The race was the St. Patrick's Day 5-mile, which now goes by the name Irish Run Saint Paul. Leafgren, 54, has run the race every year since that debut in 1981. Race Director Chris Fuller said, "Our records from the early years have disappeared, but I'd be surprised if anyone else has a streak as long or longer."
The event now includes a 5K, but Leafgren has always run the 5 mile/8K event. "I enjoy this race as it means warmer weather is finally on the way, especially this year," said Leafgren. "It is also the only race I haven’t missed since I began running. I like to see some of the same people running it every year. If the weather is good, we all stand around yacking when we’re finished."
Leafgren acknowledges that this has been a tough winter for running. "I typically run 45-50 miles a week, but this winter I've been holding to about 35 a week due to the ice and cold." she noted. "Most of this winter’s running has been done with my running cleats. They've kept me from taking a few tumbles! I used to build a little more weekly mileage by doing 8-milers twice a week in Metrodome, but since it closed on 12/26/13, I haven’t been able to keep up my typical weekly distances."
Despite all that, tradition dictates that the race is a harbinger of spring. "It’s often one of the first days of the year I wear shorts; it has more often than not been in the 50’s and sunny," recalls Leafgren.
The race tends to be a social experience for Leafgren. "Over the years, I think I have run about thirty of the thirty-five with friends, or my ex-husband. We would all go together or meet at the race, usually run at our own pace and meet again at the end. Six of the last seven years, my next door neighbor, Betty, has joined me. Then we recap what we saw on the way home!"
Look for Leafgren at the starting line of the 8K on Sunday, March 23. She'll likely be in shorts. Or maybe you'll catch her at the finish when she's yacking with her friends. She'll also be running the day before and the day after. "I have a 23-year running streak going, so running this race is part of one of my days in March," said Leafgren.
Thanks to TJ Dwyer for conducting the interview for this article.