Runners love drinking a refreshing cup of water along a course or pouring it over their heads, but some shy away from getting completely soaked.

Not Clare Kazmierczak.

Thursday’s temperatures, which were in the upper 80s earlier in the day, called for extreme measures, and for that, Kazmierczak ran through all the sprinklers she could find en route to winning the 48th annual Park Point 5-Miler in her first time doing the event.

“I’ve done at least a half dozen Grandma’s Marathons,” said Kazmierczak, 42. “I’ve done the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon and the (William A. Irvin) 5K, and now I’ll have to do this one again. I don’t remember the last time I won a race. I wasn’t expecting this. I was thinking maybe top five or top 10, so to win was really a surprise.”

Kazmierczak, of White Bear Lake, Minn., covered the five miles in 34 minutes, 4 seconds, 34 seconds ahead of runner-up Lindsey Green of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Duluth’s Nick Nygaard, 29, defended his title to win his third Park Point 5-Miler in 26:29, 41 seconds ahead of former champion Scott Behling of Duluth.

Kazmierczak, who teaches English as a second language in White Bear Lake, wasn’t complaining.

“It’s a good course for running even splits, and I’m happy with my time,” said Kazmierczak, who has a top marathon time of 2:51. “Can I run faster? Sure, but you have to factor in the conditions. It’s like 85, right?”

Nygaard agreed.

“It was like a slow death,” he said.

Behling was the early race leader before Nygaard reeled him in about a mile in. They ran together to just after the turn near the Lift Bridge before coming back to Park Point.

Behling, a 2008 Duluth East grad and former Wisconsin-Superior runner, seems to float along as he runs, white hat on backwards, but this race got to him. He was disappointed coming off the ultimate runner’s high in June when he destroyed his personal record in the Garry Bjorklund by three minutes in 1:06:28. His pace in that race was nearly two minutes faster — for every five miles — than Thursday.

“I don’t know,” Behling said trying to figure it out in his head. “I always train at midnight, or on the treadmill with the AC on, or just Duluth in general, where it’s usually not too hot. That heat gets to me, but no excuses. It is what it is. He started pulling away, and I didn’t respond. I let him go, and then it got super hot.”

For those trudging back through the heat, the finish line must have appeared like a mirage by the time they got to it. Even for the top runners, Thursday was no breeze.

“I’d say last year it was at least 20 degrees cooler than this,” said Nygaard, a native of St. Michael, Minn., who has lived in Duluth about 10 years and works in quality assurance for UnitedHealthcare. “It was pretty tough. It was hot. I just tried not to slow down, but it’s still a great race, on a great course. You’ve got the beach on one side, the harbor on the other. It’s really unique to Duluth.”

Nygaard, who drove out to Park Point Sunday to get a run in, laughed and then said, “But it’s usually easier to bike here.”

  • Jeff Holmbeck, 62, of Shoreview, Minn, won the men’s two-mile walk in 21:45, while Duluth’s Cortnie Bain, 39, won the women’s walk in 24:54.

A field of 626 participants (534 runners and 92 walkers) registered for northern Minnesota’s oldest road race and there were 436 finishers (177 men, 259 women) in the run and 76 finishers (18 men, 58 women) in the walk.

48 Annual Park Point 5-Miler

Thursday’s Results

Men

1. Nick Nygaard, 26 minutes, 29 seconds; 2. Scott Behling, 27:10; 3. Henry Seeb, 28:16; 4. Daniel Peters, 28:26; 5. W. Scott Lindell, 28:40; 6. Cameron Stocke, 29:03; 7. John Vandanacker, 29:10; 8. Ethan Olson, 29:10; 9. Mark Laughlin, 29:14; 10. Todd Hierlmaier, 29:17.

Women

1. Clare Kazmierczak, 34:04; 2. Lindsey Green, 34:38; 3. Sarah Godfrey, 35:16; 4. Aurora Kothe, 35:52; 5. Jody Zeleznikar, 36:41; 6. Lizzy Harnell, 36:48; 7. Lydia Skelton, 36:52; 8. Liz Nelson, 36:53; 9. Kate Nelson, 36:54; 10. Joy Rasmussen, 36:59.