The first annual Swan Lake Marathon took place on July 7, 2003. I had already been out to Swan Lake Christian Camp a few weekends that summer running long runs of 16-20 miles as strength work for cross country. On one of those weekends, a staff member said to me that I might as well run a marathon. I agreed to the idea, and drew up the first route on a large drawing pad in the staff lounge that was affectionately called “The List.” I called it the “first annual” more jokingly than not, with the crazy notion that I would make an annual journey to SLCC every year to log in 26.2 miles on the open roads where I fell in love with running.
I have always enjoyed going to SLCC. When I was young, my uncle and aunt were camp directors, so I would visit for a few weeks each summer to spend time with my cousins. As I grew older, going to my week of camp was always the highlight of my summer, and I was always in the same cabin as my cousin. Everything was carefree- I could enjoy nature, grow in my faith, play ultimate Frisbee- and the only thing that moved us from one activity to the next was the ringing of a giant camp bell. The 2 1/2 hour drive to camp always seemed like forever, but my yearly anticipation was always realized as we turned down the long driveway and drove under the tall camp sign mounted on telephone poles. My time at SLCC culminated when I was on staff the summer of my freshman year in college. This is when I also became a runner, and spent free afternoons or evenings running the roads surrounding Swan Lake.
All of this led me to toe the line I had drawn in the driveway directly under the pole sign at 3:30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning in 2003. It was more of a training run than a race, but started a tradition that has allowed me to stay in touch with SLCC and give back to camp. I started early enough to beat the heat, ran under a magnificent sunrise, and finished early enough for the staffers to be at the finish before going to church that morning. I signaled my finish by ringing the camp bell.
I have a lot of great memories from the following years. The second year, I again ran solo, starting around 8 pm. I thought it would be cool to run under the moon and the stars. Unfortunately a storm came up, and I finished just in time to beat a lightning and thunderstorm. The third year happened to be the 50th anniversary for SLCC, so we ran the race the same weekend and sent out advertising for Swan Lake Marathon. We also added a 2 mile walk, a 5.3 mile race around the lake, and a half marathon. All of a sudden we had 27 marathoners from all over the country. They all had great stories of races they had done, and it turned out to be as much fun to meet others as it was to share the run.
The race has now grown into a big event with which the community gets involved. Most importantly, you will find as a runner one of the most hospitable races you have ever entered and be well taken care of before, during, and after the race. Details of the race are organized by a race committee led by Renee Neufeld, former program director at camp, a marathoner, and also the SLM race director. The race course has been USATF certified, and runners receive t-shirts, medals, custom bib numbers, and awards and the opportunity to ring the bell to mark their completion of the marathon.
I hope that you will someday be able to come and ring the bell at the Swan Lake Marathon. You may even find yourself coming back annually just like me.
Russell Adrian, Co-Race Director