Clare Kazmierczak is accustomed to high finishes in road races of all distances. But finishing first in a group of several hundred runners recently was pretty special.
The 42-year-old White Bear Lake teacher was the women’s champion in the 48th annual Park Point Five-Miler in Duluth on July 18. Her time was 34 minutes and four seconds on a flat course in 87-degree heat.
“I don’t remember the last time I won a race. I wasn’t expecting this,” she said. “I was thinking maybe top five or top 10, so to win was really a surprise.”
The runners endured heat unusual for Duluth. Kazmierczak said her main strategy was running through as many sprinklers as she could.
She finished 37 seconds ahead of the female runner-up in a total field of 626 runners. The men’s winner was Nick Nygaard of St. Michael in 26:27.
It was Kazmierczak’s first time running this five-miler, which is hosted by the Grandma’s Marathon organization. She has previously run their other races — the marathon (“at least a half-dozen times”), the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, and the William Irvin 5K.
Two career highlights came in 2011, when she placed seventh the Bjorklund half-marathon with 1:21:37 and notched her personal-best marathon of 2:41 in Phoenix. Last September, she placed 31st of 630 women in the Jeff Winter Memorial City of Lakes Half Marathon in Minneapolis.
Kazmierczak was a cross country and track athlete at Chisago Lakes High School and North Dakota State University. “I’ve been running for 27 years. I started running road races at age 15,” she said. A mother of three, Kazmierczak teaches English as a Second Language.