St. Cloud River Runners Present…

                St. Joseph Native Says Running Makes Him Better Trumpet Player

by Ralph Bell
St. Joseph Newsleader
Thursday, June 5, 2008 2:35 PM EDT

When 52-year-old Dan Rassier was running in the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon May 10, a thought crossed his mind he hadn’t contemplated in decades.

Rassier, a life-long resident of St. Joseph, remembers swimming in Avon as a kid, watching trains as they passed nearby, wondering where they were off to.

Fast forward some 40 years later and here he was, running a 26.2-mile race on the trackless stretch of soil that used to catch his eye from the beach area.

This coincidence of coincidences made fine food for thought - just what he needed to keep a “positive bubble” around him, a bubble Rassier purposely creates for protection during his long-distance runs.

“From running, I’ve learned so much about myself,” he said. “You learn about your body, but you also learn how you think. Because when you’re running such long distances your negative imagination can do tricks on you.

“Today I was feeling that second wind you hear runners talk about,” he said. “And then I hit mile 24 and it disappeared. I was a dead man, just dead in my tracks. You start dragging your feet. And it’s bad for runners to look back to see who’s behind you. You want to focus on what’s ahead. But as soon as I look back, then I know I’m in trouble.

“So you invent things to pass a little bit of the time,” Rassier said. “You kind of drift off into another world.”

“Like today, during the last two miles,” he said. “I was running a good race and then I started losing it, losing the energy. And you learn how to control what you’re thinking, to keep it going and not stop. You learn a lot about how you deal with adversity.”

You also learn a lot about how to deal with pain.

“They call this (Wobegon Trail) a trail marathon,” Rassier said. “But it’s so tame you can’t really get hurt on it.

“A ‘trail’ marathon is like running on the Superior Hiking Trail,” he said. “Now that’s where you can get hurt. “There’s rocks and tree roots to deal with there.

“I took a tree out on that trail,” he said. “I was running and there were two guys behind me. And you’re watching every step.

But there was grass kind of peeking over the rocks, and I caught a rock. I was going down a hill, and all I could do was grab onto a tree while I was airborne. It was a rotten Birch tree, and I took the middle section out of it. But it prevented me from falling on my back. I landed on my feet and the tree came down on me.

“The runners behind me said, ‘Are you all right?’ And I said, ‘Is my back all cut up?’ And they said, ‘No, it’s all right.’ So I kept going.”

The 30-year Cold Spring elementary band instructor said he would have crawled across the finish line if he had to.

“But that race was the hardest one to finish because I was hurting so bad from falling,” Rassier said. “You have to lift your feet up when you’re running a marathon like that, and I didn’t. I fell like eight or nine times.”

Give the man credit, though. Despite the exhaustion and pain he’s learned to fight through, the Apollo High School and St. Cloud State graduate keeps running and running and running.

“The last three years I’ve done over 20 races from March through November,” Rassier said. “I’ve run in something like 21 to 22 states now.”

The two boxes of running medals he stores are visual reminders of this bachelor’s desire to keep pushing himself as the years pass by, rotten conditions or not.

I ran a marathon not too long ago in a blizzard up in Brainerd,” Rassier said. “It was a blizzard, I’m telling you. And I remember at mile five or six saying, ‘This might be one I’m not going to finish. I’m going to die, running on this slippery stuff.’ And then all of a sudden you start realizing, ‘Hey, I’m feeling pretty good.’ And you pass a runner or two. And you go, ‘Wow! Hey! Maybe I’ll win!’

Rassier, arguably one of the best trumpet players in central Minnesota, said he caught the running bug while attending graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I remember running with other trumpet players,” he said. “The players that were really good said, ‘Hey, you wanna go for a run?’ And I can remember running with them and thinking, ‘Wow, this is interesting.’ Because I would kind of run, but it was usually on the farm, running around doing stuff.

“I’d like to say I became a runner because I wanted to be healthy,” he said. “But it really does help my trumpet playing. Like today, (during the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon) when I was pumping air - it definitely has helped my support. I’m a trumpet player and I’m getting old now. But I can play better than I’ve ever played, because of that, I think.”

After completing his post graduate education in Illinois in ‘78, Rassier, a music major (affectionately called “Mr. Bee Bop” by students throughout his career) applied for jobs all over the country.

“And wouldn’t you know, I ended up getting a job in Cold Spring,” he said. “Bingo!”

Rassier says residing here for all but two collegiate years of his life, says it all.

“I’ve traveled a lot,” he said. “And with all the traveling I’ve done it’s made me appreciate where we live. I know we’ve got it really nice, right here in central Minnesota.”

Dan Rassier was St. Joseph’s only entrant participating in the first annual Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. Out of the 80 runners who ran the race, he took 14th place, with a time of 3:39:33. Only one other runner older than himself (age 53) placed higher.

“I’m always trying my best,” he said. “And I always finish my races, one way or another. I’ll probably be running for the rest of my life.”