April 11, 2010
Devotion pays off
for local runners
By Kevin Pates
Getting up at 5 a.m. to exercise is the life of
a runner who doesn’t run for a living.
Jennifer Houck is a physical therapist and Jeremy
Polson teaches at AlBrook High School. They’re often out the
door before the sun rises, on roads or trails, in pursuit of training
They’re single and live in Duluth on separate
ends of town, and have their own running partners and coaches. But
their individual resolve helped each become 2009 Minnesota runners
of the year as determined by the Minnesota Running Data Center.
Each had superb racing seasons, setting personal
bests at a number of distances.
“Running is very important and my job is
very important, and I try to make a schedule that can accommodate
both,” said Houck, a former St. Scholastica runner, who works
at Villa Maria Health Care Center in Superior. “If it means
I have to get up early, then that’s what I do.
“I don’t know if I’d call last
year a ‘breakthrough year’ but I’ve built a foundation
over the last four years and have had consistency in my training.
I’d like to see how fast I can get.”
Houck, 26, who attended Cromwell High School,
ran her first serious 26.2-mile race in the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon
in October, placing 38th among women in 2 hours, 47 minutes, 42
seconds. She’ll race her first Boston Marathon on April 19.
Last year she won races at five kilometers, five
miles, 10 kilometers and 10 miles. She set the Park Point Five-Miler
women’s course record and placed 11th in the Garry Bjorklund
In 2010, Houck was 16th in the USA Half-Marathon
Championships in January in Houston and 15th in the USA 15-Kilometer
Championships in March in Jacksonville, Fla.
Polson, 32, got his biggest thrill in 2009 by
running timed miles in 4:17.6 (on a track) and 4:06.64 (on a road),
not to mention personal road records at five kilometers, 10 kilometers,
10 miles and 25 kilometers.
“How much faster can I get? I don’t
know. I just go year-to-year and hope I don’t fall apart in
the next 365 days. I never dreamed I could get the times I did at
age 31,” said Polson, a former Duluth Denfeld and University
of Minnesota athlete.
Polson, AlBrook’s cross country and track
coach, relishes facing the state’s best runners in Minneapolis-St.
Paul races, and enjoys competing in smaller nearby events, racing
in Floodwood and Keewatin last year. He was 30th in the 2009 Twin
Cities 10 Miler in October and fourth in the St. Patrick’s
Day Human Race 8-Kilometer run in March. He plans to run Saturday’s
Fitger’s 5K race on Superior Street and the USA 25-Kilometer
Championships on May 8 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Houck and Polson reach high-mileage training weeks
of about 100 miles — Houck coached by St. Scholastica Nordic
ski coach Chad Salmela, and Polson coached by Denfeld cross country
and track coach Gary Lepisto.
Success on the roads has put Houck and Polson
on the cover of the Minnesota Distance Running Association magazine,
RunMinnesota, in the past year. Both plan to run in the 20th Garry
Bjorklund Half-Marathon on June 19, held in conjunction with Grandma’s
Minnesota Runner of the Year point standings are
determined by races at 12 distances, from one mile to the marathon,
on certified Minnesota courses. Polson also tied for the men’s
title in 2007.