By Nicole Watkins
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
Chris Reed spent four seasons competing for the Western Oregon University track and field team and he left his mark on the record books, too: he still owns the 5,000 and 10,000-meter school records, set in 2011.
But the annual Monmouth-Independence Mini-Marathon, a race that has taken place every Fourth of July for the past 41 years?
Reed didn’t have his name attached to that kind of history — at least not until Thursday.
“This is my first time,” the now WOU assistant track and field and cross-country coach said with a smile after cruising into Independence as the overall 2.6-mile race winner with a top time of 13 minutes, 13 seconds.
“I’ve never been here for this, so this was a new experience.”
That’s because Reed is usually in Eugene, running in the Butte to Butte 10K, what he called a “family tradition” that’s gone on for 11 years.
“I said, `What the heck, I’ll run the Monmouth Mini-Marathon,'” Reed, who still competes unattached in invitationals during the track and field spring season, said. “I’m too young to quit running — I’m 24, so just because I’m coaching doesn’t mean I can’t pursue my running while I’m still young and healthy.”
There was a familiar face crossing the finish line on the women’s side, as Linfield College senior runner Hannah Grieder defended her Mini-Marathon title with the top female time of 16:16.
She won the event in 2012 as a first-time runner.
Clearly, something brought her back for the family friendly, festive tradition in Monmouth and Independence.
“It’s just fun. I work in Keizer, so I live in Monmouth during the summer, and I like road races,” the 21-year-old said after the race.
Grieder is a member of both the cross-country and track and field teams for Linfield, where she focuses on longer distances — though 2.6 miles has been a good distance the past two summers.
“This year, I wasn’t in as good of shape, so I figured I’d go out and see (how the race went),” she said.
“It was harder than last year, for sure.”
While speedsters like Reed and Grieder won their respective races, there were plenty of other locals marking their own victories in the 361-runner field.
Nine women who started a “Couch to 5K” program through Curves gym in Independence followed through with their racing goal in Thursday’s 2.6-mile run, complete with matching purple tank tops that included a slogan worth noting: “Sweat is fat crying.”
“This was the first time we’ve done this and we decided to run (the Mini-Marathon),” Curves owner Christal Sperling said of the group, which was free and open to everyone – even non-Curves members. All you had to do was sign up.
Even better, others have already asked if there will be another program up and running.
“We’ve had people who asked if we would do it again — we’ll probably start one in August or September,” she said.
Long after the winners had completed the race, though, someone much younger was running the first Mini-Marathon of her life: 5-year-old Izabell Manley.
Manley, who ran the race with her parents, Dave Manley and Nicole Hall, was one of 27 children under the age of 10 who competed in the race portion.
“She ran the (Dallas) Dragon Run, but this was her first big race,” Hall said.
FOURTH OF JULY RUN FUN FACTS
Overall winner: Chris Reed, 24, Monmouth, 13 minutes, 13 seconds.
Female winner: Hannah Grieder, 21, Monmouth, 16:16.
Youngest participant: Joshua Fitts, 4, Independence. He finished in a time of 33:10.
Oldest participant: Delbert Tilgner, 72, Dallas, 22:50. Tilgner placed 149th overall out of 361 runners – all younger than him.
Total participants, including walkers: 418.