Road racers, of course, all returned…to a celebratory throng

By Burk Krohe

Typically, St. Patrick’s Day is for shamrocks, green beer and pretending to be Irish. But for nearly 1,600 people who came to Aggieville Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day was also for running.

Manhattan hosted the 34th annual St. Patrick’s Day Road Race Saturday. Runners had the option of pounding the pavement in either the two-mile fun run/walk at 10 a.m. or the 10 kilometer (10K) road race at 10:45 a.m. Entry fees benefited the Special Olympics, with donations assisting the Manhattan High soccer team and Manhattan High track club, whose members volunteered their assistance.

The race was a centerpiece of the larger St. Patrick’s Day festival, which also included a parade and numerous other games and events.

Becky Ballard, of Ballard’s Sporting Goods and the race coordinator, has been involved with the race for about 32 years. She said this year ‘s atmosphere was great with a “record breaking” number of entries.

“It’s about tripled in size,” Ballard said. “Every year it seems to get bigger.”

It’s taken some time to reach 1,600 participants, though. Ballard said when the race was just starting out, she was happy if it drew 500 people. Part of the success has been due to running it in concert with the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Aggieville and the quirkiness that comes from the holiday. Ballard said it creates a unique setting.

“I think it’s just kind of non-conventional and fun,” Ballard said. “Every other race they give you bananas and Gatorade; we do Burger King hamburgers and lemonade and potato chips.” 

Bryan Glaser, of Wamego, and Philip Sears, of Manhattan, who describe themselves as committed runners, took home second place trophies in the 10K road race in different age categories. Sears has run the road race the last four years and Glaser has run it the last 15 years.

“It’s a great tradition,” Glaser said.

Glaser and Sears were both happy to improve on their third place finishes in last year’s race. However, they noted only their places improved, their times were actually a little slower. They said the strong winds and higher than average temperature presented challenges for runners Saturday.

Marvin Hachmeister has both Glaser and Sears beat. Hachmesiter has run the 10K road race for 32 years in row and finished first this year in the 70 and over group. Hachmeister agreed the wind played a big factor Saturday.

“I like to finish a little under an hour, and I just couldn’t do it today,” Hachmeister said.

Even on tough days such as Saturday, Hachmeister keeps running to help others the best way he knows how.

“It’s a very worthy cause,” Hachmeister said. “That’s part of the reason I run, to encourage younger people to participate.”

Environmental challenges aside, they all agree it’s an experience not to be missed.

“This is my race before marathons, before anything,” Sears said.

Glaser said it’s hard not to love all the people, the parade and the costumes, among other things.

“And you get to drink beer afterward,” Glaser said.

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