By Reece Hemmesch
Special to The Free Press
---- — MANKATO — For Chris Caron, taking the top spot in the Mankato Marathon 10K race came as a bit of a surprise.
The Ham Lake native is normally a marathon runner, but he was the first to cross the finish line adjacent to the Verizon Wireless Center on Sunday to be crowned the men's and overall winner of the 6.2-mile race. He finished in 35 minutes, 13 seconds.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to win,” Caron, 21, said. “I don’t have a lot of experience in the 10K and this was toward the end of the season and I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I ran the marathon the last three years and summer training has been going really well so I thought I would try a different event.”
Caron finished 45 seconds ahead of runner-up Dan Ristau, who finished in 35:58. Ristau, 29, is a Blue Earth native and former Minnesota State track and cross country standout.
Ristau was followed by Henry Lisok, who came across in 38:24. Lisok, 31, was the first Mankato runner across the finish line. Rounding out the top five men were Andy Redmann of Hutchinson (41:17) and Chris Crocker of North Mankato (42:34). In all, 169 men completed the 10k.
Caron said he was around second place through the first four miles, before putting together a strong finish, going as fast he as he could for the second half of the race.
“I knew there were hills at the beginning, and they said it was downhill in the second half,” Caron said. “So that’s where I knew it really played out, and I took the lead from there.”
As the drizzling rain continued throughout the race, an overcast sky set the ambiance for the runners as they crossed the finish line shortly after 8 a.m. Temperatures were just above freezing, which affects each runner in his or her own way.
“I didn’t even pay attention to it,” Caron said. “I knew it was cold, and I tried to stay warm. That didn’t really work out, and I’m just really shivering at this point."
Another experienced runner said the conditions were just right
“This is perfect running weather; 35 degrees is exactly how you want it," said Crocker, the coordinator of the Mankato Multi-Sport Club. “It was great, lots of people cheering, the community’s out here supporting the race, and we’re lucky to have it.
"This sends a signal about our community that we are an active one and we value being active,” he said. "I do a lot of the local races, and we’re really lucky to have such an active community.”
As for Caron, he's a St. Cloud State University student majoring in education. He believes he will be back in 2014 to reclaim his crown in the 10K race.
“I have been here the past four years,” he said. “Let’s make it five.”