History of the Marathon
Billy’s 5K Run
Billy’s 5K started as a result of the Swan Lake Marathon. (see story below). It was origianally called the Sunfish 5.3 mile and went around the section where the marathon traveled that also took you along the shores of Swan Lake. The name Sunfish came from a couple of Sunfish sailboats that the camp owned and staff enjoyed sailing and taking kids out on the lake. The sailboat has become part of our logo. At some point, it was decided that 5.3 miles was just a bit longer race than most people wanted to run, and a 5K was a much more common distance that people would be looking for in a race. Changing the race to a 5K was a good decision as the number of runners increased.
Billy Brockmueller started coming to camp as young child. Every year he and his brother Bobby, would attend camp. As Billy got into high school, he started serving as a camp counselor. Then as he went to college he gave up a couple of summer’s to work at camp full time. Billy was also a runner and ran cross country in college. All summer he was required to get his training miles in for fall cross country. Sometimes he would get up early in the morning and run, other times he would play running games with the kids in the evenings. He would run the perimeters of the playing field to get in as many miles as he could, all while still playing the game and getting the kids to chase him. He had his Garmin that would track his miles and his route and he knew how far he had gone. The route was always an interested scribble on the screen. Billy ran the Swan Lake half marathon and the 5K along with many of his family on a number of occasions.
Billy also loved turtles and one year, he saw a female turtle lay some eggs at camp. He kept track of the location and the date. When it was about the right number of days, he showed up at camp to see if the turtles were hatching. Sure enough, a couple of inches under the surface, up came this little baby turtles. He collected them in a bucket and carried them to the camp beach to release them. Except for three of them. These he took home and raised in an aquarium. He had them in his dorm room and loved watching them.
In 2018, Billy was living in Colorado as a graduate student. He also loved to ski. (His family lived in Colorado for a number of years when he was growing up.) So sking was something he often did. On this particular day, Billy lost control and hit a tree. On December 10, 2018, Billy went to be with his Lord and Savior. Billy was a legend at camp. His warm personality and caring spirit drew people to him. And he was passionate about sharing his faith with kids. Although Billy was past the typical age to attend camp, many still remembered Billy as their camp counselor and the other fun things they did at camp with him.
To honor both Billy’s love of running and his love for Swan Lake Christian Camp, the 5K race was named in Billy’s honor. Billy’s mom has come along side us to organize the race and his family all come to run and remember Billy. They spend time on the lake where Billy enjoyed sailing and swimming with the kids. Billy would be glad that his family and many friends can come together each year to do one of the things he loved in life at one of the places he loved.
The first annual Swan Lake Marathon took place on July 7, 2003. I had already been out to Swan Lake Christian Camp a few weekends that summer running long runs of 16-20 miles as strength work for cross country. On one of those weekends, a staff member said to me that I might as well run a marathon. I agreed to the idea, and drew up the first route on a large drawing pad in the staff lounge that was affectionately called “The List.” I called it the “first annual” more jokingly than not, with the crazy notion that I would make an annual journey to SLCC every year to log in 26.2 miles on the open roads where I fell in love with running.
I have always enjoyed going to SLCC. When I was young, my uncle and aunt were camp directors, so I would visit for a few weeks each summer to spend time with my cousins. As I grew older, going to my week of camp was always the highlight of my summer, and I was always in the same cabin as my cousin. Everything was carefree- I could enjoy nature, grow in my faith, play ultimate Frisbee- and the only thing that moved us from one activity to the next was the ringing of a giant camp bell. The 2 1/2 hour drive to camp always seemed like forever, but my yearly anticipation was always realized as we turned down the long driveway and drove under the tall camp sign mounted on telephone poles. My time at SLCC culminated when I was on staff the summer of my freshman year in college. This is when I also became a runner, and spent free afternoons or evenings running the roads surrounding Swan Lake.
All of this led me to toe the line I had drawn in the driveway directly under the pole sign at 3:30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning in 2003. It was more of a training run than a race, but started a tradition that has allowed me to stay in touch with SLCC and give back to camp. I started early enough to beat the heat, ran under a magnificent sunrise, and finished early enough for the staffers to be at the finish before going to church that morning. I signaled my finish by ringing the camp bell.
I have a lot of great memories from the following years. The second year, I again ran solo, starting around 8 pm. I thought it would be cool to run under the moon and the stars. Unfortunately a storm came up, and I finished just in time to beat a lightning and thunderstorm. The third year happened to be the 50th anniversary for SLCC, so we ran the race the same weekend and sent out advertising for Swan Lake Marathon. We also added a 2 mile walk, a 5.3 mile race around the lake, and a half marathon. All of a sudden we had 27 marathoners from all over the country. They all had great stories of races they had done, and it turned out to be as much fun to meet others as it was to share the run.
The race has now grown into a big event with which the community gets involved. Most importantly, you will find as a runner one of the most hospitable races you have ever entered and be well taken care of before, during, and after the race. Details of the race are organized by a race committee led by Renee Neufeld, former program director at camp, a marathoner, and also the SLM race director. The race course has been USATF certified, and runners receive t-shirts, medals, custom bib numbers, and awards and the opportunity to ring the bell to mark their completion of the marathon.
I hope that you will someday be able to come and ring the bell at the Swan Lake Marathon. You may even find yourself coming back annually just like me.