It’s Simply Pain

When the alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. Saturday, I didn’t feel much motivation to get up. Resetting it to chime 30 minutes later didn’t do much good as I slept through the alarm. At 6:15 a.m., I awoke and looked at the clock.

It was decision time. For a moment, I thought about whether I should run the half marathon in Fargo, which was less than 2 hours away.

Reasons to skip the race entered my mind: out of shape, poor running fitness, chillier than I like, not the right clothes, finding a parking spot would be a nightmare downtown and it would simply hurt to race after running just a handful of times since late March due to injury.

Quickly, I decided that most of them were just excuses. If I had let a little rain deter me from a 10K race in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park back in June 2007, I would have never gone on to complete 15 marathons, an ultramarathon and 10 long-distance mountain trail races.

It came down to one determining factor: was I willing to put up with the pain? A day earlier, an MRI ruled out any bone or muscle damage in a leg that had given me plenty of problems since January. The lack of running while enduring constant shooting pain in my shin meant that I had done little running. My leg muscles, as a consequence, are not used to the pounding that I had become addicted to.

And then I thought about my friend, Jason Boutwell. He has endured a ruptured appendix, surgery to remove a third of his colon and began chemotherapy. Certainly, I could endure some pain from racing while not being in running shape. I set off for downtown, where I easily found a parking spot in a ramp.

And then there was the weather.

Never in its previous 10 years has the Fargo Marathon had such terrific weather. The plan to hold the marathon downtown proved to be a unique experience. And while I didn’t run fast during the half marathon, I enjoyed it almost as much as any race I’ve done. This race will be locked in the memory bank as a highlight.

Afterward, I let Jason know that he was my inspiration to complete a race that I had many excuses to avoid. If I had skipped it, I certainly would have been the loser. Instead, I’m fortunate to again be blessed with an opportunity to enjoy life and health.

It’s a blessing I’m convinced Jason will enjoy again, too, after he beats cancer. He’s already inspired hundreds of people with his positive, humorous attitude.

This Saturday, a special benefit is planned to help offset the bills incurred during Jason’s fight against cancer. The donations have been generous – so generous that the goodness of others has restored my faith in people, especially those willing to help even people they don’t know.

There are hundreds of terrific auction items: tickets for the Beach Boys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Twins, an autographed Adrian Peterson jersey, Lasik surgery and dental discounts, and a range of gift certificates and donations for businesses around Fargo-Moorhead. If you’re a North Dakota State University fan, there are some items of particular interest: signed footballs by Brock Jensen, Billy Turner, an autographed Chris Klieman helmet and a Ben Woodside jersey from Italy.

The benefit also received a very special donation offered up by Mark Knutson, on behalf of the Fargo Marathon. Those attending the benefit on Saturday will be able to bid on two lifetime entries into the marathon.

One of the lasting thoughts I’m left with from this past Fargo Marathon weekend, my friend’s courageous battle and the upcoming benefit is simply how other people can really be a source of inspiration.

Everywhere I looked on Saturday, during and after the race, I found inspiration: people pushing themselves to new boundaries, reaching for their goals, overcoming temporary pain to achieve a lasting reward.

My development as a runner began after watching the 2006 Fargo Marathon. A year later, I entered my first race and I’ve been hooked. That rainy race in Lindenwood a few weeks after the 2007 Fargo Marathon sealed my fate: I would be a runner. Now, several years later, after the race again has inspired me to push myself to evolve as a runner – with these steps being the first on my way to the New York City Marathon in November.

That inspiration led me to take Coby out for a run Sunday, and intervals on the treadmill this morning. I’m ready for the long journey back.

8 Responses

  1. Mark Dwyer

    Steve, your story blew me away. I think all of us have had some adversity in our running lives as well as life in general. But you put it into such clear perspective; very inspiring.
    I saw your name listed under the runners from Bemidji when I looked. I figured there must be another Steve Wagner: not an original name in these parts. But I recalled your posting of the results of the MRI and I thought there would be no way you could be running a half.
    You were right about the weather on Saturday. The conditions were ideal. I was able to run the half a full 2 minutes faster than I thought. I had the pleasure of running with Dick Beardsley for 9 miles although unaware of who he was at the time. He ended up finishing almost a minute ahead of me but he had the grace to come over after the finish line, share how enjoyed the pace I was keeping (albeit I could not maintain it forever) and then introduced himself. What a great guy!
    All in all, I believe runners are good people. We get excited when we hear of each others triumphs. We understand and feel the depths of other’s trials. There are so many metaphors to life in running, I wish I had the writing skills to put it to ink.
    I am sorry I will not be able to attend the fund raiser but I would like to make a donation. Please let me know how I can send something.
    Thanks again for your inspiration.

    1. Mark,
      Thanks for the kind words, and for some reason, I was listed as Bemidji. Probably because the timing company had me in their system. Congrats on your run, sounds like you had a great time. FYI, here’s information on donations:
      Donations can also be made directly to the Jason R. Boutwell Fund at all Bell State Bank locations or to the secured online fund Lend A Hand has established for Jason:, click “donate,” then scroll to “Jason Boutwell Benefit Fund.”
      It’s cool you had a chance to run with Dick. He makes his way to Bemidji a couple times a year, and if you connect with him on Facebook, you may have an occasional running buddy.
      Have a great day!

  2. Jim Lindlauf

    Glad you got to take part in the festivities: It was a beautiful day and a great race!

  3. Jodi :)

    Congratulations Steve! You always seem to find the energy and inspiration from somewhere. I don’t know how you do it, but your enthusiasm and dedication is admirable. Well done!

  4. Paul Larson

    Good decision to run on Sat. – I am 74 and this was my 3rd Fargo half and I will be back again. One of the finest, best organized runs I have ever done. (20 marathons & 50 – 60 halves, 10 K’s etc.

    I have been working out for 35+ years and I have never been sorry for my morning workout. But – many times I have been sorry for not getting my workout in.

    Hope you heal fast & best of luck. (love your dog Colby)

    1. Paul, thanks for the note. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your half marathon, and to learn you’ll be back again. You are an experienced and dedicated runner – we can all learn from you. Great words of wisdom about getting up and after it – I never regret getting a workout done but sometimes wish I hadn’t delayed or skipped one. Best, Steve

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