Cyclists lead the pack into the finish line
Grandma's Marathon doesn't just inspire runners to keep fit. It's part of what has kept Denis Sauve in the bicycle seat. On Saturday, for about the 25th year, 65-year-old Sauve will be one of the cyclists leading the front-runners in Grandma's Ma...
Grandma's Marathon doesn't just inspire runners to keep fit. It's part of what has kept Denis Sauve in the bicycle seat.
On Saturday, for about the 25th year, 65-year-old Sauve will be one of the cyclists leading the front-runners in Grandma's Marathon and the Gary Bjorklund Half-Marathon.
Sauve's yearly appointment with Grandma's started in 1982 when a friend asked if he wanted to help lead the marathon's elite runners.
"At the time, I don't think either [he] or I thought this would be a longtime thing," Sauve said. "I didn't think this would be a 25-year thing."
Sauve was one of just two riders that year.
This year, there'll be nine cyclists. Two will lead the Gary Bjorklund Half-Marathon, two will lead the wheelchair athletes and four will escort the marathoners -- two in front of the leading man and two in front of the leading woman. The ninth cyclist will lead a blind elite half-marathoner.
The group will meet at 5:30 a.m. and bike to the starting lines by 6:30. By day's end, the cyclists will have biked between 50 and 60 miles.
Sauve, who owns Twin Ports Cyclery, logs about 5,000 miles a year cycling, and Grandma's is usually one of his longer rides.
For their efforts, the cyclists get T-shirts and drink vouchers ("Heavy drinkers that we are," Sauve said wryly), but it's the companionship and sense of achievement that inspire Sauve to answer yes each time he's asked to participate.
"I can't say that I would necessarily go out there and do it otherwise, but I enjoy it," Sauve said.
Sauve says he has never biked in front of the wheelchair athletes. "That's actually the most grueling,'' he said. "They're flying," going about 20 mph on the 26.2-mile course.
Sauve and the other cyclists are among the 4,500 volunteers put to work each year by Grandma's.
"Every possible area of Grandma's Marathon, we have volunteers there," said public relations director Bob Gustafson. "There's people working weeks before the marathon just to make sure we can get it together."
Preparations intensify as race day draws near. Among the volunteers' duties: staffing water stations, distributing T-shirts and stuffing and passing out 17,000 race packets.
Gustafson said Grandma's draws volunteers from across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some volunteers -- civic groups, for example -- serve en masse.
"We have a lot of individuals that call up and say, 'I'd like to help. Put me wherever you need help,' " Gustafson said.
"We're blessed to have so many people who want to get involved in the marathon,'' Grandma's Marathon executive director Scott Keenan said. "We're so glad that Grandma's Marathon is such a strong community event. The board and the staff, all we have to do is drive [the race]. The ownership is the people of this community who volunteer.''
In addition to the 4,500 actual volunteers, there are 250 year-round volunteer coordinators who plan various aspects of the race, Keenan said.
"We couldn't do it without them," he said.