Dandelion Growing Wild (Part 1)
Note: Starting today, the TCM Blog will post excepts of Kim Jones' memoir "Dandelion Growing Wild." Jones (pictured) is a two-time Twin Cities Marathon champion, winning the race in 1986 (as Kim Rosenquist) and 1989. In the excerpts, Jones tells the story of running the 1985 and 1986 Twin Cities Marathons. "Dandelion Growing Wild" is available in Kindle format and can be ordered at Amazon.com.
By Kim Jones
My husband Kelly and I flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul on the Thursday before the race, along with our Spokane friend, Mike Brady, who was also planning to compete in the 1985 Twin Cities Marathon.
We waited patiently for Sunday to arrive. I was an invited runner and had to attend a few press conferences, but wasn’t asked to be up on stage as one of the favorites. Nobody paid any attention to me, and I certainly wasn’t a threat. I was just a 2:48 marathoner after placing 5th in my first marathon in Honolulu a year earlier. It had been difficult even persuading Jack Moran, the race director, to give me a free hotel room and a promise to reimburse me for my plane ticket if I placed in the top 10. I’m sure he invited me only as a favor to Don Kardong and Jeff Darman, two mutual friends that were well known in the running community.
I’d trained day in and day out for seven solid months, and was ready to see if all that effort would pay off on race day. I had beaten many of the other invited women in short races over the summer, but I hadn’t proven myself over the marathon distance.
"I had beaten many of the other invited women in short races over the summer,
but I hadn’t proven myself over the marathon distance."
The morning of the marathon was crisp, clear and cold – 25 degrees, with no wind. Since I had previewed the course, I knew what to expect. The race would start on the city streets in Minneapolis and then wind around lakes and along the river into St Paul. There were small climbs throughout, but at 19 miles the course became a gradual, and sometimes not-so-gradual, 6-mile climb to the St. Paul Cathedral before the final mile descent to the State Capitol. It was a challenging yet fair course that would allow for a fast time. My coach, Benji Durden, and I talked about race strategy and came up with a conservative plan to start slowly and it would feel as if I was holding back.
Most of the top women were racing all-out from the gun. My plan was to run well within my comfort zone for the first 10 miles, no matter what, and I did. At 10 miles, I was in 20th place, running at just over 6-minute pace. Continuing at that pace for 16 more miles seemed overwhelming, but I quickly put the thought out of my mind and carried on. I was comfortable, my breathing was good and I had no worries about any asthma problems. I went through the halfway point feeling strong, enjoying the beauty of the autumn leaves and the many lakes and parks surrounding the beautiful course. When the sun came out, it warmed the freezing morning to a comfortable 50 degrees. As it hit the colorful leaves, the reflection was almost blinding.
"When the sun came out, it warmed the freezing morning to a comfortable 50 degrees.
As it hit the colorful leaves, the reflection was almost blinding."
Because of road construction and a rising river, we were faced with a detour. Instead of crossing a bridge, there was an out-and-back portion that gave me a glimpse of everyone returning as I was heading out. Most of my competition looked tired and not very pleasant at all. I was far behind the lead women and decided that I might be relaxing and holding back too much, even more than Benji suggested. Seeing the other women struggling encouraged me to pick it up a little.
Once I hit the turnaround at 19 miles, I came back fast, weaving through so many women that I lost count. American athletes, foreign athletes, I just sailed by them while heading up the hills toward the cathedral. I looked a long way up the course and saw a press vehicle and a cyclist. They must be with the lead woman. I squinted for a closer look. There she was, and I didn’t see any other women between us. I’m in second place!
That encouraged me even more. I started running faster. Once again, I never hit “The Wall” that everyone continued to tell me about. I was executing our race plan perfectly. I drew closer and closer as we approached the finish line, but the other woman crossed it first, 12 seconds in front of me.
Janice Ettle, the nicest competitor I had yet to meet in my running career, won the race. She was from Minnesota, and the crowd was ecstatic over the hometown victory. I was happy for her, and thrilled with my second place. I shocked myself by running under 6-minute pace, 2:35:59. Janice, who had finished 5th in the 1984 Olympic Trials, ran 2:35:47. At that moment, I knew I was a marathoner. More importantly, I knew I could run faster.
"At that moment, I knew I was a marathoner.
More importantly, I knew I could run faster."
I had faith in Benji, I had faith in the plan, and I had faith in myself.
I made some decent money for my second-place finish – $12,000, plus the sponsorship performance bonuses – besides winning several nice “presents.” I never dreamed I could win so much money just for running. I was elated to see that I was rewarded tenfold for what I did best.
Everyone was overjoyed after the shock wore off. As for me, I was beaming with pride. I had lopped 13 minutes off my marathon time in 10 months. Still, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. Satisfaction leads to being less motivated, less likely to continue to strive. I went home full of high spirits, recharged and ready to train harder with more confidence and experience to tackle the marathon world. I wanted to reach a higher level.
I would try again in the U.S. Championship Marathon Trials the following year – in the 1986 Twin Cities Marathon. If all went well … I knew I would be on the World Championships team in Rome … I felt a strong conviction.
We'll post the second installment of the excerpt from Kim Jones' "Dandelion Growing Wild" in a few days. The book is available in Kindle format and can be ordered at Amazon.com.