MANKATO — In the race between the familiar and unfamiliar, the out-of-towner had the edge.
During Sunday’s Mankato Marathon Half, Chris Erichsen of Minneapolis took the title, finishing in 1:09: 53
Mankato native and West High School graduate Chris Gruenhagen took second in 1:12:34
Erichsen, 27, a Spring Valley native, is a former St. John’s University track and cross-country runner who is now getting into competitive racing at longer distances. He said he’s run about six full marathons in his young career. He decided to run the Mankato half after friends from here recommended the event.
“I haven’t spent a ton of time in Mankato,” he said. “It was nice to see the rural areas and the park areas as you come into the city. You see a little of everything.”
Out in those wide-open rural areas, runners battled a south headwind at the start of the race. Erichsen said he missed a personal record by about 5 ½ mintues, but overall, he was happy with the race.
“It was tough,” he said. “It was windy out there and cold. It was tough to get warmed up. Overall, though, it was pretty good.”
For Gruenhagen, he knew what he was getting into. A former West cross-country runner, he was more than familiar with the course.
“I’ve run that (Highway 90) bypass loop a million times,” he said.
He was able to shed a layer of warm clothes and toss them to family, who watched not far from their home. He got a boost of encouragement around the 9 1/2-mile mark when he ran by the Mankato West water stop, which was manned by current Scarelts runners.
Gruenhagen, 30, now lives in Brookings, S.D., where he coaches high school cross country. A year ago, he took third place in the half-marathon with a time of 1:11:01, but it was a “more painful” run, he said.
“Not bad,” he said of this year’s time. “It’s a tough course. That downhill can do a lot of damage. It’s nice, rolling down those hills into the valley, but it makes the second half of the race tough. ... So you have to be cautious, be smart. You can get over your head early.”
Jim Parejko, 29, of Minneapolis took third with a time of 1:16:41.
Thomas Myers, 32, of Mankato was fourth in the men’s race with a time of 1:19:26, and Aaron Asmus, 34, of Austin was fifth in 1:22:31.