42nd annual Lincoln Marathon, 5.5

Nic Moore (right) of Lincoln, dressed as Spider-Man, gives out high-fives to runners at the intersection of 20th and Van Dorn streets on Sunday during the 42nd running of the Lincoln Marathon. 

Ryan Caldwell was standing just off the corner of 16th and Vine streets holding his infant son in the crook of his elbow and watching the third horde of Lincoln Marathon runners stampede by. It was just past 7 a.m., the baby in the stroller was only just barely awake, and another one of Caldwell's sons stood on the curb scanning the crowd. 

"It's tough getting three kids up at five in the morning, but both my wife and my mother-in-law are running in it, and we're here for them," Caldwell said.

Among the legions of sign-toting street cheerleaders, live bands and even a lone Elvis impersonator, Caldwell was one of the many spouses who came out at the crack of dawn to cheer on their loved ones during the 42nd-annual Lincoln Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday. 

Caldwell said on top of keeping an eye on their children, he thinks it's good for runners to be able to look for someone they recognize in the various pods of supporters along the route.

"I think it's helpful to know that there's somebody always out there to cheer you on and it's even better if you can see them," he said. "And a lot of people out here are doing that, but I think it's different if it's your husband or someone. I think it means a little bit more to see them there." 

And that encouragement can mean everything for some runners, especially one like Phil Gugat, who drove 15 hours from Cleveland with his family to finish a personal comeback story on Sunday morning almost 10 years in the making.

Wanda Gugat stood with her son Colton Gugat at the starting line, ready to take photos of Phil, who ran alongside his father, who himself was running in his 40th Lincoln Half Marathon.

"[Phil] broke his back in 2010 and it was hard for him to keep running for awhile," Wanda Gugat said. "He came to me this morning and just about choked up. He told me how much us supporting him and being there for him really meant so much to him."

She said his road to recovery was difficult, but she did her best to make sure he could find time to go for a run three times a week. She said he was determined to do the run with his father, as they had done in previous years, and finish strong.

"He says he's ready, and I don't care if he comes in first or he comes in last, just as long as he finishes the race," Gugat said. "Things like this are hard, but they can seem so much easier if you know have the support of your family."

Running just a little over 13 miles is an exhausting exercise both in terms of physical endurance and the mental fortitude required to keep moving, and some runners say that seeing their loved one in the crowd is what it takes to keep them pushing forward.

Brittany Janik, who finished her 11th half-marathon on Sunday, her fifth in Lincoln, said while her husband, Ross, doesn't jump up and down and scream her name when she runs by, she always makes sure to look for him standing on the side.

"I always feel good seeing him there watching me," she said. "I always keep pushing so that I can see him again so I can get that extra bit of energy back. He's a farmer and he's a busy guy, so when he takes time to support me in something like this, it really means a lot to me."

Like Caldwell, Ross Janik said he doesn't have plans to lace up a pair of running shoes and join his wife in the future. For now, he's said he's content with being her biggest fan.

"She enjoys it and it means a lot to her," Ross Janik said. "If it makes her happy, then I'm happy."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or eclopton@journalstar.com.


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