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Athletics: Running, right hooks and dogleg rights with Rick

Rick Aulie runs along Whitebirch Drive Wednesday, March 20, in Breezy Point. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Rick Aulie might be the poster child for multi-sport athletes.

The Pine River-Backus Elementary School principal is preparing to run the Boston Marathon next week after breaking a world record for the fastest golf hole completed. The multi-talented husband and father of four takes a break from his training and music career to talk about the marathon, boxing, golf, basketball and anything else he wants to do.

Q: The Boston Marathon is fast approaching April 15. What are your expectations for that event?

RA: Yes it is. I am really excited now that we are only about two weeks out. My main goal is to enjoy the experience, take in the sights and have fun. I also expect to run well and have a goal time in mind for each mile. The nice thing is I'm only racing against myself, so if I can beat "me," I'll be just fine. I expect to be rested and well prepared for the 15th.

Q: How long has it been a goal of yours to qualify for that event and when you did during last year's Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, what were the emotions?

RA: I've been running since I was 11 years old, but the last 7-8 years I have been training much more intentionally and with a focus. I've done several marathons, but about five years ago I dedicated myself and set the goal to qualify for Boston. There are lots of great marathons around our state and country, but I look at the Boston Marathon as the "bucket list" race for any marathon runner.

I ran Grandma's Marathon for the third time last summer and finished in 2:51:10 to qualify, which for me was a personal record. As far as my emotions, when I turned the final corner and saw the "official time" by the finish line, I looked in the crowd to find my kids and wife. It was an unbelievable feeling. They were screaming and cheering. I was as excited as I could be after just running 26 miles.

Q: With the crazy snowy and cold winter we've had, how difficult was training?

RA: I think training is always difficult, even in perfect conditions. You have to stay healthy, disciplined and get a little lucky, too. This tough winter added an even greater level of difficulty for me, particularly because of the amount of snow on the roads.

I had all my workouts mapped out day by day since early December, but the weather pushed me indoors for 16 runs that I didn't plan on. I still do get a good workout indoors on a treadmill or in a gym and with some weights, but running 16-18 miles in one place is tough. Although the winter months were a grind, I am so thankful for the recent warm-up we've had and for the clear roads. I'm ready for whatever conditions may come up in Boston.

Q: Talk to me about that training and was it different from training for your other marathons? Did you ramp it up a little bit?

RA: Training actually has gone very well overall. I really did not change much from previous marathons I have trained for. I had some short runs, long runs, up-tempo runs and even several hill workouts. The terrain where I do most of my training has a great mix of up and down hills.

I briefly talked with Casey Miller, one of our area's best and most experienced runners, a few weeks ago at a different race. He has run the Boston Marathon and mentioned the down hills and effect they had on his legs. There is some negative slope in the race, which sounds easy, but running down hill does impact your leg muscles differently. It can wear them out in a different way. I do feel good about my hill work, however. I have watched several videos of the course and have read some books and blogs from people that have ran out there, too. I am planning to study the course some more just to be better informed. I can't prepare for everything, but hopefully little pieces like this will help.

Q: You're not the traditional athlete in that you're not afraid to do much of anything from marathons, to boxing, golf to anything else. You don't fit into any one box or type when it comes to athleticism. Why is that do you think?

RA: I am not sure. I feel like I am confident in trying new things regardless of the outcome. I'm not afraid to make mistakes and even fail. I try to approach everything with a growth mindset of getting better all the time. Each sport has a different level of competitiveness. Some are more team and some are more individual.

I was raised in a competitive family and was exposed to a wide variety of sports both by playing and watching. I've always worked to try and be a better person tomorrow than I am today. I guess I have found ways to do this through athletics and competition. I have played many sports and have found different levels of success at each one. By success I don't mean wins and losses, but getting better as an individual and helping contribute to others in whatever role I can. I believe in living each day to the fullest and pushing yourself to the limit. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Anyone who is close to me knows I am not afraid to get after something. I always have fun, but I love it when there is some competition involved.

Q: Talk to me about your boxing career and what that sport taught you?

