Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of four articles leading up to the weekend of the Brookings Marathon May 11-12. For more information on the races, go to prairiestriders.net.
BROOKINGS – Nearly 900 runners will be taking to the streets of Brookings Friday evening and Saturday morning for races from 3.1 to 26.2 miles.
The Scotty Roberts 5K kicks off the weekend with a 6 p.m. start near the Children’s Museum. Fifty-five people have registered to run and entries will be accepted up to race time.
The weekend’s main event – the 49th annual Brookings Marathon – starts at 7 a.m. Saturday at Pioneer Park, which also serves as the finishing point. Entries have closed in the marathon, half marathon and marathon relay. In fact, the half hit its 400-runner cap March 24 and the relay hit its 50-team cap March 1.
All events fall under the auspices of the Prairie Striders Running Club of Brookings.
There are 148 entries in the marathon from 25 states, numbers that are similar to 2017 (160 and 23 states), including Jerry Brown, 67, of W. St. Paul, Minn. Brown will run his 27th consecutive Brookings Marathon, a mark to which no one has come close.
And the favorites are…
Picking who might cross the finish line first is a little tricky because runners don’t post an estimated time when they enter and there is no selected elite field.
While the defending champs (Cory Logsdon, of Omaha, Neb., and Erica Knips, of Sioux Falls) are not entered, the 2014 winners are both in the field. Prairie Strider Tim Fryer, of Hendricks, Minn., won in 2:55:52 while Heather Himler, of Shakopee, Minn., was sixth overall with a time of 3:11:01.
This year’s lead pack is expected to include Fryer, 39; Josh Monson, 27, of Yankton; and Declan Curley, 46, of Chanhassen, Minn.
Fryer and Monson dueled April 28 at the River Rat Half Marathon in Yankton. Neither had started their marathon taper at that point. Monson won the 13.1-mile race in 1:19.03 (6:02 pace) while Fryer was second (1:22:27 / 6:18).
Fryer recovered from 2017 injuries
If Brookings sees a repeat, the battle could be billed as a contest between young legs and a tested veteran. Monson will be running his third marathon and first in Brookings. Fryer will be running his ninth marathon and fifth in Brookings. He also has six ultras to his credit, including 100-milers at Custer and Sturgis.
Fryer ran the Brookings Half in 2017 and finished third (1:23:44) in a fast field. He was gearing his training for the Black Hills 100 in Sturgis in June. However, the hills at the Black Hills were more than he was prepared for, finishing in a gimpy 31 hours and 18 minutes. He ended up in a walking boot for six weeks. After healing from that, he tripped on stairs at home and broke ribs.
“I couldn’t do anything for another six weeks. I was hurt all last summer,” said Fryer, a mechanic at NB Golf Cart in Hendricks.
However, he said his training has gone well this spring, despite the interruptions of a couple spring blizzards in April. Fryer said, “I didn’t get in as many miles as I wanted to.” But, he still topped 60 miles per week in April and had “many, many” 20- to 22-mile runs this spring plus a 25-miler April 29.
Fryer also has maintained a fast leg turnover, posting a 17:55 (5:46 pace) at the Arbor Day 5K April 27.
He said he is pleased with his stamina, pointing to his Yankton race, where “the last couple miles, I felt really good. At the halfway point, I couldn’t even see the two leaders. The second-place runner started falling back, so I cranked it on up and caught him.” He finished with a 27-second margin over Alex Hohenthaner, a 26-year-old former University of South Dakota runner.
At Brookings, Fryer said another 2:55 winning time is possible: “If it’s not windy and I have somebody to race against. Especially since I’ve been doing the ultras, I’m a lot better running even splits. I hope to just lay down 6:50, 6:50, 6:50, then see where people are at mile 17 and make my move.”
Monson ready for first sub-3 marathon
Monson went to Hamlin High School, where he was a 400- and 800-meter runner. He continued that at Mount Marty, but switched to distance events his senior year (2015) and qualified for the NAIA nationals in the marathon by running a 1:13:39 half marathon. His marathon time at nationals was 3:16 because both calves cramped up on him.
The Mount Marty math graduate ran the 2017 River Rat Marathon in 3:13:21 to finish second.
This spring he has peaked with 80-mile weeks despite working full time at the Yankton wastewater plant and spending 1 1/2 hours per day assisting with the Mount Marty track program, which is coached by Randy Fischer, five-time winner of the Brookings Marathon.
However, the Fischer connection wasn’t what brought him to Brookings.
“My dad (John) lives in Volga,” Monson explained. “If I’m too exhausted (after the race), I will go to his house and sleep.”
Monson said his main goal at Brookings is to break 3 hours and not walk. His stretch goal is to run in the 2:40s.
“If I’m feeling good with six (miles) to go, maybe I’ll try (to win),” he said. “It’d be fun to win.”
Curley, the other known contender, ran a 2:51 at Boston in 2017. Repeating that effort at Brookings would certainly have him near the top, and the research and development manager at Boston Scientific in the Twin Cities is shooting for a sub-3-hour marathon.
“But I’m not sure whether it is attainable. Endurance is my big question mark. Training was going great up until six weeks ago, when I fell ill. I have been struggling to get back on track,” said Curley, who is running Brookings for the first time. He said he and his family recently relocated from Ireland and was looking for a spring marathon to motivate winter training.
Minnesotans head women’s field
On the women’s side, the top contenders appear to be Laura Docherty, 26, of Minneapolis, and Himler, 43, who has kept a fairly consistent pace since becoming a masters runner. In May 2017, she clocked a 3:14 at the Fargo Marathon, just three minutes slower than when she won Brookings in 2014.
Docherty’s credentials are impressive. She is the daughter of former Prairie Striders racing team member Bev Docherty, who was a six-time Olympic marathon trials qualifier. Laura Docherty was an All-Big Ten cross country runner for the Golden Gophers in her 2013 senior season and is the all-time 10K record holder at the University of Minnesota.
Giving local flavor to races
Of course, most of the 900 runners in the weekend’s field aren’t striving for first place, but rather to meet a personal goal or simply personal satisfaction.
The field of 408 half marathon runners includes 48 from Sioux Falls, 48 from Brookings and a handful from area towns. The majority are South Dakota or western Minnesota entries.
In the relays, where the focus for the six-member teams is usually camaraderie, most entries come from Brookings or a short drive away. These runners are easy to separate from the others – they will still have zip in their step in the final stages of the marathon and are likely to be wearing shirts with crazy names like Sloth Running Team and Risky Rubber Chickens.
The local marathon entries total 20. They are:
Brookings – 11
Kelby Beste, Mark Bruns, Alex Gray, Daniel Domenichini, Sydney Hirrschoff, Yung Huh, Lisa Minor, Rebecca Perreault, Frank Robertson, Austin Walz and Darin Wipf.
Colman – 2
Paul Swenson, Victoria Swenson
Elkton – 2
Jared Beck, Chuck Harming
Gary – 1
Hendricks – 1
Volga – 3
Dave Graves, Jason Moe, Travis Thiex
Above, Tim Fryer, of Hendricks, Minn., crosses the finish line of the Brookings Marathon in 2:55:52 to win the 2014 event. He is among the favorites entered in Saturday’s 49th running of the event. The race begins at 7 a.m.
Below, Josh Monson (343) competes at Adams Nature Preserve in 2016 at the Briar Cliff Invitational, an 8K race. On Saturday, he is one of the favorites in the 42K race – the Brookings Marathon.
Below, Declan Curley positions himself in front of the iconic Boston Marathon before the 2017 race, which he ran in 2:51. That effort makes him one of the contenders for Saturday’s Brookings Marathon.