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Boston bound

By Amelia Schoeneman '12
April 12, 2011

In addition to working at the Goodbye Blue Monday Coffee House, Gus DeMann '12 maintains his local roots by playing Bob Younger in the reenactment of the James Gang raid during the annual Defeat of Jesse James Days.

On a mid-October morning, Gus DeMann '12 woke up, walked straight to his computer, and committed himself to hundreds of miles of intense physical training. At 10:12 a.m. his Facebook status read "Just registered for the Boston Marathon!!"

DeMann finished 145th at Grandma’s Marathon last April, almost 10 minutes under the 3:10:00 qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. "My goal was to run under three hours, but with an 18 mph headwind, I ran 3:01:16," he says.

A native of neighboring Dundas, Minnesota, DeMann began running marathons to carry on a family tradition and soon realized how much he enjoyed the challenge. While running gives him a sense of accomplishment, the real achievement is that he manages to fit the intense training into a schedule at St. Olaf that also includes a role on the Nordic ski team, involvement in campus activities like Theatre Department productions, and the heavy course load that comes with double majoring in physics and Spanish.

Balance and planning
Like the many St. Olaf students who take on two majors, several jobs, and an abundance of extracurricular activities, DeMann has found that balance — along with precise daily planning — is the key to success. "I have learned to rearrange my activities really quickly," he says.

DeMann began his year-round physical training with the Nordic ski team in September. Daily workouts took two to three hours and lasted until February, a schedule that could be grueling. Yet when the Nordic season ended, DeMann immediately transitioned his hours of daily training to running.

The amount of time he dedicates to running depends on his course work load. "Training takes a ridiculous amount of time, and my workouts are scheduled around the due dates of class projects and vary with my stress levels," he says.

And training is far from the only activity to fill DeMann’s day. His work at Goodbye Blue Monday, a popular coffeehouse in downtown Northfield that employees 15 other Oles, starts at 5:30 a.m. almost every weekday. Once he's on campus, he also fits in time working for the St. Olaf Physics Department.

In addition, DeMann is active with the St. Olaf Theatre Department, where he designed the sounds for last fall's production of The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other — intriguing work because the actors didn’t have lines. He's also up for visual design challenges, competing annually in the campuswide "Sweet Suite" contest to determine which Oles have transformed their dorm rooms into trendy digs. "My first year, we came in third place just in my dorm. The second time, we were second campuswide. This year my goal is to win," says DeMann. "My roommate and I joke that we live in a penthouse."

Robbing banks on the side
While exploring new activities at St. Olaf, DeMann maintains his ties to the community. During the annual Defeat of Jesse James Days, for example, he plays Bob Younger in the reenactment of the James Gang raid of the town bank — a role that requires a fair amount of physical dexterity. “Younger gets shot in the elbow by the townspeople protecting Northfield,” DeMann explains. "So during the reenactment, I have to jump onto another gang member's horse to escape because of my wound."

DeMann crosses the finish line of the 2010 Grandma's Marathon in 3:01:16 — No. 145.

That kind of strength in the face of adversity will come in handy when DeMann heads to Boston for the April 18 marathon. Long an avid runner, he finished his first marathon at Grandma’s two years ago. He entered the race with his family, remembering the thrill as he used to watch his aunt and uncles cross the finish line.

"My aunt and two of my uncles are elite runners. It was one of the most memorable times growing up when the whole family would to travel to Duluth to watch them race," he says. "After they moved to Oregon, they stopped competing at Grandma's, but I wanted to carry on the tradition."

DeMann's first run at Grandma's gave him a better understanding of the course, which he knew he could use the next year to improve his standings. The second time around, DeMann was not only familiar with the logistics and the thrill of the race, but was also chasing the goal of qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon. The world's oldest annual marathon, the Boston Marathon is a right of passage for both seasoned and up-and-coming marathoners.

DeMann clearly has a future in the sport of distance running, but his plans after college reflect his well-rounded interests. He intends to study physics in grad school and is thinking about a career in teaching.

"I do my jobs, skiing, and theatre because they're interesting," he says. "Running is like meditation and a time to let go for me."

Look for DeMann in the 2011 Boston Marathon April 18.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or