What a lovely morning it was yesterday, to be hanging out at the corner of the Gunflint and the Sag Lake Trail. The day's event was the Ham Lake Half-Marathon and 5K run. For the past two years, Greg has gone to work traffic control, as a part of the Gunflint Trail volunteer fire department. This year, I got to be his assistant, since the resort isn't quite open yet.
The marathon was started in 2008, by Sue Prom of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. Sue wanted a way to commemorate the Ham Lake Fire, one with a bright outcome. On this particular Sunday, 190 runners had signed up to run the trail.
Once the sign and traffic cones were in place, we settled in to watch for the first runners to arrive. Memories returned for me, of my own (short-lived) days of running on the Gunflint Trail. Back in the spring of 1986, the first year that I moved to Gunflint Lake, I was in the midst of training to run Grandma's Marathon. Some whim had come over me, and I decided it might be a good thing to do. Prior to my move here in April, I was living on the scenic highway between Duluth and Two Harbors, so that was my training grounds. Once up here, I realized how easy I'd had it: very few hills on old Highway 61. At the end of our side road, there are three long hills, and I would do whatever I could to avoid running up them. Two times, I had Greg drop me off at the end of the Gunflint Trail so that I could run home, and that meant running down those three hills. I gave up running after that one and only marathon, as my knee had started to say a few words to me. I took up walking instead, and am forever happy with that decision.
This day, when the runners started to come in to view, I knew a little of what it was like for them. So I did my best to cheer them on, giving them encouragement for the last mile or so of the race. It was really fun to be on the sidelines, thinking up new words to call to them: You're almost there! There's good things up ahead! You can almost smell the barbecue at the end! This year the Ham Lake, next year Grandma's Marathon!
It was especially enjoyable to see friends and neighbors running the race. With camera handy, I caught two parties on film, and was so happy to see everyone smiling!