Mark's Badgerland Blog


Greetings from my hometown of Saxon, WI! I'm going to write about running events throughout Wisconsin and the Western U.P. of Michigan; many of these events you may have never heard of but aren't too far away from the Twin Ports. I look forward to share my thoughts and experiences with you as both a recreational runner and race organizer.

May 24, 2013: Boston Marathon Tributes and Suicide Awarness Walk


This will be my first blog entry since last Thanksgiving, but I think I have some appropriate topics to discuss for this Memorial Day weekend. Like everyone else throughout this country, I was deeply stunned and disturbed when I had first heard about the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15. I had just returned from work when I turned on the radio and heard the voice of former CBS sportscaster Pat O'Brien mentioning about an explosion at the marathon finish line. I then turned on my television to ESPN and saw an empty finish line with police barricades erected. I then turned to the CBS affiliate out of Green Bay and saw the replay of the explosions. After seeing the replay of the first explosion, I just knew at that moment that the explosion was no accident.


After calling a co-worker and my mother to let them know the news, I immediately began thinking of several friends who were running or working at Boston that day, including fellow blogger Sam, longtime U.P. Of Michigan runners Donna Gering of Ironwood and Bill Sved of Marquette, top Midwest elite runner Jason Ryf of Oshkosh (who finished in the top 50), Cellcom Green Bay Marathon Race Director Sean Ryan, and many fellow members of the Fox Cities PaceSetters running club. Fortunately, I gradually got word that all of the fore-mentioned were safe, although I had a few anxious moments that night.


A day or two after the bombings, I heard the Oshkosh Half Marathon and 5K and the Fleet Feet Running Store out of Appleton were going to host separate tributes for the Boston Marathon victims. The first tribute was held moments before the start of Oshkosh event on Sunday, April 21. Approximately 20 to 30 Wisconsin runners who ran the Boston Marathon stood at the start line while Appleton's Steve Wieckert told the Oshkosh crowd, “As a runner, I have to tell you, we are not daunted. We are going to continue running, in groups and events like this. We're going to be defiant to the bad guys. The bad guys will not win. We will stand united and we will run united and that's just the way it is.”


Oshkosh Half Marathon Race Director Gloria West told the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper, “I know a lot of Boston Marathoners in talking to them this week, they've been very grief stricken and it's touched them in a personal way. It's important to have them here so others can talk and we can share together.”


On the next night, Monday, April 22, I decided to participate at the Boston Marathon tribute hosted by Fleet Feet Running Store at the Appleton Memorial Park. I bought a T-shirt with the wording “Runners for Boston” on it and made a separate donation to the “One Fund Boston.” For this one-time event, there were routes of 1.5 and 4 miles. The event was very well attended both by participants and media members. All four Green Bay television stations, one Appleton radio station, and the Appleton Post-Crescent newspaper covered the event, and approximately 200 runners and walkers participated. Event organizers encouraged everyone to wear Boston Marathon clothing. Since I never ran Boston, I did what I thought was the next best thing: I wore my finisher's shirt from the 1993 Grandma's Marathon (my first marathon since 1979 and first of 26 subsequent marathons). I am very proud to say the shirt still fits! I walked the 1.5 mile course with longtime friend and fellow PaceSetters member Ron Goudreau.


On Saturday, April 27, I attended the 3rd Annual Chester Marcol 5K Suicide Awareness Walk held at Oshkosh North high school. For those of you who don't know who he is, Marcol was an All-Pro placekicker for the Green Bay Packers from 1972 to 1980. Marcol was among the first “soccer-style” kickers in the NFL and elected to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1987. Unfortunately, Marcol also fought many personal demons in his life including alcoholism, drug abuse, a divorce, and, eventually, a failed suicide attempt in 1986. Fortunately, he has turned his life around and is now a certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor in Dollar Bay, MI. After I registered for the event, I shook hands with Marcol and bought his book “Alive and Kicking.” After signing my book, he joked to me about the snowy weather in Dollar Day, “I told my wife to leave the lawnmower in the garage until June!”


Marcol sums up what the event is all about in his book by writing, “On April 30, 2011, I was honored to be the keynote speaker for the first annual Sigma Delta Chi – Chester Marcol 5K Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk in Oshkosh, WI. . .The walk raises awareness about bullying, depression, mental illness, and suicide in the Fox Valley area, and I'll go back as long as the event exists and they want me.”


