as a participant. Here are some of the things I’ve been missing, from the vantage point of a mere spectator….
On the bridge overlooking the Bierman Track and Field Stadium
Yesterday’s wind and rain delivered a perfectly clear and cool morning – ideal
for running a quick race. This is an interesting and entertaining course
set-up with the runners funnelled into and through Dinkytown before weaving
around the sleepy early morning campus and then into the Stadium for a thrilling
three-quarters turn around the track to the finish line.
Registration in the George R. Gibson “Bronko” Nagurski Football Practice
Late registrants are stretching and milling about on the bouncy field house turf. Some anxiously stand in line, eyeing their watches and counting the numbers of people still ahead of them, waiting to get their official race number.
This is the designated starting time but it is clear that the race will not
start precisely on time. This is the only event at the U.S. Transplant Games
that includes participants from the general public, and both those folks
as well as Transplant Games participants are still peeling off the side streets
and into the starting lanes – and nobody seems in a hurry about getting there.
The computer chip counter is chirping as racers saunter over the start pad
to find a place among the others and an official begins making introductions
and announcements over the public address system.
Warm-up exercises begin as the staring gate lineup stretches a full city block
long and wide. Many teams arrive in bunches: Wisconsin, Connecticut, Team Liberty,
and the largest throng, from Team Upper Midwest.
The constant murmur among excited runners abates as a hush of anticipation
descends. A wheelchair participant and a blind walker with a seeing-eye dog
are given a two minute head start.
The gun sounds.
A few trim men bolt out of the gate, well ahead of the rest
of the pack. An apparent majority of the crowd seem to be treating the event
as a friendly stroll rather than as a competitive run. 7:17 The last walkers
saunter their way through the noisy chip counter.
The first runner overall breaks the tape at the finish line on the track in
a race-winning time of 18:03.
first Transplant Games participant in the 5K Race For Donation – and 3rd runner overall – finishes
in a time of 18:37. He is 41 year old Tim Renzelmann of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Transplant Games second place finisher, 16 year old Ben Ziehr, runs a strong
race in exactly 21 minutes. Young Ben is also from Team Wisconsin,
and this is his first Transplant Games. He needed a new liver when he was only
seven years old due to a genetic anomaly that was leading to an eventual liver
shutdown, and he has done relatively well ever since. Ben, in fact, competes
on his high school track and cross country teams in Hortonville, Wisconsin,
and he says his 21 minute time was a good warm-up for this early in the season – which
officially begin for about another month.
These are also the first Transplant Games for Tim Renzelmann, who had a bone marrow transplant in 1998. Tim had been told about the Games at about that time but wasn’t really interested; though he kept running through his treatments, he wasn’t able to do so competitively. Once he hit the five year mark, though, in 2003, from the date of his diagnosis, he began to consider competing in the 2004 Transplant Games in nearby Minneapolis – and even began to train a bit for them.
Tim has been a serious runner since he was 13, and in 1992 he ran in a marathon in Las Vegas that would have qualified him for the Olympic Trials had he run in 2 hours, 20 minutes or below. His near-miss time of 2:20:39 was a no doubt a disappointment, but Tim now calls that 39 second shortfall “a blessing in disguise.”
Tim had noticed a lump on his neck while training for that Las Vegas marathon but didn’t really pay much attention to it. Had he qualified for the Olympic Trials he is certain he would have continued to ignore that bump while elevating his training regimen in anticipation of meeting his long-time longing to compete in the Olympics. Instead, following his Las Vegas frustration, he visited a doctor, and two months later he was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma.
Tim says the fastest he has ever run a 5K race was in 14:20, “when he was a teenager.” Though he is not likely ever to run that fast again, he is still able to try. Either way, he’s out there running in the sunshine.