This article was written by Lori Nickel in the Sept. 15 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Three days ago, Andy Ashenden decided to sign up for his first Briggs & Al's Run & Walk for Children's Hospital.
On Saturday, he decided to win it.
Finishing the 8K, or 5-mile, run in 24 minutes 38 seconds, the 24-year-old from Grafton pushed through the course with ease. After racing down Wisconsin Ave. from the starting point on 12th St., he handled the first small hill in downtown Milwaukee before heading north for a slightly more challenging hill. After that, the course was runner friendly - downhill or flat, and fast.
But not knowing what to expect, he pushed it a little by running his usual 5K pace. He also got little nudges from Tyler Leverington, who challenged him and finished second.
"The first hill wasn't too bad, but the hill up Prospect was bigger than I thought," Ashenden said. "I love the course. I didn't really know this course, but I would say it is one of my favorites I have run in the past year. It was just fast."
Ashenden ran competitively for Concordia University, where he graduated two years ago, but he has been hampered by injury.
He had Haglund's, an injury in his heel, where he said a bone was hitting his Achilles. The pain was acute and makes his fifth bout with plantar fasciitis a picnic in comparison.
"I could barely walk," he said. "So I had to go four months with no running."
He could, however, bike after three months and that led him on the road to recovery. He ran well at the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago earlier this year.
He is a weekend runner and works for AwesomeFat, an iPhone app development company, while he finishes his coursework toward a master's degree. His only regret was that he didn't sign up for Al's Run sooner to help raise money for pledges.
"This was a great race. I love how everyone rallies around this one idea for Children's Hospital," he said.
The top female finisher was Monica Schoeneck, a 33-year-old hair dresser from Muskego who completed the race in 30:37. Also a competitive duathlete, this was her first Al's Run.
"I thought it was a lot of fun," Schoeneck said. "I was actually surprised how big this event was. I heard it of it and that it was for a good cause and I just signed up last week."
Schoeneck will leave for France on Tuesday to compete in her first Duathlon Short Course World Championships in France; she is on the U.S. professional team.
It was a gorgeous, summerlike day for Al's Run, a nice change for regular, returning Al's participants who have seen plenty of races on cold, windy and overcast mornings.
More than 14,000 participants turned out for the run or walk. Organizers said it raised more than $1 million this year for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
This was the 35th anniversary of the run, named for former Marquette men's basketball coach Al McGuire, and has raised more than $14 million to fund medical equipment, training for future doctors and nurses and research and education programs.