I couldn't say enough about the involvement of all the sponsors and volunteers. Members of Julie's School of Dance held signs along the course explaining the warning signals of suicide and other pertinent information in suicide prevention. There had to be about at least 50 door prizes on display, and I was lucky to win one of them (a basket of six bags of popcorn with a $20 gift certificate). After I finished the walk, a volunteer came up to me with a T-shirt after initially running out. The people who spoke before the walk were brief but very much to the point with their messages. All participants were given a balloon before the walk that eventually was released at the start line. I even talked to people along the course and at the finish line who lost loved ones. Over 500 people participated in this very important event, and I think I learned more, but still not enough, about suicide awareness.


Finally, although this blog had a more sober tone to it than previous ones, running events have a way to unite people even under the most stressful or painful of circumstances and give them a well-needed, if only temporary, diversion. I want to wish everyone at Northland Runner a very happy holiday weekend, and please remember those loved ones who are no longer among us as we attend the many great events that are held this Memorial Day weekend.

November 22, 2012: Ironwood Thanksgiving Run - A Tradition That Never Gets Tired


Hey Mark! When are you going to write your next blog for Northland Runner?”


Those words came this morning from retired Bessemer, MI, teacher and longtime friend Carl Gregas of Ironwood, MI. He asked that question while we were warming up at the Wil and Marianne Andresen house for their annual impromptu Thanksgiving run/walk. I was kind of surprised that was the greeting I got from him, but it made me appreciate that people do read, and even enjoy, my blog.


I told him, “Carl, I'll get one going sometime today before dinner.” Fortunately, I thought about a subject to write about for the last couple of days, and I think I found a winner.


To backtrack, I want to wish everyone at Northland Runner a very Happy Thanksgiving. I'm personally thankful for many things: a close, loving family, many friendships throughout the Midwest, a job that I love, and my health. To show appreciation for all that I have, I've always enjoyed participating in the Ironwood area Thanksgiving day run/walk.


I don't know the complete history of the Ironwood Thanksgiving run, but I think it originally started in the mid- to late 1980s. I first participated in the “event” in either 1993 or 1994 when ABR ski trails founders Dave and Helen Anderson hosted the event. When the Andersons retired to Texas in the early 2000's, Teri Johnson, former owner of Don and GG's restaurant, hosted the event for a few years until Wil and Marianne took over in 2006. Although the event is informal, turnout has always been very good with usually anywhere from 25 to 40 participants. Usually, there are a short route of 2 to 3 miles and a long route of 5 to 6 miles. I always prefer the short route, in part so I can get in the food line before all those hungry 10Kers come in.


Although the Andresens provide a lot of the food themselves, all participants are encouraged to bring “a dish to pass.” I never like to go to an event like this empty-handed, so I usually like to bring my favorite snack: Pace Salsa and tortilla chips. I always believe you can't have a party without salsa and chips! Fortunately, most of the runners are more creative, usually bringing in a variety of baked goods, treats, and even an occasional hot dish. But like any party, the one thing that tops the food is the fellowship and the chance to renew a lot of friendships. Despite the large crowds, the run always starts promptly at 7:00 a.m. Usually, I'm on my way back to Saxon between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m.


In recent years, Thanksgiving Day runs have become extremely popular throughout the country. Before today's Houston Texans at Detroit Lions football game, a “turkey trot” run/walk was held at Ford Field in Detroit. Closer to home, the Festival Foods supermarket chain of Northeastern Wisconsin is hosting several runs, including one at the Oshkosh store. For Duluthians, the popular “Gobble Gallop” was held this morning at the Duluth Running Company. Wherever you are, I hope you've enjoyed this special holiday by participating in one of these types of events.


Again, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. My next blog will be before Christmas when I will write about some holiday running events for charity. Take care, and good running!

September 27, 2012: 2012 Fox Cities Marathon Weekend


Since I started blogging for “Northland Runner” in 2008, I've always had an entry for the Fox Cities Marathon (FCM). This year was my eighth year as both a participant and volunteer, and I still get fired up every year for this weekend. Although I miss running the half or the full marathon on Sunday, I will never pass up the opportunity to run the 5K event or volunteer on Saturday.


On Friday, 9/21, I went to the Humana Health and Wellness Expo at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton to pick up my goody bag and race packet for Saturday's 5K run. There were several changes for the 2012 race. First of all, there is a new sponsor for the race with Affinity Medical Group taking over for Time-Warner Cable. Also, long-time race director John Ebel has retired, and veteran runner Mark Werner now has the reigns. Mark has been a long-time fixture in the Fox Cities running community, and he has worn many hats as a runner, race director, fun run organizer, and officer of the PaceSetters' running club. Although I miss seeing John and his wife Debbie at the expo, one thing that hasn't changed is the efficiency of the volunteers. I got my bib, goody bag, and T-shirt well within 5 minutes.


