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RUNNING: Will Saturday be Miller's fourth time?

Will the fifth annual Run for the Lakes Marathon continue to be Miller time?

Casey Miller of Baxter has won the last three events, but he’s not certain he can make it four in a row. He said his friend, Pat Russell of St. Paul, plans to participate Saturday and Russell has finished marathons in 2 hours, 22 minutes. Miller’s best time is 2:39.13.

Last year, Miller won Run for the Lakes in 2:40.44 after finishing in 2:39:49 in 2010 and 2:43:10 in 2009.

“I’d have to run extremely well, and he would have to have a real off day, for me to win,” said Miller, who won the Run for the Lakes half marathon in 2008. “He’s running the time I’m trying to run. But any time you race that far anything can happen.”

Saturday will mark the 12th marathon for the 33-year-old math teacher at the Alternative Education Center in Brainerd. He ran the Boston Marathon last year, and has done the Fargo and Grandma’s marathons among others.

In his estimation, no course is as beautiful as the Run for the Lakes course, which wraps around or near Lake Hubert, and Clark, Rice, Lower Cullen and Nisswa lakes.

“When you’re racing you get tired and it doesn’t matter what the course looks like, all you’re thinking about is how you feel,” Miller said. “A couple weeks ago, I ran a couple loops on the course. It was kind of nice to slow down and enjoy it.

“It’s a beautiful course. You get a new perspective than when you’re counting down the miles and the minutes left to run. It was fun looking around and seeing what the course is like. It’s a very nice course. The scenery is probably the best I’ve run by.”

Miller, who estimates he’s in his 23rd year of running after taking about three years off during that span, has implemented a new training regimen this year.

“It’s an 18-week program,” he said. “I wanted to swap an easy day for a rest day, and I ended up running 102 straight days before I took a break. That was more than I’ve ever run before. I did take a couple days off last month. I’m just kind of tapering now.

“It’s nice (training is) finally coming to an end. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of time. I could complain but my buddy’s got some injury stuff going on. I’m thankful I’ve been able to stay healthy, so I try not to complain. I know there are many people who would be happy to be running right now.”

Miller concedes he’s probably addicted to distance running. Running one marathon drives marathoners to attempt another.

“For any person with a competitive background, running a certain time you always think you can do better,” he said. “You change your training, and run another one. Then you think you can do better than that one and you become addicted to training and try and get a better time than the previous one.”

Run For Lakes updates

Race director Mary Zimmerman anticipates about 1,200 runners will compete in the weekend festivities, which include a kids fun run and 5-kilometer family fun run Friday, followed by a 10K and the marathon, half marathon and relay marathon Saturday.

This year will mark the first time a 10km event has been offered in conjunction with Run for the Lakes.

“We’re real excited about that,” Zimmerman said. “It’s very popular. A lot of runners have registered for that.”

Among the festivities is a health and fitness expo, presented by Essentia Health, that is open to the public. Vendors will give away free samples.

In addition, there will be a free beer tasting event at Ye Olde Pickle Factory on Saturday.

Zimmerman said the 2012 course has been altered slightly. The start line will be across from Carlson Hardware in downtown Nisswa with the finish near the community center.

“Everything is right in town,” she said. “We think that will create a better atmosphere.”