Three Defending Champions Celebrate Repeat Wins at City of Lakes Half
Words by Emily Richardson
Images by Carly Danek
On September 10 shortly after dawn, more than 1,400 people began gathering along Lake Harriet Parkway in South Minneapolis, basking in a reprieve from the record-breaking heat and humidity that stifled much of the state and country this summer.
As the minutes approaching 8:00 a.m. wound down, some people squeezed in final warm-ups, others mingled with friends and family at the ready to show support from the sidelines, while others snapped selfies to commemorate the start of their first or 100th race. No matter their pre-run routine, everyone’s reason for coming together was the same: to participate in the 42nd Annual Jeff Winter City of Lakes Half Marathon.
At the sound of the horn, the runners burst across the start line and began their 13.1-mile journey, buoyed by the cheers of enthusiastic spectators and a welcome combination of overcast skies and temperatures in the low 60s – a pleasant contrast to Labor Day a week prior, which was the hottest on record.
The course led the throng of runners in two figure-eights around Lakes Harriet and Bde Maka Ska, down streets decorated by trees still donning monochromatic foliage, and concluding near the Lake Harriet Bandshell.
Celebrating repeat wins were all three first place winners from 2022, including Tyler Jermann who locked in a “three peat” – or three consecutive wins – in Men’s, crossing the finish line at 1:05.59.
“This year, the competition was very strong and there was a pack of four of us until late into the race. This made things much more interesting from a strategic perspective, and a bit more stressful in deciding when to make a move to ensure I could hold whatever gap I was able to achieve until the finish line,” Jermann said. “Certainly the tightest margin of the three wins here and the hardest earned.”
The “pack of four” that Jermann referenced included Kevin Lewis – City of Lakes runner-up who clocked in at 1:06:09 – 3rd place winner Danny Docherty and Joel Reichow, who came in 4th.
Jermann, Lewis and Reichow are teammates with Minnesota Distance Elite – formerly Team USA Minnesota. In February, all three are headed to Orlando for the U.S Marathon Olympic Trials, which Jermann qualified for running 2:14 at the 2022 Houston Marathon. He also competed in the Trials in 2016 and 2020.
The Olympic Trials are also top of mind for Women’s first place winner Heather Kampf. She ran the previous four Trials in track and is hoping to qualify during the California International Marathon (CIM) in December.
Running 1:14:58 at City of Lakes with a 42-second lead over runner-up Emma Huston allowed Kampf to clinch the Women’s title for the second year in a row. Her strong finish also secured her the Minnesota state record for 36-year-old women, which was last set by Susannah Beck in 2004 at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.
Four-time United States National Champion in the 1 Mile Road Race, Kampf spent the majority of her running career focused on middle-distance running. Only recently did she begin exploring the world of long-distance, with the 2022 City of Lakes event marking her first time running a half marathon competitively.
“This venture is a passion project and a fun goal to chase for me. I really didn’t expect to like these long distances as much as I have been,” she said. “We’re thinking next year it might be cool to run a trail race. Trails are probably the most intimidating to me, so I figure that means I have to try it!”
Nonbinary defending champion Maxi Erickson expected a different outcome at the finish line. “I was planning to just stay on the hip of my pacer, but after three miles I found myself pulling away. I couldn’t see him behind me and I had to make a decision: if I was going to slow down and run or if I was going to keep racing people. I wound up racing comfortably and was really surprised at how strong I felt.”
Using that renewed motivation to continue pushing forward, Maxi landed a finish time of 1:28:42. With four marathons under their belt, they are preparing to add a fifth in Kansas City next year. “I’m hoping to be strong enough to go under 3 hours in Kansas but would settle for a PR.”
In addition to a robust lineup of champions and elites – the event also brought together a team of runners and FundRacers for the event’s charity partner Mile in My Shoes (MiMS), a Twin Cities nonprofit that brings the transformative power of running to people experiencing homelessness, addiction and incarceration.
Over the summer, MiMS Members and their Run Mentors dedicated their Saturday mornings to train for City of Lakes. On race day, 22 Member-Mentor pairs circled the lakes side by side, energized by high-fives and roars of encouragement from dozens of other crew members stationed along the course.
They were joined by 13 FundRacers who helped bring in more than $10,000 to support the nonprofit’s work centering people and spaces historically excluded by the running community.
For MiMS Alumni Distance Team Member Robbie, City of Lakes was one of several milestones for him that week, including the one-year anniversary of his release from prison.
“The start of the half marathon [there were] so many people. For someone who has been in prison a long time, I didn’t like that – I don’t want people I can’t see behind me, I get jumpy. It was scary, but I survived it – and that was a growth moment for me, another chance to challenge these beliefs I’ve held onto for so long,” he said.
“It was a huge accomplishment to finish the race. I was hurting badly and the negative thoughts about being a failure came in hard. Without my Mentor I would’ve given in and given up. I’m so grateful to MiMS – coming around that last corner and seeing and hearing all of [them] yelling for me, it was just amazing. I cried when I finished. I realized that I can succeed if I put forth the effort and believe in my support system – and myself. Even though my feet hurt so bad today!”
Sore feet and misty eyes were just a couple of the badges of achievement that runners wore home on race day. For one participant, it was the pride of completing 13.1 miles after only jumping into the sport this year. “I just started running in May and this was my first half marathon. I loved my experience even though I didn’t meet my predicted time,” they said. “There will be another one for me for sure.”
From first-time half marathoners and personal records, to age-group state record setters and funds raised for MiMS – the day was jam packed with things to celebrate.
A longstanding racing event with a deep local history, City of Lakes has been an anchor in the Twin Cities running community for 60 years. While the distance and location have shifted over time – originally starting as a full marathon and then transitioning to a 25k before settling in as the current half marathon – the race continues bringing together people who love running.
This community of running enthusiasts has been integral to the event’s longevity. While the runners themselves have much to be proud of, their accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated crew of volunteers who share their time each year to manage everything from water stops and aid stations, to street sweeping, post-race nourishment and prize giveaways.
Equally invaluable this year were the countless friends, family and community members who came out strong outfitted with cowbells, “hurrahs” and homemade signs, giving many participants the extra boost they needed to push themselves through to the end.
As the finish zone by the bandshell swelled with people noshing on bananas and Great Harvest chocolate chip cookies to refuel, stories recounting the morning’s many successes were heard all around.
From start to finish, the culmination of achievements at the 42nd Jeff Winter City of Lakes Half Marathon was truly a team victory.