After leaving the 5K registration area, I decided to browse through the expo. This year the expo was divided into two separate areas. I was surprised and a little disappointed that only one marathon had a booth: the Cellcom Green Bay. I know in the past several events, including Grandma's and Whistlestop, had had booths at the FCM. The expo still had plenty of booths filled with at least three running accessories vendors and several healthcare businesses. Several years ago, a fixture at the expo was some coffee house or food catering business selling drinks and snacks. That's one thing I miss and wish the organizers would bring back. That's typical of me, always thinking of my appetite.


On Saturday morning, 9/22, I finished the Affinity Medical Group 5K Run in 40:40, about one minute faster than last year's time. I was most happy with my time splits, consistent 13:07 to 13:10 minute miles. Disaster was averted at the start line when the balloon-sized starting line arch fell and temporarily knocked out the electronic timing system and P.A. System! Fortunately, power was restored within ten minutes, and volunteers took orange traffic cones and raised them over their heads to identify the start line. I give Mark Werner and the volunteers a lot of credit for their quick problem solving under pressure.


After filling myself on fruit and Gatorade, I volunteered for approximately four hours in the pack pickup area. My job was to hand out the envelopes with the bibs and timing chips to the half marathoners and direct them where to authorize their chips and pick up their goody bags. Although repeating the same procedure over and over does get a little monotonous, I know the runners sure appreciate the information. Also, working with so many nice people was a real blast!


Sunday, 9/23, was a little bittersweet for me when I went to UW-Fox Valley in Menasha for the start of the half and full marathons for the first time since 2009. I knew it would be hard for me to come to the start line because I really miss running in one of the Sunday events. I did bring my camera and took several pictures of the start. I'm hoping to send some photos to Kris to download for the “News” section of Northland Runner. Seeing all of those happy faces running makes me more determined to hopefully join them in 2013.


Finally, I want to wish everyone good luck at either the Twin Cites Marathon, Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, or Whistlestop Marathon in Ashland the next three weeks. I'm sure you will have as fun at your event as I had at the FCM last weekend. Good luck, and go get them!

July 27, 2012: Two July Runs in the Fox Cities

I'm pretty excited about today's blog because I'm going to write about two very popular runs in the Fox Cities that were held six days apart: the 9th Annual Bret Younger 10K/5K Run on Saturday, 7/14 in Appleton and the 10th Paperfest 5K Run on Friday, 7/20 in Kimberly, WI. I've done the Bret Younger Run several times but this year's event was my first since 2009; however, I've never done the Paperfest Run before last Friday.


Bret Younger was the race director of the Fox Cities Marathon from 1994 through 2002. After I had moved to Omro in 2001, I met Bret a few times at PaceSetters running club meetings and found him to be an engaging and energetic person. Tragically, Bret died in an automobile accident on Thursday morning, April 3, 2003, during a freezing rain storm. I heard the news of the accident while listening to a sports radio program at work, but the station wouldn't identify the accident victim. I later found out it was Bret while watching the news on one of the Green Bay television stations. Whenever I attend the Bret Younger Run, I have flashbacks to that sad day nine years ago.


Bret also served as a director of the YMCA of the Fox Cities , so a year after his passing the YMCA decided to dedicate a 10K run in his memory. I ran in the first Bret Younger Run, held on a very humid Saturday night. I decided to “double dip” that day by running a 5 mile event in Ripon in the morning and Bret's run that night. If the evening was cooler, I would have finished strong but instead ran a very slow last two miles for a finish of just under an hour. I learned my lesson the hard way and never again would I run two competitive events on the same day.


In past years, the Bret Younger Run was strictly a 10K but in recent years a 5K was added. This year's edition was held at Appleton North High School with the finish line on the high school track. The goody bag included a Clif MoJo bar along with some coupons and vouchers, and as I'm writing this blog I'm wearing this year's T-shirt (white background with blue and green lettering). The 10K started at 8:00 a.m.; the 5K started ten minutes later. The course was very flat but had many turns; the 10K and 5K courses separated after mile 1 and merged together just before mile 5. The YMCA did a good job by having cones after the courses merged to separate the 10K runners from the 5K runners. The finish line spread was located at both the football concession booth and tents pitched directly underneath the bleachers. Approximately 300 runners and walkers participated in both events named after an outstanding race director and community leader.


The main reason I've never participated in the Paperfest Run is it's usually held the same weekend as the Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll. Since I had to spend the weekend in Oshkosh for a medical procedure, my running schedule was finally freed up to do the Paperfest (although I gave Festival Ironwood Race Director Chris Bergquist a courtesy phone call explaining the situation). Compared to other events I attended, the Paperfest is very unique in several ways. First, the Paperfest is one of the few runs that is run on a Friday night (Duluth's Park Point 5 Miler was another one that I had run). Secondly, Sunset Park, which hosts Paperfest, is very spread out. Event parking is located on the bottom of a hill, the start line is near the middle of the hill, and the finish line/registration area is at the top of the hill. Also, the course has two loops; I can't ever remember running a course that has two loops. Finally, Paperfest has more spectators (and very vocal as well) than most shorter distance events I've attended.


