Linda Rieke runs the Afton 25K Trail Run in July at Afton State Park in Hastings, Minnesota. Rieke finds joy in running both trail races and road races. 
Linda Rieke runs the Afton 25K Trail Run in July at Afton State Park in Hastings, Minnesota. Rieke finds joy in running both trail races and road races. PHOTO SUBMITTED
FRANKLIN, Minn. – On most Saturday mornings, you can find Linda Rieke running down one of the gravel roads of rural Renville County. This Franklin-area dairy farmer and mom of three relies on running to help her find balance in her life.
“You put a lot of work into the farm and taking care of the kids,” Rieke said. “You need something that brings you joy. For me, that’s running.”
Rieke farms with her husband, Andy. They bought the farm Rieke grew up on in 2015, after farming in partnership with Rieke’s father, James Kanne, for eight years. The Riekes have 56 cows and farm 260 acres of pasture and cropland.
The Riekes also have three children: Alana, 9, Connor, 6, and Colby, 3.
After competing as a sprinter in high school and college, Rieke never imagined long distance running would one day bring her joy.
“I actually ended college injured, and figured I was done running forever,” Rieke said.
But in 2015 after Connor was born, Rieke signed up for a local 5K race and found herself once again hooked on running. In 2016, she ran both a 5K and a 10K race.
“I finished the 10K and thought, ‘I can’t believe I just ran six miles’,” Rieke said. “In high school, our track coach frequently had us run a four-mile square. As soon as he was out of sight, I’d start walking.”
Those first races quickly led to longer races.
“My friend Becky said, ‘You should run a half marathon,” Rieke said.
Rieke first met Becky Vos at the Fairfax Public Library, where Rieke has worked part-time as an assistant librarian since 2012. She said the library position is another way she brings balance and joy into her life. Rieke and Vos found they had a lot in common, since Vos grew up on a dairy farm in Stearns County, and soon started running together on weekends.
“I never would have got into longer distance running without Becky,” Rieke said.
Rieke followed Vos’ encouragement and signed up for a half-marathon in 2017.
“The Earth Day Half Marathon in St. Cloud was one of the best days of my life,” Rieke said.
With several additional half marathons now behind her, longer distance running is part of Rieke’s way of life. She runs three or four days each week, with shorter runs during the week and a long run early on Saturday morning.
“During the week, I run whenever it works. Sometimes that’s right after morning chores; sometimes it’s right before evening chores,” Rieke said.
Rieke milks most mornings with Andy and every night with one of their three high school employees. Another part-time employee covers milking on Friday and Saturday mornings so Rieke can work her shift at the library. Rieke’s father also continues to help with farm chores as needed.
Currently, Rieke is finishing up an impressive 2021 running season. She started the season with the Superior (Spring) 25K trail race in Lutsen, Minnesota, which is run on the Superior Hiking Trail in the Sawtooth Mountain Range. She ran that race with her sister-in-law, Amy Rieke. They initially signed up to run the race in 2020, but got bumped to 2021 when the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“I might have been a little undertrained for that race,” Rieke said. “Most of my running is on flat land. I’ve never been up there before, and I didn’t realize how brutal the trail was.”
Following the Superior run, Rieke ran the Afton 25K Trail Race at Afton State Park and the Richfield Wildland Half Marathon in July.
She also ran in the Minnesota Ragnar Relay in August. Ragnar is an overnight, 200-plus mile race from St. Paul to Duluth. Rieke and her 11 relay team members each ran two of the 8-mile legs of the race.
Rieke’s last longer race of the season will be the Mankato Half Marathon Oct. 16.
And she’s already started thinking about next summer.
“I’m thinking about tackling the full marathon next year. I love Duluth, so the Grandma’s Marathon in June would be amazing,” Rieke said. “But a marathon is a big scary thing to think about.”
If she decides to run Grandma’s Marathon, the training plan Rieke follows for building up to longer distances would require her to start running in January. She doesn’t usually run in the winter, relying instead on indoor cross-training to carry her through to the next running season.
Full marathon or not, Rieke is sure to be running again next summer.
“I keep running because it’s good stress relief,” Rieke said. “Farming is very stressful. And so is living through a pandemic. I always come back from a run feeling refreshed and happy that I did it.”