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RUNNING MAN: Cloquet grad still sprinting through life

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There are over 160 miles from Luke Heine’s front door to Grand Portage, Minn., and he intends to run every single one of them. The 20-year-old Cloquet native will thread his way through crowded highways and obscure bike paths, all the while hugging the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior.

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Heine started his enormous trek May 29, and plans to reach Grand Portage by June 17. With the help of friend and support driver Will Riihiluoma, Heine planned to break the intimidating distance into smaller chunks, logging 12 to 15 miles per day.

Heinie had already covered over 110 miles by the end of last week . . . a distance equivalent to a two-hour car ride, but he’s not done yet.

Equipped with aviator sunglasses, an Austin-Jarrow running cap, and a blaze orange tank-top, Heine poses a peculiar sight while out on the roads. His appearance proves similar to his journey, however — experiencing everything life has to offer.

“Sometimes I feel reckless,” said a reflective Heine when I interviewed him while running alongside him during a segment of the trail last week, “like I’m not spending my time the best way I can. But then I think, ‘When will I get the opportunity to do this again?’”

With three years of the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon under his belt, Heine is no stranger to long distances. He was a Cloquet cross country captain his senior year, and is currently a member of the Harvard Running Club. Yet, the cumulative toll on his body will be unlike anything Heine has ever experienced.

“I’m really doing this to test my limits.” said Heine, “I want to know if my body can actually withstand something like this.”

However, with great pain comes great reward. While finishing the 14-mile leg through Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock Lighthouse, Heine seemed strong; the strain of the previous five days of hard running washed away with the thundering of the falls and the crashing of a fresh Lake Superior tide. The run took us through curving bike trails and along the pink gravel of Iona beach, and despite the dull ache in my legs it was easy to find a beautiful synchronization with nature and self.

Heine also noticed this harmony.

“It’s different with the long periods of silence [during a run]; you’re left to contemplate your own thoughts.” He admitted, “I usually listen to books on tape while I run, listening to other people’s ideas. I think there’s something to be said about each.”

Riihiluoma found peace and quiet on the way as well. The support driver said he is excited to catch up on some reading, as well as soak in the incredible vistas that are so abundant in the area.

“When Luke offered me the spot as his support diver, I knew,” said Riihiluoma,  “— this opportunity was NOT one to miss. I haven’t looked back since. This journey is about a run. One of reflection upon life and upon Minnesota.”

Heine and Riihiluoma represent not only a fantastic journey of willpower and summer fun, but also provide inspiration to all of us with some gas in the tank and a pair of running shoes. It’s admirable to see what they’ve already accomplished. Heine and Riihiluoma are truly taking full advantage of northern Minnesota’s natural treasure chest, with iconic landmarks and beaches right in our backyard. I think we can all praise them for taking on such a task, and wish them luck in their journey.     

This dynamic duo is still stationed in Cloquet, but as the distances get farther away from home, they will begin to camp on the northern coast. The team is sponsored by Ray Riihiluoma Inc, Austin-Jarrow, and Bai Beverages, with special thanks to the Rustic Inn for a lovely meal.