By Shane Frederick
MANKATO — It’s been suggested to Chris Crocker that he move the 7@7 trail race from spring to fall, the founder of the Greater Mankato Multisport Club quickly scoffed at the notion.
“No, I want it to be in the spring,” Crocker said. “I want it to be muddy. ... I hope there’s still snow on the trail.”
The third-annual race will take place Saturday at Seven-Mile Creek Park. Crocker expects up to 300 people to participate in the event, which includes a challenging 7-mile race, a 5-kilometer run/walk and a 1K kids run.
With the Mankato Gorilla Fun Run taking place April 20 and Saturday’s YWCA Girls on the Run 5K, the running and racing season officially is in gear.
Between now and late October, when the Mankato Marathon and St. Peter Halloween Fun Run are held, there are dozens of running and biking races and events (for a list see The Free Press’ Racing Calendar on Page D2), as well as multisport events like triathlons and duathlons.
Also Saturday, Gustavus Adolphus College will hold the Take the Hill Triathlon, while Sunday, the Minnesota State Triathlon will be held. Both events begin with pool swims, followed by lengthy legs of biking and running.
Crocker appreciates that the 7@7 race is one of the first events of the racing season, especially because it takes place at “a gem” like Seven-Mile Creek, whose trail system is used for training by runners and cyclists all year long.
“People like to run, and people love to have goals,” Crocker said. “And goal-setting is important to us. You go to Seven-Mile to train, and you get spring fever and start preparing for the summer. And nothing prepares you for a race like running hills.”
The increasing popularity of trail running last summer spawned a summer series called Muddy Shoes and Brews, and that will again take place this summer with six evening runs at Seven-Mile Creek.
But the season is also full of traditional events, including holiday races such as the 10Kato Memorial Day race, which will again take place on May 27 and the St. Peter Freedom Fun Run on the Fourth of July, as well as town festival races like Janesville’s Hay Daze Fun Run (June 15) and Montgomery’s Kolacky Days Bun Run (July 28).
There are also challenging endurance events such as the New Prague Half Marathon (May 11), the North Mankato Triathlon (June 29-30), the Waseca Triathlon (July 28) and, of course, the Mankato Marathon (Oct. 19-20), which will take place for the fourth year in a row.
A new race this summer is a leg of the Hy-Vee IronKids Series. Announced last week, it will take place on Aug. 3 at Spring Lake Park.
“That’s huge,” Crocker said. “It’s a real testimony to what Mankato has become. It’s no coincidence that the visitors bureau rebranded itself with a bicycle on its logo.”
The race for boys and girls ages 6-15 will be one of two kids triathlons this summer, the other being part of the North Mankato Triathlon. Winners from the IronKids race can advance to the national IronKids over Labor Day weekend at Des Moines, Iowa. A few members of the Green Hornets, Mankato’s kids triathlon team, made it to nationals last year from other regional races.
“Racing is about being fit, but it’s also about spending time with family and friends,” Crocker said.