By George Ferguson
Because he has not lived in Havre for quite some time, I am not sure how many of my readers know who my older brother Dan is. But for those of you who do remember him, he was once the esteemed sports editor of the Havre Daily News. But even before that, my brother was a tremendous athlete.
While I have spent most of my adolescence in and around Havre, one can only imagine how many comparisons I have had to endure to the elder Ferguson. We look alike, we sound exactly alike, and through personal experience over the years, I have learned that we act alike. I know, it's scary.
But despite the fact that we have been seemingly more like twin brothers than actually being six years apart in age, the comparisons to our athletic accomplishments aren't quite so clear.
Given the fact that Dan was a superior athlete to me in almost every sporting category out there, I hate to take up space in this column telling you just how great he was. But in light of his most recent athletic accomplishment there is a necessity to backtrack a little.
In junior high and high school, Dan was a tremendous basketball player, despite never reaching a height greater than 5-9. He even skipped two years of basketball in high school and then returned to be a major contributor on the Havre High varsity basketball team his senior season. In football, I have heard people say that he was one of the best quarterbacks never to wear a Blue Pony uniform.
Baseball was another sport where my brother excelled, especially as a pitcher. However, Dan's greatest accomplishments came on the tennis court. Aside from winning a state singles championship in 1987 - at a time when tennis was extremely competitive in Montana - Dan, in my opinion, was the single most gifted tennis player to ever reside in Havre, Montana.
After his tennis career was over, Dan did what most people do and turned to golf. In a matter of a couple short years, he transformed himself from an amateur hacker into a single-digit handicap golfer. I think your starting to get the picture - Dan was pretty good at whatever he decided to do when it came to sports.
And as many "little brothers" can probably imagine, I could never measure up in my own athletic endeavors. No matter how hard I tried. I never escaped the gigantic shadow he cast for me, especially on the tennis court, where I wasn't so bad myself. To say that I developed a certain amount of jealousy and envy, and maybe even a little bitterness would be an understatement. But those are issues that would take more than this column and a psychiatrist's chair to sort out.
But his latest athletic feat has left me shaking my head in disbelief and awe. Dan not only completed the Seattle Marathon last month, but he finished it in 4 hours and one minute. But don't think he became a serious distance runner since he moved away from Havre years ago.
Dan actually did what most people his age do. He hung up his rackets and his clubs and his cleats and settled into a good life with a wonderful wife and three energetic children. Let's just say that he wasn't above succumbing to certain changes to his body - especially in the stomach region.
But somewhere over the last couple of years he decided that he didn't like the fact that his body had taken a turn south. He decided to do what so many of us resolve to do each and every year, which is take our body back. While many people come up short in this bid, he actually did it. He lost his desired weight, began to eat healthy and lift weights. He accomplished everything he had set out to do and now lives a very healthy life style. That feat alone is something that I envy just like all of his triumphs on the playing fields of his youth.
At first I was somewhat critical of my brother's devotion to his body because I thought that it was based solely on vanity. But the more I analyzed it and scrutinized it, I realized that there was something much deeper that was driving him to be healthy. It had nothing to do with how he looked in a mirror. It is something much more personal than that and something that is way too personal for me to exploit in a newspaper.
Dan has taken his personal quest to another level with his triumph in the Seattle Marathon and for the first time there is no jealousy. There is only complete admiration because, as great an athlete as he was, Dan is still a novice in the insane world of distance running. He didn't start this ten years ago and build up to it. He pretty much dove in head first. His time is what makes the feat all the more incredible. After doing a little research, I discovered that over 50 percent of all first-time amateurs do not finish the race. Dan's time of 4:01:00 earned him a finish in the top half of all entrants in the race.
Something else that amazes me is that I have seen a portion of the course that they ran this race on. I nearly had a heart attack just walking up some of the streets in downtown Seattle. From what I learned, those same hills were part of some of the last miles of the race. It is simply amazing that he could go from where he came from to being able to run at a pace that would allow him to complete a 26.2 mile course of pavement, hills and bridges in four hours.
I'm actually surprised I'm not that jealous of this latest accomplishment. Part of it may come from maturity, most of it comes from the fact that I hate walking to the refrigerator to get a Pepsi, let alone run anywhere.
Instead, I admire my brother. I am proud of him. Most of all I have even more respect for him for accomplishing something he seemed to want to do so badly even if it seemed nearly impossible to everyone else. I have learned a valuable lesson from his marathon experience, something that is often preached but not often believed. You can do anything you set your mind to.