Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Run St. Paul Faces Uncertain Future

The Irish Run St. Paul has had a long and storied history.  For more than four decades the race, which takes place on Sunday, March 23, has been a fixture on the Minnesota running calendar.  Despite what it looks like outside right now, it is a harbinger of Spring, but because of the variability of Minnesota weather, race day can feature rain or snow, cold or hot temperatures. The race is also the first in the USATF Team Circuit series and part of the MDRA Grand Prix events..

This year marks the passing of another landmark, as current race director Chris Fuller has said it will be his final year as race director.  With no replacement yet, the possibility exists that it could be the last of the St. Patrick's runs that began in 1973.  It's survived all forms of weather, course changes, name changes, distance changes(5-mile to 8K, not much difference).  It features runners from all segments of the running community from the elites to some for whom it may be the only race in which they participate, those in standard running gear to those in the costume of their choice.

Not just top Minnesota runners have competed, but it also featured Olympic medalists, such as Patrick Sang of Kenya and his then Iowa State University teammate Yobes Ondieki, who would later become the first man to run under 27 minutes for 10K at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway in 1993.

Yobes Ondieki being interviewed after setting the World Record at 10,000 

I met Yobes at the St. Patrick's Day race, later visited him in Eldoret, Kenya, and was covering the Bislett Games that evening in Oslo.  Distance races have always been a fixture there, with the fans stomping and pounding on the signboards separating the stands from the track.  The Bislett Stadium has been the site of many world records and is one of the premiere events on the IAAF schedule in Europe.  The Irish Run has had a similar memorable history, but its future remains uncertain.

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