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Brian - running marathons in honor of his wife's bravery

By Ed DuBois

Witnessing his wife's long, hard recovery from two strokes, Brian Malinski, of Buffalo, drew inspiration from her bravery and determination to do something he might not have ever considered otherwise.  He became a marathon runner.

The reason he might not have ever considered the challenge was because he was not in very good shape.

"I could barely run to the end of the driveway without stopping to catch my breath," he said.

Brian, 39, was a baseball and football captain at Le Center High School, and he was also on the wrestling team.  But after many years of working a job that kept him in offices most of the time, he wasn't going to break any time and distance records with his running shoes.


Heard about Grandma's

He has been running about a year now.  Looking back, he said his wife, Jennifer (his high school sweetheart), suffered a stroke in September 2012, and a second stroke occurred in April 2013.

"I watched her go through rehabilitation.  She was working so hard, I had to do something, and it had to be something difficult," Brian said.

It also had to be something that could fit into his schedule and budget.

He heard about Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, and in June 2013 he committed to running in Grandma's Marathon in June 2014.

Running was something he could do before and after work, and he could also help care for Jennifer.  He is a senior systems engineer for Carver County.


Training schedule

His less than adequate first preparation run caused him to conduct some research on the Web.  He found a training schedule for beginners.  It was 26 weeks long, which seems coincidentally appropriate since a marathon is 26 miles long.  The training program began with 20-minute walks, and gradually more time was added.  The next step involved combining walks and runs, and increasing the time and distance.

He was training four out of seven days at first.

"I was in solid running after about six weeks," Brian said.

It was gratifying as he added more distance and realized he was improving.

Although he now says he never felt ready for his first running event, he entered a 5K run around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis last March.  His goal was to complete the three-mile course in under 30 minutes, and he did it.


Raised funds for Minnesota Stroke Association

In May, he entered a half marathon in New Prague, which by the way is not too far from Le Center.  He said the event helped him develop a pre-race routine.

The day he had been working toward, June 21, was just around the corner.  As in the previous events, he did not feel ready for Grandma's Marathon, but he was determined to go through with his commitment for his wife and for the Minnesota Stroke Association.  His running was part of a fundraising effort for the Association, and besides the running events, he took part in a Strides for Stroke Walk.

Brian has also been a member of a Minnesota Stroke Association run team, the Act FAST run team.  FAST, which refers to detecting a stroke and getting help, stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time (time to call 911!).

He described the team's purpose as follows: "Through healthy activity the Act FAST run team raises awareness about stroke and how to Act FAST at the first signs and symptoms of stroke.

He added that the mission of the Minnesota Stroke Association is to "raise awareness about stroke and enhance the quality of life for all people coping with its sudden and long-term effects."

The run team's website is www.strokemn.org/runteam/.


Exceeded fundraising goal

One of Brian's fundraising events involved El Molcajete Mexican Restaurante and Bar in Buffalo, which contributed a percentage of sales.

His fundraising goal was $1,000.  He has exceeded that amount, and the total is still climbing.  You can contribute through October at the previously mentioned website, if you like.

Friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances have all helped the cause, and Brian said he and Jennifer are very appreciative.

Brian found out after joining the run team that a few nearly neighbors in Buffalo, Karla and Dan Bruchmann and Jamie Taylor, are members.


Finished every race

As for his first full marathon, Brian said he struggled at Grandma's.  He had knee issues and ended up walking the last 12 miles.  However, he achieved his main goal, which was finishing the race.

"I finished all of my races," he said with pride.

Meanwhile, Grandma's was not the end of the road.  Brian began to prepare for the Twin Cities Marathon.

His favorite training route follows County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 12 to Buffalo Lake, and then he runs along the shore to the downtown area and the lakeshore walkway to Sturges Park.  On Montrose Blvd., sometimes he runs all the way to the Crow River before turning around and heading home.

"It's about ten miles to the river and back," he said.


Twin Cities Marathon

Brian's goal for the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 5 was five hours.  But again his knees were troubling him and he alternated between running and walking for about 15 miles.

"I wanted to run across the finish line," he said, and he did.  His time was 5:34.

"I was running at the end of both Grandma's Marathon and the Twin Cities Marathon," he said.

Asked if there will be more marathons, he indicated that his knees might only allow shorter distances.  He isn't ruling out running altogether.

"My wife likes it because of the health benefits," he said.

"It is hard to say if I will do another marathon, but the team is already talkin' Twin Cities Marathon next year," he added.

Completing two marathons if far more than he ever dared to try before Jennifer fought to recover from her strokes.

"If asked about trying this two years ago, I would have said you're nuts," he commented.

"I certainly will keep running and staying with the Act FAST run team," he concluded.


Best shape since high school

At one point during his training, his weight loss total was 45 pounds.  He gains a little in the wintertime, when he often runs on a fitness club treadmill.

"But I am in the best shape since high school, for sure," he commented.

He went through three pair of running shoes over the past year.


Inspired by Jennifer

When asked about his feelings on finishing the marathons, raising funds for the Minnesota Stroke Association and handing out information at a running team booth during the running events, he said, "I don't feel I did much.  The inspiration is my wife and others like her.  My wife has run a marathon for two years.  That's where my inspiration comes from."

He is very impressed with Jennifer's hard work to do things like learning to walk again.

He has a very special memory of a day when Jennifer was finally able to walk across a room to him, and she gave him a big hug.

"It was amazing to watch, and that was one of the best moments.  She never gave up," Brian said.

Jennifer continues to work on her recovery.  She hasn't fully restored the use of her left arm, and because of that she cannot drive.

"She keeps working at it," Brian said.

And he keeps running.


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