Hi, my name is Deb Violette and I am Board Secretary and member of Central Maine Striders. I am not your typical member as I do not run. You are probably thinking, “How did you become a Board Secretary and Member?” Here is a bit of my story and how I came to Central Maine Strider’s annual social December 2018.
I started a foundation called Free ME from Lung Cancer in 2012 to help researchers find a cure for lung cancer, help Maine high risk patients get access to early lung cancer screening and low income home owners get access to radon air abatement systems. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. In fact the Environmental Protection Agency states that one in every three homes has radon high enough to warrant mitigation.
I started Free ME from Lung Cancer because I am a 22 year lung cancer survivor. I was given a 10% chance of living two years. During my treatment I knew that I wanted to help others diagnosed with this disease. A disease that often leaves the patient isolated, shamed and blamed for their disease because so often it is linked to smoking. Through research we now know that this is not the case at all. If you have lungs you can get lung cancer.
I host two events annually. A themed auction and a "Save Your Breath" 5k. You may have seen my post on the 5k [on the Central Maine Striders facebook group]. In December 2018 I saw a post about Central Maine Strider’s annual social. I asked if anyone could come to the social and I was told yes. So I joined the group that night with the intentions of introduce myself and talk a bit about my foundation, my passion to improve the lives of lung cancer patients and make a donation to the club. The club members was so very gracious to let me post my event on their FaceBook page and never once complained about my obsession in doing so. The group introduced themselves and then allowed me a few minutes to talk.
As the evening unfolded the group began their year end election of officers. They didn’t have a social media/webmaster lined up so I volunteered to take the social media piece for them. I was a social media director for another nonprofit plus my own and thought, “What’s one more FaceBook page to support?” I paid my dues for the upcoming year and returned home. A few days later my phone rings and it was [Club President] Ryan Goebel. Ryan asked if I would mind holding the Secretary’s position. He wasn’t able to find anyone to hold that seat. I said any way that I can help was fine with me and that is how a non runner became a Board Secretary and member for the oldest active running club in the State of Maine.
If you are reading this and not a member yet I encourage you to come to one of our meetings on ZOOM. I have enjoyed serving as Board Secretary these last several months. The members are really fun, creative and friendly. I know you will enjoy the group as much as I have.
If you are interested in learning more about Free ME from Lung Cancer and our upcoming virtual Save Your Breath and virtual online auction please visit us at freemefromlungcancer.org or call me at 207-215-9035. I hope to see you at our next board meeting scheduled for November 10th at 7pm.
Deb Violette, Board Secretary for Central Maine Striders
Be sure to check out our club newsletter for a discount code good for $10 off entry into the Save Your Breath 5k.
My running story is a little bit different from the other Central Maine Striders members I have read. I never actually set out intentionally to run in the first place.
My story begins 2 and half years ago when I turned 35. I was overweight, had been for about 15 years, and was generally unhappy with my body and health. I always felt tired and never put much thought into exercising and changing my lifestyle habits. The one week a year I felt my best was when I took my family to Florida to visit my parents who spend their winters there. It was coming back from the trip of my 35th birthday that changed me. Without realizing it, I had managed to lose 15 lbs. just in that week! Wow, I thought that’s incredible, how can I keep this momentum going?
Well I've always been a very competitive person (for better or for worse) and the key for me was to find a weight loss competition. My wife had done a "chub club" group on facebook in the past and really found inspiration from other peoples' journey's and friendly competition. Lucky for me there were some friends of ours who were also feeling the pressure of growing older and wanting to make a change. My wife set up a new "chub club" and sent out the invitations. One by one friends from all over the country started joining and before I knew it we were up to almost 50 participants! The only catch was that on the first day everybody had to post a picture of themselves standing on a scale for the group to see, THE HORROR! I really didn’t want my friends to see how much weight I had packed on since high school, but in the end I knew that would only make the payoff that much sweeter! Did it ever, I started by just changing my diet, no more fast food runs for lunch and extra sugary coffee and donuts every morning.
