Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer and his wife, Marie, believe in leading by example.
Leading by example starts with walking the walk.
The Widmyers will participate in their second Coeur d’Alene Marathon May 26, walking the 26.2-mile course among more than 1,300 athletes, visitors and residents who gravitate to the event every year. The race, they say, is as much about maintaining family relationships as it is maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“For us,” Marie said, “doing this as a family is what really counts. Spending the day together — walking together — is really what makes this such a fun event.”
The Widmyer family marathon experience defies expectation. Rather than children learning to love the sport from parents, the Widmyers learned to enjoy the marathon lifestyle from their kids.
Their two sons, Ben and Matt, both run marathons. Ben’s wife, Lindsay, ran the half-marathon, as has daughter Katy. After competing in the Coeur d’Alene Marathon, Matt gave his parents a mandate.
“Afterward,” Steve recalled, “he came back to us and just said, ‘You’re doing it.’”
“Being empty nesters,” Marie added, “we found we had more time to devote to it.”
While family may have initially motivated Steve, he drove his determination through the challenge of competition. The second-term mayor entered into a month-long battle last October with other Idaho mayors through the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation. The challenge was simple: Using a Fitbit, outwalk the other mayors with the most steps.
“I knew, if I wanted to win this thing, I’d have to get in a million steps,” he said. “So I dedicated myself to it, plugged in my headphones, pulled up the Little River Band, and got walking.”
Result: First place among all mayors after 1,353,209 steps.
More impressive, however, might be the results he’s seen after a year of more dedicated walking.
“I’m a lot lighter than I was,” he said. “Last year, I was probably 45 pounds heavier. I just made a commitment to get in better shape. Now, I’m 45 pounds lighter. I feel a lot lighter. Think how much faster I’ll be.”
Even though the marathon is a race all can enjoy, the couple do not recommend entering into it without a plan.
“We knew we had to finish it in eight hours [to being recorded as finishing the race,]” Steve said. “I had mapped out exactly where you needed to be to keep pace. We were a mile away, and we were tired, and we had blisters on our feet. And there were a couple of people that passed us around the 25-mile mark, and we just looked at (one another) and said, ‘Man, we gotta pick it up. We have to pick it up.’ We were happy these people passed us, because it made us pick up the pace.”
“It really is a race we can all be proud of,” said Tabitha Kraack, executive director of the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation. “It’s such a great draw to our community and a great way to showcase everything we’re about here in the area.”
This year’s Coeur d’Alene Marathon course is getting an overhaul. To showcase more of the area’s beauty, race organizers are tossing the traditional double-loop that required marathoners to backtrack twice along the Centennial Trail. Instead, participants in this year’s race will enjoy a route stretching north past Kathleen Avenue.
“It’s been a double-loop for so long,” Kraack said. “People didn’t like the double-loop [of previous years] because you’re seeing the same scenery over and over. This is a beautiful trail. We should see more of it.”
This year’s race will begin at McEuen Park, curve along Tubbs Hill, wind through town, follow along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive, and reach Higgens Point before backtracking to the park. Runners will then follow along the shoreline by North Idaho College and head north along Prairie Trail, past Ramsey Park and across Kathleen before heading back to McEuen one more time.
For those not quite up for a 26.2-mile run, separate start times are scheduled for 10-kilometer and five-kilometer races, and for those who wish to walk the courses. Kraack calculates a less grueling path for runners this year.
“We’re going to see faster times,” she said. “It’s a little faster course, because [participants] won’t have to go over that [Bennett Bay] hill so often.”
Last year’s organizers saw more than 1,200 participants in the marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5K. This year, just over 1,300 people have already signed up, with a month-long registration window to go.
Kraack is still recruiting sponsors, partners and booth vendors for the event, which benefits the foundation. Volunteers are also still needed. While Kraack said the foundation appreciates any support it can get, the biggest helper might be the view — which attracts racers from all over the world.
“This area has such amazing natural beauty,” she said. “We really should be the premier marathon in the Pacific Northwest.”
For the Widmyers, however, the marathon best showcases the dynamic of the people living in the area.
“We’ve become a very active city,” Steve said. “We have some fabulous trails. We’ve come to be known as a walking, hiking, biking community. We are so much more active now.
“I remember when I was growing up, the only people who were biking around here were kids. Now, everybody’s biking and running and walking and staying active. And an active community is a good thing.”