Every year, more than 10,000 runners sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon, known as the most scenic urban 26.2 in the country. We asked eight of this year’s dedicated to tell us what brings them to the starting line
A major in the Army National Guard who has done one tour of duty in Bosnia and two in Iraq, Kevin Schooler was officially the final Minnesotan to cross the finish line at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
I threw out my back and had to stop training for more than a month, so I ended up crossing the finish line 45 minutes later than when I ran my first Boston, in 2011. After walking through the finish chute, collecting my heat blanket, water, and medal, I hear a loud boom behind me. Everyone stops. You can see a puff of white smoke just before the finish line. People wonder aloud: Was that a cannon shot for Patriot’s Day? A transformer? A manhole cover? Then the second explosion goes off, and instantly, I know that sound. I’d heard it often overseas, taking mortar fire and rockets. A ripple goes through the crowd, like a herd of cattle about to stampede, on the verge of panic. Then a few officers spring to action, everybody starts evacuating the area, and I realize: I need to find my wife. Ann always watches from the finish line. I start toward the meeting area where we connected before, grabbing my sweat bag along the way. I start digging for my cell phone—normally I don’t bring it, but I figured this would be my last Boston, so I wanted a picture at the starting line. Ann’s not at the meeting point. I try calling her, no answer. I text. Nothing. I try calling again, but suddenly phone service is down. Just then, Ann shows up. She’d run into a friend who suggested they catch the race from Kenmore Square and was just getting off the subway down the street when the explosions went off. Back at the hotel, we turn on the TV and realize the extent of what happened—and that the second bomb went off right where Ann watched the race last time. The experience re-motivated me to qualify again at Twin Cities. Boston isn’t the kind of city to take this sort of thing lying down, and the runners want their race back, so 2014 is going to be huge. I’d love to be a part of it.
The Charter Clubber
Mary Croft is one of 32 marathoners, and just four women, who has completed every Twin Cities Marathon since the race began in 1982.
I’d been dabbling in running for a couple of years when my husband heard on WCCO about the first Twin Cities Marathon. It sounded interesting, so I started training for it right away. Three months later, I was at the starting line. It wasn’t at the Metrodome then, and they didn’t have that beautiful finish at the Capitol yet, either, but I was hooked. I kept signing up every year. Next thing you know, I’m running my 10th, so I figured I might as well keep my streak and started planning everything around the first weekend in October. I was tempted to quit at 25. It seemed like a nice, round number. Enough others stuck with it that I thought I’d try for 30. Now, here I am, one of the 32 Charter Club Members, or “streakers,” who’ve run all 32 Twin Cities Marathons. There was one, a few years back, when I had a torn gluteus medius and probably shouldn’t have run. I had to walk the last 10 miles, and then couldn’t run for a month, but, c’mon. At this point, I’m not not going to do it. Though this year was actually nip and tuck. A family member planned to get married that weekend—ironic, because she’s a marathoner, too. Just when I decided to break my streak, they postponed the wedding, so now maybe I will make it to 35. Or maybe I’ll see if I can’t convince someone else to get married. It’s going to take some sort of outside influence. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop on my own.
Stephanie Garrett has shed 80 pounds since she began running in 2011. In training for her inaugural marathon, she’s been supported by her husband and “biggest fan,” Chad, who will be running the accompanying 10-mile.
In December 2010, my husband, Chad, and I stepped on the scale and realized how comfortably we’d grown together on the couch. Our dogs couldn’t even sit between us anymore. Some online research told us that running burns the most calories, so we made “learn to run” our New Year’s resolution. We printed out a couch-to-5K program and headed to the gym. After 30 seconds on the treadmill, I thought I’d fall over. It was awful. But we kept with it, getting up at 5 a.m. to run before work, thinking, Why are we here? Is this ever going to get easier? The Timberwolves 5K that April was the longest 48 minutes of my life. That summer we took a Learn to Run clinic at The Running Room, and finally things began to click. I went on to take more clinics and eventually started teaching them. They keep me consistent—them, and Chad. He’s always there to go on early runs with me, to cheer me on at the finish line, and to remind me that I’m stronger than I think. Biking’s become his passion, and I support him in his cycling goals, too. Together, we’ve lost more than 200 pounds. Everything’s different now.
Paralympic hopeful Marcelo Ordaz-Cruz says surviving a gunshot wound that left him paralyzed, as well as the I-35 bridge collapse, has made him a stronger person.
After the accident that took the use of my legs, I missed playing soccer and riding my bike. I was looking for “my” sport when the Courage Center’s recreation director introduced me to her husband, Paul Van Winkel, a racing legend. He loaned me a racing chair and, a few months later, mentioned the Twin Cities Marathon. I didn’t really understand what it was, but I wanted to enter. Paul said, “It’s really hard. You don’t have technique. You don’t have strength. You don’t know anything yet.” I did it anyway, and Paul was right. I was so tired. So frustrated that I couldn’t go faster. I felt like I would collapse. I finished with my heart, because that’s all I had. After I crossed the finish line, Paul asked how it was, and I said, “This is my sport.” Now, 10 years later, I’ve learned so much. I’m getting faster. I’m getting better. I race as often as I can. I have three more years to find sponsors and qualify for the 2016 Paralympics, so I’m working hard. Every morning when I wake up, I look forward to my training time, when it’s just me and my racing chair. I survived the shot that put me there. When the bridge I was driving on crumbled into the river, I was lucky: I survived that, too. These things taught me that life is fragile. We need to enjoy every moment. For me, that means racing. It makes me feel alive. It makes me believe that you can do whatever you want to do—that no matter what kind of obstacles you face, you can change your life.
