Posted by: Susan Loken | October 5, 2010

The Big Day – Twin Cities & The Proposal

It’s 5 a.m. on race day, and I’m up before the alarm, anxious and eager to run. I go through my morning routine of taking a nice long hot shower, drinking a cup of coffee, sport drink and a banana, putting on my running clothes and, most importantly, putting on my “believe” necklace and my “faith” bracelet!

 Bill seems more eager and anxious than me as he gets his bike ready (Rick, the elite coordinator loaned it to him) to follow me though the marathon.

 6 a.m. I’m on the Elite bus on my way to the start. Yes, I have butterflies and feel a little bit like throwing up. But, experience has taught me that once you start running, all the nerves and stomach butterflies go away. I also keep thinking positive thoughts. I’m trained, I have a plan, I won’t give up and I believe I can do this.

 The bus drops us off at a church next to the starting line. Inside, we have time to relax, stretch, use the bathroom (200 times!), and go outside for a short warm-up run.

For me, it’s like “back to school” time with so many faces that I haven’t seen in a long time. I chatted with a good friend of mine, Kathleen Jobes (from Runners World), we ran beautifully together for most of the 2008 Olympic Trails. Each of us wants to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials. I told Kathleen that my goal was to run the first half at a 6:10 pace and the second half at a 6:20 pace. This means hitting 13.1 miles in 1:21, and 20 miles before 2:04. I know that I need 40 minutes for the last hilly 10K. She was on board! Yippee!

 8 a.m. The gun goes off and the race begins! Wow, my blood pressure is rising just typing this! HA!

 First mile – 6:04, just a little too fast. Kathleen (with me in photo here), me and a few other master women settle down and get into a comfortable rhythm for the next 8 miles (6:11, 6:15, 6:07, 6:11, 6:10, 6:11, 6:10, 6:14) The early miles are always the hardest for me mentally because I have to work at a level that is hard, yet manageable, when I have such a long way to go and I’m not totally in the zone yet. It usually takes me until mile 10-ish before my mind is completely and utterly absorbed with the task at hand, or in the zone. And until I’m 100% in this zone my mind can wonder. Sometimes it tells me that this is going to be too hard and what the heck are you doing? I work hard to dismiss ALL negative thoughts and continue running with one goal in mind, to run under a 2:46!

Right before mile 10, a group of about four younger female runners go flying past us and I instinctively catch up and tag onto their group. My group stays back and I have a decision to make. Do I hang on with these young ladies, or slow down just a bit and run with Kathleen and the other Masters? Ugh, if I run with these ladies I may end up with a faster finish time or I may end up running too fast and die.  Just as I’m thinking about slowing down a little Megan Arbogast (another experienced master runner) shows up and is running with our pack. So, that made my decision easy. I will hang onto this pack as long as I can.

I end up running miles 10 to 18 with this awesome pack of ladies (6:04, 6:05, 6:07, 6:09, 6:07, 6:06, 6:10, 6:06, 6:11) being lead by the delightful young woman Ruth (with me in photo here after the race) that I met on the bus! Ruth is saying words of encouragement and they are strategizing trading places each mile. Heck, I’m just running behind them, in the zone, feeling blessed with each mile that I can hang onto this group. By mile 19, I have to let them go because I’m working too hard. Mile 19 and 20 I got back to my, as I say, level of pain that I can tolerate, and ran a 6:14 and 6:15. 

After mile 20 the hills begin, I’m all alone, yet I’m READY! This is what I’ve mentally prepared for. I know that the last 6 miles will be above the level of pain I can tolerate, but since it’s the last 6 miles I will handle it! This is where the race and hard work begin. I’m 110% focused and nothing is going to stop me now. I will run under 2:46!

Mile 21…6:28, Mile 22 is the steepest uphill. My effort level is SO HIGH at this point! I draw inner strength, first from my faith that God is ultimately in charge of every situation and no matter the outcome I am loved by him, and second from all the support and love I felt from my family, friends, Team Chances and Team Sole Sisters. How can one person be blessed with so many amazing people in her life? I will do exactly what I ask Team Chances and Team Sole Sisters to do. I will never give up and I will believe! 

Mile 23…6:39 pace and way ahead of me (ok, about 25 seconds, but at this point it may have been 5 miles) I can see the 1st place Master and I think, SO COOL I will be the second place Master Champion AND qualify for the trials! Mile 24 flattens out and I run a 6:18 and let me tell you this, I am working as hard as I can! 

Mile 25 has some uphill, I’m running as fast as I can – it’s a 6:30 mile. I can see the first place Master runner Tamara Karrh getting closer to me and I think to myself: “I can catch her – I have to go for it!!” 

It’s the final mile, and I’m digging as deep as I’ve ever dug before. I passed her with less than a half a mile to go. After passing her, I was running out of my mind. The final stretch to the finish is downhill (thank goodness), I had no idea if she was right behind me and I wasn’t going to look behind me. I looked down at my Garmin and it said I was running a 5:15 pace! Yeah, you can say I was digging deep, if I could just hold on my Dream Goal would be realized.

