t was 5:08 AM on Saturday, June 20th - the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The sky was an emerald blue and the temperature was 31 degrees. The first rays of the sun had just crept over the slate gray waters of Lake Superior into Superior Shores Motel in Two Harbors Minnesota. Inside, the two ancient archetypes were stirring: the Hare (aka Gumby - Gumby fans from all over the midwest would be disappointed today as their hero went incognito - disguised as one David Mark Brown) and the Tortoise (aka Smiley, aka Richard G.). Both were carefully rehearsing their strategy for today's enactment of their eternal struggle - Grandma's Marathon. The Tortoise had carefully prepared for today, and had plodded through 12 weeks of methodical preparation, including careful coaching, diet, and no less than 9 long runs of 18 to 22 miles. The Hare, in his inimitable fashion, had just decided on entering the race 2 weeks before. He had prepared for the race by tapering down from the hot, humid Westchester Half-Marathon, his longest distance in 1992. Each had but one goal in mind - to have baked beans on Patriot's Day in April of 1993.
he motel was serving an early breakfast, but each of our protagonists were too preoccupied with the coming event to eat much. Quickly getting dressed and finding some extra socks to serve as makeshift gloves, and packing the bag each runner had been given, with some warm clothes, our runners jumped into the van provided by the motel and sat introspectively as the 2 miles to the starting line was quickly covered. The start was on a two lane highway which wound along the shores of Lake Superior, south to Duluth, 26.2 miles distant. The start scene was festive and typical of many a race - long lines at the portable bathrooms, garbage bags serving as jackets in the cold morning air, a last drink, a last trip to the woods, and the never ending chatter of war stories and last minute inanities. The sun was rising and the temperature had risen to 44 by the start. Along side of the road were railroad tracks which also led south to Duluth. An excursion train carrying marathon spectators, friends, family and press pulled up next to the start. This train would follow the race and bring these spectators to the finish in time to see the leaders cross the line - what a way to do a marathon!
ur friend the Hare moved to the front of the crowd where the other rabbits were assembling to await the gun. The Tortoise, meanwhile, moved carefully to his appointed place, at the 3:30 pace sign, exactly 37.2 per cent back in the pack. The runner's bags were piled along the side of the highway, to be picked up by the race volunteers and delivered to each runner at the finish. What a logistical contrast to New York! No fuss, no bother, just drop your bag and we'll take care of everything. The crowd of about 5800 was a seasoned runner's runners crowd. Very serious but not overly uptight. At 7:30 AM the gun went off, and our heroes started in appropriate fashion. The Hare bolted out at a 6:30 pace while the Tortoise carefully started counting off 7:52 miles, just as the coach had said ("8 seconds faster than target pace, no more, no less"). At 5 miles, the Hare was at 32 minutes and the Tortoise was at 39, just according to plan. But wait - what's happening? At mile 6 the Hare develops a leg cramp and comes nearly to a standstill; could this be the end for our long eared friend? No, he seems to have stretched it out and is bounding off again although at slightly diminished speed. Unaware of the drama ahead of him, the Tortoise plods on at his careful, even pace.
The course winds along over slightly rolling hills through scenic country with many a gorgeous view of the lake. The sun is over our left shoulder and there is a slight tailwind. Temperatures are in the mid 40s. Conditions could not be more perfect. The crowds are sparse but enthusiastic as we move along through a few very small hamlets. A band of about 8 older gentlemen playing German music helped us past the 10 mile point. At 12 miles, a beautiful bridge spanned a stream rushing into Lake Superior. If you looked up here, you got your picture taken.
he halfway point saw the Hare bound by at 1:29 (close to his half-marathon PR!) while the Tortoise. plodded by at 1:43, just according to plan. As they approached Duluth, the crowds grew larger and excitement grew at the unfolding drama. Would the Hare slow down? Could the Tortoise keep his pace? The 20 mile mark was at the outskirts of the city and it looked like the Hare was starting to fade. Would he survive the second half of the race (miles 20 to 26.2)? The Tortoise plodded on with a nearly imperceptable drop in his pace past 20, past 21, past 22. Would they meet this side of the finish? The Hare had jokingly said to the Tortoise before the race: "Pick me up at mile 23 and carry me to the finish", but in the last miles of a marathon, no one was joking.
Mile 23 of the course contains the only "hill", as midwesterners would call it. We would call it a bare incline. The Tortoise found himself plodding along at very nearly the same pace he held for the first 20 miles. Many the rabbit who had gone out too fast were being passed and left by the wayside - but where was our rabbit, the Hare? The 24 mile marker was in the center of town; the course would now follow the main street and turn into a waterfront park - the result of some recent urban renewal effort to spruce up some old dockside area. The Tortosie moved along, now confident in his pace and his goal, past many a fallen rabbit. At 25 miles, the course took at cruel downslope over a highway ramp where quadriceps were trashed, and finished on the flat. This last mile was very lonely for the Tortoise as he retreated into his shell, and buildings, spectators, other runners, even the surface of the road faded from his attention, which was focused on only one thing, to keep on moving.
he finish line finally loomed ahead and the Tortoise could see the clock ticking - 3:28:40, 41, 42 ... he would make it! At 3:28:45 the Tortoise carefully plodded across the line and looked up. Yes! there was the Hare, standing there with a great smile, for he too had met his goal, clocking in at 3:11 (eat your heart out, Ed).
As in all great races, both were winners! Both had significant PRs, and both would be there for that plate of beans next April, where the eternal struggle would enter its next chapter - the Boston Marathon!