Casey Miller of Baxter saw something different this year when he crossed the finish line of Saturday’s Run For the Lakes marathon in Nisswa.
The three-time defending champion saw another runner already there. Miller finished second in 2:47:42 or 12 minutes behind friend and marathon winner Patrick Russell.
“I’m really sore,” said Miller. “I’ve run a lot of distance races and when you have a bad day in a Marathon there’s no coming back from it.
“At about the 10 mile mark I knew that I was having a bad day.”
Miller, who finished last year’s marathon with a time of 2:40:44, isn’t surprised by his time this year.
“I’ve always been inconsistent,” said Miller. “It doesn’t surprise me that I have bad days. I’d like to always have good days, but I don’t.”
Miller and Russell, who ran together at the University of Minnesota Duluth, kept pace with each other for several miles, but Russell couldn’t hold back.
“We ran side by side for the first half and he could tell I was struggling and he tried to help me out and get me to relax,” said Miller. “He tried to pull me along, but left me at about 15 miles. He’s just a really good runner.”
Miller loves running in the Brainerd lakes area, but he had a little more trouble enjoying the scenery during Saturday’s marathon.
“When you’re hurting like that there’s no joy in anything,” said Miller. “Unfortunately the things that make it pretty like the rolling hills make it hurt more.”
Even though he knew that he wasn’t going to win, Miller kept his pace and tried to take advantage of all the support he had around him throughout the course.
“If it’s cold and windy and people are braving the elements to support you then they deserve your best effort,” he said. “I really do appreciate all the people who are cheering even if I’m feeling crappy.”
And while many runners crossed the finish line with headphones in their ears for motivations, Miller, who sees himself as a purist when it comes to running, did everything he could to absorb himself in the course and the fans.
“When running, I like to hear my breathing, my opponents breathing, the cheering and my feet hitting the ground,” said Miller. “There’s so much going on that I need to be in tune with. I use all five of my senses and it helps me gauge how I feel.”
Miller, who competes on average in 10 to 15 races a year, started running when he was 10.
“My parents would go to theses races when I was a kid and I decided that I wanted to be running too instead of waiting for them to get done.
“The rule was that if they paid for it, then I had to start running so I started practicing and competing in some of the races and I found success in it.”
After running in high school and college, Miller took a three-year break from competing, then started hitting his training hard as an adult.
“When I finally decided to start running again I was more mature and ready to train and I enjoyed it again,” said Miller.
“There are so many benefits to running besides just health; the camaraderie is great, too.”
Miller is just three weeks away from his next marathon in Fargo and is looking forward to a better run.
“It’s hard to think about the next run when you come off a bad run,” said Miller. “Having a bad day can happen anytime and I always hope I can do better in the next one.”