By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
The cramping started in his quads about mile 18, and the downhill portion of the Mankato Marathon was a struggle after that.
“I know it sounds crazy,” said Paul Donnelly, the winner of Sunday’s 26.2-mile race. “But when you have a cramp in your quad, going downhill is not fun.”
Donnelly, 29, of Minneapolis, finished the race in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 38 seconds, but he thought he could have set a personal record if it wasn’t for the cramping, which, he struggled with over the final eight miles. By the time he crossed the finish line, cramping had seized his calves and hamstrings, he said.
Just a few steps over the line, Donnelly sat down on the pavement and was immediately surrounded by the medical crew. Despite some minor protests from the runner, they took Donnelly away in a wheelchair.
“That’s a marathon; that can happen,” Donnelly said after being checked out, “though it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the race.”
Donnelly missed his personal record by about five minutes. That was set during the Boston Marathon in 2007. Still, he ran at a 6:29-per-mile pace.
Donnelly said several people helped him get through the race, his fourth marathon and first win.
His girlfriend, Laura Oliver, had an oversized cutout picture of Donnelly’s head on a popsicle stick and waved it at various points on the course.
When he turned onto Riverfront Drive for the final mile and a half or so, about 10 of his friends were in the back of a truck cheering for him.
“Boy was I surprised,” he said. “That really helped.”
He even got words of support from the bicyclist leading the marathon.
“(He) was fantastic,” Donnelly said. “He talked me through it and led the way when (the cramping) got really, really bad.”
Patrick Geary of Sheridan, Wy., took second. The 25-year-old had a time of 2:53:08.
Joseph Paille, 23, of Mount Horeb, Wis., was third in 2:54:27, followed by John Maas, 51, of Sleepy Eye (2:59:02) and Michael Cahill, 36, of Janesville, 2:59:11.
The top finisher from Mankato was Rob Foster, 19, who was 11th and had a time of 3:13:30.
In all, 316 men participated in the race. There were 494 people registered for the marathon.