The first week, BOOM 7 lbs. down. Then I thought hey I'm really onto something, why not add in some exercise? So I would use my lunch to walk around town and get some miles in, BOOM another 10 lbs. down! Then I thought why not walk when I get home from work with the wife and kids? Add in good meal choices and portion control and by the end of the month I had lost 34 lbs and was tied for 1st place in the competition.
At this point I was feeling so great that I knew I had to keep the momentum going so I walked faster and further every week. It was on one of my walks that I felt I couldn’t walk fast enough and broke into a jog, it wasn’t for very long but I was hooked, it felt euphoric so from then on it was jog/walk/jog every time I went out. Before I knew it was jogging almost a mile at a time before I had to walk again and catch my breath. I slowly increased that to a mile and half, then two or more.
This went on for 9 months, and with a continued change to healthy eating I had lost 85 lbs. total! Winter was upon us again at this point and it was getting uncomfortable to continue exercising outside, so I joined a gym and started using the treadmill everyday on my lunch hour. A few months later I had lost 100 lbs., and that’s where my weight loss journey has concluded. Since then I have slowly increased my running speed and distance to where I am now.
Finding the Central Maine Striders group on facebook has taken my running to the next level. I have run my only 2 races this year thanks to following this group and their passion for running. The Quarry Road Trails Racing series opened my eyes to trail running as I had never run any trails prior to my first race. The Doc and Mardie 5K race recently was my first in person race and now I am hooked!
I love what running continues to do for me physically and mentally and I am so thankful the members of the Central Maine Striders have accepted me into the fold. I look up to so many runners from the group and really enjoy the friendships I have made so far with hopefully many more to come.
Kate Scott moved to Maine 11 years ago and lives in Waterville with her daughter, Julia (14), and son, Ben (12). She is an epidemiologist (and, thanks to the pandemic, can now say that without having to explain it!) and works from home as a Director of Informatics for the Medicaid division of a large health insurance company.
I quit running, focused on school, and didn’t run regularly for a long time. Life happened. A cross country move, graduate school, a career, a marriage, a baby, another move, another baby, another move (to Maine) and eventually a divorce. I ran the occasional 5K or beach run while on vacation, but rarely much else. Then, in 2018, while watching my daughter run at a junior high school track meet, I was reminded of how fun running can be. The excitement of a track meet woke up my inner 16 year old and inspired me to train for a marathon!
A marathon had always been a goal of mine, but I never quite got past the initial planning stages. This time was different. I joined the Central Maine Striders, made a pact with my friend Cynthia to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October, printed out a marathon training plan and promptly set about planning my life around my weekly long run. It was a great summer and I enjoyed the journey of slowly adding more mileage, planning new running routes across bridges and over multiple town lines, and running the Quarry Road Summer Race Series. My fitness improved and running all those hills prepared me well for keeping up with my big sister during an allegedly non-competitive family reunion group run. (After which she ran another 10 miles – true story!) I also ran my first half marathon, the beautiful, but hilly, Triple Threat half marathon in Rockport, Massachusetts, which I finished in 1:53.
I continued to ease back into running with a few Striders pre-pandemic social runs and then, this summer the Quarry Road race series. I recruited my daughter’s friend, budding runner Beatrice Beale-Tate, to join me and we eventually met up with a few other Striders to run the staggered-start time trial races each week. Having a regular social event (and donuts!) to look forward to was a true bright spot in an otherwise uneventful summer. My race times were faster than two years ago, but I’ll admit it felt much harder! I was happy to complete the series without injury, and now also glad to cut back on the running a bit and take time to recover. I’m learning to listen to my aging body and while I may never run that marathon, I hope to continue to run as long as I am able.
Luckily, being part of the Central Maine Striders doesn’t require being able to run the farthest or the fastest. Recently, I’ve been participating in monthly Zoom meetings and helping to plan the Central Maine Striders first Fall Classic 10K on October 11th. We are putting the final touches on our race day plans and look forward to seeing many of you at the starting line!
We are sad to announce that a former member of the Central Maine Striders and inductee to the Maine Running Hall of Fame, Leona Clapper passed away earlier this summer.
