Northern Marathon Challenge 2001 #1

By Rob McWilliam and Larry Duguay

Before focusing on this week’s topic we would beg your indulgence while we pause to acknowledge the efforts of Debbie Menzies and Sue Lucas in completing this year’s Boston Marathon.

As usual after the annual running of the Boston Marathon the papers carry wire stories that provide information on the elite runners. Some years they may even refer to the number of runners, but that is about all the attention the thousands of participants will receive. However, the million or so Boston fans recognize that everyone who is running the marathon is a winner, and they supply as much support to the back of the pack runners as they do the front runners. In fact the crowd support can get overwhelming at times when passing special sites like Wellesley Women’s College with its screaming students, or the fans from the Red Sox ball game who crowd out on to the road near Fenway Park to cheer for the runners. Imagine the thrill a ‘middle of the pack’ runners gets when taking an orange slice or sip of water from one of the many young children, to have that child jump up and down in excitement because a marathoner took her offering. The Boston Marathon, with its 104 years of tradition and incredible fan support, is the type of thrill that all runners want to experience at least once. So this year we were delighted to see that Sue and Debbie have become part of that great tradition. Our congratulations to Debbie Menzies; who finished in 3:52.18 and Sue Lucas; with a 4:04.52.

Their Boston performances reminds me of an old marathon joke (or maybe its really a joke told by old marathoners). The setting is the finish line of a marathon where a novice marathoner is hobbling away. A grizzled old marathoner looks at him and says "You’ll feel a lot worse tomorrow," he pauses and then says, "but the really bad news is that in about 3 days you are going to think you had fun today."

One of the less well known aspects of marathon training is dealing with ìpost marathon depressionî. After the initial euphoria wears off, and the body has started to heal, there is often a sense of let down. This depression often lasts until you have selected your next running goal. Having a target that you can aim for is often the antidote that gets the runner back in a positive frame of mind after you’ve hung up that marathon finisher’s medal and have added the race t-shirt to the pile you already have from other races.

This year for endorphin junkies who are trying to answer the "what’s next?" question there is something new for you to get excited about. When Ken Sylvestre and Rob McWilliam were participating in the 2000 Austin Marathon they were curious about the Texas Marathon Challenge shirts that a number of runners where wearing. While chatting with the wearers they were advised that the Texas Marathon Challenge was the dream child (or nightmare) of Roger Soler, one of Texas’ more extreme runners. To qualify all you had to do was run 5 marathons in Texas. Oh yeah, all in the same year!

While 5 trips a year to Texas would have pushed the frequent flyer points beyond the point of no return the concept of a Marathon Challenge series lingered. With the offer of technical advise from Roger Soler, and generous support from Foothills Pipelines, and the support of the organizing committees of a number of northern events the concept of a Northern Marathon Challenge Series has emerged.

Give our limited running season, and sparse population, we aren’t going to try to replicate all aspects of the Texas Challenge. But we do believe that the Challenge we are proposing will be big enough that those that complete it will wear their Northern Marathon Challenge vest with pride.

The Northern Marathon Challenge requires that the runner complete 3 marathons in 2 jurisdictions (Alaska/Yukon) in one season. The eligible events are: The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon, Anchorage, June 23; Mayo Midnight Marathon, Mayo, June 23; Yukon River Trail Marathon, Whitehorse, August 5; Humpy’s Classic Marathon, Anchorage, August 19; and the Equinox Marathon, Fairbanks, September 22. If you complete 3 of these events, ensuring that at least one involves leaving your home jurisdiction; and you get the event organizers to certify your participation you will be awarded a vest that comes with major bragging rights. While there is a minor cost ($7.50 Canadian) to cover some of the administrative costs the event organizers have tried to keep the cost as low as possible. We know that you will be investing a significant amount of ‘sweat equity’ in your quest. But look on the bright side: at least you won’t have to worry about your next running goal for the whole season.

We will be running another article on how to do multiple marathons without risking physical breakdown, but if you are interested there is one fundamental tip that Roger Soler provided to the Texas participants. Look at the Challenge as an event itself rather than as separate marathons. As he said, "You cannot go all out in any of these races and then expect to perform again three or four weeks later." If the concept of a Challenge Series has you intrigued please contact the organizers via the Yukon River Trail web site for more details.