“I was floored there were six state records set,” exclaimed race director Heidi Keller Miler after the inaugural half-marathon from this 32-year-old-classic. “City of Lakes (COL) doesn’t tend to be a fast course plus half-marathons are a fairly common distance.” New state record marks remain difficult, seemingly out of reach, as they have been pounded over time in numerous 13.1 races.
Also, this year at COL new marks made their mark. Twenty-five kilometer times became history; fresh half-marathon finish times renew COL’s records.
One reason for hot times occurred when daylight broke with a cool start. Another . . . the huge NASCAR-like draft following the men’s winner, Richfield’s Dan Greeno and women’s champ, Olympian Lisa Uhl.
Greeno, a Run N Fun team member, whizzed the 13.1 miles with 5:08s, setting a high bar for future City of Lakes’ challengers. The 1:07:21 rewarded him with the victory and a $500 winner’s check. The quick pace however fell short of his PR from 2013’s Grandmas Half Marathon by about a minute. Was that the plan?
“My goal for the race was to run right around 1:07 to 1:07:30 without having to dip into the well too much since I only have another five weeks until my goal race,” the Chicago Marathon. “I ended up feeling really good the first 10 miles, but started feeling the pace the last five km and backed off a bit. Thankfully, I was still able to hit my goal and not tire myself out too much for the rest of the fall.”
In 2013, the last City of Lakes 15 Km, which Greeno also won, he clicked 5:15 miles.
In this new version, he was the only 2013 runner in the top ten to repeat a top-ten finish. Of that group racing this year, Jeff Renlund, ninth, finished this new version eleventh and collected a first place master’s payoff for his 1:14:39. Aaron Beaber, eighth in 2013, tallied 21st.
Brent Roeger repeated his prior year’s results by recording the second master’s finish and its $100 prize.
All three podium finishers in the men’s race carried big leads on the field. Donovan Fellows, Lakeville, captured second while breaking 1999’s state record for the 35-year-old class in 1:09:17, winning an additional $100 for the new mark to add to his silver’s $250 payoff. Glencoe’s Josh Metcalf, a TC Running Company athlete, followed a minute later for third and a $100 award. Greenfield’s John Van Danacker, 52, crossed in 1:17:47, overturning 2007’s 1:18:26 to claim the last new state record for men in this event.
The women’s field earns equal payoffs. Each podium slot, top two masters and any record-breakers pays in both the men’s and women’s class.
Greeno races most popular distances like the Grey Ghost 5K in 15 minutes flat less than a year ago. He won the men’s championship at the MDRA 15K three consecutive times 2010-2012 racing those Edina miles. In 2013 he didn’t win the race’s new layout in Lake Elmo but did set a state record for the 25-year-old men and made the podium. His August Urban Wildland Half win in Richfield, benefitting the Wood Lake Nature Center’s Environmental Ed Program, clocked 1:08:26.
He won USATF Runner of the Year in 2010 along with Team USA Minnesota’s Michelle Frey. He leads Minnesota Distance Runners Association’s (MDRA) 2014 Runners of the Year Award in the open category while Elizabeth Herndon holds the top slot in the Women’s class.
Olympian and Nike team member, Lisa Uhl, Des Moines, IA, not only won the women’s crown in 1:17:12, but her 5:53 pace reset a ten-year state record (1:18:30). Between the win and the record, the four-time NCAA Champion pocketed $600 for the morning’s victory, finishing 22nd overall. TC Running Company’s Angela Kidd, Chanhassen, captured silver with a comfortable lead for her 1:20:07, well ahead of the duel for bronze behind her. Margot Branigan, St. Paul, led at the ten-mile clock by nearly a half-minute before Minneapolis’ Lauren Rice passed her, capturing third in 1:22:06, just four seconds ahead of her Run N Fun teammate.
First place masters, Sonya Decker, Minneapolis, touched the mats in 1:29:01. The remaining age-record breakers for the women include: Duluth’s Rochelle Wirth’s time of 1:29:17 won second masters, overturning a 15-year state record for 52-year-olds by 13 seconds. Andriette Wickstrom’s 1:36:00 edged out 2006’s state mark for the 59-year-old-class record of 1:36:02. At 77, Dorothy Marden recorded a 2:37:42 crushing her own August, 2014 record book entry of 2:41:45.
