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Steve Wagner / Forum Communications Co., Published December 11 2011

Wagner: 'Stick-to-itiveness' can pay off for runners

In the movie “A River Runs Through It,” Mrs. Burns tells her son Neal, the vain name-dropping Hollywood wannabe, that he could learn a lot from the film’s main character, Norman Maclean.

“Stick-to-itiveness,” she says.

Oddly, that scene played out in my mind moments after crossing the finish line of a 25K desert trail race this past Saturday.

Long days and late nights in the days preceding the race left me in a deficit for sleep and proper nutrition. With hours to go before the race, I found myself trying to get enough fluids and carbs inside me to survive a race in the rugged Arizona desert.

My stomach and some unknown allergy made the first several miles difficult. From the first half mile, it appeared this would be a training run and not much of a race.

Eventually, though, something interesting started to happen.

Out in the rolling, scenic desert, I tucked behind a pack of runners and focused on each footstep.

The pack leader guided us expertly up and down the winding, rocky terrain. A few runners, taking their eyes off the trail to catch a glimpse of the landscape, tumbled to the ground.

But I felt like an enthusiastic and energetic kid, crawling up hills and bounding down boulders, before the pack started to slow about eight miles into the race. Forced to make a decision, I pulled ahead and hoped to maintain the pace as my stomach settled down. Now the race became a matter of energy management.

On the inclines, I would grind my way upward. Then I’d plunge down the declines to gain ground on my competitors, and use flat terrain to recover.

Switching gears frequently, I put distance between myself and trailing runners while reeling in those in front of me. Soon the finish came into view and it was time for a final push.

Crossing the line, I thought about “stick-to-itiveness.”

Sticking with a run, even if you don’t feel the best, can bring surprising results, boost your confidence and help you through the next rough patch.

Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com.