RA: I was blessed with a fun and fairly successful Golden Gloves and USA Boxing amateur career. I started at age 11 and had my last match at age 22. Overall, I stayed healthy in a sport where that can be difficult. I had over 100 fights and fought from 70 pounds up to 168 pounds in my last match. I was fortunate to get a small college scholarship through USA Boxing and was able to continue my boxing career while getting my elementary education degree at Bemidji State University.

Just like traditional high school sports, boxing taught me to be disciplined, persevere and to respect others. It also taught me that putting in extra time, even when nobody is around, is a key ingredient to improving. I have tried to carry this over into my life and teach my own kids this through school and each of their activities.

Q: How did you get into boxing and what were some of your better memories from that sport?

RA: I did some "garage boxing" with the neighbor kids after we found a couple pairs of gloves lying around. I loved the physicality and challenge it presented right away. There was an advertisement in the Brainerd Dispatch that next fall and my mom allowed me to check it out. I am so glad she did! We had to drive to Brainerd during the week to train, but I always had a ride from my parents or Brandon Rothwell who boxed on our team as well. He was a very tough fighter. Overall, I had great support from my coaches and parents.

Lots of great memories. Traveling around the state and even the Upper Midwest with my coaches Tom Schutt and Lloyd Anderson on the weekends were so fun. They gave so much of their time for me. I could not have had the opportunities and success without them. Tom literally would do anything to take care of his boxers. He prepared me to take on the best in whatever weight class I was in.

One memory that stands out was winning the 152 pound USA Boxing state championship in 2003 and finishing second at the four state tournament that year in Milwaukee after beating the North Dakota and Iowa state champion the previous two nights was as close as I got to the nationals. I lost in the finals the next day to the Wisconsin state champ, but I think I won that fight on points. I still have the VHS tape to prove it. The best memory was finishing runner up at the Upper Midwest that year. I was able to earn my way to the Upper Midwest two times in back-to-back years, which is the equivalent to the MSHSL state tournament for school-sponsored activities. I had the opportunity to fight some guys that went on to be nationally ranked boxers and even professionals.

Q: You played golf in high school and your dad was the head coach and your brother was on the state championship team in 1996 for Crosby-Ironton. Was there pressure to succeed and even play golf for you?

RA: I did not feel pressure to succeed in golf, but I did want to make my dad proud. He is honestly one of the smartest and most dedicated coaches you could ask for. I did not appreciate that enough until later in life. He literally knows every aspect of the game and has walked the walk with everything he says. He did push me to practice, but I wish I listened more, especially with my short game. I think I put more pressure on myself to make him proud, but that helped me along the way, too. I really looked up to the 1996 state championship team from C-I. They could really play. I used to chase them around the course and tried to keep up with them when I was younger.

Q: What did golf teach you that has helped you in life?

RA: A lot. Patience, honesty, integrity, perseverance, discipline, being happy for others and mental toughness. I'm far from perfect, but I think the game of golf has helped build character and has provided continued life-long opportunities for my growth and development. I hope to teach my kids the same as they grow up. If I can do this through sports and other activities that is great.

Q: Last summer you broke a Guinness World Record for fastest golf hole completed. It was verified that you broke it, but apparently, your time has been bettered. Are you going to try and rebreak that record?

RA: Yep. It was verified by Guinness. I don't think I will try again. The experience was so amazing, I feel it was a once in a lifetime event. My friends and family were there supporting me and the memory of that day will be something I cherish. Hopefully this process inspired someone else to try and go after a goal of their own.

Q: It seemed like the perfect event for you with golf and running involved. What other world records have you thought about trying to break?

RA: Yes. That record was really in my wheelhouse. I have not thought about any other records and do not have any plans to make any attempts. I've learned to never say never, but it is highly unlikely at this point. My son, Isaiah, told me he is going to break the record when he's 20. I look forward to cheering him on in 10 years.

Q: You're also a basketball official. What's your funnest encounter on the basketball court?

