Brookings Marathon: Hanson switching from cycling cleats to running shoes

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four articles leading up to the weekend of the Brookings Marathon May 11-12. For more information on the races, go to

BROOKINGS – Fitness enthusiast Randy Hanson, 55, of rural Aurora, has been part of the Brookings Marathon since 2009.

That was the year he started organizing the lead-out cyclists for the event. 

“It started out as kind of a family affair,” Hanson said.

That first year he and his oldest son, Jacob, were part of the six-person team that leads out the full, half and team marathon runners.

Since then Jacob has joined his dad five times and his youngest son Riley and wife Stacey have also been a part of the fun, but 2018 is “new territory” for him.

That’s because Hanson, president of Mills Construction of Brookings, is running the Brookings Marathon.

In 2015 and 2016, he organized the bikers and ran the half marathon while also running the first leg on marathon relay teams. 

But in 2018, he plans to pick off a bucket list item that started when he first led the marathon runners in 2009.

And why 2018?

“We’re empty nesters now. I could focus more time on my training. I’m 55, so I’m the youngest guy in my age group. I’m relatively healthy at this point. I’ve got a few aches,” he says with a laugh, “but this seemed like the year to do it.”

He’s got the support of Ben Margeson, a 29-year-old pastor from Grace Point who joins Hanson on some of his training runs, and his wife Stacey, who in 2012 joined Hanson on a tandem road bike in leading the marathon racers. 

She said she is not surprised to see her husband undertake the 26.2-mile challenge even at this age.

“Randy has always been about taking on physical challenges, whether it was the nine-hour CAT Rock 9 mountain bike race in Spearfish, or technical rock climbing with our boys, or competing in cycling century rides.

“I thought after he ran his first half marathon that someday he was going to want to try the full marathon. I hope it doesn’t kill him,” she joked.

Tougher than serious cycling

Indeed, Hanson, who has done multiple cycling century rides in five hours or less, admits to being nervous about venturing into new territory. 

“One huge difference I’ve noticed (between cycling and running) is you can’t draft behind someone or coast downhill and, while it’s easier to run downhill, it’s still work.

“Running is the most intense exercise I do because there’s never a real break. I’ve got a new respect level for people who run marathons.”

To prepare for the marathon, he has been running three to four days a week, plus one day of cross training. 

His cross training is biking on an indoor trainer or running the stairs in the Campanile on the SDSU campus. That’s 173 steps once you’re inside the Campanile to the top viewing deck.

However, Hanson doesn’t take time to view the town. He heads right back down for another trip, usually doing 13 to 16 “laps” in about an hour. The engineer has calculated the height and number of steps to determine it takes 45.3 laps to equal a climb of one vertical mile.

Now at 181 laps, he has done four vertical miles since starting that weekly workout Jan. 9 with three others who are also running the marathon or half marathon.

Boston in 2019?

Hanson’s goal for his marathon debut is to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon (this year’s race was Monday).

To be eligible for selection, he will need to run a 3:40, which is an 8:24 pace. He ran a 7:36 pace at a 10-mile race in Sioux Falls on April 7 to win his age group, but a marathon is another 16 miles. At that point, 10 miles had been his longest training run.

His schedule called for an 18-miler this past weekend, but with the snowstorm, he ended up running 20 miles on a treadmill, which he said is a boring way to train.

Hanson is slated to go 23 miles on April 21 and then ramp down for the May 12 Brookings Marathon.

“I’m having a hard time adjusting to a slower pace” needed to do the marathon, Hanson said. “I’m trying to make myself slow down. Ben and I went on a training run on April 12 and had a goal of running at an 8-minute pace. Our first mile was 7:15. I have a tendency to start too fast.”

With just over three weeks until race day, Hanson admits to some nervousness and self-doubt. 

“Is this really worth it? Am I sure I can make it? Can I stay healthy?”

But he counters that with “It’ll be fun. It’s a goal I really want to accomplish,” the goal-driven Redfield native said.

He also he sought advice from fellow distance runners Paul Hanusa, Rich Reed and Dave Graves.

“I always try to seek out sound advice from those who have done something I have never done. All three of those guys are accomplished runners and people I respect.”

Has conquered greater challenges

Hanson has certainly faced bigger challenges in life.

A 1997 skiing accident resulted in surgeries on both knees. 

In 1999, he underwent surgery for esophageal cancer.

He opted for a high anti-oxidant, vegetarian diet and a serious exercise regimen in lieu of chemotherapy.

In fact, he put on more than 5,000 miles on his bike the first season after getting out of the hospital. He emerged healthy and largely continued the lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise.

Some of those same friends and family who supported him through his battle with cancer will be encouraging him along the race course.

Of course, Stacey and Randy’s mom, Eldena, will be two of those.

“Randy joked that he might need to jump on the back of one of the bikers to finish the race, but I have a lot of confidence in him,” Stacey said. 

Courtesy photo:

Above: Posing after completing the 2016 Jack 15 relay are members of Team Mills Construction. From left are Stacey, Jacob and Randy Hanson and Greg Kastner. Not pictured is Angie Boersma.

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