Regan Arntzen: Thank you from runner No. 6, the ‘last guy’ to finish the Steamboat Marathon
Running a marathon at 62 after not running one for over 15 years seemed a daunting test at best, yet my daughter who is 30 years old thought it would be a great idea to do her first and have her old man accompany her through the experience on the run where he ran his first marathon many, many years ago.
I trained pretty well, did a great 22-mile run two weeks ago and flew through a 10-mile run last Sunday. I knew I was not going to win but felt pretty confident that five hours, 10 to 20 minutes would be certainly reachable.
I haven’t been sick in over two years, and then this past Thursday arrived with a full-on acute cold and low-grade fever that no matter what I did I couldn’t shake. I was stressed all the days prior about whether I should do the run, but I looked at my daughter, I thought of all the training I had done, and being more stubborn than bright, I ran.
The first 13 miles felt surprisingly good, and I was ahead of my projected pace, but miles 13 to 16 became increasingly tough, and then the body seemed to fall apart. It simply would not respond to my brain asking it to run. Around mile 18, I almost got in the van, as close as I ever have on any run in my life.
Why I am writing this is why I didn’t. I apologize, but it starts at 5:45 a.m. on Oak and Eighth.
We pile out of the car and a woman looks at the color of our bib, smiles, says a sincere “good morning” and points us to the full marathon bus. We have a great ride up, the driver being clear on where our bags should go and at what time they needed to be dropped off.
Once out of the bus, there are three very nice women serving out of four urns — “this one is hot water, and this one is regular coffee, and this one is regular coffee, and this last one is regular coffee.” Corny, I guess, but it made me laugh, and they laughed every time they repeated to the next runner.
And the race began, and what I found was this, people on the sidelines with bells ringing, voices yelling encouragement and an older gent sitting on a fence post who said “hi” to each runner as they passed by.
And every couple of miles were the nicest, most highly encouraging people I have ever met at a race. Kids, old folks — hollering out about Powerade, water, gummies, goo. There were folks with water guns and hoses. One stop had donut holes — I am not sure if they helped, but man they were great.
At one point I was tempted to stop at one station manned by a bunch of fun-loving wonderful people and have a beer, maybe some whiskey and certainly some bacon. I so wanted to quit, and yet with their encouragement and an ice cold non-alcoholic popsicle, I simply couldn’t.
The run took its toll on the people who use the road to get to recreation, work, shopping with it being down to one lane. One would have thought the people behind the wheels would have been more than peeved. Instead, they were smiling, tooting their horns and shouting encouragement. At mile 20, a young kid in the back seat of an SUV reached out to high five this incredibly slow-moving guy trying to finish.
There was a station, I think it was around 17, and there was this more than energetic group who cheered on the last place runner like I was winning. Some young kid yelled at me to charge up the hill — “you got this!” — and somehow, I did. Another young man poured water over my head, and a woman soaked my hat in cold water. They kept me going, eschewing the van. Heck, I am pretty sure I smiled.
Coming into town, as spent as I have ever been, people guiding traffic shouting words of encouragement, people wearing medals cheering me on. Some young man coming out to slap my hand — “man, I ran half as long as you, and I am beyond beat! Good job!”
Can’t lie, seeing my daughter on the sidelines and hearing her scream “Go Dad” with my wife yelling, “you can do this,” meant the world to me. And I somehow found some way to run the last 0.1 mile.
Wonderful idiots on a bar top cheered and hollered as I found the finish. They were great, but they probably didn’t know they made me cry. A person found a medal for my neck, another a cold towel. It was wonderful.
I just want to let every volunteer know, every kind spectator, everyone who cheered, that the old guy in the blue hat would have never found the finish line without you, and I can never express how much it meant to me and will always mean to me.
Regan Arntzen, No. 6
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