Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, July 23, 2001

Thirteen seconds with Elvis - Waverly banker finishes Grandma's Marathon

By Lynda Jensen

The famous but grueling Grandma's Marathon in Duluth included a runner this year familiar to many: Jim Vrchota of Waverly.

Jim Vrchota finished the race with two of his brothers, Steve and Tom. Jim is the president of the Citizens State Bank of Waverly.

The Vrchota brothers, of whom Jim is the eldest, are all athletic by nature, he said.

They decided about six months ago to run together for Grandma's June 16, he said.

13 seconds with Elvis

Jim Vrchota ran his first-ever marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon, with a time of four hours and 15 minutes, which exceeded his personal goal by 15 minutes.

For Grandma's, Jim moved his personal goal up to four hours.

When he took off running at Grandma's Marathon, he stopped for a few seconds about halfway through the race for a photo opportunity with an Elvis impersonator.

The quick photo made him miss his goal by 13 seconds - but he finished the race with a respectable time of four hours and 13 seconds; something that most runners would be proud to say.

In fact, one third of the runners in Grandma's Marathon never finish the race at all, and less than one tenth of one percent of the population has successfully completed a marathon, Vrchota said.

Getting ready

The Vrchotas started to prepare for Grandma's Marathon six months ago.

Jim runs every other day, five miles each Monday and Wednesday, and between nine and 13 miles Fridays.

It's preferable to run races where there are water stations and other places to access, he said. Otherwise, he would set out water bottles for himself to do this, he said.

He started to increase his miles from 13 to 20 miles run during his regular routine, and then tapered his routine down to let his muscles rebuild, he said.

He also did "carbo loading" he said, which means eating very little protein. This meant eating pancakes for breakfast and lots of pasta, Vrchota said.

And they're off

Runners at Grandma's Marathon have micro chips tied to their shoes to keep track of their time.

When the Vrchotas started the race, it took about three minutes to even get to the starting line because there were so many runners in it, he said. "We stood there for a minute with no one moving," he said.

The race runs along beautiful Lake Superior, he said.

Toward the end of the race, runners experience something called "the wall" - where they reach incredible physical fatigue and reach their bodies' limits, he said.

This usually occurs about 20 miles into the race, he said.

"When I hit the wall, I decided to try running with my eyes closed part of the time," he said.

He briefly closed his eyes to shut out the fatigue and thought about sitting on the beach with a Corona in his hand, he said.

He crossed the finish line and his first thought was "Where's Steve?" he said. Somewhere at the time that he closed his eyes, he'd lost track of his brother. He assumed that Steve got ahead of him.

"I checked his number to see if he got in and was told that he hadn't got in yet," Vrchota said.

Steve achieved a time of four hours and five minutes and Tom four hours and 51 minutes. Tom improved his personal best by 40 minutes.

All of the brothers obtained their personal best at Grandma's, he said.

Vrchota's time also beat his brother, Steve's time, which was an unexpected achievement for this one race, he said.

Steve is eight years younger than Jim and an "Iron Man." Steve takes part in tri-athalons, where the participants must swim for two and a half miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a regular marathon of 26.2 miles, Vrchota said.

Steve, an engineer living in Nowthen, Minn., is the one who initially gave him his training, he said.

"He taught me how to breathe, how to run, how to drink water and hydrate," Vrchota said. "I wouldn't even have done as well without him."

His other brother Tom; however, from Princeton, gave him the incentive to start running and he respects him very much, he said.

In fact, Jim may have never run a marathon if it hadn't been for Tom's challenge in the first place, he said.

Four Vrchota ran together in the 8k race at the recent Delano Fourth of July event. This race included his brother, Tim, a banker from Waseca.

The background behind marathons

Marathons are always 26.2 miles no matter where they are conducted, Vrchota said.

The original story behind marathons is that when the Athenians were at war with the Spartans, an Athenian warrior ran exactly 26.2 miles - the distance from the town of Marathon to Athens - to tell them that the Spartans were making a surprise attack. Then he dropped over dead, Vrchota said.

Back to Current Stories Menu | Back to Archives List

Howard Lake-Waverly Herald & Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries
Community Guides | Special Topics | Cool Stuff | Search | Home Page