Detroit Lakes man completes 5K run in honor of his late father
When the Polar Fest Freeze Your Buns 5K Run was first postponed and then canceled due to arctic weather conditions, Detroit Lakes native Ryan Bjorklund decided to run it anyway. Why? As a means of honoring his father, the late Ron Bjorklund, whose completion of the same run in 2016 was one of the proudest accomplishments of his life.
For weeks, the Bjorklund family — siblings Tricia and Ryan, along with their mom Vicki — had been bracing themselves to take part in the 2022 Freeze Your Buns Run.
So when the Detroit Lakes Polar Fest event was first postponed, from Feb. 12 to Feb. 19, and then canceled altogether due to bad weather, they were obviously disappointed.
But Ryan, who had been training for the event for weeks, decided he wasn't going to let a little cold and snow (or a whole lot of it, even) keep him from completing the run.
"I did the same loop that they would have for the actual run," Bjorklund said, adding that he finished it on Saturday, Feb. 19 — the same day it had originally been scheduled for.
Why was this particular event so special to the Bjorklund family? Because Ron Bjorklund, Ryan's father, had completed the run in 2016 with his daughter and Ryan's sister, Tricia, and it was a cherished moment for Ron.
"I wished I could have done it with them, but I had to work that day," Ryan said of that 2016 run.
The father-daughter duo completed the run, though they didn't cross the finish line together.
"Dad pretty much walked it (the 5K route), but he finished," Ryan said, adding that while his father had struggled with heart problems most of his life, "he didn't let that stop him from doing anything."
After struggling with some health issues of his own, Ryan said, he felt inspired by his dad's example of never giving up.
"I went through some back issues," he said, adding that after his struggles, he thought a 5K run might not be within his capabilities — but "through a good chiropractor and physical therapist, and maybe a couple of answered prayers, I was able to work through it."
Finishing the Freeze Your Buns Run was one of his dad's proudest accomplishments, Ryan said: "He kept his (race) number hanging on the wall in his garage."
So after losing him unexpectedly in 2018, the family began thinking about what they could do to honor his memory, and came up with the idea of doing the run together.
"It's been a little over three years, but it's still hard not to have him here," Ryan added, noting that he and his father had always been close. "Losing him was tough on all of us."
This February, the family's plans to do the run in Ron's honor began to take shape.
Ryan began training at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, and also ran around a traffic loop near his South Shore Drive home to get better acclimated to running in the cold.
After all that hard work, he said, he decided that cold and snow wasn't going to keep him from completing the run.
"I wore my dad's number, 384," he said. "I did the run in 33 minutes — not too bad for a 50-year-old!"
His mom, Vicki Bjorklund, was a bit worried about the weather, so she made sure to see him off and also checked up on him farther down the route.
"It's pretty neat that he was able to follow through with it," she said.
"It was cold, but I was fine," Ryan said, adding that he felt his dad's presence with him during the run — "especially after I got through a really cold, windy stretch."
He said that as he was running, he remembered one of his dad's favorite songs, Bob Seger's "Against the Wind," and thought of him.
"Did I feel like he was there with me?" Ryan said. "Yeah, I did."