From her obituary in the Bangor Daily News (Jul 5, 2020):
Leona E. Clapper
March 11, 1930 - June 28, 2020
BUCKSPORT - Leona E. Clapper, 90, passed away peacefully on June 28, 2020, surrounded by her loving family. She was born on March 11, 1930 in North Haven, Maine, to Clarence and Lena Stone. She spent most of her adult life in Bucksport, where she raised her twelve children with her husband of 67 years, Charles. She had a strong love for her family and friends. She was always smiling and ready to give a hug to all.
Leona was a competitive runner in the local community for many years. She completed a number of marathons. She was well known and admired among runners. In 1992, she was inducted into the Maine Running Hall of Fame.
Besides running, Leona also loved playing bridge and knitting. She and her husband frequently played in bridge groups. She knit numerous items for family and friends, and also donated many to her church's craft fair. She was a long time parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Bucksport.
In addition to her parents, Leona was predeceased by her sister Harriet Pendleton and her husband Danny Pendleton, by her sister Eleanor Jackson, by her daughter Barbara Thompson, and by her sons-in-law Richard Stevens, Richard Leach, and Richard Schroeder.
Leona is survived by her husband Charles, her sister Marjorie Pendleton and her husband James Pendleton, her brother-in-law Paul Jackson, her son Charles and his wife Alta, her daughter Leona Stevens, her daughter Catherine Leach, her daughter Theresa Clapper, her son Thomas Clapper, her son-in-law Thomas Thompson, her son Gerard Clapper and his wife Caskie, her son Joseph Clapper and his wife Renee, her daughter Margaret Jones and her husband Christopher, her daughter Mary Buck and her husband Bryan, her daughter Patricia Craig and her husband John, and her son Michael Clapper and his wife Regina. She is also survived by dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren.
There will be a private service for family only later in the summer.
There will be a celebration of life for family and friends at a later date.
Arrangements by Mitchell-Tweedie Funeral Home and cremation Services Bucksport.
And from her 1992 Maine Running Hall of Fame profile:
Unselfish Giving Has Made All the Difference
A native of North Haven, Leona Clapper, born March 11,1930, is one of the legendary Clapper family of Bucksport, perhaps the best-known running family in road racing from the late 1970s through the ‘90s. Leona and her husband, Charles, also an avid road-racer, raised twelve children, six of whom took up competitive running. The best-known was Gerry, who became one of the best college distance runners ever to run for the University of Maine.
Leona, a housewife and mother most of her life, started running when she was 48 in 1978, drawn into the sport from watching her children run. “We decided we wanted to do it too,” she said in 1994, a few months after she was inducted into the Maine Running Hall of Fame at its ceremony in Waterville. Leona was one of only a few women who competed in the 50-plus age bracket during the early 1980s, and she set many course records.
Her best career efforts include a 22:09 5k at age 54 in 1984; and a 1:18:52 10-miler at age 52 in 1982, when she also ran her fastest marathon, 3:50:33, in Orono. Among her best races were a 45:33 in the Great Pumpkin 10-K in 1981 at age 51; 22:39 in the Cranberry Island 5-K, 1982; 22:29 in the Terry Fox 5-K, 1984, age 54; and 72:14 15-K at Schoodic Point in 1984.
Through 1994 she had completed six marathons, her first at the Paul Bunyan Marathon in Orono in 1980, two years after she started running. A member of the Central Maine Striders, she was honored as Strider of the Year in 1986. Among her many great admirers over the years was Jerry Saint Amand, president of the Central Maine Striders from 1985 through 1990. Saint Amand wrote the following about one of his favorite people: “It’s easy to overlook this gentle, gray-haired lady, now in her late 60s, should you see her in a group,” said Saint Amand. “She has never been loud, always a simple person in dress and manner, and she would blush and poo-poo you should you recognize her as one of the leading lights of women’s running in Maine for many years.