RA: Our crew had a pretty intense and difficult mid-season game on a Friday night. One of the coaches was disagreeing with a lot of our calls. The next morning I took my son out of town for his 5-6 grade basketball tournament. While his team was warming up, I looked out and that same head coach had on a set of stripes ready to ref the game. He saw me and we visited at halftime. We both laughed and he thanked me for officiating the night before and actually said our crew did a great job. I thanked him for giving up a Saturday morning and afternoon supporting youth basketball. My wife got a good laugh out of the irony. We left at 1:30 that day and the coach was still doing some games. I gave him a thumbs-up as we left the school. I was impressed. That was a fun "encounter."

Q: Again, going back to your ability to do different sports well, what's the one athletic challenge you would like to try and why?

RA: That is a tough question. I'd love to try and shoot a round in the 70s at Augusta National Golf Course, but that opportunity will more than likely never be there. I have been thinking about training for a triathlon, but have never committed to that. Maybe one day. A triathlon would force me to become a better swimmer, which is an excellent workout and challenge. My son and daughter did the Kiwanis Kids Tri the last couple years and really enjoyed it.

Q: As an elementary principal at Pine River-Backus, how nice is it to be an example, someone those young students can see and hear, who has done so many different things from breaking world records to qualifying for one of the most prestigious marathons?

RA: All educators are in a unique position every day to be an example for young kids. This includes teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, food service, clerical staff, custodians, coaches and administrators. We all have different roles in the system, but by working together we do have a greater impact on kids. This carries a tremendous amount of responsibility. I try to be an example through my actions, not just with words. Actions build trusting relationships and ultimately that is what kids are wanting. As leaders we have to "wake up and be awesome" everyday because they are counting on it. If I can be a positive example by being an educator and using athletics and fitness to model this, that is great. It is not so much about accomplishing things, but by encouraging others to give 100 percent in everything you do, regardless of the outcome.

Q: You're also in a band with your brother known as Common Men. Being as your brother and father are/were choir teachers, who has the better voice in the family?

RA: As far as who has the better voice, I would say the two music teachers probably do. Now that I think about it, my mom may actually have the best voice out of all of us. My brother and I play in a duo called the Common Men. He is an excellent keyboard player and I'm OK on the guitar. We started jamming a couple years ago and decided to do some small gigs at breweries and other small events. We really enjoy it. Really it's a great excuse to get together and have some fun bonding over something we both love to do other than golf.

Q: What type of music is Common Men bringing to the party?

RA: We'll bring all of your favorite hits from today and yesterday. Elton John, Louis Armstrong, Florida Georgia Line, Bob Seger, Journey, Zach Brown Band, and much more. We have been intentional about choosing songs for our playlists that almost everyone will know and more than likely will recognize instantly.

We get a lot of positive comments about our song choices. We'll use keyboard, guitar, harmonica and some small percussion. Whether you just want to chill out and visit with friends or if you're looking to sing and dance, we will make it a fun night. We like to interact with the crowd and just have fun.

Come check us out at The Sage On Laurel 7-9 p.m. Friday, April 13, if you want to hear us. You can learn more about us and see videos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, too.

Q: From music to numerous different athletic endeavors, I really want to end this with your opinion about being a well-rounded individual as opposed to someone who specializes in just one sport? How has each of your extracurricular activities helped the other?

RA: Being well rounded is important. Students involved in extra and co-curricular activities will do well, make a variety of friendships and develop great new skills that carry with them to their job or college, whatever path they choose. My involvement in extra and co-curricular activities is a huge reason why I chose a career in education. Each one requires a level of commitment and challenge.

Whether you get involved with mountain biking, singing in a choir, speech, basketball, cross-country, football, community education activities, etc., schools and communities have opportunities for all kids. Some need encouragement and mentorship from trusting adults around them to find the best fit, but that is why we are here for them. It is important for kids to work with different coaches and advisors with different styles and expectations. That is real world. You have to adapt and adjust to do well. In our school district, we talk a lot about kids finding their "spark"; that thing that gives them energy and excitement and makes them get up in the morning. We have to help kids find this. Maybe it's through competition or maybe it's through music. Whatever it is, in my experiences, students try to stay involved and adults should support and guide them on this journey.

Jeremy Millsop

My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.

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