Grandma's Half Marathon - Race Bib Number 123 Rev 1 | Sports

Grandma's Half Marathon - Bib Number 123

The gun reported the start of the race but the runners were tightly packed — Greg, Kurt, Debbie, Chris and me, along with six thousand of our best friends jogged in place as it slowly thinned out. At the 3 mile mark I dropped back and to the right out of respect for the competitors. This was not unexpected as it had been some years since I ran a race or much at all for that matter. I was assigned race bib number 123. The lower numbers are normally assigned to elite runners. Mine was both a low number and in numerical order. At about mile five I started to overtake two girls with hand painted running shirts, each a canvas — one of a turtle and the other a snail. It was Gail the Snail and Myrtle the Turtle. I passed them on the left with a nod and an opened hand wave. At mile 6 they passed me on the right with a nod and an opened hand wave, We vied for position for the next few miles — now me, now them, now me, now them. So I ran on. At mile 8 two race officials blocked my way holding signs in one hand that read 14 MINUTE RULE IN EFFECT and clippers in the other. "Sir you violated the 14 Minute Rule by failing to maintain a 14 minute mile please stand still while we cut the timing chip off of your shoe.” There I was, de-chipped right there on the shores of Lake Superior, somewhere at mile eight, in front of the whole world and my mother and father in heaven … it mattered less to me because this race was not about computer chips anymore. It was about Gail the Snail and Myrtle the Turtle. So I ran on. The girls and I continued to vie for position as the nods turned to sneers and the open hand waves to fists. Then at about mile 12 I made my decision. I was not going to lose this race to a turtle and a snail. Struggling, I pulled ahead, just enough so I could look back over my shoulder. My eyes locked onto theirs and theirs on mine. I tightened my lips and mustered my most menacing sneer, and I gave it to them. Looking deep into myself I somehow found strength I did not know I had and pulled ahead. Now the only things that existed in my world were the sound of my foot falls … my breathing, rhythmic, in and out, in and out, in and out — hypnotic — familiar. Next there was only my breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out. I was floating, just above the ground, with only the wind at my back propelling me forward. I was in my happy place, I had found my stride at mile

12 ! Just yards from the finish line the spectators in the bleachers began cheering. I looked to my right to see the first of the full Marathoners overtaking me, a group of 3 Kenyans, tightly spaced, followed by 2 on my left. I had been lapped by the full Marathon runners who had started over 13 miles further than I, and hours later… but It mattered less. So I ran on. For a brief few moments I was running with world class runners — the elite runners, and from the bleachers, again, "Go 123 ! — Go 123 !" Stretching my arms to the sky (tipped by my fingers) symbolizing "V" for victory, I crossed the finish line just strides behind the Kenyans. Though I looked and looked, I did not see Gail the Snail and Myrtle the Turtle at the post race activities. Laying low I supposed until next year.

Notes: Except for the notes section and some minor editing this short story was written (not transcribed) as I was running. Inexplicability in the fall of the same year I registered for and ran the Rice Lake Classic and was again assigned the race bib number 123.

Duluth area native Garry Bjorklund is a 1976 Olympian and a 1977 and 1980 champion of Grandma's Marathon. He has been instrumental in the development of running throughout Minnesota. In 1991, the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon was created to recognize his contributions to long distance running. The name of the race I ran is often obscured by common language: “Are you going to run Grandmaʼs? No, I am going to run the half.” The credit for the half marathonʼs popularity belongs to Garry Bjorklund. Thank you, Garry. Gail & Myrtle (and you know who you are), please contact me — I think weʼd all enjoy the laugh.

Copyright Tim Murray 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 key words Grandmaʼs Half Marathon Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

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