“It was never her running times that made Bucksport’s Leona Clapper someone you’d notice at the top of state race results. It was instead her love of running, the surprise within herself at her love of age group competition, and her becoming the unofficial ‘mother’ of all women runners that made her a core person in Maine running. This is a woman who started late in life, for it was daughter Margaret and son Gerry who were usually listed among the leading male and female finishers in the early to mid-‘80s. Leona didn’t start showing up in results until her late 40s. At 49, she was finishing the Grand Willey 10-K in August of ’80 in 58:13. Not much to shout about you might think, until you find her at age 50 crossing the finish line in the well-known Benjamin’s 10-K in Bangor in November of 1981, in 45:48,” continued Saint Amand.
“It was her determination to improve that kept her busy, but it was her gracious manner and genuine smile that won the hearts of all Maine runners and officials who knew her. Leona and husband Charlie opened their hearts and their home to runners from all over the state after each summer’s Tour du Lac 10-Miler in Bucksport, a tradition that continues today. It has been Leona’s warm words of encouragement to countless younger female runners that inspired them to keep going as she herself set the example that older women can run distance from the popular 5-Ks to marathons! Voted by Maine’s second-largest running club, the Central Maine Striders, as their female Strider of the Year in 1986, Leona also shared the special Bruce Ellis Award with her husband Charlie in 1991 for their contributions to running over the years,” added Saint Amand. Saint Amand concluded: “I am only one of the people who Leona has quietly encouraged when things were not going well, and her acceptance of life and its ups and downs continues to inspire many of us. The Maine Running Hall of Fame has places for Maine’s fastest male and female runners, and for others who have had long, successful running careers. I truly believe there must also be a special place for those whose unselfish giving of their hearts and souls to running has made the difference for so many others, and Leona Clapper is the finest example I know of.”
Former Maine Running publisher Bob Booker feels much the same way. He wrote in one of his issues: “One day this spring, Tanya went to the mailbox and retrieved a brown shipping envelope addressed to Ethan. She opened it and found a beautiful, hand-knit sweater with the words, ‘Paul Bunyan Marathon’ across the back and the legendary lumberjack himself on the chest. A note was attached that simply said, ‘For the little fellow.’ Right out of the clear blue! No strings attached! That’s the kind of person Leona Clapper is. A woman who has dedicated her life to the concerns of others before her own needs and desires.”
The Central Maine Striders are proud to have several active members that have been with us since the early days of the club. "Catching Up With The Pack" is where we track some of them down and get some updates on what's going on in their life these days. Last month, we caught up with Gust Stringos. And this month, as I was gathering articles for our latest edition of "Running Backwards: A Jog Through the Strider Archives", I came across a couple excellent articles by Joanie Rhoda about her experience qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the age of 59, only to have her Boston experience marred by the 2013 bombing. Since our flashback to 2013 was getting to be a pretty long article, I decided to include her 2012 and 2013 marathon articles here, along with our "catching up" with her.
I believe the last time I wrote in the Club newsletter was in 2013 after running in the Boston Marathon. That was the race where the terrible bombing happened at the finish line. I had reached the 25 1/2 mile mark with less than a mile to go when the throngs of runners were stopped in their tracks and could not complete the race. It was a heartbreaking moment for me and I’m sure for thousands of other runners to not complete something we had aspired to and trained for, for months and even years.
However, I found a way I could mend the brokenness I felt over what happened. In the spring of 2014, my son Adam, who was flying home to Maine from Seattle where he lives, met me in Boston and together we ran the last mile of the marathon. It wasn’t quite the same as it would have been on race day – we had to dodge people on the sidewalks – but it did heal my heart somewhat and brought some closure to an event that started out so joyfully and ended so tragically.
As a longtime member of the Central Maine Striders (it was the Maine Road Ramblers back in the 70’s), I was asked to provide an update on my running life now. Unfortunately I had to stop running in 2016 due to arthritis in my second toe. With bone on bone, it caused quite a bit of pain. I believe the injury was caused by dropping a can on my toe years ago or by a horse that stepped on my foot a long time ago. Surely running wouldn’t have caused it! My second toe was the only joint affected. In 2017, I had an implant inserted into the toe joint which helped decrease the pain but not enough for me to feel safe stressing it by running. I miss running very much. It was part of my life for 45 years, and wasn’t something I ever thought I would stop doing. In the beginning after the surgery, whenever I saw a runner on the road, I’d feel a stabbing sensation in my heart because I wanted to be that runner in the worst way.