Although Sunset Park is hilly, the course itself is not that hilly due to the start line location. After the start, the runners go in the opposite direction of the loop towards the finish line and then proceed downhill to start the first of the two loops. Similar to the Bret Younger Run, lines of cones separated the faster runners from the back-markers like yours truly. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, the course is lined with many spectators. Most were partying in their yards, and I could smell the good food from several grills. Yes, I was even tempted to stop running and crash one of the parties to have a brat or burger! Although I was happy with my effort, I couldn't get much leg turnover so my finish was just over 43 minutes. However, I wasn't disappointed at all because I enjoyed the atmosphere so much. After the run, I stayed for some food and live music. Kudos should go to the organizers and volunteers of the Paperfest Run, and I look forward to coming back in the future.


Finally, I want to wish those running in tomorrow's Voyageur Ultra-Marathon good luck. My next blog will be in the last weekend of August. Take care and good running!

July 7, 2012: Aurora Run/Walk for Cancer and an Old Favorite

As promised, I didn't wait five to six months to write another blog entry for Northland Runner. Today I'm going to write about a fairly new run in Oshkosh (just had its fourth edition) and another one in Wakefield, MI that just celebrated its 35th anniversary.


The Fourth Annual Aurora 5K Walk/Run for Cancer was held on Saturday, 6/23 on the west end of Oshkosh. I'm very familiar with the area since I drive past the Aurora Health Center every day on the way to work. All proceeds go to Vince Lombardi Charitable Funds for the benefit of the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic in Oshkosh. If you don't remember, Vince Lombardi was the legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins who died from colon cancer on September 3, 1970. About a year after Lombardi's death, his widow Marie gave Aurora Health Systems permission to use her husband's name in its fund-raising endeavors for cancer research.


Compared to many run/walks I've attended, the Aurora 5K Walk/Runs had more of a festival atmosphere to it. There were many raffle items on display including tickets to a University of Wisconsin football game and Wisconsin Timber Rattler baseball game. WVBO 103.9 FM radio from Oshkosh was there with music and live reports. Some participants had their faces painted by an artist, and a clown was there to entertain everyone.


Since the event is primarily a fund-raiser, most participants entered as part of a team and are encouraged to seek sponsors. Although everyone ran the same course, organizers gave bibs to the runners only. Awards were given to the top overall female and male and then the top female and male in various age categories. The biggest trophy, however, went to the team with the most spirit.


Speaking of the course, it's one of the most runner-friendly courses I've ever been on. There are no hills whatsoever and only four turns. With the long straightaways and minimal turns, this course is definitely tailor-made for a P.R. With temperature in the upper 70s and some humidity, the organizers did a really good job pre-planning because there were two water stations and plenty of food and drink at the finish line.


Finally, my guess on the turnout is between 120 and 140 participants, much more than last year. Although I'm getting more leg-turnover, I decided to walk the event. I had a great time, and I'm looking forward to supporting next year's Aurora Run/Walk.


Now I'm going to transition from a fairly new run to one of the oldest running events in the Upper Midwest. As I mentioned in my first paragraph, the Sunday Lake Run celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. When I became a blogger for Northland Runner in 2008, my first blog was about the Sunday Lake Run. Two reasons why I almost never miss the Sunday Lake Run:


  1. It's relatively short (2.8 miles) course with one complete loop of the lake.

  1. It has a big post-race buffet (plenty of juice, sports drink, and lots of fruit and doughnuts).

This year, the Snowflake Aquatic Club took over sponsorship of the Sunday Lake Run from the Fire on Ice Women's Hockey Team. Fortunately, the transition seemed to go very smoothly as former race director Clarence Dalbeck was there to assist new race directors Jim and Diane Oliver. There were two well-supported water stations on the course, and two Beacon ambulances were on patrol in case of emergency. Despite temperatures in the low 80s, fortunately, everyone seemed OK at the finish line. Once I finished, I took about 20 to 30 minutes to cool down before heading back to Saxon. I had a great time seeing a lot of long-time friends, and my thanks go out to the Oliver family and Snowflake Aquatic for hosting another great Sunday Lake Run.


My next blog will be three weeks from now (weekend of 7/28) when I will write about two events in the Fox Cities. The first one will be the 9th Annual Bret Younger Run in Appleton Saturday, 7/14, and the second one will be a very rare Friday night race for me in Kimberly, WI called the Scheels Sunset 5K on Friday, 7/20. Take care, and good running!