Madison Hirsch is not exactly a marathon expert when it comes to running those 26-plus miles.

Not counting a “virtual” one, Sunday’s Med-City Marathon was only her second at 26 miles, but she felt something was up when she was escorted virtually the entire way by a bicyclist. As it turned out, that was the lead cyclist.

“I figure I was leading,” said the 27-year-old Hirsch, “but by how much I had no idea. And I wasn’t about to find out, either, No way did I want to turn back to see who was behind me. Or how far they were behind. I was happy with the way I was going,”

If she did look back, there would have been no one around. Hirsch led virtually the entire way to comfortably win Sunday’s women’s portion of the Med-City Marathon. If the race were a prize fight, the referee would have called it in the second round.

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“I felt good; I really enjoyed the day,” said Hirsch, who won with a time of 3:12.18, some 8 minutes in front of Arianna Whitney of Chatfield, who was second in 3:20.21

Abi Salm of Plymouth was third in 3:27.22.

“This was a personal record,” Hirsch said. “I ran a 3:23 at Grandma’s in 2019 and I also did a virtual time of 3:23 last year at Grandma’s."

So this was her only second marathon in front of fans, clocks and traffic control.

“My goal going into (the race) was a Boston qualifier (3:30),” Hirsch said. “So I felt good to accomplish that. I’m not sure I will go to Boston next year, but I can at least say I qualified.”

Hirsch comes to Rochester by way of California and Duluth.

She was raised in California, went to school at Cal Poly Obispo and more recently graduated from nursing school at the College of Scholastica in Duluth.

Last October, she moved to Rochester and currently works as a nurse at Mayo Clinic.

“Somewhere in there, I started running seriously,” she said. “Before, I was more into recreationally running and even played golf in school.”

Sunday’s race was run on a new course. This one had two half-marathon loops.

She enjoyed almost every step of the way.

“The second time around I knew where all the water stops were at,” Hirsch said. “I knew what to expect. But then again, you had to run that hill for a second time. At the 20-mile mark of the race, that didn’t help.”

"That hill" is on West Circle Drive, just north of the History Center of Olmsted County. The first time up, it came at about the six-mile mark and was tolerable for Hirsch.

The second time was at the 20-mile mark and was much, much tougher.

"Not a whole lot of fun,” she said, “but you deal with it.”

About six week ago, Hirsch decided to sign up for the Med-City.

Runners make their way through Silver Lake Park during the Med City Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Runners make their way through Silver Lake Park during the Med City Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do this fall,” she said. "But now, of course, I’m glad I ran this one.

“Winning a trophy kind of makes my day.”

Anna Sanchez was the only other southeastern Minnesotan in the top 10. She finished ninth among women and 30th overall with a time of 3:37.24.

Jia Xuan Huang of Shenandoah, Iowa, was the defending women’s champion, winning the 2019 Med-City in 3:25.18. She was not entered on Sunday.