I’m not sure where to begin today, my head is still reeling from all the incredible events that transpired and all the remarkable people we met. It was like compressing the most memorable experiences of a decade into a single amazing day. Where to start?
Let’s talk about the runners, first, and how terrific this crew was. They had come from far and near—two had flown in yesterday from San Francisco—and comprised a broad range of athletes, from first-time marathoners, to seasoned ultramarathoners, like my two friends Pam Reed and Roy Purring that joined us today. There were a number of triathletes in the group, a competitive cyclist, a black belt in Kung Fu, and an Officer in the United States Army. All seemed like dedicated and committed runners, and tremendously positive people.
Support along the course was excellent, both from Garrett & Koop in the SAG wagon, and from supporters that setup roaming aid stations along the route (by the way, for the many of you that have asked, I found out that “SAG” stands for, Support and Gear). After starting in historic downtown, we crossed the Ray Nitschke Bridge to the charming streets of west Green Bay. Eventually we crossed the Walnut Street Bridge and ran along the beautiful Fox River Trail for six miles. Being on a path was a nice change of setting and scenery. Upon exiting the path, we ran past Voyager Park to the picturesque tree-lined streets of east and west De Pere and toward the finish.
Approaching the final stretch, we met up with my son, Nicholas, who turned nine years old today. To celebrate his 9th birthday, he and his sister, Alexandria, had run the last nine miles of the marathon together and timed it so that we would be meeting them near the finish. We joined together and did the historic last lap through Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. It was such a magical experience to be running alongside Nicholas and all the others through Lambeau Field, cheering and hooting as we finished the last few steps together. For a proud and loving father, it just doesn’t get any better. And to be able to share this moment will so many wonderful and compassionate individuals made the occasion all the more special.
After crossing the finish, we were greeted by the Mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, who presented Nicholas with an enormous Green Bay Packers birthday cake. Then he proceeded to give Nicholas the most remarkable birthday gift ever, a signed football by the Green Bay Packers team. Nicholas was absolutely filled with joy. Watching him on stage with Mayor Schmitt was like witnessing a fairytale unfold. In the heart of a nine year old boy, it was the best birthday he could have ever asked for.
Nicholas is a very generous soul, and after blowing out the candles, he offered cake to all the runners. It was amazing how quickly that huge cake disappeared! Even though we’d spent the better part of 26.2 miles talking and sharing stories, it was really nice to be able to mingle further with the group at the finish festival (between bites of birthday cake). I’m continually amazed at how many first-time marathoners cross the line, and how many people set PR’s. It’s such an inspiration to talk with these folks and see the elation in their eyes. I don’t know how they do it. But like the magic of a perfect day, I’m just glad they do.
Keeping the spirit alive in Green Bay,
The Karno Family