It’s been 3 years since the surgery, and I can look back on the years and races with happiness and pride. I had run in countless races and completed 9 marathons, including 6 miles of the Boston Marathon while 8 months pregnant in 1984. The Club was a source of unity for runners like me. The joy of running united all of us, and because of that, we were all friends.
I have found other ways to exercise that are just as satisfying (well almost) as running – walking, bicycling, and backpacking. I am a section-hiker of the Appalachian Trail and have back-packed from Georgia to Vermont – over 1,600 miles – over 15 years. My husband and I have about 600 miles to go over some of the toughest sections of the entire Trail. I consider it an adventure of a lifetime which will take the rest of my lifetime to complete.
I look forward to reading the stories of other Club members, especially the friends I had back in the early days.
From the March 2012 issue of The Interval:
From the July 2013 issue of The Interval:
From the August 2013 issue of The Interval:
"Meet Our Members" is where we get to know a little more about our fellow Striders -- who they are, why they run, and why they're part of the Central Maine Striders.
Alicia Wilcox is a mother of 13-year-old twins and an associate professor at Thomas College. She teaches forensic science and criminal justice classes. She also has a forensic consulting company and likes to garden, travel, and hike.
"I started running in the summer of 2014 at age 36. I was in the middle of my PhD program and expressed my feelings of stress to a friend. She was training with another woman for the Maine 1/2 marathon. They intended running a long run of 8 miles that weekend. I said I would join them for two or three miles. I ended up running the 8 miles with them and felt great. A few weeks later I applied for a cancellation spot in the 1/2 marathon and got in. I completed that 1/2 in under 2 hours with very little training.
I was hooked and running helped me through the stress of my PhD. I have since completed 16 half marathons, my most recent was the Shipyard Maine Coast Half, which was virtual, meaning, I ran by myself!
The women I used to run with don't run anymore. So this year I decided to join the Central Maine Striders to make new running friends. I participated in the January Thaw and ran with a small group one Sunday morning before the pandemic struck. I look forward to meeting new striders in the future. At the moment I am running the quarry road series and a 312K series Baxter to Baxter (from the state park to Baxter Brewing, in Lewiston).
I love the simplicity of running, all you need is a good pair of sneakers and some happy music."
Alicia, we're glad you're a Strider and hope to see you and get to know you at more Strider events in the future, whenever we're able to hold in-person events again.
The Central Maine Striders are proud to have several active members that have been with us since the early days of the club. One of those members, whose name you may recognize from our latest Running Backwards article, is Gust Stringos. Since he was featured under the "New Members" section back in 1983, we thought we'd reach out to him and get an update. Here's what he had to say:
I am 65 now, and live in the same house in Skowhegan! I did run the Maine Coast Marathon, with a time just under 3:05, not enough to qualify for Boston. I did continue my medical training, and have been a family practice physician in Skowhegan for 30+ years, and am currently Medical Director of Redington-Fairview Hospital here. I still enjoy gardening and Beekeeping. Two years ago, I tore a hamstring muscle in a skiing accident, and my competitive running has taken a big hit as a consequence, but I still try to get in 2-3 miles several times a week. And I am still proud to be a Central Maine Strider!
Gust, we're proud to have you as a longtime member as well. Thanks for giving us an update!
"Meet Our Members" is where we get to know a little more about our fellow Striders -- who they are, why they run, and why they're part of the Central Maine Striders.
In this edition of "Meet Our Members", Kelley Carter agreed to answer our questions over email. Kelley lives in Pittsfield and is one of the newer Central Maine Striders members.
One of the things that helped trigger my return to running was the fact that I turned 50 in 2019. Having the desire to do a marathon, I figured if I didn't do it now, I might not ever do it. Leading up to Sugarloaf, I was pretty certain that I'd be a "one-n-done" type of marathoner. Not fifteen minutes after completing that event, when I could barely walk from unspeakable pain I'd never felt before, my wife asked me if I'd ever do it again. Without hesitation, I responded with a firm "hell yeah!" I seem to have a mild obsession with it now, that I should probably seek counseling for! I'll never be a competitive runner, but for what it does for my mental state, I hope I never have to stop.
