Strava Track Club members are engaged in a wide variety of vocational and other pursuits in addition to their running. Find out more about our team in our periodic feature, Meet the Team. Marina and Dawson Vorderbruegge are newlyweds running post-collegiately after successful careers at Cal State Stanislaus. Always up for a challenge, and hungry to achieve at the best of their abilities, read below to find out a bit more about this faith-centered couple. You can also follow them on Strava here and here!
Quite frequently, I have these nightmares where I’m trying to run in a dire situation. I’m always in the final 100 meters of an important race, and I can see the finish line up ahead. Every time, my legs fail. Everything below the hips turns into a jello-y mush and my muscles go slack and I’m immobilized. I fall down as other runners fly past me.
And every time, I start crawling.
I grab greedily at the ground with my fingers and claw my way forward like a no-legged zombie. I pull with both hands, like when a surfer double-paddles just before a wave breaks, and I try to finish the race. I grimace and strain and yank myself into the finish chute. Sometimes I wake up before I get there, but I can’t remember having ever just laid down and quit.
I’ve talked to a lot of other runners, and of the ones I have asked, pretty much all of them tell me that they have the same type of dreams. In a friend’s version, he just keeps falling uncontrollably. In the cult classic novel Once a Runner, Quinton Cassidy feels as though he’s wading through waist-deep peanut butter. No matter what bizarre form it takes, I think that all runners have had this sort of doom-laden finish dream.
Maybe there is something that embeds itself in our psyche as runners that triggers these night terrors. Because, for us, that’s what they really are: terrors. The one thing any serious runner can’t stand is the inability to run. Hell hath no depression like a runner injured. But even more terrifying than an injury (because, let’s be honest, those are just something everyone has to deal with) is the prospect of winning a huge race and then having it suddenly yanked away by having all the bones in your legs disappear.
Running has had this curious effect on my life. It causes strange, sweaty nightmares, frustration, and disappointment. But like anything else of value, it has also delivered ecstasy and fulfillment and satisfaction.
I was a state champion and record holder in Hawaii during high school (not that impressive in a state with only 1.5 million people). I did my collegiate running at CSU Stanislaus, and I still live in Turlock. I’ve met most of my best buds through the sport, and the first time I saw my wife she was going for a run, which I promptly joined.
Now, I teach Writing and Composition at CSU Stanislaus. My wife Marina and I work part-time so that we can train full-time, which has resulted in living poor and fast with the love of my life. I couldn’t imagine a better marriage.
We are both Christians and we spend a lot of our non-running time helping out at various food banks and local ministry organizations. Our most exciting new venture is a partnership with a local crisis pregnancy center that supports and provides resources to new mothers. I like to picture Jesus as a skinny, high-mileage runner floating through the desert on his way to do some eternal good, but maybe that’s just proximity bias.
Marina and I joined Strava Track Club in September 2014, and I’ve met some of the coolest and most genuine people through the group. Runners tend to have well-developed perspectives on the world (maybe it’s all that time alone) and my teammates are just that way. It’s been fun to keep up with everyone’s training on the Strava app. My summer project is to use the Heatmap feature to run on every single road in the town I live. I’ll keep you updated if I make it out alive.
I would encourage you to join a local running club or meet up with a new group of folks to train with. Chances are you’ll meet someone fascinating. And chances are even better that they have weird dreams about the end of a race, too. And maybe that’s something that we can all relate to. Despite the jimmy-legs or the gravy-bones, we all just want to get across that line, even if it means crawling one handful of dirt at a time.
My running story doesn’t entail anything glamorous, or anything quite interesting, to be honest. In fact, I didn’t even become a distance runner until my junior year of high school. Sports never had an existence during my childhood and I certainly didn’t know what it felt like to be on any competitive team. I don’t mean to say that I never had any interest to compete in sports, but I just never believed that I was talented enough to do it. The real reason I decided to finally join a sport in high school was because of my two older brothers. They were quite active in sports all throughout adolescence. Seeing the friendships they made and great things that they achieved from competing, not to mention getting the chance to wear a uniform and represent themselves as student-athletes, made me decide I wanted to have that same experience. So, my sophomore year of high school I joined the track team and decided that I was definitely a sprinter like my oldest brother. Being on the track team was fun (especially winning and getting medals), I met so many great friends, and I got to be included in something that showed off all my hard work.
It wasn’t until near the end of my first season that I was approached by the cross country coach. She told me that I should join the cross country team and that she thought I would be a better distance runner than a sprinter. To her, my calling was the 800m and the 1600m. That year, the cross country team was flying out to Hawaii to race on the Big Island. So obviously I said yes and joined. Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii?! But, that also meant I had to train and run over the summer. Which, to my surprise at the time, I really enjoyed. In my first ever cross country race (and first time to Hawaii), I made the varsity squad and won the race. Ever since then, I knew my sprinting days were over.
Fast forward to my senior year in high school, my coach pushed me to run in college. I knew that my mile time, a whopping 5:13, wasn’t exactly spectacular, but if she believed I could do it, I thought I should give it a try. She helped me find schools and even write a few letters to coaches. Well, after not getting any calls back, I thought maybe I wasn’t cut out for college running, after all, I didn’t have the most outstanding race times. It wasn’t until halfway through my track season that I got a phone call from head coach Diljeet Taylor of Cal State Stanislaus, a Division II school in Turlock, CA. I was ecstatic that a coach would ever be interested in me and want me to be an athlete on their team! I was so glad I didn’t give up hope and I was even more excited to be a college runner. It only took one phone call to convince me of where I was going to college that next semester. For five years, Coach Taylor developed me into a successful athlete. Beyond my accomplishments, I learned a lot about God and about myself along the way.
Now having the chance to run post-collegiate for Strava Track Club, I still have that same grateful attitude. I knew I wanted to continue racing competitively and achieve more through running, but I just wasn’t sure I was fast enough to make it. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that doubt and fear don’t rule over my future. I’ve found purpose, identity, and confidence through God and He lets me practice them through running. My hope through being a part of Strava would be that I could use running as a platform to glorify God and share my passion with others.
One of my favorite verses is found in Matthew 6:33. Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” I believe that God has used running competitively to help me stay accountable for my faith and to also trust Him even when I worry.