By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

A celebration of running

 

Bethany Helwig

Runners near the finish line of Grandma's Marathon on June 22.

According to the story, in 490 B.C. a soldier, Pheidippides, ran from a battlefield near the city of Marathon to Athens-a journey of some 25 miles-to announce the defeat of the Persians. He shouted "Níki!" ("Victory!"), then promptly keeled over and died.

If you've ever wondered why your family members, friends, or acquaintances pay money to run for hours at a time to complete a 26.2 mile course, you can blame Pheidippides.

The first official "marathon," coined after that Greek city, was held at the 1896 Athens Olympics in honor of the run by Pheidippides. However, it wasn't until the 1908 London Olympics that the 26.2 distance became the set marathon distance. It was planned to be just 26 miles but extra footage was added so the finish line would be in front of the royal family's viewing box.

Since then, marathons have only gained in popularity as a true test of one's athletic abilities.

No other race brings as much exposure and keen eye focus on running in our area than Grandma's Marathon. Thousands flock to Duluth from all over the country and world to compete in the long-standing 26.2 mile race. This year, over 8,500 runners were registered for the 43rd annual Grandma's Marathon. Of those registered for one or more of the three events (the marathon, half-marathon, and 5k), the oldest was 82 and the youngest 12.


You could say that running is in Minnesota's blood. The Voyageur 50 Mile Ultramarathon, which runs from Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton to Duluth and back, is one of the oldest trail races in the nation. Grandma's Marathon is the 11th largest marathon in the U.S. and is recognized internationally for being one of the most organized and friendliest marathons.

But running a marathon isn't something meant only for the elite. Participants come from all backgrounds and levels of physical conditioning.

Such people can be found right in our backyard. Several running groups have cropped up, including the Loon Country Runners in Moose Lake and the Milltown Milers in Cloquet, among others.

The whys and hows of getting into running are different for everyone.

The youngest participant in the Garry Bjorklund Half-marathon this year, twelve-year-old Elliott, is actually from Moose Lake. His mother asked him to join her on a run one day. It turns out he really enjoyed it and has kept on running. Elliott has completed multiple 5ks, the Whistle Stop 10K in Ashland, and the Garry Bjorklund just recently. He plans on doing at least one more half-marathon this year, if not two.

Others started running to cross a 5K off their bucket list. For another, it was changing sports because they liked the cross country crowd better. For many, it's about getting healthy.

Losing weight isn't the only benefit of running. According to a 2006 and 2013 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, exercise can even help treat depression.

While running on your own can be hard-either physically or motivating yourself to get out there-joining a group of runners can help out in a number of ways. Running communities can offer support, advice, and safety in numbers.

Rick Bothwell, who manages the Loon Country Runners of Moose Lake, says his group only has two rules: no dogs and no dying. The group regularly get together on Wednesdays to go for a run and will go out for trail excursions as well.

"I started this because I was getting tired of running the races," said Rick. "My goal with this is just to add a social aspect. You see people running by themselves all the time."

Running isn't necessarily a requirement to join the group either.

"I have people that have no desire to run," said Rick. "That's fine. You come and you walk."

"I cherish the friendships I've made while logging miles together," said Gretchen Rogers, one of the group's members. "Runners are great encouragers. They don't really care how fast or slow you are. They are just happy you are out there moving. And they can and will talk you into doing something you never thought you could do!"

A 2006 study in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal had excellent tips to share:

1. Just do it. Choose an activity that you enjoy—and stick with it. Just because you “don’t feel like it” is not a reason not to exercise. Tell yourself that you’ll feel better afterwards.

2. Don’t neglect your feet. Invest in a good pair of exercise sneakers. It’s an investment that you won’t regret!

3. Timing is everything. Exercise at a time of day that is most convenient. Do not exercise on a full or empty stomach or just before you go to bed. People with depression often suffer from insomnia, and night time exercise can leave you feeling energized when you want to sleep. If possible, exercise during daylight hours to also benefit from sunlight.

4. Watch out for barriers. Anticipate barriers to exercise, and develop strategies to make exercise as easy and simple as possible. Anticipate barriers—bad weather, work commitments, fatigue, and brainstorm potential solutions.

5. Get a buddy. Some people who exercise with a partner enjoy it more and are more likely to stick with it. Also, the additional social support may have additional beneficial effects.

6. Think positive. Praise your successes. View lapses in your exercise program as learning opportunities and don’t get discouraged if you miss a session.

7. Enjoy the moment. Take a minute when you are finished with an exercise session to appreciate how you feel.

(Blumenthal, J. A., Smith, P. J., & Hoffman, B. M. (2012). Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression?. ACSM's health & fitness journal, 16(4), 14–21.)

 

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