From where he’s been, 3 marathons are a piece of cake for Nageotte |

From where he’s been, 3 marathons are a piece of cake for Nageotte

Gary Kank

Most people spend their birthday celebrating over cake and ice cream, but not Stateline’s Rob Nageotte. Friday, Nageotte will turn 52 and instead of blowing out candles and cutting a cake, he’ll be running the first leg of the 78.6-mile Tahoe Ultra 3-Day Marathon.

“I don’t know who thought of this event,” Nageotte said. “But it’s pretty crazy. It was really intriguing to me because it landed on my birthday.”

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Naggeotte moved to Lake Tahoe in 1981 with his skis tucked under his arm. And while skiing drove his interest in the winter months, he soon found another love in the Tahoe mountains during the warmer seasons – running.

With the vast trails that surround the area, including his favorite, the Tahoe Rim Trail, Nageotte found himself lacing up his shoes on a daily basis to not only keep in shape, but to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

“Being able to look down on the lake and run in the mountains is what I live for,” he said.

As his interest in running developed, so did his competitive nature.

But it wasn’t until a conversation, in which a friend said one of his goals was to run a marathon before he turned 40, that Nageotte starting taking a serious interest in marathon running.

“It’s kind of a strange thing,” he said. “You tell yourself you’re only going to do one and then something happens and the next thing you know you get hooked on the long-distance thing.”

While Nageotte spent a great deal of time in his early marathon years focused on shaving minutes off his previous races, he now has a more relaxed attitude.

“My goal used to be focused on breaking a three-hour marathon,” Nageotte said. “Now my goal is to just survive and not get injured. I guess you go through different stages and as I’ve aged, I’ve gained some wisdom. Now, just going out and being able to have those moments of outdoor running on trails is much more important than any competition.”

If you get the feeling Nageotte’s outlook was somehow shaped by a certain event that took place in his life, you’re absolutely right.

Ten years ago, while skiing at Heavenly, Nageotte crashed headfirst into a tree at 40 mph. The impact left him lying motionless in the icy snow.

Nageotte was airlifted from the mountain to UC Davis Medical Center where doctors initially gave him little hope of survival, but through a strong will and a desire to survive, Nageotte pulled through procedure after procedure, ultimately winning what looked like a doomed race.

“Everyday I wake up and it’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s just wonderful to have the opportunity to be able to run this weekend.”

This weekend’s ultra event is the first time an event of its kind will run in association with the Tahoe Marathon.

The registered field of 25 will run a marathon a day for three consecutive days, circumnavigating the 72-mile shoreline of Lake Tahoe plus and additional six-mile overlap.

On Friday, the race begins at 6:45 a.m. with a run from Emerald Bay to Spooner Lake. Saturday’s leg departs Spooner Lake and follows the shoreline to Tahoe City and on Sunday’s final leg, the ultra runners will join the regular Marathon runners and travel from Commons Beach in Tahoe City to Pope Beach on Tahoe’s South Shore.

With such a long event ahead of him, Nageotte has devised a few plans.

“I’m trying to look at it as bites of increments,” he said. “I will really be pacing myself.”

Nageotte said he will take care of himself both during and after each leg by replenishing with electrolytes and carbohydrates. He said he also plans to wade into the lake after he finishes the first leg as the cold water will help prevent any swelling or cramping that might occur.

“You really have to use your head a bit with a race like this,” he said. “Some of us won’t make it, but my plan is to take it easy and do the things necessary to finish the race.”

While regular marathon runners receive a medal and a T-shirt for their successful finish, the ultra runners will take home a hooded sweatshirt.

“I’m doing it for my son, Eric, and I really want that hooded sweatshirt,” he said.

For Nageotte, a games dealer at the Horizon Casino Resort, this race will be challenging, but not nearly as challenging as the road back from his near- death experience has been.

Even though his trail back may have been a bumpy one, you can see through his sense of humor that he probably made it back that much easier by keeping a positive and upbeat attitude.

“When I had my accident, the doctors treating me told my parents I would probably come away brain dead,” Nageotte said. “Now (running this race) proves that I am.”

While Nageotte, who will also represent Stateline in carrying the Olympic torch as it passes through Tahoe on the way to this winter’s Salt Lake games, is an inspiration to many, he draws his own inspiration from a Theodore Roosevelt quote.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly,

who errs and comes short again and again;

who knows the great enthusiasms,

the great devotions,

and spends himself in a worthy cause,

who, at the best,

knows in the end

the triumph of high achievement;

and who, at the worst,

at least fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be

with those cold and timid souls

who know neither victory nor defeat.

Hey Ron, good luck this weekend and I hope you get that sweatshirt you wanted for your birthday.

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