Running Together: a Long, Long Way
by Ian Marks
After graduating, alumni stay in touch with classmates via emails, Facebook, or face-to-face visits. Six Tech cross-country and track alumnae reconnected by running a very long distance together.
"I wanted to see where we could go with more-challenging distances and an all-female relay team," says Megan Killian '05.
So, the six women competed in the 2008 Ragnar Relay, covering 187 miles in Washington state. Not only did the team finish first of the eleven all-women's teams, but they finished eighth among all 142 teams competing—135 of which had up to twelve runners on their teams.
The former Huskies (and a friend) finished in 23:31.03, a 7:37-mile pace.
Margot Hutchins '02 and Killian, both now doctoral students at Tech, first proposed competing in the Ragnar Relay after they were each part of a previous relay team. The next step was recruiting friends to complete their team.
Leslie Semler '04, a geological engineer working in Duluth, was a natural fit to join the team. The former school record holder in the 10,000 meters frequently returns to the Keweenaw to compete.
Jessica Brakora '04, who still holds the school record in the 800 meters and is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Wisconsin, was also quick to join.
Kendra Wolk '04, a graduate student in veterinary science at Ohio State, was found through Facebook.
"Margot, Jess, Leslie, and I are, in a sense, surrogate sisters to each other," says Killian.
Shortly after Katy (Bendall) Lindstrom '06 joined the team she had to withdraw due to pregnancy. Samantha Carlson, a nonalum friend of Stemler's from Duluth, stepped in to take the spot.
The team traveled to Washington individually and regrouped in Seattle. They stayed at the home of Adam Airoldi '08 another alum of the cross-country team and "a great host," according to Hutchins.
Due to the size of the race, the starts were staggered. The teams varied from high schoolers to post-middle-agers.
The Tech team, the Mega Tough Ultra Chicks, had only one team startingbehind them.
"It was helpful running from the back because we ran with different teams throughout the race," said Hutchins.
"We were not sure how we were doing overall, but we knew we were doing okay. We kept passing people," said Killian.
The team ran through the night using a head lamp.
"When you were running with the head lamp, you could only see three feet in front of you, which was nice because you had no idea what was coming up," said Hutchins.
During the night, Wolk's husband, Tom, drove a car next to the team van so the runners could "get a good hour of sleep."
The race was run exclusively on roads and featured many tough climbs through the mountains.
The team, which wore pink shirts while running, picked up its pace as the race went along.
"Getting closer to the finish, I caught more people and got more energy," said Killian, who ran the final leg of the race.
Overall Brakora ran the shortest amount (only twenty-six miles, nearly a marathon) and Hutchins ran the most (thirty-six miles).
"I think sharing the experience of traveling to a new place and doing something we all love so much was something we will have forever," says Killian.
The sisterhood stayed strong at the end.
"We wanted to cross the finish line as a group," adds Hutchins. "Kendra was too tired and sore, so Jess gave her a piggyback ride!"