Hamline News

A 26.2 Mile Story

26.2 article

“How much time have you got?” asked Roger Hauge ’58, marathon runner extraordinaire. “This is probably a five-mile story.” As it turns out, it will take ten miles to share this particular tale, which is the story of how a fitness plan he started at the age of sixty became his driving passion.

Since he laced up that first pair of running shoes seventeen years ago (he’s seventy-seven years old now), Hauge has completed 131 marathons, plus four ultra marathons, which are classified as any run longer than the standard 26.2 miles. He has run marathons in all fifty states and DC—twice—and has completed marathons in Canada, England, and Thailand. And he’s not a straggler crossing the finish line only after the sun has set; he has twice qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon.

So how did Roger Hauge, a small-town Minnesota boy, become a late-blooming, world-class runner? This is where the mile-counting begins.

“I’m fascinated by the forks in the road that direct our lives and set us on a path,” Hauge said. “Those forks are so dramatic when we’re young, and I often wonder what would have happened if I’d done this or that instead.” One life-altering decision Hauge made as a young man was to enlist in the military and ship overseas during the Korean War. It was a decision that could have gone gravely wrong. Trained by the Air Force as a meteorologist, he spent his final year there stationed in a two man tent on a mountain side in the unstable demilitarized zone. He survived, however, and returned home to attend Hamline. “Having just come out of the military where you’re basically a number, I knew I didn’t want to be a number anymore.

Hamline was small, I think it had just 800 students at the time, and they let you get involved in anything,” Hauge said. “I was older and I had lived a little and I suspected I was capable of leadership. Anything I wanted to try, the door was open, and that was very important to me because in the military you’re bound by assignment.”

At Hamline, Hauge pledged Alpha Sigma Chi and later served as an officer in the fraternity. He also authored a biweekly column in the Oracle, the campus newspaper. “It was a gossipy, satirical column,” Hauge said. “I’d go hang out in the student union during break time, which is where everything happened, and then I’d write about what I heard. I’d write things like, ‘The well-known jock from Albert Lea…’ I don’t know what possessed me to take on that role.”

“My senior year, the placement gal actually got me an interview with the Star Tribune,” Hauge continued. “They offered me a post, but I declined. I didn’t want to be a reporter. Instead, Hauge took a sales job in the insurance industry. He changed positions a year later, however, when he got a tip from a coworker that Northwest Airlines was hiring sales personnel. “I went for an interview and that was a very significant fork in the road for me,” Hauge said.

The airline was young then, and because of his college degree, which was a rarity at the time, Hauge was in demand. He quickly moved up the Northwest chain until he reached vice president status. When he was fifty-four years old, the airline relocated him to London so that he could oversee the company’s European, Middle Eastern, and African expansions. “I spent six years eating in British pubs,” Hauge said. “That wasn’t healthy. I was working day and night. My body was slowing down because of age and I’d started belly aching at work about needing to lose weight.”

“There was this young guy in the office who was a runner,” Hauge smiled. “You know, I like to say that runners are like ducks: They’ll nibble you to death. And that’s exactly what this guy did. I finally agreed to go running with him and he taught me how to do it. I started running every night and after nine weeks, I’d dropped twenty-three pounds.”

Once he’d been running a few months, the co-worker suggested they participate in the Hastings Half, a half marathon along the English Channel. “It was a clear day,” Hauge said. “It was 6:30 in the morning and I was in a crowd of people. There was a lot of banter before the start of the race. I could feel the excitement and sense the energy. And then we started, running right up the cliffs of Dover! It was my first ever race and I had an absolute epiphany.”

Just as Hauge was gaining interest in running, his career at Northwest was nearing an end. Northwest Airlines went through a leveraged buyout and Hauge accepted an early retirement package, yet the decision left him uncertain. He didn’t know what to do with himself, plus his retirement meant a move back to the United States. “Lots of people start to run when they are going through a life change, like divorce, career, or substance abuse, and need something to focus on,” Hauge said. “I can’t imagine what my life would be like today without that race in Hastings. There is a social aspect to running, which becomes very important, and I got a glimpse of it that day.”

Back in Minnesota, Hauge transitioned to a career focusing on private equity business opportunities and found a social network focused on running, the Active Life and Running Club (ALARC). ALARC trains runners to compete in marathons and organizes social events involving running. For many years now, Hauge has been a board member and served as vice president. He has also served as event director, developing the On It and In It Polar Plunge event, an annual New Year’s Day run and dunk in Lake Minnetonka, and the GetFit/GoFast program, which coaches newcomers and experienced runners alike.

This program, the one that guides new runners, is especially close to Hauge’s heart. He is the director and a running mentor with the program, which last year enrolled 163 runners. “Because I started running late in life,” he said, “I’m in a position to support others and give a bit of advice. I get to be a role model, and I get to talk about the thing I like best.”

By: Kelly Westhoff