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Sondag's willpower keeps him training

Eric Sondag made a splash in his first two Fargo marathons, overcoming adversity and frustration in a display of sheer will power. The former harrier at the University of North Dakota spent more than two years training for his 2007 debut. He plac...

Eric Sondag made a splash in his first two Fargo marathons, overcoming adversity and frustration in a display of sheer will power.

The former harrier at the University of North Dakota spent more than two years training for his 2007 debut.

He placed second that year, following it up in 2008 with a gutsy performance that challenged him mentally and physically.

Sondag, who bought a 99-cent pair of gloves at the expo the evening before, later blogged about the race, jokingly writing that "taking my gloves off" and throwing them to the ground was an attempt to push himself to go faster.

"I tried to pump myself up," he recalls. "It lasted about 20 meters and I laughed at myself."

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Still, he collected himself, and went on to break the tape in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 34 seconds, beating other runners heralded as elites.

Sondag won't be among them this year either, deciding he won't run in Fargo - or perhaps, ever again.

After racing the July Fourth 10K last year in Moorhead, Sondag's running took a turn for the worse.

Afterward, incapable of running due to pain, specialists told him that he suffered a stress fracture in his leg.

"On the heels of something like this (injury), running is not fun anymore," says Sondag, who spent weeks running in a pool and biking, hoping to rehab the injury.

It's been a long road back. Sondag has worked his way back up to 75 miles per week, but not to the fitness level needed to compete with the lead pack.

"It seems like each passing day makes it that much harder to keep doing when the way you want to do it is compromised by something that is not in your control," says Sondag, who credits his wife, Cindy, for pushing him to keep running.

"But yet you still get out there and do it. That's one of the real benefits behind just getting something down habitually."

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Taking a day off is not an option for Sondag, despite the pain and uncertainty surrounding his injury.

"I've basically have been just using a lot of willpower to keep myself going right now," he says.

Habit and willpower have kept him going at a time when many runners might give up.

"I know that if I let go of the rope right now, boy when you hit the bottom, it's going to hurt a lot and you're going to have to climb all that way back up," Sondag says.

When talk turns to future race plans, Sondag says he can't worry about it.

Worrying, he says, doesn't prove valuable.

Instead, Sondag will work his way back to a fitness level that gives him a chance to run his fastest marathon.

That may come at a race other than Fargo, some year in the future when he laces up the shoes with a large group of elite runners to push himself through new barriers.

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Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found at www.areavoices.com/runningspud .

He can be reached at (701) 241-5542 or swagner@forumcomm.com .

Related Topics: FARGO MARATHON
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