MANKATO — A massive crowd of tired, sweaty and ultimately proud runners filled the grounds of the Verizon Wireless Center on Sunday for the third annual Mankato Marathon. The event drew more than 4,500 runners this year, double the 2,200 runners that participated in the first year of the event.
In addition to the growing number of participants in the event, this year's Mankato Marathon added toddler age races on Saturday, added three new sponsored charity groups and increased the number of cheer squad sites from 12 teams to 17.
Although it was rainy and overcast early Sunday, the conditions on the marathon route held together long enough to satisfy most runners. Marathon winner Eric Thies, of Arlington, even set a new event record at 2 minutes and 34.55 seconds.
The feelings of the finishing runners was best summarized by Appleton, Wis., runner Steve Sieck.
“It was a gorgeous day. The (Mankato) Marathon is great and fun,” said Sieck between panting breathes at the finish line, “Now, I'm going to cool down and eat a bunch of food.”
Running for a good cause
A new facet to this year's marathon was the introduction of three charity groups to the official program, which resulted in a combined total of $16,991 being raised for local causes. The charity groups each hosted three runners who participated in the marathon or half marathon.
The Mankato Marathon provided incentives at different fundraising levels, such as covering the group's entry costs or providing designer jackets, for the totals each group pulled in for their organization prior to the race. Additionally, the Mankato Marathon modified its sign up sheets to include options to donate to one or all of the causes.
“We felt we had established ourselves as an event. So, we wanted to branch out into giving back to the community," said Anna Thill, president of Visit Mankato.