When is the last time you went for a run? I mean a real good run of a mile or more. I know for me it has been far too long. Back when I was in my early 20's I was really excited about running, I even ran in a half-marathon. But as time has passed, I have not made the commitment to the lifetime sport that I should have. But this entry in The Shield is not about me, but about a friend, a coworker, and brother in Christ, Manitowoc Lutheran High School's International Program Director, and assistant cross-country coach Mr. Nathan (Nate) King.
On Saturday morning December 10th, 2022 while most of us were still fast asleep, Nate was waking up early and preparing himself for his next race. Over the course of his life Nate has run in several races of varying lengths, including several marathons. This time it was different, this time he would take on the 50K. For those wondering, a marathon is just over 42K, and for those of us not so familiar with the metric system, 50K is just over 31 miles. So...Nate set out to run the equivalent of going from Manitowoc Lutheran High School all the way to Messiah Lutheran Church in Green Bay/Bellevue.
There were far more than just the 50K runners at this event, there was also the half, full marathon runners, all running different variations of the same course, all finishing at the same spot, roughly around the same time due to staggered start times. The race itself took place just north of Tucson, AZ in the township of Oracle (elevation 4,524') at 6:30 a.m. before the sun rose over the desert on a crisp 37-degree morning. The runners made their way through Casa Del Oro. The thermal heat of the desert began to warm the air. After two out-and-backs (where the runners, traverse a large loop multiple times to add distance) on Biosphere Road, through Oracle Junction the runners would finish in Catalina. (3,123′)
To run a 50K is one thing, but to run perhaps the best you have ever run is another. Nate's final time of 3:24:10, breaks down to average pace of a 6:34 mile. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of us couldn't run a single 6:34 mile, let alone 31 in a row! "I ran a lot faster than I thought I was going to, it would have been a P.R. (Personal Record) marathon for me." said Nate. One of his big goals was to not give in to the temptation to walk, even for a short period. He accomplished that goal with months of preparation. He credited three of the cross-country athletes; sophomore Jacob Kanzenbach and seniors Seth Ciha Jonah Melso for their fast recovery runs all cross-country season, (Nate would run with them) which he feels helped his legs to be stronger for this race.
Preparing for a race like this takes a massive amount of commitment and dedication. Running a marathon, or even a half marathon is not something someone just wakes up Thursday and decides to do over a weekend. It can take years of training, to prepare to run a race like this. Nate has routes all around Manitowoc of ‘easy 10 milers’, all the way up to his ‘long runs’. The Sunday before Thanksgiving (on one of the coldest days so far) you may have spotted Nate running downtown Manitowoc on one of his "long runs". He was just getting in a casual marathon on a Sunday. It took him only three hours.
If you know Nate, then you know that he is a positive and upbeat person, so when he told me that he actively encourages other runners during the race, “trying to be a positive influence on the running community” I wasn't surprised. "What I like about running (or rock climbing) is you encourage each other, it's different from ball sports where your focus is crushing and conquering, [in running] you are pushing yourself and you want to do well, but you also want to see other people do well. For this it’s not like, if I lose to someone, I've failed."
This positive outlook and commitment are something that he brings to his coaching and teaching ministry here at MLHS every day. Nate hopes that his students and athletes can see that they too can accomplish something difficult, but it takes hard work.
Being a part of a community of runners is one benefit. But running has also helped Nate stay connected to his faith and his friends. While Nate is running with earbuds in, 9 times out of 10 he will have on a sermon or faith based podcast. Right now he is listening to a book on Martin Luther. “Long runs are a great time for reflection, mediation… and a time to appreciate the wonders of God's creation.”. Nate opted to run without headphones in this 50K to even further appreciate the beauty of the American Southwest. Nate's many races have helped him to continue lifelong friendships with people all over the world. This was one of those opportunities where Nate would be able to visit his friend in Arizona Mr. Nathan Reich.
They met when they both lived overseas spreading the Gospel message with Friends of China. For more information about Friends Network click HERE. Nathan (pictured on left) is currently serving as principal of Redeemer Lutheran School in Tucson. To learn more about the ministry of Redeemer Tucson, click HERE. Our WELS connection to that church, our very own Mr. James Otto's (MLHS English Instructor) brother Micah is currently serving his vicar year at the congregation, where Nate had the pleasure of worshiping on Sunday morning and hearing Vicar Otto preach.
"I'm thankful that I have a body capable of what it can do, [and we should] use our gifts to glorify God. For me, that happens to be running. In running there are a lot of lessons that can be learned, for me running gives me time to think, process and come to conclusions. It gives me emotional rest and helps me be better equipped in life."
In one of the pictures below you will see Nate with the race director Jamil Coury, in his most recent Aravaipa Trail Talk LIVE on Youtube he discussed the Tucson marathon, at around the 22:00 minute mark he gives a shout out to the 50K winner himself! To watch click here.
From all of us in the Lancer Family, Congratulations Nate! You are a blessing to our school. Thank you for your service and God's blessings on your next race!