Epiphany priest dedicates race to dad, vows to donate all pledge money to Catholic school
What does Oprah have to do with a local priest running the Twin Cities Marathon?
Plenty, if you’re Father Alex Carlson, associate priest at Epiphany in Coon Rapids. Last winter, he decided to run the marathon in honor of his father, Bernie, who died of cancer in 2003.
His goal for a finish time is where Oprah Winfrey comes in.
“I want to beat Oprah’s time [in the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.], which is four hours, 29 minutes and 15 seconds,” he said about his goal for the annual marathon, which is Oct. 2. “That should not be a problem.”
In fact, this mark is more than just a casual goal. There’s money involved. Since he started his training back in May, he has been seeking pledges, which he will donate to Epiphany School. Among the monetary promises he has received is an intriguing one for a parishioner.
“One person said, ‘$5 a mile, but $10 [a mile] if you beat Oprah’s time,” he said.
Thus, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Not that Father Carlson is worried. After all, he has been running up to 53 miles a week and has logged about 360 total miles. He recently completed an 18.5-mile run that actually was the final 18.5 miles of the course that he will tackle for real next Sunday.
Turning to his ‘go-to prayer’
Helping Father Carlson through this effort will, hopefully, be the Blessed Mother, whose intercession he will seek in the moments before the race starts in downtown Minneapolis at 8 a.m. (Mall of America Field). In this, the 30th running of the event, there will be 11,200 participants.
“Before I go on any run, especially if it’s a long one that I know is going to be tough, I pray the Memorare [prayer to the Blessed Virgin],” he said. “It’s my favorite prayer. I often tell people this is the prayer to use when you’re in trouble or when you need help. It’s my go-to prayer, it’s the first one that comes to mind when people ask me to pray for them.”
As much as he is able, Father Carlson sticks to his training regimen, recording miles on his watch as he runs and later logging them onto his computer.
In addition to the Memorare, he also looks to one of his favorite Scripture verses, which he had printed on the holy card he had made for his ordination to the priesthood May 29, 2010. It’s from Psalm 90: “Let the favor of the Lord be upon us: Give success to the work of our hands, give success to the work of our hands. (v. 17)”
“I have added: And give success to the work of my feet,” he said. “I need my feet to run the marathon.”
Web of support
So far, he has been impressed – and blessed — by the support of the parish and school communities. People have seen him running and cheered him on. One parishioner even scolded him for running in bad weather. Also, students at the school have made small posters with messages of encouragement.
His list of supporters includes the school’s new principal, Laurie Jennrich, who came to the school this fall after working at Cretin-Derham Hall for the previous 16 years. During that time, Carlson was a student at the school, playing varsity football for two years before graduating in 1998.
“We’re so proud of him,” she said. “What a way to step up and represent our school. . . . He’s keeping his [pledges] a secret right now, but the money will be donated to our school.”
Father Carlson has a goal of $4,000 and said he is confident of reaching it. He is hoping for cool, dry weather on race day, and would like to see some parishioners and students show up on the course to cheer him on.
“One morning, I was running and it was a 13-mile run,” he said. “I was right at the two-mile mark and some parishioners recognized me. . . . They started saying, ‘Go, Father, go.’ That definitely pushed me for the rest of those miles and many more after that. If anyone wants to do that on the morning of the marathon, I would be very grateful.”
Father Alex Carlson said the Memorare is his favorite prayer. He prays it before every run:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.