Course change for Brookings Marathon

Courtesy photo: Jerry Brown, of St. Paul, Minnesota, (right) poses with frequent marathon partner Brian Sandness and his wife, Pat, of Menomonie, Wisconsin, prior to the 2015 Brookings Marathon. Brown’s streak of 28 consecutive finishes in the Brookings Marathon is coming to an end this year.

Nature park now part of marathon course

Thanks to the first significant course modification to the Brookings Marathon since 2004, marathon participants will be able to enjoy a closer connection with nature.

This year the Brookings Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department gave permission for the event to use Dakota Nature Park, which has been a community attraction since it opened in 2013. 

Gone is the dirt road east of 22nd Avenue towards the interstate. Now runners follow the bike trail that parallels 22nd Avenue and head straight south to the Dakota Nature Park. Runners get Miles 14.5 to 16.5 on the paved trails in the park. 

Race director Matt Bien said, “This will definitely enhance the running experience and overall quality of the route. It showcases another attribute that makes Brookings special. We are trying to be respectful of all that use the park. Spectators are encouraged to cheer elsewhere. If they are in the park, we ask that no bells or other noisemakers are used.”

Even though aid stations were repositioned so none are needed in the park, Bien said, “We plan to canvas the trail through the park immediately following the final runner to ensure that any discarded items – marathon or otherwise – have been picked up.”  

Also in line with being good stewards, no permanent markings will be used on the nature park trail except for a single 15-mile mark on the edge of the trail. 

COVID concerns claim marathon’s most familiar face

Jerry Brown retired from his career as a retail pharmacist nine years ago.

This year brings to an end another of his passions – running the Brookings Marathon. He ran his first Brookings Marathon on April 18, 1992, when the race was still called the Longest Day Marathon and the St. Paul, Minnesota, resident was a 40-year-old in the prime of his running career. Each year race directors could count on seeing him at the starting line.

Not in 2020. After 28 years, Brown’s streak is ending. His 28 finishes is twice as many as anyone else on the race’s list.

“I’ll be in Brookings in spirit on Sept. 12 and hoping everything goes well,” Brown said in an email message. After completing the 50th running of the Brookings Marathon in 2019, Brown completed Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June and Twin Cities Marathon in October to give the 70-year-old 326 career marathons.

“I am still running but I’m having problems with tight muscles in my legs and also a little knee trouble. I have a little consecutive running streak going now but I usually walk and run and not as far as I wish could. I might have tried running Brookings this year again if not for the COVID pandemic.

“I believe all the other races I usually run have either cancelled or gone virtual, which doesn’t appeal to me. It’s been a strange running season,” Brown said. “I will feel left out or have an empty feeling knowing that the Brookings Marathon is going on and I’m not there.”

The 1973 South Dakota State University graduate entered his first Brookings Marathon as an excuse to visit college roommate Donn Fetzer and his wife, Yvonne, and to see how much the city had changed.

“I liked the running course and the people so well I decided to make it one of my regular marathons,” he said.

So has Brown run his last Brookings Marathon?

“I do hope I can get my legs going so I’m not done running marathons but time will tell on that. I know in my mind I still want to run. Turning 70 last month, I would have been the young one in my new age group too!

Brookings Marathon at a glance

Start: 7 a.m. Saturday, Pioneer Park

Finish: Beginning about 8:15 a.m. for half marathoners, 9:20 a.m. for marathoners

Field: 150 in marathon, 190 in half marathon, 17 marathon relay teams

Volunteer crew: 350, beefed up to handle extra COVID-19 precautions

Packet pickup: 2-8 p.m. Friday at Pioneer Park and 5:30-6:45 a.m. Saturday

Preferred spectator sites: By the art museum, Larson Park hill, Fifth Street South near Gracepoint Church, Eighth Street South near The Pheasant, the finish line. 

COVID-19 note: Race organizers request that spectators wear masks when around others, especially in Pioneer Park.

For a course map: BrookingsMarathon.com

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