About 9,300 runners from their teens to their 80s will tackle the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, and though it’s the same 26.2 miles, age makes that challenge look very different. It might be their first marathon or their 90th, a one-and-done or one more in a pursuit with no finish line in sight. For some, it’s a time to look inward; for others, a moving social event. How they see the marathon drives how they prepare for it. Veterans tend to have their training dialed-in, carefully attending to the details that keep their high-mileage chassis on the road; the young are able to get by on a long run and race-day adrenaline. To highlight age-related differences, we talked to four marathoners across the age spectrum about why they’re running, and how they plan to get it done Sunday.
Micah Hovland 19, Maple Grove, Full-time student
Why run the marathon? I ran my first marathon — Twin Cities — when I was 14, the youngest runner participating in 2013. My parents are both runners, and watching my dad run the marathon, I wanted to see if I could do it. The sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. Running is so pure. I just love it. I love that it’s simple but hard; I love that it gives me more energy and helps me focus; I love that it’s me vs. myself. Training gives me time to think about school or relationships or whatever project I’m working on. I’m a nonemotional person, but there’s something emotional about thousands of people running together, to see if we can do it.
Coach/training plan: I’m always running, but I start seriously training about 20 weeks out.
Peak miles/week: 27. One long run and two others of 3 or 4 miles.
Longest run: 20 miles
Key workout: Once my long run gets past 15 miles, I’m confident I can finish. I don’t train that much, but I do skateboarding, wakeboarding and parkour, too.
Expected pace/finish time: 7:45 minutes per mile. I think that’s in the 3:20 range. (He ran 4:24 last year.)
Race day fuel: I eat at Chipotle at 10 the night before: a steak burrito with everything on it. Race day, I have a Clif Bar in the morning. I carry these running jelly beans that have electrolytes and caffeine, and grab Powerade and water at every aid station.
Secret weapon: When it gets hard, I think about my training and how many hours I’ve put in, and what a blessing it is that I can run 26 miles. Sometimes I take out my phone and go on Instagram.
• • •
30, St. Paul, Sales and project management for flooring company
Why run the marathon? I was never an athletic person. I did cross-country skiing in high school and absolutely hated it. But my best friend and I signed up for a charity 5K. Then we decided to do one every month. That led to Grandma’s Half [Marathon]. Then I started this 30 Before 30 list — weird things, like learning to flambé — to keep me motivated and hold myself accountable. Running a marathon ended up on that list. I’ve never considered myself a runner, I don’t really enjoy it, but I’m one of the most stubborn people you’ll ever meet. I’m so impressed with myself, I cry at the start of every race because I’m so happy. But I don’t see myself running another marathon.
Coach/training plan: I found an article online, but I haven’t been following that to a T.
Peak miles per week: 28. I’m probably not doing this in a right way. I go to cardio class four days a week, and only run two or three days a week.
Longest run: 22 miles
Key workout: Cardio class, no question. It keeps my attention. There’s this community that holds you accountable, and the instructors at the YMCA are fantastic.
Expected pace/finish time: About 9:35 minutes per mile; 4:15 or so.
Race day fuel: I don’t like to stop at water stations, so I run with water and this drink that’s basically adult Pedialyte.
Secret weapon: There will be 20 people out watching me; they’re the reason I’ll finish. I’ll just keep running to see the next person, and the next.
• • •
53, Richfield, Richfield School District, head cross-country coach, assistant track coach
Why run marathons? There were five boys in my family, all runners. I’m running in memory of my brother Terry, who was killed in 1978. I watched my brother Tom run the first Twin Cities Marathon in 1982. I was too young. I was a high school senior, running cross-country for Hastings. I ran my first Twin Cities in 1983, and have done every one since then. I’ve completed 92 marathons. I like the camaraderie among runners. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a 2:15 marathon, 4:15, or 6:15 — the accomplishment of finishing 26 miles, 385 yards is an awesome feeling.
Coach/training plan: It’s the same plan I do for most marathons.
Peak miles/week: 50
Longest run: 21-22 miles
Key workout: Two weeks out, I do a five-hour endurance run. I just put on my headphones, drop the pace nice and slow, and keep moving. It’s all about preparing to be on my feet for four or five hours.
Expected pace/finish time: Between 4:00 and 4:30. To me, it’s not about time, it’s about finishing without getting hurt.
Race day fuel: In the morning, I have a banana and yogurt. I get water at the aid stations. At the 19-mile mark, my daughter gives me a Diet Coke, and farther along Summit, two friends give me Tootsie Rolls.
Secret weapon: I couldn’t do it without my supporting cast, especially my daughter. My cross-country team volunteers at the 9-mile aid station; I have friends at 15; my daughter is at mile 11, 19, and the finish; and my buddies will be at miles 21 and 22.
• • •
72, St. Louis Park, Public relations consultant, founder of elite training group Team USA Minnesota
Why run marathons? The only sport for girls in my high school was half-court basketball. I went the band route. I graduated from high school in 1964, and college in 1968, well before Title IX. In 1982, I was working for FirstBank, the sponsor of a big 10K, and had to write a story about the race, so I took up running. I finished the race in under 60 minutes and thought, “This is why people like sports!” You can be competitive, but you’re competing against yourself. It’s all up to you — the satisfaction of achieving a goal, and sometimes, disappointment. That year, I volunteered at a water stop in the inaugural Twin Cities Marathon. It was so powerful to see all those people running, I was inspired. I went from dabbling in a 10K to a marathon in my first year of running. This Twin Cities will be my 44th marathon, and I still tear up when I hear all these people cheering.
Coach/training plan: When I first started running, I joined the ALARC Running Club. Most training plans were geared toward guys in the 1980s.
Longest run: 18-20 one week before.
Peak miles/week: Never more than 40.
Key workout: Long run and midweek 9-miler
Expected pace/finish time: 4:40-4:45 would be a good day.
Race day fuel: I drink water and carry half a Clif Bar and nibble on that. In general, I eat a good diet with plenty of protein. I’m not big on carbos.
Secret weapon: Running a marathon is 60 percent mental. I withdraw from people the day before the race to focus on myself. I break the race down into 30-minute increments, which for me, is about 3 miles. It goes faster than thinking about every mile. The most challenging part for me is 15 to 19 miles. That’s when I use my mantra: If not now, when? All the work I put in, this is the time to collect.
Sarah Barker is a freelance writer from St. Paul.