ROCKFORD — Paul Karvelius planned to spend Saturday competing in the Milwaukee Marathon stride-for-stride with thousands of other distance runners.
That was before the race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Undaunted, Karvelius devised his own 26.2-mile course through the streets of Rockford that not only allowed him to complete his third marathon but also gave him the chance to stop by the homes of several of his buddies along the way.
“They’ve made posters and they’re giving him water,” Anna Karvelius said while her husband of 18 years was in the midst of his journey. “One of our friends is jumping in and running with him for a little bit to keep him company. I was so happy that he decided to do it because it does take a lot of time and commitment to train and just to see that all end because they had officially canceled the marathon was rather disappointing.”
Four years removed from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon, Karvelius was determined to run the race that he trained for all winter.
“It’s a little sentimental,” Karvelius said. “Just to prove I could still do it. I’m 41. I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to do it so why not?”
Karvelius laced up his running shoes before 7 a.m. Saturday and embarked on his personal marathon that began at the couple’s home near Alpine and Highcrest roads.
“Most of it today was alone. I had my music on and just did it. Mile after mile,” he said.
Along the way, Karvelius hoofed it through Sinnissippi Park, ran by Midway Village, did a lap around Rock Valley College, ran through Spring Lake Estates, down Pepper Drive, past Forest Hills Country Club and Landstrom Park.
About five hours later, Karvelius achieved his goal.
“I was starting to really huff and puff on some of the hills because it’s just really taxing on you,” Karvelius said. “By the time I got back here (home), all the friends that I had seen, they were in my front yard, socially distancing of course, and they had a finish line set up and signs and banners and balloons. They popped champagne as I crossed the finish line and showered me in beer. It was great.”
Karvelius, a local UPS mechanic, has run 76 races covering nearly 600 miles.
The Milwaukee Marathon encouraged competitors like Karvelius to run their own solo race, dubbing it the Milwaukee Marathon virtual run.
Once he started his run on Saturday, Karvelius said he had no doubt he would complete the 26.2 miles.
“I pretty much knew within the first half-mile,” he said. “Some days you feel good and some days you don’t. Today, everything fell into place.”
Ken DeCoster: 815-987-1391; firstname.lastname@example.org; @DeCosterKen