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Willmar Notebook: Breathing in the Boston spirit

Tribune file photo Eric Januszewski, left, on his way to a first-place finish in the Red Beard 5K on March 15.

So, what was it like to run Boston, on Monday — one year after?

In a word, “Phenomenal.”

This reporter phoned up Beth Van Gulijk of rural New London for a description of the long run from Hopkinton to downtown on Patriot’s Day.

“Why me?” she wanted to know. There are faster runners in the small group of local runners who made the 118th running, she points out.

No special reason. I’d never met her. It’s just that her last name (pronounced who-like) consistently comes up in area races among the leaders and her age (48) made her a real trooper in my mind.

She told me this was her “24th or 25th” marathon, starting with Duluth in 2004, and her second Boston, the other in 2010.

At the starting area, “There was a lot of security, a lot of police. You felt protected, comfortable. The Boston course is so tough; there are hardly any flat stages. It’s so up and down. Everyone is so pumped. It’s exciting. There were 36,000 of us and spectators all the way. It was such a special feeling.

“The first four miles are downhill. And you’re going through these little villages and neighborhoods, like New London. They are out there cheering. Little kids are giving you high-5s. People are saying ‘Thanks for coming.’ Passing Wellesley College the Wellesley Girls come out and there’s just this constant roar. The male runners have to get a ‘Wellesley kiss’ that leaves a lipstick mark.”

Quite by happenstance four miles in, she found Roger Heinen, 53, also of New London, They linked up for the rest of the race. Admittedly, both were not in peak form due to injury, a fact Beth downplayed.

“There were runners who were blind, autistic and one lady was five-months pregnant wearing a sign that said “Pass with Care” and runners injured in the blast now wearing prosthetics. I felt so lucky to be part of this. It was once in a lifetime.”

The legs grow tired as the miles mount. They sometimes walked but the encouragement of those along the route never lessened.

After scaling the toughest climbs at Newton, including Heartbreak Hill at 20½ miles, the runners descend into the heart of the city.

“You just muddle through. The people are constant. We were still walking a bit but I was floating on air.”

Beth timed out a 4:16.49 with Roger 35 later, each time well above their qualifying time. Beth had run a 3:33 to qualify at the Lake Wobegon Marathon.

Making the day extra special was sharing it with her fellow area runners. Besides Roger, that included Tom Taunton (sixth straight Boston), Kimberly Brekke, Kristine Fladeboe Duininck, Tracy Sik and Thomas Ost.

The group had set its sights on all qualifying for the 2014 Boston even before the tragic deaths and injuries near the finish of the 2013 race.

(Biographically, Beth (Burgemeier) grew up on the family farm south of Kandiyohi and graduated from Willmar in 1983. She began running after the birth of her second child in 2000 to lose weight and after dropping 50 pounds has kept at it, often on a treadmill the past winter. Her husband Ernst is a native of Holland.)

Among the fastest

Eric Januszewski, 26, of rural Grove City ran his third marathon on Monday. He was the 674th finisher among just under the 36,000 who started, and the 11th fastest of some 600 Minnesotans.

I got in touch with Eric while he was on break Wednesday morning. He works, and also lives in a rented home, at a Jennie-O brooder farm near Mannanah.

“I ran a little in college (NDSU) just to stay in shape but not so much later until I moved home, along with my sisters, when my mom Judy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May, 2011. I just started running to stay busy, relieve stress, and we formed a Team Judy, along with dad. Mom died in April, 2012.”

The Pelican Rapids native qualified for Boston in his first marathon, running a 2:59 at Fargo last May. He’s already eligible for Boston 2015 after posting a 2:51 at the Twin Cities last October.

He ran here March 15 winning the Red Beard 7k.


Sam Haagenson, a 2000 NLS graduate, ran the 100-mile Zion Ultra-Marathon on April 4. He told me he ran Wildcats’ track and cross-country until his sophomore year, when he quit for health-related reasons.

“I was a decent runner at the time, but certainly not spectacular,” he stated in an email, responding to my request for information.

The Zion 100 marked one year to the week of starting to run again after those high-school years.

He ran a 50k in Colorado last October, placing 6 of 180. He ran a 52-mile race (a double-marathon) in January through the Arizona desert and mountains, placing first in 8 hours and six minutes.

