ve run parts of the course during my daily miles, but I gained a new appreciation for the neighborhoods and the people who came out to cheer. Going forward, this is going to be a tough race to pass up, and ideally, a full marathon will be part of the weekend festivities next year.

Click here for an overview story from today’s Herald. There are additional links to coverage at the end of the story.

In my buildup to the New York City marathon, now 5 weeks away, the Wild Hog week appeared to be the most perplexing for training plans. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how to tackle it because I wanted to run the half marathon but not miss out on my long run.

It was the Wild Hog race director, Richard Dafoe, who actually helped solve the mystery by suggesting that I run 10 miles before the race. Until then, I was planning to “squeeze” in a 24-miler a couple days before or the day after the race, or adding mileage immediately following it.

His option made the most sense, but almost certainly took the option of racing the event out of the equation. Or so I thought.

To my surprise, I felt pretty good at the starting line with 9 miles already logged. The race, along with the run home, would put me well over the 23-mile mark for the day. And even bigger surprise was my finishing time of 1:38. My goal, set at the first mile marker, was to run 1:44, a 3-minute improvement from my effort on July 4.

After a grand race, and fun weekend, it’s time to focus on the final 5 weeks of training for the Big Apple.

The big test

Sometimes, a race can’t come soon enough.

For about 2,000 runners in Grand Forks this weekend, race weekend has arrived – and it’s been weeks and months of training to get here.

The Wild Hog Half Marathon, along with the 10K and 5K, truly is a fun, well-organized neighborhood race. Now in it’s third year, my home is right on the course, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

In its first few years, Wild Hog race officials have received mostly positive feedback, and encouragement to expand the event with a marathon. It’s going to happen next year, and while there’s plenty of logistics to figure out over the winter, the most relevant fact is there’s a great day of racing ahead. The weather looks terrific: clear skies, comfortable temperatures and a nice breeze.

The southerly breeze should be perfect and help cool runners on the second half of the race as they head directly into it. But, with the tree-lined streets, it may not be much of a factor. It will be scenic. And a great day to celebrate all of that training.

On a personal note, it will be an interesting test: I’ve been piling an unprecedented number of training miles as I’ve extended my consecutive days running in preparation for the New York City marathon in 5 weeks.

The legs need some relief soon from the training as I’ve pushed toward my goal of running a race worthy of a 4-year wait and the thousands of dollars the trip ultimately will cost.

That relief won’t come tomorrow. My legs are heavy, and I won’t be running fast in the half marathon – especially considering I’ll be putting in several miles prior to the actual race. My hope is the Wild Hog will become a staple of my training and running in the future. Next year’s inaugural marathon will be perfect if my current plans hold true.

But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. There’s a race with thousands of other runners to enjoy. Out-of-town runners also might want to note that updates will be available Saturday on the Grand Forks Herald website, and special coverage will be a big part of the Sunday newspaper.

If you missed today’s story in the Herald about a couple running to raise awareness for epilepsy and their son, check it out here. It might just inspire you – or remind you how awesome runners can be.

Keep updated with the latest news about the race weekend, too, by visiting the Grand Forks Half Marathon website, Twitter page or Facebook page.

Good luck, runners!