By Emily Bialkowski
If you don’t know her name but find her face familiar it’s because she’s that lady that runs – a lot. Linda Esch can be seen rain or shine jogging the hills of Houston County while training for marathons. The Caledonia native began running just four years ago and turned out to be kind of great at it.
She came in second place at her very first marathon in La Crosse in 2010. The experience left her hungry for more, so she returned the next year and completed the 26-mile course as the number one female runner.
Esch has qualified many times for the Boston Marathon but avoided the journey in year’s past due to cost. Now that she’s nearing 45 years of age, Esch says she’s ready to join the more than 35,000 competitors who qualify for Boston.
“Some people told me they’ve run for years and have never qualified,” Esch said.
With as much success as she’s had, you’d think Esch might consider herself an athlete, but she doesn’t.
“My sister, Tina (Fruechte), was known as the athlete,” she said. “I was an avid walker, but I didn’t like to run.”
The sisters will travel to Boston together for the April 21 race. Also a positive driving force for Esch is her brother, Matt Esch. He was the one who first encouraged her to run.
The siblings ran together in the Twin Cities Marathon this past October. There Linda recorded a time of 3:23:13, while Matt marked a 4:11:46. Matt lives in Winona and trains “so he can eat junk food,” according to Linda.
Other than a few lost toenails, the constant pavement pounding hasn’t left Esch with any major injuries or joint pain. The worst incident came from a fallen walnut in town, which she rolled her ankle on. That ankle flared up during the Twin Cities Marathon but left no damage.
When asked how she manages such grueling races, Esch emphatically said anyone can run a marathon. “It’s all mental. It’s more mental than body.”