It's the kind of apocraful folk story which always seems too good to be true: Twin brothers are so competitive that they take off from their home on a friendly training run, only to run 20 miles to their high school, where they decide to race each other around the school track to complete a full marathon.
As it turns out, it was too good to be true … for awhile. Then, after hearing the story and denying it actually happened dozens of times, Delta (Utah) High seniors Tyler and Dane Nielsen decided to actually complete the feat themselves and live up to the lore that had come to follow them around.
As reported by the Deseret News' excellent columnist Amy Donaldson, the Neilsen twins' legendary competitive training sessions served as a sort of metaphor for the hardworking Delta region, an area which thrives on a thoroughly blue collar work ethic and prides itself on maintaining traditional values.
Indeed, the twins, who were both three-sport stars, epitomized that hard working ethos. Lining up in adjacent 152-pound (Tyler) and 160-pound weight classes, the Nielsen's combined to provide a stern backbone for Delta's Class 3A state champion wrestling squad. While both wrestlers finished just shy of an individual state title — Tyler finished third and Dane placed second — they both also seemed ok with that.
The twins were also stalwarts on a state quarterfinalist football squad, a major achievement for the state's smallest Class 3A school.
"People don't like to be seen as whiners," said Ken Nielson, father of the Nielson twins and five other children. "But they like to be dealt with fairly."
So, after seeing how people were inspired by the myth of the Nielsen's impromptu marathon, the Nielsens decided there was no compelling reason why they shouldn't follow through on just such a feat.
According to Nelson, the twins rose at 4:30 a.m. for their run to school and laps around the track and were trailed the entire time by family and friends. Fittingly, the duo sprinted across the finish line, with Tyler slipping across the homemade finish line just inches in front of his twin brother.
As soon as they crossed the finish line, the Nielsen's made good on something which some thought was already the case; now they really are walking legends in the tiny Delta community.