Did you manage to reach that Boston qualifying goal?
I have not been able to hit that BQ objective - YET! Although my PB at the half is pretty decent for my age at 1 hr 41 min, I've had a hard time translating that to the marathon distance. I've always seemed to show up at the starting line completely ready to go. However, I struggle to hold back on first half of the distance. As a consequence, I tend to hit that wall pretty hard. During the Maine Marathon in October, my mile splits were all sub-9 minutes, and even a couple of sub-8, through mile 20. The last 6 were barely sub-12!! Clearly, I need to find more patience for the first half!
Was there anyone who inspired you to start running (a friend, a family members, or a professional athlete)? I've never really thought about that, but I guess my favorite uncle first piqued my interest in running, when I saw him compete in a marathon in Austin, TX, way back in the late 70's. But that was just one of many crazy and adventurous things he's done in his life. I suppose I kinda follow in that same frame of mind. There are definitely a ton of other people that have inspired me along the way. Stories of real people doing really incredible stuff... running-related or not, surviving against insurmountable odds, or overcoming an impossible obstacle... give me strength and determination to push forward, even when I don't want to. I also try remember to be grateful for everything I have - that there are countless humans who suffer, but are still genuinely thankful for the very little blessings they do have - those people inspire me more than any.
Of the three marathons you ran in 2019, which was your favorite and why?
Of the three marathons I ran in 2019, each offered something very special for me, and all were definite favorites for very different reasons. Sugarloaf was special because it was my first and it was an absolute blast. The support from the organizers, to the participants, to the wacky crowds was super cool, and made the event a ton of fun. What wasn't fun was the cold, rainy weather! The Maine Marathon was epic for the dedicated supporters on the sidelines - the live bands, the hilarious signs, folks cheering you on by name - awesome. Pretty nice scenery too. Millinocket....what can I say about Millinocket? It is beyond words really. In my mind, that event is all about giving back and helping that little town come alive. It's less about running. However! The run is definitely part of the incredible experience, from Fireball shot stations, delicious soup, hot Gatorade, and so much more makes for a memorable experience with a huge desire to do it again. I should mention I learned that the speedy shoes can be left at home. This event is more like a slow, long run than a PR opportunity. Of the three marathons, if I could only choose one to run again, for now it would have to be Sugarloaf - just to prove to myself that I can beat the 4-hour mark!!! With assistance from gravity of course!
How did you find out about the Central Maine Striders and why did you join us? I first stumbled across Central Maine Striders on Facebook I think, and then again on Strava. Years ago, in Providence RI, I belonged to a corporate running group, as well as a local running club. I remember the camaraderie, support and energy that we all benefited from, just by training and participating in events. It was a big sense of community, and actually pushed me to train harder and more consistently that I probably would've otherwise done on my own. I decided to join Central Maine Striders one, because the group is relatively close to where I live, and two, because I want to be more active in the running community in general. I find running can be a pretty lonely endeavor - which isn't always bad and often times the one place where I can find peace in an otherwise chaotic world - but I miss sharing the joy of running with others. Non-runners just don't get it, do they? Lol.
What do you do when you're not running?
When I'm not running, I keep myself occupied with work and outdoor stuff. Backpacking in the back-country with my family is my all-time favorite recreational activity. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest with as many rich experiences as possible, in my opinion. Work is just a means to an end. Thankfully, my employer, Sebasticook Valley Federal Credit Union, gives me plenty of opportunity to do the things I enjoy the most.
Thanks for joining the Striders and for letting us get to know you better, Kelley. We're looking forward to see you at some of our events in the future (whenever that's allowed again).
