After two years of big changes for one of the smallest marathons in the state, runners showed up to face two challenges: running 26.2 miles and doing it in a Minnesota spring.
Rain, wind, and wet feet were everywhere on the roads in Nisswa for the 13th running of the Brainerd Jaycees Run for the Lakes Marathon on April 30. A smaller number of participants showed up in the punishing weather, but strong support turned out from the town and the surrounding community for the marathon and the three other races. And there was another noticeable change from the weekend: someone besides Brock Tesdahl or Casey Miller took home the first-place honors.
St. Paul resident Andrew Escobedo, 35, outran the field of 55 in the marathon, coming into view at the finish line without another person in sight. He splashed his way toward the tape to scattered cheers of people underneath umbrellas, becoming only the fifth person to be the race’s overall winner. (Miller and Tesdahl have nine wins between the two of them.)
Escobedo’s time was 3:09:25, close to the winning time from another bad-weather year—2008, during a snowstorm.
His closest competitor in the two-loop course that featured red and white pines and three lakes was 35-year-old Matt Swanson from White Bear Lake, coming in at 3:14:59. Tom Lyscio, 32, of Duluth was third place, finishing with a time of 3:25:52.
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Seventh overall and first for the women was Maple Grove resident Kortney Haag. The 43-year-old triathlon veteran was one of only 18 women who finished the race. Her time was 3:34:26. Sara Sykes, 39, of Chanhassen, was second at 3:37:27. And Brainerd runner Julie Helsene, 37, soldiered through to third place in 3:49:24.
Although the women’s winning time was the slowest since the inaugural race, the tough conditions formed a camaraderie among some of the runners along the blustery course as they encouraged each other to stay in the race and make it to the finish.
The race weekend also featured a half marathon (run on the same course, but just one loop instead of two). After finishing in third place in 2017 and 2019, Ricky Aulie, the principal of Pine River-Backus Elementary School won the overall half marathon in 1:25:33. Aulie, 37, who lives in Breezy Point, persevered through the precipitation to edge out the others. In the inclimate weather, he was about six minutes slower than his 2019 time. Duluth resident John Curley, 29, finished second in 1:28:57 and Stefan Wolf, 31, of Osseo, finished third in 1:35:04.
Kaitlin Goforth, 29, of Albert Lea, won the women’s race in 1:35:37. Goforth has run several marathons and has helped coach the Albert Lea cross country team while working in orthopedics at the Mayo Clinic. She was followed by North Mankato’s Molly Host, 37, in 1:37:15, and Nisswa’s own Mata Agre, 28, in 1:39:51.
In the 10K, the overall winner was Amira Joseph. She hit a 6:13-per-minute-mile pace to outrun the field of 130 women and men, finishing in 38:32. The 29-year-old from Rochester works at the Mayo Clinic.
She was followed by the top male finisher, Andrew Olsen, 32, of Duluth (38:37), Kevin Ryan, 29, Little Canada (39:29) and John Kelsey, 31, also of Rochester (41:38). The other top two women were Rachel Rusk, 27, of Brainerd (47:03), and Veronica Olson, 32, of Duluth (49:00).
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The previous day, in better weather, 166 runners took on the shorter 5K distance. Jesse Prince, the course record holder for the half marathon (1:13:41), entered and won by four minutes with a time of 16:53. Prince, 41, of Bemidji, also set a course record for the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon during his 2019 win.
Marshall resident Matthew Hamersma, 27, took second in the 5K (20:54) followed two seconds later by 27-year-old Nathan McDonald of Brainerd. Lillie Pearo, 43, from nearby Crosslake took the tape for the women in 24:35. Pillager’s Britta Kolodziej, 36, followed in 25:28 and Sydney Wold, 27 of Fort Ripley was third in 25:31.