Both Uhl and Greeno are aiming for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
An Iowa State alum, Uhl raced the London Olympics at Stratford’s Olympic Park in the unusual 2012 10,000 meter finals that featured Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia, defending her 2008 gold. The race opened with the three Japanese entrants along with Fionnuala Britton, Ireland, unexpectedly surging to an early 25-meter lead, maintaining it through the first half. Then, eventual silver medalist, Kenyan Sally Kipyego, moved ahead before Dibaba took charge with less than 1,000 meters remaining. She notched the quickest-of- the-year 30:20 time while becoming the first woman to win back-to-back 10,000 meter gold. Uhl finished in the 13 slot with a PR of 31:12 while teammates Amy Hastings, missing the top ten by a half-second, and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom captured 11th and 12th respectively. Uhl’s time ranks as the sixth-fastest for U.S. women. She now trains with the intent to earn a spot at the Rio marathon along with the 10 km and/or the 5 km.Asked about his Olympic plans, Greeno said, “Qualifying for the Olympic Trials marathon has been a dream of mine since my freshmen year of high school. I’ve kind of been knocking on the door for the last four years, but I’m still waiting and hoping to have a big breakthrough one of these days and finally get that qualifier. My goal race for the fall is the Chicago Marathon; the Olympic Trails qualifying time is 2:18.”
His strategy may seem unconventional. “My plan is to shoot for 2:20. I’ve run four marathons, and I’ve struggled in all of them. So I’m hoping that starting a little slower will allow me to be able to finish strong the last 10k. I’m really looking forward to it as Chicago always has a competitive field and is usually pretty fast.” The Bethel University graduate described a breakthrough in balancing his running life and the life-of-living when he added the element of spiritual faith. “My faith has been very instrumental in helping me to keep things in perspective.”
The race start moved to the Southern most point of Lake Harriett’s Beards Plaisance, between West 45th and West 46th streets to accommodate the 2.4 mile reduction from the 15 km most knew. The compact park, established in 1904 with a picnic shelter and stone walk receives honors as one of Minneapolis’ oldest. Kids playground equipment and picnic tables populate its real estate, but most reference the tennis courts, now modernized, that trace back to at least 1912. The park’s name comes from one of the men, Henry Beard, involved in the establishment of the grounds as a park. “Plaisance,” the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board explains, “is derived from the French word for ‘pleasure ground.’ ” Pleasure ground indeed as the canopy of trees provide an intimate staging area for racers lining up minutes before the shout of “Go!”
Running Room, an Uptown running store located near the key Hennepin and Lake street intersection, offered early packet pickup on Friday and Saturday. Their cool store displays its offerings and new products well. For instance, the world of fizzy tablets for athlete’s drinks literally exploded in the recent past; Running Room has a wide selection of new names in the category. Their aid stations (one for each direction) camped between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriett.
Another aid station sat near the Tin Fish Restaurant on the NE corner of Lake.
Finishing, one grabs Linden Hills’ Great Harvest Bread Company cookies and a cup of water while securing swag items: one, a handsome finisher’s glass displaying the City of Lakes race logo and a MDRA logo . . . race for six years, and you have a place setting. Then a medal designed by John Storkamp with race information “COL 13.1 Finisher September 7, 2014” on the baby-blue strap dangling a year-dated heavy medal.
The new formula for the City of Lakes race, changing from the historic 25 km to the half-marathon insures its economic viability, validating the distance change. The race site carries this information on the switch: “The decision was made after much discussion, taking into consideration the changing demographics of today’s runners and recognition that in keeping with the tradition of City of Lakes as a training run for Twin Cities Marathon, 13.1 miles was a better fit in the training calendar.”
Thus the Memorial aspect of the event—remembrance of Jeff Winter, founder of COL and its only race director until 2013—will continue indefinitely, resetting many more state records along the way. Looking to 2015’s plans, take Greeno’s attitude to heart: “It’s a gorgeous route, and the weather is always super nice.”
Photos Courtesy Wayne Kryduba Photography