Not many runners can claim they made it through a marathon alone.
There are months of training runs, support from family and friends, inspiration from unlikely places — even from strangers cheering or running the same event.
As a group, runners are gritty, optimistic and determined. Aches and pains may knock us down, but they don’t knock us out. Our well of motivation runs deep, and sometimes the smallest sliver of hope can carry us for miles.
Finishing the St. George Marathon, and earning that polished sandstone finisher’s medallion, provided an opportunity to look back at the past four months and find reasons to be grateful. In the early miles of the race, I hoped for good health during its course, free of blisters or cramps. With no nagging injuries or reasons for concern, I just wanted 26.2 more miles of drama-free running.
The goal reached, there are some people who deserve a note of appreciation:
- Friends Jamie and Kaley Steidl also made the journey to St. George, but the idea for the trip sprung out of a group that met last Thanksgiving time in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park parking lot. On that brutally frigid day, we talked about future races, and agreed to enter the St. George lottery together. Nearly 10 months later, we met up in the city in southwest Utah. I’m lucky to count them among my friends, and they played a significant role in helping me run well. Prior to the race, they drove the course and shared a detailed description, which allowed me to race it aggressively and strategically. Without Jamie and Kaley, I would not have set a new personal best.
- My friend Maggie, who motivated and joined me for the drive every other week for long runs on a hilly course. Those workouts, during the hot and humid days, provided the training base needed to tackle the St. George course.
- My brother Scott, who supported my endeavor. He also looked after Coby, my adorable Golden retriever, during those half-day outings to run gravelly hills in rural Minnesota.
- Richard Dafoe and Rachel Hellyer, both who are instrumental in organizing Grand Forks’ Wild Hog Half Marathon (and next year’s addition of the marathon), for their encouragement, friendship and sharing some of the miles and trials along the way.
- Eric Loeffler, the gifted Fargo-based runner who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials earlier this year, for taking time to provide detailed answers to questions when I sought his advice.
As a runner, there’s inspiration and motivation all around. It comes in many shapes and forms, some of which aren’t so obvious. There were days, on the drive home from work, that I’d see people out running. It made me just that more eager to get home and lace up. Listening to others’ goals — ultramarathons, trail runs and goal marathons — made me push just a little bit harder.
Now it’s time to focus on the next big challenge and find more sources of inspiration for my evolving experiment of one.