Whether it's running, biking, nordic skiing or inline skating, East Gull Lake resident Tom Wittkopp has always lived an active life.
At 57, Dr. Wittkopp, who's been a psychiatrist in Brainerd since 1990, has endured a handful of injuries the past couple of years. One would think that it might be time to slow down. But not Wittkopp. For him it's full steam ahead.
This Saturday, Wittkopp will employ that all-or-nothing attitude in the first Brainerd Dispatch Online Inline Half Marathon.
"I'm really looking forward to the race," Wittkopp said. "I've skated the course with Terry Holm, a nationally known racer, and some of his friends and it'll be a fun course. It's a unique course because there are a lot of turns.
"Plus, it's very convenient that the race is right here in town."
Wittkopp, who was a longtime distance runner and had competed in 10K races and marathons, began inline skating 15 years ago when he began experiencing trouble with his knees. He attributed his chronic knee problems to the constant pounding of the pavement when he ran and said that inline skating puts a lot less pressure on his joints.
Now in his seventh season of inline racing, Wittkopp has competed in the Northshore Inline Marathon in Duluth several times and has raced in marathons in the Twin Cities.
"I've been fortunate enough to be pretty successful in the racing I've done and I've medaled the last three years in Duluth," Wittkopp said.
But like any athlete, Wittkopp has had his share of injuries. He suffered a back injury that required surgery following the Northshore Inline race in September of 2000 that, as Wittkopp points out, was probably triggered by an earlier biking accident. In July of 2001 while skating, Wittkopp fell, dislocating his shoulder and breaking his arm.
Even with the injuries, Wittkopp never thought about giving up the sports he loves.
"I actually never thought of giving anything up," said Wittkopp. "Last year I elected to take a year off from inline racing. But I love the sport so much I never considered giving it up. The great thing is that all the injuries are healed up and I'm anxious to start racing again."
Training takes up a big part of Wittkopp's days. He usually inline skates five or six days a week and trains on his bike about once a week. All told, Wittkopp piles on around 80 miles a week.
As far as contending for a medal on Saturday, the always competitive Wittkopp knows that if he skates the way he can he could be walking away with a ribbon.
"Part of that depends on the number of people in the race," said Wittkopp. "I'm always optimistic to place and hopefully it'll be a first place in my age class."
Besides hoping for a medal, Wittkopp is hopeful that the Online, Inline event will be a shinning success.
"I would hope that this becomes an annual event," said Wittkopp. "With guys like Terry, who knows racing and the management of a race course better than anyone I know, we'll have a very professional event."
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