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    Pleasant Grove firefighters gain unity through marathon run

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    Danelle Dickerson courtesy photo Pleasant Grove firefighters, nearly the entire department, ran and completed the Utah Valley Marathon together attracting attention along the route from just below Deer Creek Reservoir along Provo Canyon to Utah Lake.
    The Pleasant Grove firefighters said they will never run a marathon again, yet most of them are planning their next run.

    "Every time I run, I say it's my last," said P.G. Fire Department Capt. Stan Andreasen. "But then when you are through, you want to do another one."

    Twenty-five firefighters ran through Provo Canyon, along the cold, rushing Provo River to the wide-open spaces of sky and Utah Lake -- a total of 26.2 miles -- at the Utah Valley Marathon this month.

    "It wasn't fast, but we did it," said Andreasen. "It was pretty cool. For a lot of guys, they didn't know they could do a marathon."

    He said that to have almost the whole department go, especially a department as small as theirs, was pretty impressive. Other participants noticed the unity of the firefighters.

    "I had an amazing day today volunteering for the Utah Valley Marathon," said marathon volunteer Jessie Gardiner. "But the real story that impressed me was the Pleasant Grove Fire Department. ... Their fire chief, Mark Sanderson, put the bug in their ear last fall about being in better shape, etc., and all of their crew that entered finished."

    Sanderson, she said, raced with a healing fractured femur. He ran with firefighter Sam Levine to make sure he made it the entire distance.

    Certified as a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, the Utah Valley Marathon has inclusion in the Utah Grand Slam. All proceeds from the marathon are donated to the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation, helping children with cancer who live mainly in Utah Valley.

    U.V. Marathon participation jumped from 120 runners in 2008 to 748 in 2009.

    PGFD Deputy Chief Dave Thomas has run several times in the St. George Marathon and said the Utah Valley Marathon incorporates all the different courses he has run before, so it was fun.

    It was his boss, he said, who got the department getting ready for the run.

    "He's Mr. Ultra Marathon, because he has run everything, even running 138 miles in the California desert in the summertime," Thomas said.

    He laughs and jokingly says he believes that a future descendent of Sanderson's will be a Jedi Knight.

    "He's the chief for more reasons other than the fact that he's a skilled leader. He's persuasive," Thomas said. "He's like the force on 'Star Wars.' He just waves his hand and says, 'You want to run the marathon,' and we say, 'We want to run the marathon.' I really think he's got the force with him."

    Sanderson admits to some persuasion but doesn't give himself credit for the marathon accomplishment. Every firefighter who began the marathon finished.

    "We had a few firefighters who were peer pressured into running, and the most they had ever done is six miles. They just got out and did it," Sanderson said. "So in mile seven we were in uncharted territory with some of them. It was fun."

    Sanderson, who has run 108 marathons, including the Boston three times, said the firefighters were hating life after the run.

    "But they are recovering and starting to talk about which marathon they are going to run next," he said. "They all want to improve their times. ... Marathon running is life altering."
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