MINNEAPOLIS — For roughly 25 years now, when runners in the Twin Cities Marathon approach the corner of Douglas and Knox Avenues, they've been greeted by Alan Page and the unmistakable sound of his tuba, even if the tune itself is unrecognizable.
"This is a noisemaker," Page said, with a laugh. "Nobody ever said I was playing it."
Page, who is best known for his Hall of Fame career with the Minnesota Vikings and service on the Minnesota Supreme Court, has become a selfie star on marathon morning. Often stopping runners in the their tracks to grab a quick pick with the marathon's most famous fan... and his noisemaker.
Kent Erdahl: "Technically, it's not a tuba. It's a sousaphone."
Alan Page: "Yes, technically it's a sousaphone. Yes."
Erdahl: "Is that an important distinction for you?"
Page: "Well, John Philip Sousa would say so."
Erdahl: "How did this all start?"
Page: "In my case, the sousaphone itself started when I was in junior high school when I joined the band. I suspect it had something to do with my size and the ability to carry it."
He says it wasn't until decades later, after his football career and marathon running days were behind him, that he picked the instrument back up.
Page: "One of our neighbors down the block was having a party and they said, 'Bring a noisemaker.' What other thing could I have around the house that could be a better noisemaker than a sousaphone?"
Not only was it a big hit, but he realized it was one way he could re-play the favor to all those fans who cheered him on over the years.
"As a football player, people come to watch you play, and I take enjoyment seeing other people participating," Page said. "I've also run a number of marathons myself, and having people along the way really helps. One of the things I loved about running, and distance running, is that you learn a lot about yourself, and how you handle both the good and the bad. I think we need to celebrate that."
And this year that celebration will grow, thanks to the Diane and Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge. It's a way to encourage and reward others who support runners along the 26.2 mile course.
Though Page already has an NFL Community Award named after him, and a middle school bearing his name, he says this award is special because it is also in honor of his wife, Diane Sims Page, who was also a passionate runner and marathon fan. Diane died after a battle with breast cancer in 2018.
Page: "It was important to me to have her name on the award, along with mine. We were a team. Indeed, I would say, we still are a team."
Erdahl: "The year that she passed. You were out there just days later."
Page: "Yes, because she loved being out there. It was something that, as a couple, as a family, as individuals, she looked forward to being a part of it, and I had to be out there for us because she couldn't be out there with me."
Erdahl: "The cheering was pretty loud that year, for you."
Page: "It was quite something. It was for her. It was hard, but it warmed my heart."
With that still on his mind, he is excited that the Diane and Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge will recognize others who bring joy to thousands of marathon runners. To spread that joy even wider, the winners will also earn donations in their name, to the nonprofit of their choice.
Page: "What better way to support this community than to go out, have some fun, cheer on the runners, and then be recognized for it in a way that benefits others?"
For more information on how to participate in the Diane and Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge, click here.
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