Father-Son team ready for Grandma's Marathon
Father's Day is Sunday. Rick Swenson and his son, Nathan, will celebrate Saturday on a 26.2-mile trip together. They'll be side-by-side for much of the journey from Two Harbors to Canal Park. It will be their ninth straight year as a running team...
Father's Day is Sunday.
Rick Swenson and his son, Nathan, will celebrate Saturday on a 26.2-mile trip together. They'll be side-by-side for much of the journey from Two Harbors to Canal Park. It will be their ninth straight year as a running team in Grandma's Marathon.
"My father is my best friend and he's the reason I've stayed in good shape," Nathan Swenson said. "He's been very encouraging and I've followed in his footsteps.''
In more ways than one.
Rick Swenson, 57, of New London, Minn., has been a middle school principal the past 13 years and a school administrator or teacher for 36. He retired at the end of the academic year. Nathan Swenson, 35, of Sartell, Minn., is an elementary school principal in Sauk Rapids, Minn.
While he doesn't look like a sleek running prototype at 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Rick Swenson says the sport has improved his life since being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 20 years ago. He came home from the hospital, emptied the kitchen of snacks, candies and cookies and took aim at being healthy.
"I had let myself get heavy, so I started to walk. After two years of that, I started running,'' said Rick Swenson, who says he also bikes and annually enters the NorthShore Inline Marathon. "A couple of other people I know were also diagnosed with diabetes, one who has since died. I think exercise has kept me alive.''
Approximately 17 million Americans have diabetes, the nation's fifth-deadliest disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, is the result of the body not producing enough insulin, leading to high glucose levels.
The 1998 Grandma's Marathon was Rick Swenson's first marathon. The next year he talked Nathan into joining him and typically they finish about a second apart, with Nathan in the lead. They use the Jeff Galloway run-walk system and are middle-of-the-pack runners out enjoying the race as much as possible. Last year, Nathan finished in 5 hours, 48 minutes, 51 seconds and Rick ran 5:48:52.
The average finishing time for those in the 2007 Grandma's Marathon was 4:30:29.
"After my dad lost 60 pounds through running, one goal he had was to run a marathon,'' said Nathan Swenson. "I really don't like running at all, but to spend time together with him, I run about 18 weeks a year to get ready for Grandma's.
"The race itself is fun. The spectators are so positive and if someone on London Road offers me a roll, I'll stop and eat and talk. And I watch my dad. When I see he's getting low on sugar, I'll get him some licorice, or a banana, anything that will give him a little sweetness.''
Rick Swenson, who has taken daily insulin injections the last two years, faced another challenge at age 50 after an annual physical -- prostate cancer. Following surgery in January of 2000, he missed a week of work, then kept going and ran in Grandma's Marathon that June. He recorded his fastest finishing time in 4:41:30.
He figures this week may signal his last marathon because he wants to do other things like golfing (the Swensons live next to a golf course) and pheasant hunting. He says his longevity goal is to reach age 80.
But straight ahead is a run along the North Shore with his son and Nathan's wife, Amy, 31, who is making her marathon debut. Rick Swenson says he vividly remembers reaching the bricks of Superior Street for the closing miles of his first marathon in 1998.
"I said, 'I'm going to be able to do this,' and I started crying. It was so emotional,'' said Swenson. "It's an emotion that I can still feel today.''