Monday, September 1, 2008

Tale of Two Races

The title of this blog has two meanings as will become apparent. This morning I ran two 5Ks. I first ran a free 5K sponsored by LifeTime Fitness and the Mayor's Office at Minnehaha Falls (obviously I had to run that, look at the title of my blog!) Then after chatting with some folks at the race, I ran home, jumped in the car and drove up to North Minneapolis for the Victory 5K.

These were two very different races. The first race in South Minneapolis is part of More To Tri, a series of races put on by the mayor to highlight Minneapolis' amenities and fitness. The event is timed to coincide with the Republican Convention, and a push was made to get delegates to attend (it didn't look like there were any there as far as I could tell). About 100 people showed up at the beautiful pre-dawn hour and ran the race. It was a fun, but small event, run entirely on bike trails and sidewalks through Minnehaha Park. And of course Mayor Rybak competed as well.

The Victory Races (10K and 5K) are races sponsored by the Minnesota Distance Running Association (disclaimer: I belong to and coach for this running group) benefiting the Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods. This is a long-standing race (26th year) that draws much of the running community and the neighborhood. The course is flat and fast, and follows Victory Memorial Parkway, which is a gorgeous boulevard lined with tall and historic trees. Each tree along the parkway commemorates a fallen Minnesotan from World War I. It is a gem of a location in North Minneapolis, part of the Grand Rounds bike route, and a living part of Minnesota's history. During and after the race, the neighborhood throws a big block party in Webber Park and serves unlimited hot dogs while the tired racers watch 5-year-olds run around in the toddler race. It is a wonderful party and probably one of the best races I've ever been to.

So 2 races, one in South, one in North. But while these races were separated by only a 10-minute car ride, they felt much further apart. The Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods have been at the center of the foreclosure crisis, and are right at the center of the homicide heat map. This is a neighborhood that is hurting. Yet this is a neighborhood that hasn't lost its fight. While a drive up Lyndale from Broadway revealed easily a dozen boarded up or demolished homes, there were so many bright spots in the neighborhood as well: exquisitely-maintained homes and parks full of children. Clearly this is a neighborhood that is fighting back against crime and the economic crisis that has hit harder in North than anywhere else.

But where does Mayor Rybak choose to showcase Minneapolis to our out-of-town guests? Beautifully manicured South Minneapolis. It's hard to argue that Minnehaha Falls is a bad location for a race. Easily a dozen races a year are held at this location, and, obviously, it's my favorite location in the entire Twin Cities and I feel so blessed to live 2 blocks from it.

But the mayor missed a great chance to showcase a wonderful neighborhood, a place that feels as friendly and welcoming as (and probably more so than) any other part of Minneapolis. The real story today was in North Minneapolis. It's a great story for people of Minneapolis to hear. It's a great story for the RNC delegates to take home to their foreclosed neighborhoods. And it's something inspiring for all of us. In spite of the physical and economic pain that North has endured, people live, have fun and throw a great party. There were two parties in town this Labor Day, and I feel so blessed to have been included in the one in North Minneapolis. Mayor Rybak is an energetic mayor with a passion for Minneapolis. His cheerleading does good for our city, but on this day, his cheerleading would have been better placed in North Minneapolis.

OK, so most of you that read this are probably more concerned about my race report than my non-running ramblings, so here you go!

Race 1: my intention was to run this as a fun run and a warmup for Victory. So I sandbagged the first 2 miles, yet was winning handily. Or so I thought. Some LifeTime Fitness guy caught me with a quarter mile to go. I let him go thinking, "I'm saving myself for Victory 5K". Then I got competitive. I sprinted the last 40 meters or so and almost caught him but he kicked and beat me by half a step. Finishing time: 18:07. I regret not racing this one from the beginning. How many chances will I have again to win a 5K in Minneapolis? Probably not many. I should also be clear that I'm sure the guy that won probably would have beat me on a head-to-head. He really sandbagged the race and only kicked as much as he needed to in order to win. But if I had gone out at a 5:30 pace, I would have won. Oh well.

Race 2: Fun race, fun times with lots and lots of good friends. While the shirt at the first race was better, this race was so much better organized and was just a blast from beginning to end, with great racers in the 10K and 5K (especially the 10K with all those Team USA-MN racers). I placed 6th in the 5K with a They called out 17:43 and my watch said 17:43, but the official time was 17:45. Shouldn't be a big deal but that's the difference between a PR and not. So I'm calling it a PR, but hopefully I'll beat that again and the official time will reflect that. I'm happy with how I raced, but a larger lead pack would have been nice for that extra push.

This was the first time I ran 2 races like this. Obviously not the best way to PR. I would have done better at either one if I hadn't done the other. But I enjoyed both for very different reasons, and it was a good way to spend a Monday morning!

CORRECTION: The Victory Races are co-sponsored by the Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods, and while the race benefits the neighborhood in many ways, there is no direct monetary benefit for the community from this race. They are partners in the race, not recipients of any assistance.


crossn81 said...

Nice job on another PR! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for coming to the Northside and participating in one of our community events.

