Thursday, November 23, 2006


Bill Knight, locally of MDRA-fame, asked if I'd post a story he wrote on my blog.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A scary running tradition

Even though Halloween is safely behind us for another
year, a small group of metro-based runners are
reluctant to let go of that fun-loving spirit. For
upwards of 20 years the Minnehaha Marathoners (MM'ers)
running club has participated in a 5k race in Anoka.
That suburb, over a long weekend, becomes the
self-proclaimed Halloween Capitol of the World. And
why is this of any importance? I mean there are some
1,100 other runners in various stages of Halloween
garb running down Main Street in Anoka for this race.
While that is true, there is only one 60-foot-long
centipede powered by 26 legs.

So what exactly is a running centipede? Well, if you
have never seen the "'pede" in action, imagine a green
and gold piece of cloth, 60 feet long, about 6 feet
wide, with 13 holes cut down the centerline. Then
picture 13 people lined up nose-to-tail, about five
feet apart. As each person slips under the cloth,
putting his or her head through a hole, something
magical happens at that moment ("TA-DA") as club
members and any running friends become the Minnehaha
Marathoner Centipede. The 'pede is "all show and slow
go" so be prepared to watch the runners flaunt it a
bit, while they throttle back to about 11 minutes a

MM'ers 'pede packs fun and speed

Typically, the MM'ers' centipede does just two runs a
year. One is the St. Paul Winter Carnival 5k race and
the other is the Anoka event. Shortly after crossing
the finish line last October, the 'pede gave a rare
interview talking about the event and the race.

"Yaaaah, that was a fun run and a fast one for all of
my legs," said the Minnehaha Marathoner centipede.

Led by the MM'ers veteran whistle blower, Tom Huberty,
the 'pede once again set eye balls a scannin' and
tongues a waggin' throughout most of southern Anoka
County ("pardon the grammar, ya all") for the running
of what was officially called the 21st Annual Anoka
Halloween Gray Ghost 5k Run and One Mile Fitness Walk.
(Whew!) The other "legs" giving life to the 'pede that
day were Lee Trelstad, Al Larson, Linda Sheppard,
Nancy Carlson, Bill Knight, and Cliff Janney, all
running club members. Special invited "legs" were
Leigh Bailey, David Janney and Nancy Johnson-Maloney.
The 'pede expressed gratitude to all those legs.

As soon as Huberty led the 'pede out the side door of
the Franklin Junior High School, a hushed rumbling
could be heard among the pedestrian spectators and
assembled runners craning their necks and elbowing up
to their tippy-toes to see this 60 foot long beauty.

"I really wasn't ready for that reaction since I've
been, well, kinda folded over and crunched into a blue
workout bag since last February," the pede said. "But
yah know, the crowd, well they began a smilin' and
then there was that geeeorgeous sun up on high. I
could hear jus a little hootin' and then, first thing
yah know, I was getting ready for SHOW TIME. Oh,
please excuse me for a shoutin'." the pede said.

Huberty and friends first warmed up some 50 feet in
front of the starting line with a slow, modest leechy
turn for the assembled eyeballs. It's a club tradition
for the 'pede leader to carry a whistle that is used
to alert all the legs of an upcoming maneuver. When
the leader turns and the legs follow, the 'pede forms
a large running circle. Turning in the opposite
direction the leader unwinds the' pede.

Warmed up and with a confident grace, the 'pede parted
the sea of runners, taking a position with other
"back-of-the-packers." There a late addition from the
crowd, Cliff Anderson, who said he was not related to
the Anoka politician with the same name (thanks
Cliff), jumped in to bring up the rear of the 'pede.

By most accounts the 'pede set off on a quick pace
down Main Street before the assembled crowds on the
curbs. Thousands of people come out each year just to
see the 'pede zigzag down the street and many of them
stay for a parade held right after the race.

"But I gotta hand it to that good ole boy," the pede
said, giving a verbal nod to Huberty. "When the crowds
were two and three and four deep up from behind the
curb, wha we jus throttled back. Give 'em what they
came to see-A SHOW. Oh, excuse me for a shoutin'. Give
'em the candy we had, jus for the kids, and the love
we had for them hobby cops, dumb enough to, er, ah, I
mean cooourageous enough to stand in the street."

The 'pede was referencing the crowd-pleasing leechy
turns performed around the "volunteers in blue" and
the tossing of wrapped candy to the scores of young
urchins holding down the curbs.

"Whall, almost all of my legs and arms got that gig
done right," the pede said. "But maybe Al is still jus
a kid at heart." The pede noticed that MM club
president Al Larson was not throwing all of his candy
to the kids.

"I'm concerned about the kids and of course their
teeth," Larson said. "Besides, those chocolate mints
were really good."

Lighter without the candy and not encumbered by the
crowds and those tempting slow-to-move public
servants, the pede encouraged Huberty to pick up the
pace, resulting in one of the better Anoka showings: a
fine time (for the 'pede) of 38 minutes and change was

No comments: