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Running man: Cloquet grad still sprinting through life

Luke Heine and Will Riihiluoma, also of Cloquet, driving along as on-the-road support during Heine's run, sit in a pair of big chairs along Highway 61 in Beaver Bay, in front of Cove Point Lodge. Submitted photo.

There are more than 160 miles from Luke Heine’s front door to Grand Portage, and he has run every single one of them. The 19-year-old Cloquet native made his way through crowded highways and obscure bike paths, all the while hugging the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior.

Heine started his enormous trek May 29, and reached Grand Portage Thursday. With the help of friend and support driver Will Riihiluoma, Heine broke the intimidating distance into smaller chunks, logging 12 to 15 miles per day.

“It was fantastic, just finishing it up,” said Heine. “I didn’t know if I could do it, day 3 was really hard,” Heine said of the 14 days he spent averaging about 14 miles each day.

Heine said he experienced the remarkable landscape of the state, which made the whole effort worthwhile.

“It really puts into context how lucky we are to live in the state that we do,” Heine said of the impressive nature views he experienced.

Heine already had covered more than 110 miles by the end of last week — a distance equivalent to a two-hour car ride — and wrapped up his journey Thursday evening.

Equipped with aviator sunglasses, an Austin-Jarrow running cap and a blaze orange tank top, Heine was a peculiar sight while out on the roads. His appearance proves similar to his journey, however — experiencing everything life has to offer.

“Sometimes I feel reckless,” Heine said during an interview along a segment of the trail last week. “Like I’m not spending my time the best way I can. But then I think, ‘When will I get the opportunity to do this again?’ ”

With three years of the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon under his belt, Heine is no stranger to long distances.

He was a Cloquet cross country captain his senior year, and is a member of the Harvard Running Club. Yet, the cumulative toll on his body from this undertaking will be unlike anything Heine has ever experienced.

“I’m really doing this to test my limits,” Heine said. “I want to know if my body can actually withstand something like this.”

However, with great pain comes great reward.

While finishing the 14-mile leg through Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock Lighthouse, Heine seemed strong; the strain of the previous five days of hard running washed away with the thundering of the falls and the crashing of a fresh Lake Superior tide. The run led through curving bike trails and along the pink gravel of Iona beach.

Heine also noticed the harmony of his body and the surroundings.

“It’s different with the long periods of silence (during a run); you’re left to contemplate your own thoughts,” he said. “I usually listen to books on tape while I run, listening to other people’s ideas. I think there’s something to be said about each.”

Riihiluoma found peace and quiet on the way as well. The support driver said he was excited to catch up on some reading, as well as soak in the incredible vistas that are so abundant in the area.

“When Luke offered me the spot as his support driver, I knew,” Riihiluoma said. “This opportunity was not one to miss. I haven’t looked back since. This journey is about a run, one of reflection upon life and upon Minnesota.”

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