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50-mile race a family affair

Paul Raymore
Sierra Sun
Courtesy photoStephanie Hiemstra, of Truckee, stands with her father after completing the American River 50.
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In the last 12 months, Truckee resident Stephanie Hiemstra has run six marathons, a worthy accomplishment by almost any standard.

But for Hiemstra, the marathons served as stepping stones for a bigger challenge ” last weekend’s American River 50-mile endurance race. First run in 1980, the American River 50 follows a course from Sacramento to Auburn used for the American River Ride horse race. And since that inaugural race, more than 9,400 runners have challenged themselves to complete the mostly uphill route.

Hiemstra, 28, the executive director of the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe, and her 63-year-old father, Tom Jensen, of Layton, Utah, finished the 50-mile course in 12 hours, 3 minutes and 56 seconds, and enjoyed almost every minute of it.

“I had a tough time between mile 32 and 37,” Jensen said. “If Stephanie hadn’t been with me, who knows whether I would have continued. I think I would have, but maybe not.”

“Running 50 miles,” Hiemstra admitted, “is obviously a huge physical strain. But it’s more a mental game than anything.

“Just from this one [race] I really realized how much of it is in your head and how much you have to stay positive.”

To help keep their attitude positive during Hiemstra’s first ultra long-distance run, Hiemstra and Jensen concocted the two-beers-per-mile rule, which allowed them to drink two beers for every mile they completed when the race was over.

Sadly, after running 50 miles, neither was up for drinking 100 beers. Even so, Hiemstra said, the experience of finishing the race was incredible, particularly with her father.

“More than anything, it just gave us the chance to be together,” she said. “A 50-mile race? How many people can do that, let alone old men?”

Those who know the pair well are probably not surprised that Hiemstra and Jensen would be up for a 50-mile race, as running has always been popular in the Jensen family. Hiemstra said she can still remember the first time her father completed the American River 50 on his 50th birthday.

“My dad did it 13 years ago, and since he did it I’ve always wanted to do it,” she said. “They raised me running, and he had the poster on the wall with the course, and I remember being totally in awe that he was able to do that.

“Then last year we started doing all these longer distance races and he decided he wanted to do another [50-mile race]… and I really wanted to do it with him.”

Hiemstra has now run 11 marathons and last weekend’s 50-mile race. She estimated that her dad has run 40-plus marathons and has now run the American River 50 twice. Neither has ruled out doing the American River 50 again next year with Hiemstra’s brother Corey Jensen, who has also recently gotten into long distance running.

“It’s just kind of fun for me to sit back and see that they’ve got into it,” said Tom Jensen. “I never forced it. This was their decision and I never tried to impose at all. And it’s a good activity for us; we all get together and spend a little time together.”


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