If anyone is interested in learning about how they can make a positive impact on the Northside; please visit

Eric Fager; member-at-large WCNO board.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!! North Minneapolis is a great place to live - and there are a whole lot of us here who love our community. We are working hard to address all the issues of foreclosures, boarded and vacants, and all the rest - we have some monetary help programs for those interested in great deals on beautiful homes. There's nothing like hot dogs for breakfast on Labor Day! We also have a 5k in May that goes through the neighborhood and begins and ends at the MPD Special Operations Center - a closed elementary school that we worked to get re-purposed and which is an active partner in our community. Come and check out that race too (and the kids' race that follows it)- and the open house at the SOC afterwards!

Linda Koelman, Webber-Camden Neighborhood Org. president, pastor of North UMC in the community and a 12 year resident.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for joining in the fun and for all your kind comments about our neighborhood! I live a block from the start of the Victory race, and I have to admit - I love to see the look on folks faces as they realize how NICE North Minneapolis really is despite what is constantly said in the media. You described the neighborhoods beautifully - yes, we do have some issues up here, but there are a lot of bright spots and good people who call these neighborhoods home. More and more folks are starting to realize you don't have to pay a fortune to have a nice home on a nice block just minutes from downtown Minneapolis.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts - it made my day.

Stephanie Gruver
Webber Camden Resident and Board Member

Rocco said...

Well put Nathan. As a south Minneapolis resident, I feel more and more like Minneapolis is becoming cities: North and Not-North.

As a resident of South Minneapolis I am guilty of this problem. I go to Camden to see a friend who lives there maybe three to eight times a year. I also go there to run the Victory 5k.

That is it. RT dropped the ball on this big time. But a lot of us, including me, are complicit. It is almost as easy for me to get to Camden as it is to get to Uptown. But I go to Uptown a lot more than I do Camden.

We are one city. And we need to start acting like it.

By the way, I encourage ALL runners to also do the Go North! 5k in June. My wife and I did it this June and so much fun. It was great to see that there is much more to North Minneapolis than what we see on the 10:00 news. There are great people there and a real sense of pride in community. I was honored to be a part of it.

Nathan said...

Great comment Mike. I am just as complicit. I go there occasionally for work and the couple times a year we get there for either a training run on Victory Memorial or for the race. I skirt the edges at Wirth, Bryn Mawr, NordEast, but how much time do I spend deep in Camden or Folwell? To be honest, even the race only touches the edges of the neighborhood.

To everyone from North who posted on here: thanks again for welcoming us into your neighborhood. You have a lot to offer, and you don't need RT to tell you that.

nelly said...

Hey Nathan ~

I'm so glad you were moved to write about this issue. Thanks for speaking up and calling attention to not just our words but out actions and how they demonstrate our respect and appreciation for all parts of our community.

Erin Kelly
Central neighborhood resident

ChrisT said...

Okay, I finally read your "Tale of Two Races" (it was the best of races, it was the worst of races...). I had to read it twice, because you are so wordy. Very nice comments, Nathan, it makes me want to move to Camden (or at least run up there one morning and stay for a coffee). I should warn you, though, that you risk being singled out at the next RNC for ridicule as a "Community Organizer" (snicker, snicker)

Paul said...

Thanks for the article, and good point about R.T. Rybak not participating and instead showcasing the race on the Southside that day - actions speak louder than words.

I live in the Victory neighborhood in the Camden area of North Minneapolis, my wife and I had formerly lived in Uptown and downtown Minneapolis and we love it here - our neighbors are awesome and you can't beat the peace and quiet here!! (none of that congestion and noise we had been so used to) - plus you get all of the benefits of the city (esp. a super easy commute) and the suburbs being so close to Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center.

Quick note for you and the other poster talking about coming to North and/or Camden more during the year. I'll give you some ideas:

Parks/ Bike Trails: North Mississippi Regional, Theo Wirth, Victory Memorial (which you're obviously familiar with), Eloise Butler Wildflower garden, and many beautiful neighborhood parks around and to be found. Tennis courts at Victory Park and Webber Park (ice skating at Webber in the winter as well).

Restaurants: In the Victory neighborhood there are several really great locally owned neighborhood restaurants. These include Sauced (44th & Penn Ave N) - excellent food, see recent strib review; Emily's (catty-corner to Sauced) - one of the best and cheapest places to get a great breakfast or lunch (cafe/ diner feel); and of course Papa's Pizza and Pasta and Deli & Gelato (42nd & Thomas Ave N) - awesome pizza, pasta, and more. Going further south in the Cleveland neighborhood you'll find Tootie's on Lowry - a great little burger and American food joint. There are more restaurants to be found on the Northside - you just have to explore a little. Since moving here we hardly ever leave to go to our old haunts in NE and Uptown:).

Or come see a show at the Workhouse Theatre Company (also across the street from Sauced), which just received an Ivey award for overall excellence in theatre. Or you could visit one of the many art galleries in the area. Other events - check out Holiday on Forty Fourth coming up here in early December, a great event that's been an annual neighborhood event for decades - I believe it's on Dec 5th this year (you could check out on their events page for more information or things to see).

Thanks for the good read!