By: Jonathon Heide
Images: Paul Phillips // Competitive Image for Get in Gear
The racing season’s annual rite of spring in Minnesota brought clouds and rain, but it didn’t matter to the nearly 1,700 runners who had waited two years for the Get in Gear races to return after the pandemic wiped out a 42-year streak of racing.
Danny Docherty, 32, a running coach in St. Paul and the 2019 Minnesota Runner of the Year, took first place in the state’s most popular 10K after averaging 4:56 a minute-per-mile pace and finishing in 30:39.
Docherty’s win further established his prominence in the state’s running community. He is a 2012 graduate of Loyola University Chicago (where he studied English and Psychology), a former runner with Minnesota Distance Elite, a third-place finisher at the 2019 Twin Cities Marathon, and the guy who swept the 2021 TC 5K, 10K and 10 Mile, for which he won a 25-pound Salted Nut Roll.
Most know him in his roles as a coach of his El Jefe Running Team and the Program Director for Run Minnesota.
Mohammed Bati, 22, finished second in 30:52 and Connor Reck, 28, splashed through the finish line 12 seconds later. Both runners are from Minneapolis.
In the women’s race Heather Kampf, 35, tore away from the field to win in 35:28. The former four-time USATF National Champion in the 1 mile clicked through the miles in a 5:43 pace.
Dubbed the “Queen of the Road Mile” by Runner’s World, Kampf has raced around the globe on the track and on city streets. Video of her has also traveled around the world: She won a 600-meter race for the University of Minnesota at the 2008 Big Ten Indoor Championships after getting tripped up and falling to the track on the final lap, prompting an in-depth story by Nicole Bush at the Løpe, and multiple posts with positive titles such as “Wake up to Heather Kampf’s midrace fall turned remarkable comeback.”
Margaret Ludick, 37, finished second in 36:18. Megan Smith, 31, finished in 36:36 to take third out of the 387 women who completed the competition.
When the Get in Gear race was first set up by director Bill Kennedy in 1978, nearly 5,000 runners wearing cotton shirts, tube socks and flat running shoes showed up at Theo Wirth Park. It was 3,000 more runners than expected for the race sponsored by Dayton’s and the Minneapolis Tribune.
The race changed courses a few times, but has centered on the Mississippi River roads ever since the second year. Several Olympians and world contenders have run fast times at the race.
In 1992, Janice Klecker ran a 32:52, creating a women’s course record 5:18-per-mile pace that would stand for decades. The win was her third—she had been the women’s champ in 1985 and 1987 as well. It took a world-class runner to surpass her ‘92 feat.
Kenyan Vicoty Chepngeno ran a new women’s record 32:40 in 2018. She wasn’t finished though.
Chepngeno returned in 2019 to cut it down to 32:15. How fast is Chepngeno? In January of this year, she set a new North American all-comer’s record in the half marathon by running the Houston Half in 1:05:03. She is now the 11th-fastest female half marathoner of all time.
The Get in Gear overall course record was set on a 39-degree morning in 1994 during an era when a purse was offered for winners. Without any wind blowing, Jonah Koech of Ames, Iowa, outran Pat Porter, Dan Janinki and Stanley Kimutai to finish in 28:45. Koech was from Kenya and was well-known in the college track and cross-country world—he had won five NCAA national titles for the Iowa State Cyclones in the early 1990s.
As the pandemic swept the country, the competition disappeared from the calendar. The 2020 in-person event was canceled. Though runners could still give money to the non-profit group that operates the race in 2020 and 2021, they would run virtually, on their own course to see their times posted online. When local gathering restrictions started lifting in April 2021, dedicated organizers held a small, uncertified, special edition Get in Gear 10K in addition to the virtual races.
With increased vaccine numbers and decreased hospitalizations, the organizers felt confident in bringing back crowds to the start this year. The race has three roles this year on top of the day’s competition: It’s the first race in the USA Track and Field Minnesota 10K Championship and first race of the state running club circuit; it’s the championship 10K for the Minnesota Road Runners Club of America; and it the second 10K race in the chase for the USA Track and Field Minnesota Runner of the Year.
The half marathon is the newest Get in Gear race; it was added in 2009. Rain jackets and soaked shoes were on each of the 256 runners that completed this year’s 13.1-mile competition.
Birte Fretwell finished first in the women’s race, coming in at 1:32:53. Fretwell, who teaches physical education at a German immersion school and served in the German military from 2002-2008, previously won the 2016 Charleston Rock and Roll Half Marathon.
Local city runners took second and third: Allison Cottrell, 23, finished in 1:33:51; Rebekah Ormsby, 47, finished in 1:34:34.
Leading them all was 22-year-old Sam Hodgson, a Mankato State graduate who works as a personal trainer for the Mankato YMCA. He ran a blistering 1:12:52 and finished with a four-minute gap over second place Desmond Cariveau, 29, of St. Paul, who stacked 5:53-minute miles to finish 1:16:57. Third place was Minneapolis’ Jake Mogan, 31, in a time of 1:17:09.
More than 400 runners took to the West River Road for the 5K, a part of Get in Gear’s race weekend since 2005. Cole Monson of Amery, Wisconsin, came away with the win in 17:11, followed by Sam Keepman, 34, of St. Paul (17:37) and a 16-year-old, Christopher Falk of Monticello (18:20). Falk is a member of the Monticello Magic’s cross country team, which took second place in the 2021 state AA championships.
The other young winner was Adrienne Korey, who at 19 years of age led the women to finish in 20:36. She was followed by two 29-year-olds: Colleen Beatty of St. Paul (21:13) in second and Olivia Werner of Richfield (21:24) in third.
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