Well, I held on and crossed the finish line in 2:44:43 and won my 4th USA Master Championship Title! 

Right past the finish line in the chute was BILL! He was beside himself with joy! Seeing him like that was priceless! He was in complete shock, and could not believe that I managed to win and qualify! They put a medal around my neck and reporters started asking me questions, but I had not caught my breath yet, so Bill talked to them for me. It took me a few minutes to regulate my breathing. 

I had one of the amazing volunteers and a drug testing representative escort me out. I only had 10 minutes until awards, and I had to get enough fluids in me so I could fill up a cup with pee for the drug testing. 

Awards were short and sweet, right at the finish line as other runners were still finishing. They awarded the top finishers and the top masters with a medal and flowers. 

After the awards …

We were standing in front of the drug testing tent waiting for me to have to go to the bathroom and Carol (the elite coordinator) asked me what I thought of the medal this year. I looked down at my medal and said nice. Carol said, read the back of it. It took me a while because my eyes are not so good. I finally made out the engraving on the back of my medal … 

Susan, will you marry me? 

I looked over, and Bill was on his knee asking me to marry him! All I could do was cry big, huge tears of happiness! I had just accomplished my “Dream Goal”, and now my “DREAM Guy” was asking me to marry him? There is NO WAY I can properly describe this moment in words to you. The joy and happiness I felt inside was almost too much to handle. Between sobs and huge tears of joy I said YES! 

My fiancé (love that word!) and I were anxious to get drug testing over with (even though it is a thrill becasue that means you ran fast!) so we could meet up with our friends and celebrate this magical day. 

We ran into Carrie Tollefson, (an amazing lady, Olympic Runner and television reporter) and she interviewed Bill and I about the race and engagement! YEAH, I can’t wait to get a copy to show our Grandkids someday! 

 Below is a picture of me after the race with one of my long time training partners Ron Hyde (love this guy!) and Bandito teammates Suzanne and Dan. A big Congratulations to Dan for a PR in the marathon and Suzanne for a PR in the 10 mile race!!







And just to top off my DREAM DAY was one of my best friends, Yohnnie, and her boyfriend waiting for us at the hotel. They drove over from Iowa to watch me race.  We celebrated together at a cozy outdoor café with wine, hamburgers and fries!

Final Thoughts: 

Life has many ups and downs, and each up and down is necessary in this amazing journey we call life. 

Accept the downs, enjoy the ups, believe in yourself, and have faith in God’s plan, and your life journey will take you right where you were meant to be. It worked for me! 

Did I happen to mention that this was the best day ever, and I’m getting married to the man of my dreams?


  1. OMG…this is one of the most beautiful, inspirational blogs I have EVER read. Susan, you gave me the race that I didn’t have, just by reading this. You are not only a beautiful runner, but have a beautiful soul! May God continue to bless you!
    Lori Kingsley

  2. Susan,

    Congratulations! I am so happy for you and Bill!

  3. Wow! I was hanging on every word – incredible! Congrats on your win, qualifying and engagement. Amazing!!

    Bridgette from California

  4. It is unbelievable story Susan… you are an amazing woman and athlete! I am so happy for you and Bill!!!

  5. Fantastic journey Susan! Thanks for sharing it with us!! I am so happy for you in exceeding your goal and for both you and Bill- such good things for such wonderful people. Congrats!

  6. What an unbelievable story! First off, congratulations!!!!! You are an inspiration, and I thank you for your story. I was on the edge of my seat.. You are amazing!!!!

    • Kristia, thank you so much!!

  7. Susan,
    Thank you for writing this extraordinary story! I felt as if I were with you and had chills while reading! Congratulations to you on your amazing accomplishment and best wishes to you and Bill!

    Amber, Carlena & Harry!!

  8. Congratulations Susan!!!
    Your recap brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful surprise to be engaged on the same day as accomplishing a dream.

  9. Are you for real, woman?!?! You look like a STUDETTE in those photos. Way to bring it right to the VERY END! So happy you were successful in your #1 goal and congratulations on the engagement. Your fiance seems like a really nice guy and you deserve no less. Keep it up. Love watching you rock it out with 20 somethings. Your strength of will is outstanding.

  10. p.s. Will you send me a lock of your hair to put under my pillow:-)….LOL.

  11. Susan, what a great day!! So many great things happened. I am so so happy for you!

  12. Susan, I too, was on the edge of my seat. Your detailed description was magical – I was drawn in right along side you…in fact, my IT bands ached just reading Your diary is so inspirational and soulfull.
    I cried and got goosebumps when I read about Bill’s proposal! I am so happy for you both. Truly a match made in Heaven!

  13. Congratulations on your race! You still got it!!!!

    I am so happy you are with someone that is as amazing as you are. I love you both dearly.
    xoxo, jo

  14. Wow! What an amazing day for you!! I loved reading about your experience through each mile and what an incredible finish 🙂 Just came across your blog and what an encouragement it is. Again congratulations on your victory and engagement!!

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