Smiles were plentiful as runners assembled for the return of the From the Heart Run to benefit Owatonna families battling cancer. The scaled back event offered an in-person 5K and half marathon on Saturday, starting from Lake Kohlmier. Others signed up to do a 'virtual' run at another time this month.

Event organizer Beth Svenby was thrilled to be hosting the run again after it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, "It's great to have it back. It's a lot smaller event this year. But people reached out and said 'We've got to get out of our houses and do something.' So we were happy to put it on today. It's a beautiful day."

Roy Koenig/TSM

She said that normally the event would draw 1,000 to 1,200 runners. This year about 300 signed up with about two-thirds of them participating in-person on Saturday. There was no kids fun run this year. Run organizer Beth Svenby is hopeful of a full event again in 2022.

Even though the run was canceled in 2020, fundraising was a success in assisting Mark Woodrich, Jon Osmundson and Nova Maas, "Last year was great. We didn't even have a race...We had a lot of sponsors come in and we reached out to them and said 'Hey. What do you want us to do with your sponsorship?' and they said we want you to give it to the families." A number of sports teams and other groups around town held fundraising activities leading up to the planned event.

Roy Koenig/TSM

Svenby said they contacted some eligible families for this year's event, but they didn't feel the time was right, "So what can we do to still give back? We reached out to the Oncology Department (of Owatonna Hospital-Allina Health) and asked for them to do something that creates comfort for their patients or a celebration at the end."

This year also did not have a timing mechanism, leaving runners to time themselves if they desired. A number of community members sat at the end of their driveways to cheer on runners as in the past. Owatonna Police and the local bike club provided support. Athletic Trainer "TC" and his staff were on-hand and ready to assist. As a participant, I appreciate all the time and effort those individuals put in to support the cause.

"It was a great day and we're glad people came out. And everybody, put the first Saturday of May on your calendar for 2022 and we're going to be back to normal."

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