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Running: Marathon journey

Sara Carlson is uncertain if she will compete in this weekend's Brainerd Jaycees Run for the Lakes Marathon. Who can blame the 39-year-old mother of three after what she endured just getting to the 122nd Boston Marathon April 16? Carlson, who qua...

Sara Carlson (left) enjoys a post-Boston Marathon photo with her son Kyler, husband Mike and daughter Jaycee.
Sara Carlson (left) enjoys a post-Boston Marathon photo with her son Kyler, husband Mike and daughter Jaycee.

Sara Carlson is uncertain if she will compete in this weekend's Brainerd Jaycees Run for the Lakes Marathon.

Who can blame the 39-year-old mother of three after what she endured just getting to the 122nd Boston Marathon April 16?

Carlson, who qualified for Boston at last May's Fargo Marathon, finished 12,787th overall with a 3:47.44. Rainy, cold weather prevented Carlson from reaching her goal of running her fastest marathon time, but there were other factors at play for Carlson.

Carlson, her husband, Mike, and her two youngest children Kyler, 11, and Jaycee, 9, got into Bloomington April 13. It just happened to be the night the Twin Cities got hit with 20-plus inches of snow.

"Our flight was scheduled for 6 a.m. Saturday morning so we thought we might luck out," Carlson said. "Oh my goodness. It was just one delay after another. We just rolled with it. What else do you do? You can't change the weather so we just tried to make the best of it."

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The Carlson family was hopeful all the way until 9:45 p.m. when a rescheduled flight to Atlanta was canceled. With the last flight off, the hope of getting a hotel room that late was slim. Sara and her family spent Saturday night in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"That was a first for all of us," she said. "It was a camping excursion. It was so crazy. Who would have thought in April?"

Carlson said physically she adapted. She didn't let the holdover affect her. She realized her situation was out of her hands and refocused. Carlson did say a runner should get their best night of sleep two days before the race and that didn't happen on the airport floor.

"I don't know," Carlson said. "I think there is a lot you can overcome even if you are a little sleep deprived or fatigued. When you have a goal in mind, I think there are things you can do to adjust."

While getting to Boston was a hassle, getting ready for Boston was also a struggle for Carlson, who was an Iron Man competitor. The active Carlson was hit by influenza and then pneumonia while in the heart of her training.

"I didn't even care about training at that point because I was so tired," Carlson said. "It was miserable. All I could do was sleep and rest. I guess the important thing that I learned from that is to use your time wisely. Obviously, I'm not chronically ill or fatigued, but it gave me a big perspective change for people that do have chronic illnesses."

Despite the struggles, Carlson was optimistic she could register her fastest marathon time. She realized the course was tougher than most, but she was positive. Yet again conditions did not cooperate.

"It was quite an epic race day," Carlson said. "Some of the gale-force winds and the cold downpour rain that was constant throughout the race was something I don't think anyone really planned for."

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Despite it all, Carlson enjoyed being in that racing environment with 10 times the number of participants than she previously experienced. It was her first Boston and she said she hopes it's not her last.

What she didn't know for sure was whether she would compete in the Run for the Lakes, which kicked off Friday, April 27, with a 1K and a 5K event and family entertainment.

The marathon and half marathon will begin 8 a.m. Saturday, April 28, and the 10K will start at 8:30 a.m. just north of the Carlson Hardware store in Nisswa.

Last year, Carlson placed 16th overall in the half-marathon, which is what she normally runs. She posted a 1:34.02 and was the third female over the finish line.

But her next race will be the Liberty Triathlon June 9 in Rockford, Minn.

"I kind of want to get a good build going into that race," Carlson said. "But if I did run Nisswa it would just be the half and it would just be for fun. I would probably run with a friend or two and enjoy the day and have a reverse experience than I had in Boston. I do Nisswa quite often because I just love it. It's local and people are out supporting the race and a good cause.

"It's a great temperature check at the beginning of the season for people to see how their offseason training has been going for them. It's a good way to make plans in your training schedule based upon how your race execution went and how close you were to finishing to your goal time. It's a well-run event."

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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