How a retired post-master earned the IRON in his name
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Growing up as a young boy and teen no one thought I had any special athletic talent. The only thing that singled me out from the other kids was that I was one of the smallest on the field. I played organized Little League Baseball but only backyard neighborhood football and playground hockey. My fledging sports career pretty much ended when I quit the high school hockey team as a junior – I wasn’t getting any playing time and wasn’t willing to put in the necessary effort to get regular ice time.
My reoccurring theme as a youth regarding any facet of life, be it academics, sports, or Boy Scouts, was to quit if I had to work too hard, or to quit if I thought I might fail. This attitude carried me from my teens well into my 20’s.
My only exercise as a young man was walking my mail route as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service. Typically, I would start my day off with a breakfast of Hostess Cupcakes with a Coke to wash them down. I smoked at my letter case in the office while setting up my route and during frequent breaks out on mail delivery. Whatever I gained from walking my route was lost by stopping by the bar after work for a few beers and more cigarettes.
Mike and his wife Beth as newlyweds
My life trajectory changed forever on Nov 7th, 1979, when my wife and I both quit our pack-a-day smoking habit. I started running and actually enjoyed the feeling of breathing hard, closing the gap of NO regular exercise since high school. I also discovered that I enjoyed the feeling of pushing myself to the limits for the very first time. This “pushing myself” transferred into my career and other parts of my life as well. Somehow a switch was flipped and I started to challenge myself, failing more than succeeding, but willing to pick myself back up and try harder.
I jumped “full on” into the running boom of the late 70’s at the age of 29; ramping up from daily 3 mile runs to 7 or 8. Ready to test my newly-honed running skills, I signed up for my first running race, the 5 mile St. Patrick’s Road race. Lining up in the 2nd row, right behind the elite runners, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Coming through the first mile at 5:15 the guys following me said “if you’re not going to run get out of the way”! Crushed and completely blown up, I limped, walked, and shuffled to the finish – it seemed like I was passed by the whole field. Guess I wasn’t quite ready to run with the big dogs! “Just wait”, I said to myself, “I’m going to work my butt off and show those guys!” To improve, I did speed work and hills - punishing workouts that led to better times. I started winning my age group - 10k’s led to 10 mile races and to THE race of all races...the marathon.
When the media announced the inaugural Twin Cities Marathon to be held in the fall of 1982, I jumped at the chance and quickly registered. I bumped up my long runs to twenty miles, picked up the intensity, and started a structured training plan. My goal was to run a fast marathon and break 3 hours, based on my recent training runs.