The Zion 100 had about 200 starters and the website shows 117 finishing. Sam placed 16th in 23:34. The race started in the village of Virgin, just outside the boundary of Zion National Park.

“It was a technical course with very tough terrain and about 18,000 feet of vertical gain, so not really comparable to running the same distance on roads. As this was my first 100-mile run, my goal was just to finish but I felt I gave my best effort. There was definitely no sleeping involved. I’d take short breaks to re-supply with water and fuel, but never for long. I don’t think I sat down the entire race.”

The 31-year-old architect, who lives in Denver, said he plans to build on the Zion 100 experience to conquer the Black Hills 100, from Sturgis, in late June and, the Run Rabbit Run 100 at Steamboat Springs, Colo., in September.

Gopher Road Trip comes here, R. Falls

The Gopher Road Trip Chalk Talk with U of M head coaches and Athletic Director Norwood Teague stops at Willmar on May 20 and Redwood Falls June 3.

Dean Johnson, who sits on the Board of Regents, told me Gopher fans can expect to meet Jerry Kill, new basketball coach Marlene Stollings and men’s hockey coach Mike Lucia, among others. Eleven coaches are listed on the itinerary page, but like the Twins Winter Caravan, only a “select” few appear at each of the nine stops around Minnesota.

The Willmar event, which includes complimentary lunch buffet, starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Willmar American Legion Post 167.

Parks and recreation

Good to see the city moving forward on a comprehensive park plan. After all, isn’t this the City of (neighborhood) Parks.

Except, where is the dog park? Can’t believe the city doesn’t have one yet. Robbins Island is an ideal location for a fenced location with a water gate.

Sartell, a sister city in the Central Lakes Conference, is investing close to $9 million in a new park complex built on a one-time golf course. According to the St. Cloud Times, the Pinecone Central Park will include four youth baseball fields, six multi-purpose fields (soccer), a road and support buildings. Future plans outline a full-size baseball field, cross-country trails and a Fido park. A citizens’ group is out to fundraise $80,000 for fencing for the dog park.

The city committed $6.5 million to the park for land purchase and improvements but private citizens are involved in fundraising projects to supplement the cost through the Pinecone Central Park Initiative.

Fighting for a cause

New London-Spicer graduate Alexa Score, a cancer survivor, has much to be thankful for. The Florida resident and part-time professional wakeboarder is striving daily to show her gratefulness.

Alexa, 24 next week, was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia in high school. She attributes her successful recovery to Gleevec, a drug new at the time. The key here is that the drug was developed by a researcher who was funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Alexa has been nominated as the North & Central Florida Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year. Her webpage is requesting donations to support LLS on her behalf. Each dollar counts as a vote and the leader is named Man or Woman of the Year.

Her father, Dick, tells me Alexa is very involved in the Orlando area as a LLS advocate. She regularly visits young patients afflicted by blood cancer offering encouragement and proof that an active lifestyle is obtainable.

At her website you may see familiar names supporting the cause of the University of Central Florida graduate. I’ve tried it and this email works:

On the fly

n CLC Performers of the Week include three Willmar athletes, recognized for previous accomplishments since last week was a virtual wash-out for events: No. 1 singles Isaac Yoakum, boys tennis; sprinter and long jumper Chris Cunningham, boys track and field; and distance runner Kayla Rudie, girls track and field.

n Riley Bates, son of Willmar graduate and St. Cloud Tech tennis coach Paul Bates, will attend St. Cloud State and play football. By the time he graduates this spring, Riley will have earned nine CLC All-Conference designations in football (at linebacker), hockey (center) and tennis (No. 1 since ninth grade). The Cardinals play today at Tech, which is favored to win a fifth straight conference championship.

n Akron right-fielder Jordan Smith threw out a Thunder runner at home but went 0-for-3 with a walk and his average dipped to .216 Tuesday in a 4-3 loss at Trenton, N.J.

n The West Central Broncos, an amateur football team, opens at Duluth vs. the Wolfpack on May 3. Last Saturday they scrimmaged at the Winona Ruff Rivers. RB Tarell McDuffie rushed for 113 yards, QB Brandon King ran for 56 more and threw a TD pass to Brian Burwell, who also made two interceptions.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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