A GRRRReat return for iconic fall event

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Roughly 150 people braved the rain and cold on Oct. 5 for the return of the Great River Road - Road Race (GRRRR) and breakfast. The last event was held at Pikes Peak State Park 17 years ago. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Mother and daughter Janet and Mattie Hallberg flipped the first pancakes at the GRRRR breakfast. Proceeds from that portion of the event will go toward adding a splash pad at McGregor’s Turner Park.

Husband and wife Michael McGrane and Amanda Watters, who came all the way from Boston, were the top male and female 5K finishers at GRRRR. Amanda is six months pregnant.

Abby Troester (left), Alice (Rowe) Terbrak and Anna (Rowe) Troester, decked out in their GRRRR long-sleeve shirts, were part of the Rowe family contingent that participated in the 5K.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Roughly 150 people braved the rain and cold on Oct. 5 for the first Great River Road - Road Race (GRRRR) and breakfast since 2002. The date was nearly 40 years after the original event was held at Pikes Peak State Park in 1981. 

At its height, GRRRR drew over 600 entrants to the area, who were attracted to the beautiful fall setting, well-managed race and unique pancake and chicken gravy breakfast. Organizer Duane Boelman was pleased with this year’s turnout, considering the 17-year hiatus and the weather.

“I think it went great,” he said. “People had a great time. They’re thrilled it’s back.”

“It was a really nostalgic feeling, seeing it all come together,” added Kristie Austin, another of the organizers. “It was a typical fall run. You never know what the weather’s going to be.”

The McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce coordinated GRRRR this time around, with help from local volunteers and will receive most of the event proceeds. Organizers made a point to retain the same format and route for the 5K, 10K and kid’s runs. The moderately difficult out and back races began at Pikes Peak near McGregor, followed Pikes Peak Road, then headed south on the Great River Road. 

The breakfast menu also remained the same and was served by the Turner Park: Fitness for All Ages Committee, who netted $377 in donations for the Turner Park splash pad project that day and will receive additional funds from the registration fees.

As in the past, runners and walkers each received a long-sleeve shirt with their registrations.

Some attendees even wore shirts from past GRRRRs.

“I saw one from 1993 and two from 2002,” Boelman quipped.

Many participants were drawn back by fond memories from previous years.

“It’s a tradition,” said McGregor resident Bob Rowe, who did the 5K this year with wife Millie, daughters Alice and Anna and granddaughter Abby. “We are glad to see it continue.”

The Rowes said they participated in GRRRR at least a dozen times over the years.

“I would walk, then hurry back to flip pancakes for the breakfast,” Millie recalled.

McGregor native Scott Davis, who now lives in St. Paul, Minn., also wanted to re-live his GRRRR experiences. He ran as a teenager, setting a youth record in the 10K in 1991.

“I was excited to see it come back,” he said.

He ran the 5K this year and had an opportunity to compete with his teenage son Tom, who did the 10K.

“I convinced him to run with me,” Davis said with a smile.

The top male finisher in the 5K, Michael McGrane, was also no stranger to GRRRR. Originally from Iowa, he ran many times over the years. Now living near Boston with his wife, Amanda Watters, the two made a point to return.

“We planned our whole weekend around this,” shared McGrane, who had a time of 18:16.3.

Watters was no slouch either. She ran the route in 23:27.2 and was the top female 5K finisher. Oh, and she did it all while six months pregnant.

In the 10K, Matthias Wollberg, of Riceville, took the top spot with a time of 34:57.1. Waterloo’s Kristen Toppin was the top woman in that race, finishing in 45:21.3.

The top males and females each received unique wooden walking sticks from Pikes Peak State Park as their “trophies,” and the top male and female finishers in each age group picked up wood-burned plaques crafted by McGregor resident Kenny Slocum. Second- and third-place age category finishers received medals.

But while awards are nice, the Rowes said the most important part of GRRRR is that it brings people together.

“There’s good support from the community, and it’s in a beautiful place,” Millie shared.

“I’m excited about starting to plan for next year,” Boelman said.

Find complete GRRRR results in this week’s paper, or head to results.truetimeracing.com and search for the Great River Road - Road Race for more details and age group breakdowns.

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