Jordan Castillo moved to central Maine a couple years ago. The first time he attended a Central Maine Striders meeting was last December. By the end of that meeting, he had been voted in as the new club Vice President. In his short tenure as the VP, he's organized several group runs (and brunches), started the club's Instagram account, and generally been one of the more energetic and enthusiastic club members. One weekend at brunch this winter, he shared the story of how he started running. It was such a great story that I asked him if he could write it up for the club webpage and newsletter. So, just in case you weren't at that brunch, here's Jordan's running story:
With confidence and excitement, he responded, “Yeah! Your younger brother is going to join, too! C’mon! It’ll be fun!”
Slowly, but surely, my brother and I began to see the results of our training. Three miles started to feel like a warm-up distance. I began to feel like I could slow my breath enough to even carry a conversation while running. The first time I finished a 13.1-mile run, I felt like a straight-up champion. Many times, my brother and I would join my dad’s running club for long runs on the weekends. The runners carried such an encouraging, infectious energy. They loved seeing young people like my brother and I training for a such a big race, and it was always motivating to hear their stories about running accomplishments and the goals they were setting for themselves.
As the weeks passed, I came to believe that finishing a marathon was actually possible—I just had to stick with the training plan and know that my body was capable of carrying me further than I could ever imagine.
Fast-forward to race day. I had barely slept because I was so nervous and excited. With my green singlet and black running shorts, I joined the other runners in the starting area. It was a clear, sunny day and 6,000 of us were about to embark on this 26.2-mile journey along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior.
One of my strongest memories of the race is the feeling of camaraderie between my dad, my brother, and me. They always kept me focused on the goal, especially near the end when I felt more fatigued than ever and I began to seriously doubt whether I could finish. I also remember all the fans on the side of the road who encouraged us and handed out free water, Gatorade, salty snacks. Some of the fans even had water hoses to cool us off, and some were literally grilling on the side of the road and giving out hot dogs and hamburgers. There were so many moments during the race when I just felt rushes of gratitude and excitement from seeing all the fans. Crowd support makes such a huge difference!
Around mile 23, I started to hit “the wall.” Each step felt like it required ten times the normal amount of effort, and I felt all my muscles ache with each strike of the ground. I actually remember feeling angry and wondering why I was running the race in the first place. My brother was so good at reminding me that this race was possible and that we were going to make it to the end. I was in so much pain, so my brother’s encouragement made a huge difference.
Without a doubt, the final .2 miles of the race was the most agonizing, challenging part. I remember passing the 26th mile marker and thinking, “Wow! I’m done! We are at the finish line!” But the reality is that .2 miles is still .2 miles. It also didn’t help that there were still a few turns after mile 26, so I couldn’t even see the finish line until a minute or so after passing the final mile marker. When I eventually did see that finish line, though, I ran with everything I had.
“From Lakeville, Minnesota, we have Jordan and Spencer Castillo, about to finish their first Grandma’s Marathon!” The announcer was cheering us on, along with the hundreds of fans lining each side of the road. Those last few seconds of the race seemed to last an eternity, and I couldn’t believe that I was actually about to be done running those 26.2 miles. With a time of just under five hours, my brother and I crossed the finish line. My dad and brother were right there, and we grabbed each other with a sweaty, beautiful embrace. I felt a sudden rush of accomplishment, relief, pride, and overwhelming joy like I’d never felt before. At the age of 16, I had just finished my first marathon.
During the drive home, my Dad turned to my brother and me and blurted, “So, who’s ready for the next marathon?”
“Haha, are you kidding me? Too soon, Dad,” I answered. “Maybe in a month, you can ask me then.” And a few months later, my dad did, in fact, ask me about running Grandma’s Marathon again.
“Sure, why not,” I responded with a soft smile.
So, the next year, I ran my second Grandma’s Marathon. The year after that, I ran another marathon with my dad, and the year after that, too. Because of that initial nudge from my dad, I have been running long-distance consistently for 11 years now. I am proud to say that last month I completed my tenth marathon in Napa, California (with a PR of 3:29!), and in less than three months I will go back to where it all began to run Grandma’s Marathon again, this time with the intention of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Thanks for sharing your running story with us, Jordan! We love the energy and enthusiasm that you've brought to the club.
If any of you would like to be featured in a "Meet Our Members" article, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be more than happy to publish your running story and/or interview you.