Each marathon - a grueling 26.2 mile road race - has it's own character, according to Storm Lake resident Andriette Wickstrom.
She should know, having competed in 37 marathons since 1991. She says Saturday's Marathon to Marathon race that starts at Storm Lake High and ends in Marathon is no different.
"It's a very charming race, one that's attractive to competitors because the course is certified," said Wickstrom, who has run in nine Boston Marathons.
"It's has a few rolling hills, but is mostly a flat course where runners don't have to worry about a lot of large hills," she said. "It runs past old churches and farmhouses, and people who compete here like the small-town atmosphere it provides."
The fact that the race and course is certified draws competitors from a wide area. This year, runners from nearly 40 states will compete.
"Certified races tend to draw more serious competitors," Wickstrom said. "Some people have used this race to qualify for Boston and other marathons. And when a course is certified, competitors can be sure the distances are accurate."
She added that Saturday's race will provide a number of amenities that belie the small-town atmosphere in which runners compete.
"There are aid stations for the runners at many junctures of the race, and a marker for every mile," she said. "And people who've raced here like the way they're treated by the people in Storm Lake. It's a friendly atmosphere for the runners."
Nevertheless, runners Saturday still face the prospect of running - or at least jogging - 26.2 miles, flat course or not. That's enough to send most non-runners to the living room in search of a couch and a television set.
Wickstrom remembers, for instance, feeling some trepidation before her first marathon in 1991. It was held near Drake University in Des Moines.
"I woke up in the middle of the night before the race," she remembered. "I was so worried that I'd get lost along the way that I drew the course out on my arm."
All went well, however, and 36 marathons later, Wickstrom is a veteran of these long, grueling treks.
She says runners feel good some days, and don't others during marathons. On a good day, she says, running comes easier and the miles go by a little quicker.
"When you're running well, it breeds positive reinforcement and makes it even easier," she said.
When a runner is having a bad day and struggling through a marathon, the trick is to get rid of negative thoughts during the race.
"It can be difficult," she said.
Wickstrom said her best marathon time came in the Chicago Marathon in 1996, where she logged an impressive time of 3 hours, 3 minutes. During that race, she averaged 8-minute miles and finished second overall in the Master's Division.
But it was different in Boston this past year.
"It was 85 degrees when the race started," she said. Midway through the race, she decided not to worry so much about her time and just finish the race.
"The thing about the Boston Marathon is that it's such a well-known race that's you just have to sit back and enjoy the experience and take it all in," she said.
What gets a marathoner through 26 miles is the training that occurs in the months leading up to the event.
Wickstrom ordinarily runs about 40 miles per week. When she is actively training for a marathon, she ups that number to 70 miles a week.
"Most people will train daily for a marathon, then have one long run per week," she said. "When I'm training for a marathon, my long runs are 11 miles, about the distance around the lake here . But sometimes, I'll go a little further, maybe 13 or 14 miles."
Running isn't for everyone, Wickstrom, but it's attractive to competitive racers for a number of reasons.
"I've met a lot of interesting people at marathons and other races," she said. "It's a different kind of social situation than normal social gatherings.
"At races, people aren't aware of what you do for a living or how much money you make - they really don't care about that," she said.
She says all runners have a common bond in their passion for the sport. At though she's in her 40's, marathons and other races bring out Wickstrom's competitiveness.
"You see a lot of the same people at the different races, and sometimes you compete against them, even though it's a friendly competition," she said.
Though Wickstrom helped plan this year's Marathon to Marathon event, she won't be competing Saturday. She'll be in the Twin Cities visiting relatives.
But she plans to run three marathon's this year, including Grandma's Marathon in Duluth this summer, the Minneapolis Marathon in the fall and again at Boston.
Meanwhile, the active Storm Lake resident will just keep putting on the miles biking, running and walking. Running might not be for everyone, as Wickstrom said, but she isn't planning on quitting her training anytime soon.
"To run marathons," she said earlier in an interview, "you just have to make sure you put in enough training mileage."
That shouldn't be a problem for Wickstrom.