ST. CHARLES – His wife hooked him on running, and his daughters provided the motivation that brought out his best.
Factor in that his mother was among the family supporting him Sunday at the Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon, and Steve Nusser’s third-place finish in the marathon was a triumph for the entire clan.
Nusser, of Geneva, was the top local finisher at the marathon, clocking in at 2:49.36. It wasn’t the 2:45-or-lower that Nusser sought, but still counted as his second-best finish in the 20 marathons that he’s run.
Third place is a heck of an achievement in a marathon field of more than 1,000 runners, especially considering the 43-year-old Nusser is 14 years older than victorious Justin Gillette (2:31.34) – a 52-time marathon winner – and 18 years the senior of runner-up Gregory Maves (2:41.52).
Still, citing cramping around the 21st mile that slowed him down the stretch, the competitive zealot in Nusser couldn’t help but wish he’d trimmed a few minutes off his time.
“There are so many things that play into it, it’s really hard to figure out what went wrong,” Nusser said.
Nusser isn’t about to start taking it easy on himself, not with his oldest daughter, Brooke Nusser, on his heels. Brooke Nusser, a Geneva High School sophomore, is the top runner for the Vikings’ girls cross country team.
“My birthday card this year from Brooke said ‘You’re one year closer to being beat by your daughter in a race,’ ” Nusser said.
Cleverly done. But in all seriousness, the influence of Brooke and her younger sister, Holly – a seventh-grader – are largely responsible for dad’s distance dynamism.
“I try to lead by example,” Nusser said. “Brooke, Holly, my kids, I can’t expect them to go out and push themselves and do their best when they’re competing if I don’t do that.
“I ran the Hot Chocolate [a 15K race in Chicago] and that actually popped into my head. It was right after Brooke’s cross country season. I was always telling her ‘Do your best, try hard,’ that kind of thing, and I was out there running, thinking, ‘I’ve got to do my best now. She’s going to expect it from me.’ ”
Sunday was Nusser’s first Fox Valley Marathon run, though he volunteered at the inaugural 2010 race.
Nusser said his wife, Caroline, turned him on to running, setting in motion a marathon career that began in 2003 and now stretches to 20 races, coast to coast, including a victory at a race in Iowa.
The couple ran one international marathon together, in Reyjavik, Iceland, where Caroline – who also competed Sunday in St. Charles – was the third fastest women’s finisher.
Both Steve and Caroline work for Dick Pond Athletics – Steve out of St. Charles, Caroline in Carol Stream.
That provides even more incentive to keep pounding the pavement.
“Our customers expect us to know what we’re talking about,” Nusser said. “You can’t do that without actually doing it.”
The Nussers are doers, all right.
Dad is proud to lead the way.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.