First Time’s A Charm for Finnel in Half Marathon

Brian Finnel may have been running the first 13.1 mile race of his life at last Saturday’s Door County Half Marathon, but he was far from unprepared.

The Forestville, Wis. native was confident heading into the race, where he toed the line with last year’s winner Dominick Meyer, a friend and former UW – Stevens Point teammate.

Former UW – Stevens Point grads Brian Finnel (388), Dominick Meyer (807) and Brad Seeley (1276) finished 1, 2, 3 in the 2012 Door County Half Marathon.

“Going into it I was thinking I could run it under 1:09:00,” he said.

He said he got a boost from the fans who trekked out on the trails to support the runners.

“I have to give a shout out to all those fans,” he said. “It was really awesome to have the amount of fans and spectators. It kept me motivated.”

His confidence came from a winter of training with the track team at UW – Oshkosh and the track team at Oshkosh Lourdes High School. He also had the advantage of training regularly with Jason Ryf, a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials who won the first three runnings of the Door County Half Marathon.

“That was a huge help, absolutely,” Finnel said. “Jason has so much experience behind him. I mean, to run 2:21 at Chicago at age 40 is ridiculous. He’s given me a lot of knowledge and is a big support and a big inspiration.”

Finnel said stepping into training with Ryf meant pushing himself to another level. Finnel usually runs at a 6:40 to 7:00-minute pace, but Ryf takes it down to 5:50.

“Once we started in November it was a shock to my system,” Finnel said. “He goes hard every time. And he does a lot more weights than I anticipated.”

Ryf shared advice about the course as well, urging Finnel to prepare for the hills from miles four to six.

“He told me that was going to be hard and it was. My upper quads were burning Sunday,” Finnel said. “Mentally you just have to prepare knowing the hills are going to be painful.”

Ryf’s other advice – watch out for the flies, which can come out in hoards in the park in May. Finnel was pretty familiar with Peninsula State Park already, having interned as an assistant naturalist there in the summer of 2011.

Brian Fnnel charges out front in the wooded section of the Door County Half Marathon course.

Finnel said his original plan was to run the first few miles with his old Pointer teammates Meyer and Brad Seeley, but after two miles he was already a bit behind the 1:07:30 pace he was shooting for. So Finnel pulled away and never looked back.

A late bloomer, he barely broke 21 minutes in the 5k in high school, and in college he worked his way up from the bottom of the squad, earning a reputation for his dedication. Now, he’s got his sights set on following Ryf’s footsteps to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, eventually.

Finnel said he has a three-year plan to hit 2:19 in the full marathon. “I’m trying to make a steady buildup where I don’t want to just jump into the full marathon,” he said. “I want to steadily build confidence to the marathon distance.”

The 24-year-old Southern Door High School graduate is applying for full-time teaching jobs in the Fox Valley area after working as a long-term sub at Oshkosh West this year. It’s a career that will allow him to keep training at a high level with Ryf and the Oshkosh team.

“I have a good support system there,” he said.

Next up for Finnel is the Bellin Run, then the half marathon championships at the Grandma’s Marathon on June 16 in Duluth, Minn.

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