32 years running…

Posted on Aug 11, 2023, by

By: Fred Umland

It’s a small club. And every year, it gets a little smaller. But that means, every year, I’m also a little prouder to be a part of it.

I’m talking about those of us who have run the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Presented by Miron Construction for each of its 32 years.

When I started running in high school, I enjoyed track but never took it seriously. When my dad developed health issues in his 50s, I knew it was time to focus on something that could help me avoid the same fate. I ran casually until the first Community First Fox Cities Marathon was announced. A friend convinced me to sign-up and, though I wasn’t even sure how to run a full marathon, I decided to give it a shot.

I finished the race but knew I didn’t run as well as I could. So, I had to do it again and again, just for me. The Community First Fox Cities Marathon is the only full marathon I’ve completed, and the training keeps me active and challenges me mentally and physically. I thought I would only run until I was 60 years old. Then 60 hit and I wasn’t done. So, I thought, “Okay, I’ll run until I’m 65.” Well, now I figure I might as well run until I’m 75 years old, although, after 32 years of marathons, the distance gets more difficult each year.

I’ve never been the fastest on the course. Even in my best year, my time was around 3 hours and 50 minutes. My goal now is to complete the distance no matter how long it takes. Last year, I even signed up to complete it virtually to ensure I could finish within the time limits and walked a good portion of it due to injury. Each year, the marathon gives me such a sense of accomplishment.

I have some very fond memories of my time running the Community First Fox Cities Marathon. One year, a weather cancelation led to receiving a mid-race massage and a leisurely finish. Another year, I lead the pack for five miles when I started with a different pace group, and the years my son joined me for the final stretch brought me memories I’ll hold dear for the rest of my life. Every year, without fail, there is amazing community support along the route. I love to see the signs everywhere and neighbors who cheer us on or start their sprinklers on hot days. It’s truly a special day that I look forward to every year.

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