Volga husbands challenge spouses in marathon relay

Courtesy photos: Left, pictured after the 2019 Brookings Marathon are Mother Runners relay team members, from left, Karen Larsen, Andrea Warne, Sarah Licht, Katie Severson, Brittney Meyer, Ann Howell and Jessie Volkers. Right, members of Running to Beat Our Wives at the Sioux Valley High School track April 28. From left, are Dave Meyer, Jordan Warne, Andrew Licht, Dan Howell, Matt Volkers and Jeremiah Larsen.

Editor’s note: This is the third of series of four articles being published in advance of the Brookings Marathon May 15. For more on the race, go to http://www.prairiestriders.net/brookings-marathon.html.

This isn’t your typical jealous husband story. In fact, this is a case where jealousy is a good thing.

Among the 36 teams registered for the May 15 Brookings Marathon Relay, two are quite familiar with each other. Mother Runners, a group of seven Volga women, have been running together for about a decade and have had a team in the Brookings Marathon since 2016. By no means an elite team, the squad puts as much emphasis on fun as performance.

The bonding and joy encountered in taking on a group challenge has not gone unnoticed by their husbands, which this year formed their own team – Running to Beat Our Wives. 

They hope to finish ahead of their spouses and match them in the fun factor, said men’s captain Dan Howell. 

“Our group always looks forward to it and they (the husbands) were jealous of how much fun we have doing it each year,” said Sarah Licht, captain of Mother Runners.  “It’s a competitive thing. Dan spearheaded the group. He said, ‘We should get a team together because we can beat them.’ So there is a little bit of competitiveness, a little jealousy.”

Howell said the idea sprouted at a post-relay celebration a year ago when the spouses were together. The guys accepted the women’s challenge, he said.

Men’s team replaces Volga FD entry

Howell said he organized a Volga Fire Department relay team for three years, but interest there waned and the spouse challenge was a great way to stay connected to the Brookings Marathon. One of his fire department relay team members (Dave Meyer) is on Running to Beat Our Wives. For the others, this will be their first marathon relay experience.

However, Jeremiah Larsen has a couple Jack 15s to his credit and as the team’s most seasoned runner gets the 6-mile final leg. Other runners are Andrew Licht, Matt Volkers and Jordan Warne, who has his own story to tell. Two years ago his heart unexplainably stopped. Today he “is in great shape,” Howell said.

The other Mother Runners are Jessie Volkers, Andrea Warne, Ann Howell, Brittney Meyer, Katie Severson and Karen Larsen.

Howell, who runs several half marathons each year and completed a half at Virginia Beach April 25, has the 6-mile final leg.

If past performance is an indicator …

Will it come down to that final leg? That’s hard to say. Howell said Running to Beat Our Wives would like to cover the 26.2 miles in under four hours – “a pretty respectable time, a competitive time,” he said. 

Based on past performances, that would beat the wives, whose best time was 4:02 in 2018, when they competed as “Run Like the Winded.”

“Certainly some of us have worked on improving our speed. We know some of them (men) have a quicker pace. We’ve tried to increase our pace,” Licht said. 

Despite their inexperience in the relay, both Howell and Licht agree the pressure is on the men. 

Women: Friends became running friends

The women were friends before becoming running partners and entered some 5Ks together. Karen Larsen suggested entering a team in the marathon relay. “

We had so much fun we kept at it,” Licht said. 

The fun continues after the race. Andrea Warne’s birthday is May 11, so it usually falls somewhere during marathon week and provides another reason to celebrate.

“We usually go out for a meal and drinks and see what happens after that,” Licht said.

In 2020, the marathon was postponed as a COVID-19 precaution. However, Mother Runners still gathered in Volga and created a 3-mile loop around the edge of town. Everyone did their assigned leg – 3, 4, 5 or 6.2 miles – and then celebrated their accomplishment. On Sept. 12, when the actual event was held, Mother Runners were running – and celebrating – again.

What will this year’s celebration look like? That’s hard to say. As of last week, the teams had not staked a wager.

“I feel like before race day there will be a wager. Maybe the loser has to buy dinner,” Licht said.

At the very least, there is a lot of pride and a year’s worth of bragging rights at stake.

Neither team said they would be shadowing one another, but they fully expect to keep tabs when they are reaching exchange points. 

“It’s all for fun; some good competition and one of us will have bragging rights for the next year,” Howell said.


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