At 14 years old, Micah Hovland is among the youngest participants in this year’s marathon.
When I was nine, I decided I wanted to run a mile a day for a year, on average. Usually, I’d run three miles every three days, but if I didn’t run on vacation or something, I’d come home and run seven miles, or maybe run two every day for two days, to make it up. After the year, I kept with it, because it’s an easy way to stay disciplined and I enjoyed it. Running clears my head. I like to engineer things. I built a tree house when I was 10, a go-cart a couple of years ago, and just redid all the trim in our living room for my mom. I was teaching my little cousin how to drive that go-cart this summer when he accidentally peeled out on my foot and I couldn’t train for a week. Other than that, training’s been going great. Last year’s winner is actually friends with my cousins, and he slept in my bed the night before the marathon. I never got to meet him, but I did the math. A five-minute-mile is like 12 miles per hour. That’s insane! I can’t even run that for, like, half a mile. I just hope to maintain a nice 10-minute mile. I’m feeling pretty confident and really excited. This won’t be my last one, I’m pretty sure.
At 85, Jeannine Julson is the oldest female Twin Cities Marathon racer.
I took up running when I was 58. I’d never been athletic in school—I couldn’t even do a pushup. But when I watched my husband run the Twin Cities Marathon in ’83, I saw these people coming in at the back and thought, I could do that. I ran my first marathon, the Twin Cities, in ’86, and got kind of addicted. I’ve run 54 marathons so far. I’ve always been at the back of the pack, though. I think my best time was around 5:15. As I got older, I got slower, and now sometimes it’ll take me seven or eight hours. I’m sure that when I tell my family I’m going to run another one they think, Oh no. I wish she wouldn’t. It’ll take all day! But they don’t complain—at least not to me. The finish line closes after six hours, but I always cross it anyway, because it feels good, official or not. I’ll turn 85 four days before this marathon, my 55th. If I can run 55 at 85, I’ll be happy. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit. I want to keep doing marathons as long as I can. I know that sounds crazy. Maybe it’s good to be a little crazy.
Minnesota native Carrie Tollefson, a 2004 Olympian at 1500 meters, is running her first 26.2-miler just five months after having given birth to her second child.
I’ve been doing commentary for the New York City Marathon for four years now, but I haven’t ever run one. I figured it was time for me to practice what I preach and get out there and run 26.2 miles. Of course, no woman in her right mind could properly train for a marathon this soon after giving birth, so this is not a race for me. It’s a run. I’m a mom now. Plus, I’m that mom. I don’t want to skip a dinner with my family, because I might miss something Ruby says or a smile from Everett. I’ve been this elite athlete my whole life, and that has always come first. Now it’s time for me to put my family first. Can I still run really fast? Heck, yeah! When I sneak in short training runs with my husband and pull out a six-minute-mile pace, part of me thinks, Okay. I still got this. But I’m a middle-distance girl. The farthest I’ve run before this was 22 miles, years ago, when I took a wrong turn running around the lakes. I’d have to run 26 miles very, very fast to break three hours. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be thrilled to see a 2. Even 2:59:59. But I’m not going to be bummed if I don’t. This is a journey, and it’s supposed to be a fun one. Hopefully it will help me lose this little baby belly, too.
The Distance Junkie
Ultramarathoner Paul Holovnia regularly tackles 50- and 100-mile races around the country and placed fourth overall at last year’s Black Hills 100.
My first 100-mile trail run was in Leadville, Colorado. At about 10,200 feet above sea level, it’s the highest incorporated town in North America. I made it about 60 miles before dropping out. The next year, I got to the finish, but it was slow, like 29-and-a-half hours. A few more attempts and I got my time down under 25. You see two sunrises. You have to somehow eat a few hundred calories every hour, even though you don’t want to. You sleep on the trail, kind of, while you’re running. You hallucinate. You slog through rivers. You experience a lifetime of emotions—the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s an adventure. I love that about trail running. You get to be a kid again. My running group meets two mornings a week for 10- to 15-mile runs, whether it’s 30 below with a foot of snow on the ground or 100 degrees and humid, and I still make it to work by 7:30. I’ll run up to 30 miles on Saturdays and Sundays, too. Training for a marathon, I’ll actually cut my weekly mileage back and introduce speed work, since it’s not the distance that’s a challenge, but rather how fast I cover it. I sit behind a desk 12 hours a day, so this is my stress relief. My routine. I get up and run in the morning like people brush their teeth. For me, not running is the worst thing in the world. I can’t imagine life without it.