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Iowa–Grant’s Lucas Oyen ran 26.2 miles from Platteville to Darlington to raise money for Autism Society
Iowa–Grant student–athlete Lucas Oyen poses with 6-year-old cousin Boone Johnson, of Lyons, in Darlington following his marathon run July 9. Johnson, who has Austism, was Oyen’s inspiration for the fundraiser run. Oyen raised $2,205 for the Autism Society of South Central

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.

Lucas Oyen, Sr., Iowa–Grant High School

GRANT COUNTRY — When the coronavirus pandemic wiped out Lucas Oyen’s junior track season this past spring, the Iowa–Grant student–athlete made the most of a dismal situation.

With no track season to compete in, Oyen began training to run a marathon. In early July, he achieved his goal by completing a 26.2-mile run from Platteville’s Memorial Park to Darlington’s Sieg Field, running the final five-plus miles on an injured knee. 

Oyen also used his marathon run to raise more than $2,000 for the Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin, more than four times his original goal.

“When schools got shut down and everything was put to a stop [in March], I thought I might as well be productive and get in shape,” said Oyen, who played baseball for the Panthers as a sophomore, but planned to run on the first-year Iowa–Grant track team this spring. “Running a marathon was a goal I always had and I wanted to do it before I finished high school. This was the perfect time. So, I found a 16-week training plan and started training.”

Oyen began running six days a week, at least 40 miles each week. A typical week included a 3–7 mile recovery run on Sunday, a 5–10-mile endurance run on Mondays and Wednesdays, some sort of speed workout or tempo run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the longest run of the week on Saturday; somewhere between 15 and 22 miles. Friday was his rest day. The distances of each training run depended on the week, the further into training the further the distance.

“I had never really ran for fun before, so the furthest I ran was maybe a 5K, but never in an actual race,” said Oyen. “But now I plan on running a marathon again next summer or fall, and will hopefully keep running them for my whole life.”  

Oyen, who also plays football and basketball at Iowa–Grant, plans to run cross country this fall if Iowa–Grant moves its 2020 football to the alternate 2021 spring season. He will also run track and field during next year’s traditional spring season. It will be Iowa–Grant’s first season of track and field.

Oyen was originally set to help host a pancake breakfast in April through the Iowa–Grant Leo Club for Autism month. 

“But once COVID hit that got shut down,” said Oyen. “One of my teachers, Mr. [Bucky] Boland, knew about my marathon and suggested I run it for Autism. He is also the LEO Club advisor. The reason I chose to support autism is because my cousin Boone Johnson has autism. I thought this run would be a great way to raise awareness, especially since April is Autism Awareness month and there was really no April because of COVID.” 

Boone, 6, lives in Lyons and will be a first grader at the Cooper School in Burlington.

Oyen raised $2,205 though a GoFundMe campaign, “which was way more than my original goal of $500,” he said. “It just shows how great the Iowa–Grant community is.”

He started his marathon Thursday, July 9 at 6 a.m. at Memorial Park in Platteville. He rain along the Rountree Trail to the Pecatonica State Trail to the Cheese Country Trail and finished at Sieg Field in Darlington around noon. 

“When I started, the weather was hot,” said Oyen. “The sun really gave me a beating in the beginning because I was running in an open area. It took me six hours because around mile 21 I hurt my knee pretty bad and it made it extremely difficult to run, but I still finished. I’m not really sure exactly how I hurt my knee. It came out of nowhere and I ended up having a low grade MCL sprain and I tore some fibers in my hamstring where it connects to the knee tendon or something. I am in physical therapy for it right now. It was a little disappointing because I would have finished at around a time of 4 hours and 30 minutes.” 

Tim Donovan, a coach and teacher at Iowa–Grant who lives in Platteville, helped plan the route and set up water stations about every three miles. Oyen’s family and some of his friends would cheer him on at every water station. Nic Pennekamp, a classmate, teammate and friend ran the final six miles with Oyen. 

“I definitely needed him because he supported me through the hardest part and helped me not focus on my knee,” said Oyen. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without those two and my family and friends.”

Oyen is the son of Meredith Oyen of Livingston and Josh Oyen of Potosi.

“My favorite part about the run was the cause and just the overall challenge with myself,” added Oyen. “The hardest part was just handling the heat and my mental state because when I hurt my knee. I was pretty upset, but you gotta stay focused. Running a marathon is over 50 percent mental in my opinion.”