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Published May 21, 2012, 08:34 AM

Marathon motivation

TOWNER, N.D. — If my first two marathons were my response to an early mid-life crisis, then this marathon I’m about to run at the age of 41 would be a more typically timed mid-life indulgence. Granted, a mid-life marathon is a lot cheaper than a hot little sports car; more family friendly than a divorce and a girlfriend half my age; and healthier than most any other physical, mental or chemical addiction you can name.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — If my first two marathons were my response to an early mid-life crisis, then this marathon I’m about to run at the age of 41 would be a more typically timed mid-life indulgence. Granted, a mid-life marathon is a lot cheaper than a hot little sports car; more family friendly than a divorce and a girlfriend half my age; and healthier than most any other physical, mental or chemical addiction you can name.

When you read this column, the race will have been run, and I’ll have hopefully completed my third go round with the crazy idea of running 26.2 miles on my own two feet. I’ll have been one of the finishers of the Fargo (N.D.) Marathon on its flat, fast course as it is called. It’ll most certainly be flat, laid out on the level Red River Valley, but I’m not sure how fast it’ll be for me, no matter how flat.

I got in some training this winter, not a lot, but a passable number of regular short and long runs on the gravel roads of Gorman and Smokey Lake Townships. Training was easy enough this winter with so little snow, and pretty mild temperatures, relatively speaking.

As they say, “this ain’t my first rodeo,” or, in this case, my first marathon.

After running the Chicago and New York City marathons 11 and 12 years ago, I took a little time off from running to get married and get our three children through diapers and toddlerhood. With our youngest turning four this summer, it seemed like it was time to lace the tennis shoes back up.

I don’t remember being quite so sore back in 2001. Maybe I had better tennis shoes back then. Or better ankles, knees, tendons, muscles, lungs and other assorted pieces and parts that propel.

Tale of three runners

Writing this one day ahead of the big race, I’m about as ready as I’m going to be. Mentally, I feel motivated by the marathon story of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who ran 26 miles 385 yards from the Battle of Marathon to tell the folks in Athens that they had just defeated the Persians. It’s a great running story except for the fact that the fleet-footed Pheidippides collapsed and died after his run. Maybe that’s not quite the inspiration I need.

Physically, another old Greek story might tell the tale — the story of Achilles, handsome hero of the Trojan war. As a warrior, he was said to be invulnerable except for that one little, bitty spot on his heel. I’ve been nursing my Achilles tendon since a little wreck I had with a ladder. No, I wasn’t scaling the gates of Troy with the faulty ladder, just building the kids a treehouse.

One runner, dead from exhaustion, or a warrior, killed by one small weakness — the Greeks had good stories, but were pretty darn depressing. Real bummers if you’re looking for positive inspiration.

Being the Fargo Marathon is in the heart of Norwegian immigrant country, and the race is just two days after Syttende mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, I should forget the Greeks and find an inspirational tale of Norwegian endurance to carry me through the day.

How about this, a new Norwegian folk tale. There once was a middle-aged Norwegian runner with an Irish first name and an English last name, but really he was Norsk, a Halling and a Gudbrandsdaler. He entered the Fargo Marathon knowing he would have many kinfolk from the fjords of his homeland cheering him on. He didn’t collapse, he didn’t rupture his Achilles. He finished and ate a big steak. The end.

We’ll see if that new Nordic tale is retold around the campfires a thousand years from now.

Editor’s Note: Ryan Taylor welcomes comments about his column. He can be reached at 1363 54th St. N.E., Towner, N.D. 58788; email: cowlogic@ndak.net. Taylor, who ranches near Towner, is a columnist for Agweek.

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