By Joel Kiekbusch, Race Coordinator
Joel has been a high school teacher at Eastview since 1998 and he and his wife have a strong sense of duty to the five 196 warriors.
After having to settle for a “virtual” event for the evolution of the Eight Annual Warrior 196 Memorial 5K, planning and anticipating the Ninth Annual Warrior 196 Memorial 5K event was a combination of excitement and apprehension: excitement for having the event back outside…for real…with actual people running, walking, and rucking a real course, and apprehension that folks would show up, that a pandemic uptick wouldn’t push us back into our homes, and that we could have a successful event after what really was a year of hiatus.
I’ve learned that after registration opens on Memorial Day each spring, to not pay attention to the registration numbers because they’re always slow and low in June and July, and even for the first weeks of August. Of course, I checked to see if Vietnam veteran Charlie Krautbauer was the first participant to register, because Charlie has been the first registrant to sign up since 2015. He did. Thank you, Charlie! When I did take the first look, I got a lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach. Numbers were dramatically low and I expressed my concern to Jennifer at Anderson Race Management. She told me that road races around the region were all experiencing dramatically low registration numbers.
Oh-oh…this wasn’t good.
And yet, there was a small voice in my head that simply said: “Trust! They’ll be there…they’ll all sign up! It’s gonna be okay.” Sure enough, the numbers started climbing and I knew we would have a good event!
On the Monday before the race, someone told me that rain was forecast for Saturday, race day. I replied: “It won’t rain…it’ll be a nice day.” How did I know? Our five ‘196 Warriors’, take care of the weather for race day. Thank you, Nathanael, Daniel, Benjamin, Christopher, and Andrew…thank you.
Then, in the early hours of Friday morning – 17 September, Rosemount (and other cities in the southeast metro) got hit by a small tornado. Much of Rosemount lost power and there was substantial damage to several neighborhoods, including my own. After work, my neighbor Eric and I tossed two chain saws into the back of his pickup and drove the race course to check for downed trees and branches we were certain we would find. To our surprise, the course was clear…no damage, no debris. The race remained “on” and we didn’t have to resort to any contingencies.
After eight years of Warrior 196 Memorial 5K race day mornings, I’ve become used to hearing about and experiencing unique stories of serendipity on race day. There have been those moments when I’ve looked at others square in the eye based on a mutual experience or observation, and known that whatever uncommon providence we just witnessed was not just chance. It was karma; or it was BENERGY, or it was some eternal, ancient spirit slipping through a hidden dimension to remind us that as long as we say their names: Nathanael, Daniel, Benjamin, Christopher, and Andrew – they shall never die. I’ve come to anticipate these moments and sure enough, Shawn and Peter approached me after the race and told me of the bald eagle that shadowed their path as they rucked the 5K. I’ve always sensed that the bald eagle (having made several appearances at the Warrior 196 since 2014) is my dad…making sure that things go well. Thanks, Dad.
And so, the race went off! A beautiful September morning; crisp, clean Canadian air, warmed by a light southern breeze, made another incredible Warrior 196 5K day. We had overall and age group winners (and yeah, we didn’t allow for any ‘double dipping’ for awards): Jen Lenarz (age 47) won the overall for women with a solid time: 21:32, running at a 6:55/mile pace! Nice run, Jen!
Bill Butler (age 45) won the overall for men with a great time: 19:30, a 6:16/mile pace. Another nice run! Way to go, Bill! (And, no Bill, I measured the course three times as per USATF protocol and it was actually 3.13 miles, or 5.04K.)
Our age group winners were:
As race coordinator, I pain over this event from the day after the race, to the day of the next race day the following year. I hope and pray for an event that will be fun, meaningful, and memorable. As a foundation, all we ask of our participants is to take a few moments before the race to remember and honor five young men who gave their lives in the service of our country, who heard and listened to a higher calling to serve. Then, go have a great time!
What is generated from the event is, of course, funds for scholarship dollars awarded to graduating high school seniors, in the name of our five ‘196 Warriors’. Their collective legacy is paid forward. But what else is generated?
Those of you who come out and run, walk, and ruck…you choose to honor and remember the valor and heroism of these five young men. You choose to take time from the hustle and bustle of daily life, to pause and reflect. You choose to look those Gold Star parents in the eye and collectively tell them that we will always remember their sons…we will always hold them dear to us, as if they were our own. Because deep down, they ARE our own…as we ALL belong to each other. Personally, I think we should ponder that precept a LOT more than we do.
So, until year 10…at Apple Valley High School on 24 September at 9:00 AM…(subtle hint there…we already set a date!)
My sincerest THANK YOU to ALL of you who participate in and support the Warrior 196 Memorial 5K. You are amazing folks and as the race director, please know I so much appreciate ALL OF YOU.
And to our sponsors: without the selflessness and charity of your organizations, the Warrior 196 Memorial 5K would not exist. Your understanding of our mission to honor, remember, and pay forward is so much appreciated. In what seems like too much of a cynical world, your support is evidence that we can all be in a better place if we simply try. THANK YOU for your generosity.