Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Marathon Man in the Twin Cities, MN

Do any of you have a super hero in your family? I do. My older brother. And I have the evidence to prove it. He’s older than I am, has a pacemaker and runs. Not just in any races. In marathons!

Earlier this year I nominated him for a spot on the Medtronic Global Heroes marathon team. The members are chosen from individuals around the world who are living longer, fuller lives thanks to medical devices manufactured by Medtronic. The team takes part in the annual Twin Cities Marathon held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. We were ecstatic when he got word he had been chosen! See? Told you I had proof!

(Now kick back. Settle in. This is a bit of a long post but so much happened on this journey that there's a lot to cover and I don't want to leave out anything. Read on and enjoy!)

My brother invited me along so a few weeks ago, we were off to the races! I met up with my brother and his wife at the team's hotel on the Mississippi River in St. Paul two days before the race. 

Medtronic treated the heroes like true VIP’s from the moment they stepped off the plane until they headed home after the marathon. The heroes came from all over the world: Norway, Israel, Brazil, Spain, Austria, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the USA. Their ages and medical conditions varied. The youngest was 15 and has cerebral palsy. The oldest was in his 70's and has heart disease. Not all of them were there to run the full length marathon, some were running the 10 mile race. But they all competed, whether by running or using a wheelchair. Astounding and so humbling. I was honored to meet these remarkable heroes and learn their inspirational stories.

There were many scheduled activities and events to attend. We were guests at a welcome breakfast and a luncheon to honor the heroes. We toured the Medtronic facility and heard first hand about the advances they're making in inventing and enhancing medical devices for people dealing with heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain and spinal and neurological disorders. After the tour, we boarded a bus for a sightseeing tour of the twin cities and the marathon route. The tour guide provided an abundance of info about the area, including tidbits about real Minnesotans like former governer Jesse "the body" Ventura and make believe Minnesotans like Mary Tyler Moore. Also, courtesy of Medtronic, we visited the local science museum. And what would a marathon be without a pre-race pasta dinner? Medtronic provided the heroes and their guests with a tasty buffet at the local convention center where a fitness expo was taking place that weekend. After we ate, we explored the expo and picked up some souvenirs and fitness essentials.

But the moment we were all there for finally arrived Sunday morning. Before the sun even made an appearance, the heroes boarded a bus in the chilly morning to head to the start of the race at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. My brother's wife and I left the hotel soon after on a bus to the finish line area near the State House. By the time we arrived, it was underway. The elite marathon runners had already finished. We found our way to the Medtronic viewing area to watch the remaining runners head for home.

The wind was cold but the sun was warm in the clear blue sky. The race morning started at 22 degrees and was forecast to only warm to 50. We decided to stand instead of sitting on the cold, metal bleachers. We pulled our coats tighter around us, readied our cameras and hunkered down to watch and wait.

What a sight to behold. There were more than 12,000 participants in the weekend event, which included the marathon, a 10 mile race and a 10k race. Some of the runners came running by, smiling with arms upstretched, fists pumping to the sky. Others struggled, legs like jello as they stumbled to the finish line. Some participants ran by us with linked arms or hand in hand. Crossing the line as one. We cheered them all and encouraged the strugglers. We clapped, we screamed. A loudspeaker blared the runners names as they reached their goal. There was such excitement in the air!

Luckily, we had a map of the course and could track my brother via the text alerts I received on my cell phone. The alerts notified us as he passed certain check points. We knew his pace time so we had an idea of when to expect him. Knowing we had a bit of time, we headed to a tent Medtronic set up for the heroes and their guests. There was hot coffee, snacks and shelter from the cold wind. After we warmed up, we headed back to the bleachers.

Right on time, my brother appeared. In fine form. It was incredible to watch as he headed towards us and covered those last few feet to the finish line. We cheered loudly as he happily completed his mission. 

Wow! I had seen my brother race before but had never been at the end to see him finish. To watch him accomplish a dream was very gratifying. My goodness, the man didn't even look like he worked up a sweat! (But that could have been due to the ice cold air temp.) Along with the other heroes, we greeted him at the Medtronic tent to congratulate him on a well run race. We were so proud of him!

Now you would expect, after running for 26.2 miles, someone would want to just collapse on the nearest bed and not move for a week. Not my brother. You'll never believe what we did next.

We headed out to rent a car! Crazy huh? We picked up the car at the Minneapolis airport and then my brother drove us to the biggest mall in the United States: the Mall of America. Insane, eh? This man had just run a marathon and we were heading to mega-mall. (In all fairness, my brother did explain it was a good thing to keep moving for a bit because if he sat too long or laid down his muscles would tighten up.)

We didn't stay at the mall too long, tho. Just long enough to walk a bit and eat a yummy celebratory dinner at Bubba Gump's. We made plans to do our own sightseeing of the twin cities and return to the Mall the next day when we had more energy. Back at the hotel, we joined the team for a post-race gathering. This was a relaxed and happy group. The race was over. Mission accomplished. Friendships were made, a tie was formed. Lots of good natured ribbing, promises to keep in touch and talk of plans to meet again.

The night came to an end and the heroes bid each other adieu. Most were leaving Minnesota in the morning to either head home or continue their tour of the U.S. before they left the country. We had decided to stay on for 2 more days to further explore the twin cities. 

The next morning, we headed out. Some of the fascinating sights we found and explored were: 
  • Target Center (Minneapolis arena; where we found indoor walkways that connect the downtown buildings. Very smart!)
  • Target Field (Minnesota Twins ball field)
  • Metrodome (home of the Minnesota Vikings)
  • Sculpture Garden (out of this world art work!)
  • Mall of America (out of body experience! I met up with my husband's cousin who recently moved to the area. We rode an indoor roller coaster! And my brother and his wife became part of an upcoming reality show!)
  • Statue of the iconic Mary Richards (aka Mary Tyler Moore and a childhood hero of mine)
  • Mill City Museum (built on the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill)
Around the corner from our hotel we discovered Rice Park. In the park are statues of F. Scott Fitzgerald (world reknowned composer) and Herb Brooks (coach of America’s "Miracle on Ice" team). There were also statues of characters created by Charles Schultz (a native of Minnesota) like Charlie Brown and Snoopy. So cute! Also nearby was Fitzgerald Theater where visitors can attend a live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion".

A few blocks from our hotel was the retro diner, Mickey’s, where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast on two occasions. The diner opened almost 70 years ago. It’s been featured in movies like “Jingle All The Way” and “Mighty Ducks”. 
Before I knew it, our amazing time in Minneapolis came to an end. I met some remarkable people who I’m hoping to keep in touch with so I can continue to absorb their infectious energy. It’s inspired me in many ways, including the desire to run. When I returned home I began the “couch to 5k” plan and vow to stick to it. After witnessing what the heroes have accomplished, I'm not going to be trying to find excuses to get out of working out.

No, I do not have the delusional idea I’ll be racing in marathons. I'll leave that feat to my brother. I'm looking forward to pushing myself to get in shape so I can not only be healthy and handle whatever life throws my way, but so I can continue life's journey and have many more adventures.

Thanks again, brother, for inviting me along to share in this woderful opportunity. I can't believe how much fun we crammed into 5 days. Let's do it again sometime! Ready? Set? Go!!!


  1. Nice post. I would be honored to run with you in your first 5K!

  2. It was wonderful to have you there to share this incredible experience.

  3. Kate that was a great read as the rest of your blogs , thanks for sharing .


  4. Thanks Damon! I really appreciate your support.


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