Ex-Vikings star humbled by Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge at marathon

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			Ex-Vikings star humbled by Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge at marathon
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Former Vikings star Alan Page will be at his usual spot at the corner of Knox and Douglas in Minneapolis playing the sousaphone when the 2022 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon gets underway at 8 a.m. Sunday. But this race will be a bit different.

Page is humbled by marathon organizers having unveiled The Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge. The challenge honors Page along with Diane Page, his late wife, for having been dedicated fans cheering along the marathon route.

“The neat thing is they’re doing it in Diane’s and my name,’’ Page said Saturday. “That’s kind of special.”

The defensive tackle played in the NFL from 1967-81, including 1967-78 with the Vikings, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. He later served as an associate justice for the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1993-2015.

Page and his wife, who died in 2018, were longtime runners who began in the late 1980s to stand along the marathon route each year to cheer on the runners. Page, who had run about 10 marathons up until the late 1980s, got plenty of publicity for playing sousaphone, a large tuba-like instrument.

For this year’s event, marathon organizers decided to honor the family by inviting local groups to join The Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge. There were 46 groups that signed up, and $3,000 will be donated to charities chosen by groups that emerge as winners.

“I was quite moved that they wanted to do that, but most importantly that they wanted to include Diane,’’ Page said. “It’s really kind of neat the organizations that will be out there that will be cheering on the runners. Hopefully, this will become an annual event.”

More than 9,000 participants will take part in the marathon and nearly 11,000 in the 10-mile race, which gets underway at 6:54 a.m. More than 300,000 are expected along the route, which runs from U.S. Bank Stadium to the State Capitol, and cheer zones will be at various spots along the route.

“(Page is) so recognizable and respected and inspiring in the community that we thought he was the natural person to connect to our event,’’ said Dean Orton, president of Twin Cities in Motion. “Really rooted in it is the amazing dedication that both him and his late wife have had with the marathon. … They would go out and rally the community and cheer on everybody. He generally understands the importance of community coming together and the beauty of the human spirit.”

There will be five divisions of cheer groups, which are neighborhood association or on-course resident, run club or run store, non-profit organization, community group and sponsors or corporations. Judges have been assigned to vote on the best cheering groups, and race participants also will be able to vote. The overall winning group will receive $1,000 for charity, and four other category winning groups will each get $500.

The marathon is in it’s 40th year. One difference is that a Vikings game for the first time will be going on at the same time. The Vikings will face the New Orleans Saints in London in a game that kicks off at 8:30 a.m., but Page doesn’t expect that will take away many race fans.

“They can enjoy the marathon and get home and catch some of the game or they can just dial the game up on their phones,’’ he said.

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