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Rochester runner pulls double duty at Grandma's Marathon

Mike Schmitt of Rochester ran the Grandma's Marathon course twice on June 18. He was an official pacesetter during the actual race.

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Mike Schmitt, left, of Rochester has been a pacesetter for marathons for about five years. On June 18, 2022, Schmitt ran the course at Grandma's Marathon twice. He ran the 26.2-mile course once for fun and then ran it again as an official pacesetter for the actual race.
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Mike Schmitt wants to help distance runners achieve their goals, but he likes to set new challenges for himself as well.

The 45-year-old Schmitt has been running marathons for nearly 20 years. For the past five years, he has also been a pacesetter at marathons.

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Schmitt, who grew up in Cottage Grove, has lived in Rochester the past 22 years and he works at IBM. He was not a runner in high school, but became interested in the sport once he got out of school.

“I was living in England and I was kind of bored so I decided I was going to go for a run,” he said. “And I really enjoyed it. Then I moved back to the States and ran my first marathon in 2003 and I was hooked. It was just an amazing experience.
“That’s why I became a pacesetter to help other people understand how cool this sport is and what it can do for you. Socially, physically and mentally, it’s just a beautiful thing.”

There are about 20 different pacesetters in marathons, usually staggered about every 10 minutes, for runners who want to finish the race anywhere from three hours to five and a half hours.

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The pacers wear a designated singlet and carry a sign with an estimated finish time. The pacer will average a certain time for each mile. The purpose is to help runners achieve a goal that they have set for themselves.

“The pacers are here mainly for the person who has a goal in mind who has never run a marathon before,” Schmitt said. “Or someone who is trying to better a time that they’ve had previously.”

He had paced both the Fargo Marathon and Med City Marathon in Rochester in May. But when Grandma’s Marathon rolled around on June 18, Schmitt wanted to try something different. He wanted to run the marathon twice in the same day.

Schmitt estimates he has run in more than 100 marathons or longer races. He also does ultra marathons, up to 100 miles long, but this is the first time he ran two marathons in one day.

Grandma’s normally begins in Two Harbors and the runners head back to Duluth for the finish line. Schmitt started in Duluth at 2:30 a.m. and ran the course backwards, finishing at the starting line in Two Harbors.

He then proceeded to be a pacesetter for the actual race.

“I made sure I fueled as I was going up the course,” Schmitt said. “I made sure I was keeping myself in a position (to finish both runs) because I knew that people were going to rely on me and I was going to be someone who was going to be helping them finish their goals.”

He ran his first marathon in four hours and 18 minutes, about a 9:45 per mile pace. During the official marathon, Schmitt was a pacesetter for marathoners whose goal was to run the event in about three hours and 50 minutes, a pace of about 8:45 per mile.

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“My first goal was to have a little fun for myself up to Two Harbors, knowing I had to run back down,” Schmitt said. “I took it easy on the first 26.2 (miles) and then nailed the next one within 13 seconds of the finish time.”

Schmitt has now run four marathons this year with no plans of slowing down. He will be a pacesetter at the Twin Cities Marathon in September, hoping to help runners achieve their race goals.

“I get around,” he said.
Guy N. Limbeck is a sports writer for the Post Bulletin. His Local Notebook appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at glimbeck@postbulletin.com .

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Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or glimbeck@postbulletin.com.
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