This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 17, 2008 Mankato Free Press - Minnesota

A long run in the Rockies

Local resident to run Pikes Peak Marathon

By Shane Frederick - Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — The staircase leading to the top of Good Counsel hill has 240 steps. Jim Wiese knows. He’s counted them several times.

The north-side resident and marathon runner will run up and down the steps eight or nine times during one of his training sessions.

While that might seem like a grueling workout, it doesn’t begin to prepare him for the race he will run this morning in Colorado.

“From what I’ve read,” Wiese said, “it’s not a race for the weary. You can’t go in under-trained.”

By his estimation, the Pikes Peak Marathon will be Wiese’s 24th 26.2-mile race — and his toughest.

“You try to find that one race that tears you down until you break down,” Wiese said. “I haven’t found it yet, but I’ll keep trying.”

This might be the one.

The Pikes Peak Marathon is exactly what you’d expect it to be. A 13-mile run up the mountain and a 13-mile run down.

Photo By Pat Christman/The Free Press
Jim Wiese runs up the 240 stairs that lead to the top of Good Counsel hill as part of his training for today's Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado.
Jim Wiese runs up the 240 stairs that lead to the top of Good Counsel hill as part of his training for today's Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado.

“My wife thinks I’m nuts,” Wiese, 46, said. “My mom thinks I’m nuts.”

The description on the marathon’s official Web site doesn’t necessarily dispel that theory.

Runners climb 10,000 feet in the race’s first 10 miles. Over the next three miles, they go up 2,000 feet but are above the tree line and in thin air where they average about 30 minutes per mile.

“What little air remains can’t satisfy the endless stream of zombies hoping to survive their next step,” the Web site says. “(It’s) a death march right out of a scene from ‘Dawn of the Dead.’”

When the race begins in Manitou Springs, Colo., it’s about 60 degrees. At the end of the race, it’s around 90 degrees at the bottom.

The top of the mountain is a different story. In 2004, runners were met with as much as eight inches of snow on the mountain’s peak. A year later, hundreds of them were stranded on the summit during a storm.

Wiese has run the Boston Marathon three times. This year, he completed Boston and Fargo and is also scheduled to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October.

“I have a ‘Bucket List’ of races I want to do,” he said, “and (Pikes Peak) is on it.”

A year ago, Wiese thought he might be done running all together.

He had a ruptured disc in his neck and, while carrying a table over his head, smashed bones in his neck. He had surgery to fuse two of his vertebrae and also had a cage, bolts and pins installed in the reconstruction. Wiese’s doctor told him that the impact of running would be bad for his neck and that it might be best for him to stop.

But something bigger told him to keep running.

“About the time I came to (out of surgery),” Wiese said, “was when the (35W) bridge came down. ... I just thought, ‘Anything’s possible.’ Even if I have to crawl, I’ll do (another marathon).”

Wiese said his neck has gotten “better and better,” even with the marathon training.

With ‘70s and ‘80s rock playing on his iPod, he runs the hills that surround Mankato, climbs the Good Counsel steps and works out on the treadmill at Anytime Fitness, trying to get in the best shape possible for today’s race.

“You get in that endorphin-junkie zone — when you gotta have it,” Wiese said. “For me, that’s what it is, a challenge. Right after you’re done, on the finish line, you think, ‘No more. That’s it.’ But the next day you wake up, and you gotta go again.

“I guess some people like torture.”

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