One Saturday morning last month, Heather Lovell and her mother found a spot along the route of the ninth annual St. Francis Franny Flyer, a charity racing event in Sartell, Minnesota. They were planning to help motivate her 9-year-old son, Kade, as he neared the end of the 5-km race he was running, but he never showed up.
Lovell recalled thinking that Kade was having a bad race.
“I sent my mom out to go drive the course and she’s like, ‘Heather, he’s not here,’ ” Lovell said. She wondered if Kade had been hurt along the 3.1-mile route.
The scary situation had a happy ending for Kade, who veered off course in the 5K race only to end up accidentally winning the 10K being run at the same time, his mother said.
In an interview on Tuesday, Lovell said that during Kade’s run — one of four races organized as part of the event, including a 1K race for children — the boy was redirected along the route by a volunteer who assumed he was a 10K runner.
Lovell, who described the day of the race, Sept. 21, as rainy and “miserable,” said a volunteer “told him to go straight when he should have turned.”
“It kind of confused him a bit,” she said. “He listened to what the lady said and followed her direction.”
Lovell said she was “freaking out” and had begun asking volunteers if anyone had seen her son. A spectator whose brother-in-law was running the 10K told Lovell that the brother-in-law said a boy was doing “really well” in the race, Lovell recalled.
When Lovell finally found Kade on the 6.2-mile route, she said, she told him he was “in so much trouble.”
“Why would you do this?” she recalled asking him. “We’re freaking out worrying about you.”
After finishing the race, Kade and his mother learned that he had finished first — not just for his age group, but for the entire 10K race.
Lovell said a race official later switched Kade’s race registration from the 5K race to the 10K so he could medal.
Kade finished in 48 minutes 17 seconds — nearly a full minute faster than the runner-up.
Kade, who placed second in the same 5K race last year and had never run a 10K before last month, said over the phone that it was “really exciting” to be a winner. He trains three times a week, he said.
“My best goal is to run, like be the fastest runner ever and, like, run the fastest marathon,” he said.
It’s not uncommon to see children enter the St. Francis Franny Flyer, according to Nick Novak, the race director.
“There are many elementary-age students that are exceptional runners and they don’t want to run the smaller races,” he said on Tuesday. “They want to run with the adults.”
Novak said he was impressed by Kade’s speed. “To come in with that kind of time, it’s just incredible,” he said.
Novak said 225 people competed in the various St. Francis Franny Flyer events.
The average age for the 10K runners was 38, he said, and 35 for the 5K runners.
“It was a celebration,” Novak said of Kade’s win. “Many people went up and congratulated him. He’s such a great kid and we’re so proud of him.”
The Lovell family have been living in nearby St. Cloud, Minnesota, for about a year, Lovell said, adding that Kade has been running competitively for three years.
“We have been putting him in a bunch of 5Ks,” she said. “He’s training for the Junior Olympics in Wisconsin in December.”