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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Autumn

If Ironman Wisconsin marks the first day of autumn, the Twin Cities Marathon marks the end of autumn’s warm, colorful days. Through the years, the Twin Cities Marathon has offered starting temperatures in the 20’s all the way up into the 70’s but usually it has been chilly. It has snowed. It has rained. I especially recall splashing through an inch of water covering Minnehaha Parkway as the rain got ahead of the storm sewers. Most years, though, the weather has been almost perfect, crisp and clear. The maples have reached peak colors and the temperatures have stayed in the 40’s and 50’s, perfect for running. It’s hard not to love Minnesota on marathon day, especially from the Franklin Avenue Bridge above fiery maples lining the banks of the Mississippi all the way to the horizon.

This year, marathon day started a little cooler than usual, about 34 degrees with a western breeze that made it feel colder. Margy dropped me off and I headed toward the start in a long sleeve shirt and shorts. I draped a garbage bag over me to stop the wind. (I cut out a place to stick my head and neck out, just so you get the proper visual.) It had turned cloudy after the radiantly red sunrise had disappeared beneath dense, high clouds.

The first person I saw was Paul Phillips, an endurance athletics photographer. Paul’s hands were full but we exchanged a hug. I told him how much I had enjoyed a poster-sized photo of the sun rising over the Ironman World Championship start in Kailua Bay, Hawaii, that Paul had given me the year I ran that race. Paul said that it was no problem. He said that he would leave for Kona the following day. He was going to shoot one more event thereafter, then take care of a knee that had been giving him problems for a long time.

The start area felt dark on a downtown street wedged between tall, gray buildings. It was cold and breezy. I struck up conversation with a woman beside me. It became clear that she would finish, shower and eat lunch by the time I could find my way to the end of the course. She wished me luck.

My friend, Jim. D’Aurora sang the National Anthem. And we began.

My animal spirits awoke once the race started but not to the extent that they did years ago. I knew the course like the back of my hand and found it easy to just settle in and think about little other than trying to keep going. I did notice a new favorite homemade sign. It said, “Chafing the dream.”

Jim Kirkham stood in his usual spot. When he was a teenager, Jim skinned a wolf or coyote (I have tried not to get close enough to tell for sure), then used the fur to make a hat and mittens that he wears every year on marathon day. Both he and his wife Shelley gave me high fives. I wished that I had brought my Purell.

The course wound along Lake Calhoun where I met Margy. She had come to collect the long sleeve shirt that I no longer needed now that I had warmed up.

“It’s pretty gross,” I said, not breaking stride.

Margy reached out and grabbed the shirt, holding it at arm’s length. I heard several people nearby laugh. Who needed the Purell now?

Not long thereafter, I saw Terry and Kathy Lee, Kathy and Kerry Ynestad, and Julie Hull, friends of mine from the triathlon community, each of whom has cheered for me on too many occasions to count. Along that section of the course, a man from Chicago running beside me said, “You are pretty much the mayor of this stretch.” I smiled and felt grateful.

A bit farther on, I spotted another friend and former TCM board of directors president, Ron Abrahamson and his wife Gloria.

“Hi Ron, how are you doing?”

He had just taken a sip of coffee. He looked surprised to see me.

“Look good Scott,” he said as he tried to get his coffee down. “How are you?”

“Very well, thank you,” I said, realizing how silly this sounded when running as fast as my legs would carry me.

At about mile 18, I felt a little tired. This should not have come as much of a surprise. I had run Ironman Wisconsin exactly 28 days before. And on this weekend, I had chosen to participate in the “Ultra Loony Challenge,” a Twin Cities Marathon weekend event involving a 10K and 5K on Saturday morning followed by the marathon on Sunday. I had placed first in my age group in the 10K  among all participants. After the 5K, I was in first place in my Ultra Loony Challenge age group and 8th of 112 over all. The 5K was especially fun because I ran it with my friend Bob Boisvert. In years past we ran with his son Parker but this year Parker ran on ahead. Neither Bob nor I wanted to run as fast as Parker would now that he had grown. Parker was just a little kid when we first started running together but now he left Bob and me behind. My overall pace for the two races was good and I had been encouraged by the results of Saturday’s events. I went into the marathon hoping to win my Ultra Loony Challenge age group. As is so often the case in life, I dedicated effort to something that meant next to nothing.

