The Briggs and Al’s Run is a Milwaukee staple, so there was a lot of anticipation for Saturday’s race after a two-year absence due to the pandemic.
It felt like a triumphant return on a sun-kissed morning, with almost 8,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes streaming from Marquette University’s campus to the Summerfest grounds to benefit Children’s Wisconsin.
The race, began by former MU basketball coach Al McGuire in 1978, has always drawn a mixture of super-competitive elite runners and participants looking to have a fun time while supporting a good cause. As usual, the winners of the 8K event were a mixture of both.
Annamarie Strehlow has competed in several Al’s Runs, but this one was special. Not only because the race was back on Milwaukee’s streets, but the 32-year-old physical therapist at Froedert Hospital was using it as part of her training for the Ironman World Championship that begins Oct. 6 in Kona, Hawaii.
Strehlow was the fastest women’s finisher in 30 minutes 22 seconds, so she is definitely in a good place.
“This is just a challenging part of my build into the world championships,” she said. “It’s a perfect race. It’s great to get out and support the Milwaukee community. It’s a historic race. It’s one of the oldest races in Milwaukee.”
Strehlow, a 2009 Mequon Homestead graduate, played soccer at the University of St. Thomas and then got into trail running when she was studying physical therapy at St. Scholastica. That led to marathons, including competing in Boston in 2016, and then ironman races.
Her physical therapy work helps with the punishing preparation.
“In many ways,” Strehlow said. “Training, post-race, pre-race. Making sure I’m not overdoing it or causing any overuse injuries. There’s a lot of benefits.”
Zach Shoemaker-Allen isn’t preparing for a world championship, he just loves running and getting the chance to hang out with some old friends.
Shoemaker-Allen, 25, competed in track and cross country at UW-La Crosse – he’s even got the school’s logo tattooed on his leg – and jumped at the chance to run with college teammate Josh Schrader.
“It’s all for a good cause,” Shoemaker-Allen said. “It was really just coming out just to see some buddies in Milwaukee. We all ran in college also, so I thought it’d be neat to meet up. It’s all really flat and downhill, too, so that helps.”
Shoemaker-Allen was the top finisher in 26:31 and Schrader was second just 27 seconds behind.
“I got out and I had no clue where anybody was pretty much the whole way,” Shoemaker-Allen said. “I guess I kind of led it and then I’d like peek behind me every mile or so and kind of see somebody but I think I was mostly making distance on people.”
Shoemaker-Allen lives in the Madison area, and can’t stop running even with a busy job at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Middleton. He stays competitive with Wisconsin Runner, a club for post-collegiate athletes.
“It kind of keeps me grounded,” Shoemaker-Allen said. “When I’m not running, I’m a little squirrelly. So it kind of helps me stay focused during the work day. It keeps me calm, I guess.”
It’s been a squirrelly couple years for everybody. That’s why it’s good for the city to have Al’s Run back.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to have everybody back together and to feel the love and support of the community,” Strehlow said. “I think it’s really good for the city of Milwaukee.”