The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 23, 2010

Men’s half marathon winner keeps the pace

MANKATO — Running a half marathon is nothing new for John VanDanacker from Greenfield, the winner of the Mankato Marathon’s half marathon on Saturday.

VanDanacker, who finished the race with a time of 1 hour, 15 minutes, 36 seconds, has been running since 1976 and hasn’t stopped yet. At 48 years old, he has run about 20 half marathons — his first took place in the early 1980s — and six full marathons. He ran cross country and track in high school as well as for the University of Minnesota Duluth.

“They did a really great job,” VanDanacker said about Saturday’s race. “It was challenging.”

The hardest part of the half marathon for him was the big downhill.

“That’s a killer,” he said. “It was a nicely run race, the whole thing.”

But when asked what his favorite part of the race was, he answered in one word. “Finishing.”

For each race, VanDanacker tries to keep his own pace, not worrying too much about what the other racers are doing, even if they speed past him in the beginning.

“You gotta go, but run your own race and maybe they won’t survive,” he said.

The middle is the hardest part of a race for VanDanacker. At about the 9-mile mark, VanDanacker said he can start to feel it in his legs and his mind. But at the end, he puts whatever he has left into it.

VanDanacker has run many half marathons, so he doesn’t train for each specific event. Instead, he trains all the time with his co-workers from Medtronic, a company that makes pacemakers. Three other co-workers of his ran the half marathon Saturday, as well.

Friday night before the marathon, VanDanacker said he went out with his co-workers to the Loose Moose for pasta and a beer.

VanDanacker prefers to run half marathons because the training is easier and you can do more of them.

“You can walk the next day,” he said.

VanDanacker is done participating in races for this year, but he’s not done running. When he turns 50, VanDanacker plans to keep his tradition of running at least one marathon each decade of his life.

Second place in the men’s half marathon went to John Hage of Sioux Falls, S.D. (1:22:10). Jacob Kocak of River Falls, Wis., came in third (1:22:31), and Scott Davis of River Falls came in fourth (1:22:42).

The top area finisher was Mankato’s Hans Storvick, who took seventh in 1:25:53.

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