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With a Zoom crowd behind him, Funk finishes marathon headed into 2021

Pierz native uses treadmill with Zoom spectators to complete 1st marathon in 2020 and cross that off his dream list.

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Alex Funk smiles after finishing his marathon Dec. 28, 2020. Submitted photo.

Alex Funk ended 2020 on a runner’s high.

The 20-year-old and Pierz native finished a marathon on a treadmill Dec. 29, 2020, at Amp Fitness in Pierz.

Funk doesn’t consider himself a runner. He played football and baseball in high school for the Pioneers, but running a marathon was always something on Funk’s “dream list.” In August, he decided he wanted to cross it off.

“I figured there was no better time to just do it then at the end of this year,” Funk said. “So I started training in August and found a training plan online that would take 20 weeks and have me finish right at the end of the New Year and I thought that was perfect.

“I started looking for marathons in the U.S. just trying to find one in-person one that I could do, but they all got canceled due to COVID.”

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Funk trained outside the rest of the summer and into the fall. Later in the fall he started to train on a treadmill, knowing that running 26.2 miles outside in a Minnesota winter wasn’t ideal.

An obstacle arrived in mid-November when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz shut down local gyms and fitness centers. Funk said he thought about quitting at that point.

“When Walz canceled gyms, I didn’t have a treadmill anymore,” Funk said. “I switched back to training outside again in the cold. Then we got a big snowstorm and I thought ‘I’ve done this on a treadmill long enough. I might as well just go do it.’

“When Walz shut down the gyms it was my perfect opportunity to give up. I had my perfect escape on how it wasn’t possible and no one would blame me. But that was the turning point in that this is the perfect example I can be and that, with mental fortitude, you can accomplish anything.”

Funk’s dad’s first cousin owns the Amp Fitness that Funk used to run the marathon. He finished in four hours and 24 minutes.

“We think of her as our aunt,” Funk said. “I reached out to her and said if there was any way I could do this on her treadmill and she was all for it.”

While running, Funk set up a Zoom call where friends and family could pop in and out to cheer him on.

“If it were not for the people supporting me I definitely would have given up,” Funk said. “I had a Zoom set up in the front of the treadmill and the whole four hours people would clap and hold up signs like it was a real marathon. I have it all recorded too which is pretty cool.”

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Funk said that the first 13 miles of the marathon went by fast. He caught that glorious runner’s high from miles 14-18 and hit a wall at around mile 20.

“I don’t even remember miles one through 13,” he said. “Miles 14 through 18 I had a runner high and in the footage I start singing on the treadmill and pumping my arms — you can tell I have a runner’s high. When I hit a wall at mile 20, I had the Zoom right there and I started walking on the treadmill and people started giving me encouragement. Mile 20 to 24 was the hardest thing I’ve probably ever done mentally.”

The Zoom call was full by mile 24 and Funk sprinted through the fictional finish line to complete 26.2 miles.

“I threw my arms up in the air and it was a pretty sweet feeling to know that I did it,” Funk said.

Funk sells knives for Cutco and would wake up at 5 in the morning to train. Funk said he had never ran more than a mile before he started training.

“That was my first long distance running I had ever done when I started,” Funk said. “Doing a marathon is something that many people aspire to do and I just wanted to prove that if I can do it, you can do it. Especially in 2020 when so many bad things happened.”

There are no more marathons in Funk’s future. His 2021 goal is to compete in a boxing match.

“Definitely the opposite of running a marathon,” he said. “I probably won’t run again to be honest. It was a good experience and I encourage everyone to try and do it.”

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CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

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Alex Funk runs his marathon on a treadmill at Amp Fitness Tuesday, Dec. 28. Submitted photo.

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