Many first-timers finish 10-K, ages range from 9 to 84
WORTHINGTON -- Starting on 10th Street -- near the corner of Sixth Avenue -- and turning right on Second Avenue, then heading towards Lake Okabena, a total of 588 runners braved 39 degree temperature, a light drizzle and strong winds Saturday morning as they made the five-mile trek around the lake and made another right turn on Seventh Avenue before turning right -- back onto 10th Street and finishing up a slight incline all the way to the corner by Third Avenue.
Included among those 588 finishers were many veteran Turkey Day 10-K runners, such as Wayne Drealan of Fulda, Midg White of Worthington and Jerry Vlieger of Mitchell, S.D.
All three men were running in the event for the 31st time, not missing once since the event's inauguration in 1980.
But for 61-year-old Jim Schneider of Okabena, this year's race was the first for the long-time business education and social studies teacher -- and community education director -- for the Heron Lake-Okabena school district (now Southwest Star Concept High School).
Schneider, who just began a running a little more than a year ago, has already completed a couple of 5-K's and a half marathon.
"I started running to get in better shape and also to do something special with my daughters, who have become runners," said Schneider, who met his pre-race goal -- but fell a little short of a new goal that surfaced near the race's end.
"I wanted to finish the course and run it in less than an hour."
Running an evenly-paced race, Schneider did exactly that -- with room to spare. He covered the distance in 58 minutes, 35 seconds.
But near the end of the race, Schneider's competitive instincts kicked in.
"There was a younger guy just ahead of me," explained Schneider who grew up as a farm kid in northeastern Nebraska. "All of the sudden, I wanted to beat him."
Picking up his pace, Schneider passed the runner -- only to have his new opponent pass him back before the finish.
"I thought I had him, but he had more speed at the end and passed me back," summed up Schneider, who was pleased with his first-ever Turkey Day 10-K.
Schneider's daughter Lisa Kopesky (29, Chippewa Falls, Wis.) was too far in front of dad to draw any family competition.
A marathon runner, Kopesky completed the course in 51:16 and had a better result at end.
"There was this 'chick' that I wanted to catch and I did," said Lisa about her first time running in Worthington for Turkey Day.
The exploits of the Schneider father-daughter running relationship typifies how Saturday's event has transformed from being just a competitive event among elite runners to a more family-oriented adventure for runners of all ages and abilities.
Jirele's run separately, as son wins age group
For several years, Worthington's Bob Jirele -- a two-time Class A state cross country meet second-place finisher (early '80s) -- ran with his son Matt in the Turkey Day 10-K.
Three years ago, as a 10-year-old Matt was the youngest finisher in the 2007 event, clocking a time of 50:21.
Saturday, Bob was not able to keep up with Matt as his 13-year-old son covered the distance in 40:13 -- improving more than 10 minutes in three years -- and finished 30th overall, while winning the 14-and-under male age group.
"We used to run these together," said Bob. "But this year, he separated from me at the 'Fun Run' (YMCA-sponsored 5-K event in August) and I just can't keep up with him any more."
While eighth-grader Matt Jirele was in the chute 10 minutes before the next finisher in his age group, he was not the youngest runner any more.
That distinction went to 9-year-old Blaine Doeden of Worthington, who raised his arms in triumph as he crossed the finish line.
"It was tough work," exclaimed Doeden as he was bent over after completing the long race. "No, I've never run that far before."
Doeden's time was 57:33 and he finished before 217 other runners.
Meanwhile, the oldest competitor was Pipestone's Reed Hart, who is 84 and continues to run numerous races every year.
"I enjoy being able to run in so many races," explained Hart, who is the coordinator of an area jogging league that tabulates results from race to race and keeps a point system. "This is great experience at my age."
Hart completed the course in 1:19.48 to the cheers of several well-wishers down the home stretch on 10th Street.
The 59-year-old Vlieger, who is originally from Chandler, ran the course under 50 minutes, clocked at 48:26 -- an average pace of 7:48 per mile -- while finishing 133rd.
Drealan (57) covered the distance in 53:30, while White (66) completed the event in 1:06.53.
"The weather was pretty cool, but we had great participation and a faithful, dedicated bunch of volunteer helpers," summed up race director Jerry Fiola. "We appreciate having such a nice variety of runners who come out and make this such a great event."