A running tradition

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
— Doug Magee of Janesville anticipates Syttende Mai like a kid waiting for Christmas.

The 20-mile Syttende Mai Run from Madison to Stoughton is the cornerstone of the three-day Stoughton festival that celebrates “Seventeen May,” the day Norway signed its constitution in 1814.

Magee will compete in the run for the 26th straight year. The run is marking its 38th anniversary.

“It’s special to southern Wisconsin,” said Magee, who is not a member of the Sons of Norway. “It’s a unique race that’s 20 miles.

“It’s kind of a tradition,” Magee added. “It’s more than just another marathon.’’

The Syttende Mai Run first caught Magee’s fancy in a television report.

“It goes back a long way, and I saw people running it on TV,” Magee said. “I thought, ‘I can do that,’ and I did, and I’ve been doing it ever since.’’

Although he continues a personal tradition at Syttende Mai, Magee doesn’t focus on the string.

“It’s not a streak to me,” Magee said. “I don’t think of it as a streak.

“It’s just a personal accomplishment to keep on the road and have a personal goal,” he added.

Magee runs year-round to keep sharp for Syttende Mai. His race resume includes the Lakefront Marathon in 1991, appearances in local races and team racing.

“You’ve got to keep running all year,” Magee said. “You can’t get lazy.

“It’s incentive to run all year,” Magee said of the Syttende Mai Run. “Plus, there’s something to be said about running through the winter in Wisconsin.’’

Training in the cold paid off for Magee in the 1992 Syttende Mai Run.

“It was the Syttende Mai from hell,” Magee said. “It was raining, cold and windy, and everybody that ran it remembers it.’’

When he was younger, Magee, a 58-year-old Alliant Energy employee, would run Syttende Mai in two-plus hours, but time is no longer of the essence for him.

“My best days were 2 hours and 20 minutes,” Magee said. “It took me 3 hours and 20 minutes last year.

“It’s an hour slower,” Magee added. “It’s not about time anymore. It’s about finishing.’’

While Magee’s chance to set a race record has faded, he may be closing in on being the race’s longest-running participant.

“There were a few people who have run every single one,” Magee said. “But I think that number has dwindled down.’’

A sound body is in Magee’s favor. While many longtime runners develop foot, hip and knee issues, injuries have not dogged Magee.

“Well, I have not been that bad,” Magee said of his health. “I get kind of tired. The years catch up, but I maintain.’’

Magee, a 1970 Janesville Craig High School graduate, ran the quarter-mile for the Cougars and qualified for the WIAA state track meet.

“I wasn’t fast enough to be state renowned,” Magee said. “I did qualify for the quarter every year and quarter relay team.’’

Magee might not have gained long-lasting notoriety for his high school track career, but he has made his mark on the Syttende Mai Run one year at a time.

“It’s a special race,” Magee said. “It’s a celebration.’’

Last updated: 1:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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