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Jason Finch

Running man proves prowess in Portland

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Hudson High School graduate Jason Finch of River Falls put his feet to the street during the Oct. 4 Portland (Ore.) Marathon, pounding out 26.2 miles in just 2 hours, 24 minutes and 13 seconds.

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He crossed the finish line and looked immediately for water, food and his ecstatic wife/trainer, Nicki.

"I was almost to the finish line before realizing, 'Hey, I'm alone here,'" Finch said.

He'd been focused on finishing and said the last several miles proved to be grueling. Two other men had been running alongside or near Finch for a while. He knew one had dropped off and didn't realize he'd pulled far ahead of the other.

He said the closer he got to the finish line, the more he thought to himself, "I'm not going to look (behind me). I'm not going to look."

The second-place male runner finished a full two minutes and 11 seconds after him; the female winner crossed the line about 30 minutes after Finch. Race results report that 3,825 men and 4,268 women finished the marathon, and the average finish time was 4 hours, 50 minutes.

The 32-year-old Finch said the marathon makes no age distinctions until after the runners have finished their race.

Finch smiled, "It's every man for himself."

One friend joked with him that his performance was, "Not bad for an old man."

Though he has run in four other marathons -- all of which are 26.2 miles -- Portland was his first win. He chose to run it because he used to live in the city, loves it there, and had read it was one of the top fall marathons.

His prize: Bragging rights and lasting memories.

Runner takes shape

Finch said he first began running when he was 12 years old. His sister ran track, so he'd go out with her.

"And she would crush me," laughs Finch.

Eventually he worked up to a faster pace than her, soon signing up for competitive track at school. He continued with the sport throughout middle and high school in Hudson as well as college in Eau Claire.

"It was a learning process," he said, adding that experience taught him things like stride, pace and conditioning.

While living in Portland, he tried a 10-mile race and did pretty well at it. That encouraged him to sign up one year for the Twin Cities Marathon. He trained for an entire summer but ended up walking after mile 20 of the event.

Finch realized his retail job hadn't allowed him enough time to train.

After moving back to Wisconsin, he re-connected with high school buddy, Hudson High grad Ryan Meissen, and began running more, eventually registering for Grandma's Marathon, held annually in Duluth, Minn.

Finch says, incidentally, on the same day he won the Portland Marathon, Meissen won Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon within a similar time.

Until Portland, Finch hadn't run a marathon since Houston in 2007. He said he isn't the kind of runner who runs back-to-back or one-after-the-other marathons.

He says the races are taxing and stressful and require a bit of recovery time.

Though he laid some building blocks in January, Finch said he began marathon training in June. Nicki created a schedule, often riding her bike alongside him.

"Oh yeah, she totally was -- she was my trainer," declares Finch about his spouse.

He joined a team in March from his favorite store, Run-n-Fun in St. Paul, for a five-mile race. He says he missed beating his fastest time by 20 seconds.

Finch also ran a half marathon "cheesehead's dream" in Green Bay, for which the race route ended inside Lambeau Field. At the height of summer training, Finch was running 88 miles.

He wanted to run in Portland partially to "gauge his own ability." He found out it's at least a mile every 5 minutes, 31 seconds -- 26 times in a row.

Finch laughs off the label of "elite runner" and says each race is different. He confirms he'll enter other marathons but has no idea which one will be next.

When asked about the biggest challenge of his running, he says, "I've realized I don't like running by myself."

He says his biggest joy of his sport is the sightseeing, "You'd be floored at the stuff I've seen while I'm running."

For example, when he came to the top of St. John's Bridge in Portland and could see the Cascade Mountain Range or another point when he could see the skyline of downtown Portland in a single ray of sunlight.

Locally, he's seen some beautiful sunrises and, once, a bald eagle in the road. It took off immediately but not before Finch got to see it up close and realize it must have stood about three feet tall.

Seeing the sights in a way he wouldn't normally get to see them, says Finch: "That's what makes it (running) so neat."

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