Crossing the Franklin Avenue Bridge at mile 19, the skies were gray and the Mississippi valley did not light up with its usual intensity. It was beautiful, just more austere. From the middle of the bridge, the course turned downhill and I tried not to think. I just wanted to collect my breath and to focus on running. Only running.

The course left the Mississippi River and climbed a steep hill approaching the University of St. Thomas. A gradual right turn preceded a sharp left. Then the course ascended slowly and steadily. It felt like I had thrown out an anchor. By mile 24, the course had flattened and friends from the local running store, Adam Lindahl, Mark Feyereisen and his wife Wren cheered for me. Adam had a microphone, loudspeakers and was wearing kind of a creepy mouse mask. (Don’t ask me why.) But theirs was the pick up that I needed.

Just before mile 26, the course plunged downhill in front of the towering St. Paul Cathedral. A huge American flag hung above the finish line. Friends who remained on the TCM board, including Bob Boisvert, called to me from the VIP tent as I approached the finish line. I waved and felt enormously grateful – for my friends, for the memories, for my family.

I finished (about 40 minutes slower than I had in 1988 when I ran my fastest marathon) and felt glad to have Margy meet me there. I also smiled at the thought that I had completed my 72nd marathon. How many more? Who knows?

Once we were in the car and heading toward home, Katie called. We heard about training as a new management consultant in New York, her weekend in Austin, and trip to Dallas for more training. Yeah, her, the little blond kid I used to lift over the snow fence to stand with me for a picture after the marathon.

Lots has changed since I ran my first Twin Cities Marathon in 1987. I entered law school and graduated. Katie was born. We built a house. I had several jobs. I served on the TCM board, then hit my term limit. Katie grew up, graduated twice and got a job as a management consultant in Boston. Now she is the one heading off for a professional career in a big city far away.

I thought back to a chance encounter earlier in the weekend. Another former TCM board member and I ran into one another after I finished the 10K on Saturday morning. Years ago, he and I had clashed over a subject that I had since come to regret. We had made up after that incident, acknowledging that we had honest differences regarding a matter of policy, not personal differences. As we had stood out of the wind on Saturday morning, he looked around at the festivities and said something that rang in my ears.

“Well, it certainly looks like they are getting along just fine without us.”

I shook my head slowly and reluctantly to agree. Life goes on.

We all view ourselves in a particular way. Our view of ourselves is a complicated mix of the things we do, where we live and who we count as our friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances. In my case, after having run so many marathons, they have become part of the way I view myself. But running a marathon is all about moving on, relentlessly, persistently, steadily. It’s not the numerical accomplishment of running 26.2 miles or the total number of marathons finished. It’s the accumulation of words of encouragement gleaned over the years. It’s the memory of people who were there for the first marathons but have passed on. It’s about the kids who weren’t even born when I ran my first Twin Cities Marathon, who watched many marathons from my sisters’, mom’s or wife’s arms and are now almost as old as I was when I ran my first. It’s adjusting to the people who were much younger when I started racing and are now much older – including me. It’s about finishing a race even when you feel terrible – with 16 miles to go. It’s about the days when everything goes absolutely right. It’s about thinking that you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

So how and when do you move on? When do you hold on? It’s hard to think of my identity shifting as everything around me changes. More than anything, the last year has been all about changes, big ones. I’m fortunate; the changes have been good, maybe great. I’m not complaining. The last year has brought so much to celebrate.

So I’ll try to adapt, to move on, to recognize the way that things really are now. But I will also remember. I’ll remember the kind words of encouragement, the wind blowing cool and strong across my face as I ran toward the finish line and the feeling of Katie’s small hand in mine as we walked toward the car a long time ago.

Leaves

It’s been windy here in Minneapolis. Many of the colorful leaves are scattered on the ground. I enjoy them there, too. They make a skittering sound when they blow around on our driveway and sidewalk. Winter is on its way.

Postscript

In the 10K, I finished first of 47 men aged 55 to 59. In the marathon, I placed 12th of 295 men in my age group. In the Ultra Loony Challenge, I finished first in my age group and fifth over all of 84 people dumb enough to finish anything entitled “Ultra Loony.”

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