MANKATO — They came, they saw, they got dirty.
The third annual Mankato Mud Run took place up and around Good Counsel Hill Saturday and, according to race director Randy Knutson, everyone survived. The elite 5K race drew the most competitors and, while most crossed the finish line exhausted, there will a lot of smiles at the end.
"It was the largest field we've had," Knutson said. "We had 1,300 people today. The first year we had 560 and last year it was 1,160.
"There were 102 volunteers and we ended up throwing away 400 pairs of shoes at the end. Let me tell, those are heavy. Some people just took their dirty clothes off and left those, too."
It is believed all those clothes-tossers had a second, clean set to change into. The Mankato Police Department had not reports nudity in the area late Saturday afternoon.
Sixteen-year-old Rebekah Kolstad was a first-time competitor Saturday. It was obvious from her tired but wide grin at the end that she enjoyed herself.
"It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be," she said. "The hills were the killers."
Kolstad entered the race with Savannah Quandt and Ali Schreiber, two friends from Mankato East High School. Schreiber is a freshman and Quandt just graduated in June. All three were first-time entrants.
The Mankato event is basically a 5K with a nasty streak. Instead of just running on a relatively flat service ala most 5K's, this one included a series of obstacles, many of them something similar to what you might see at a Marine boot camp.
The races concluded with two large mud pits to be negotiated. On the first, competitors simply jumped or walked into the pit. On the second, they swung on ropes Tarzan style and plopped into the mud.
"We had some new wrinkles this year," Knutson said. "St. Peter Well Drilling came and dug out two more mud pits for us near the start of the race.
"And people really liked the cars, too. "We put a Cadillac and a Toyota at the top of the hill that people had to run across and they seemed to enjoy it. The roofs were all caved in by the time it was over."
Troy Stresemann, a 36-year-old from Comfrey, was the overall champion with a time of 22:28. It was third mud run overall and said he was attracted to the Mankato event because of it's location.
"This was a much closer drive for me plus it's a lot smaller than the Road Warrior events in Northfield or the Twin Cities," he said. "In some of those races you get lost right away at the starting line."
Stresemen said he had a little help from a fellow competitor Saturday and he was grateful. He and Nicholas Hiniker of Mapleton got to the balance beam portion of the race about the same time and almost instinctively opted to hold hands to help keep each other's balance as they went through it.
"That was great sportsmanship on his part,' Streseman said. "It was a big help."
Hiniker, who finished fifth overall with a time of 23:44, said it just felt like the right thing to do. "He looked like he needed help with his balance more than I did so I just reached out."
Seventeen-year-old Megan Traxler was the women's champion, finishing the 5K in 23:03. St. Peter native Libby Conroy, 27, was competing in her first mud run and wound up seventh among the women.
"I'm kind of new to running and this just seemed like something fun to do," she said. "The (Loyola) hill was pretty tough but it's a nice feeling of accomplishment when you get done. I'm pretty sure I'll be doing more of these."
Knutson said 1,300 might be the magic number in terms of competitors.
"We might have to cap it there next year," he said. "I don't know if the grounds can take any more than that."
More photos on Page D5