ST. CLOUD -- The atmosphere was electric at Halenbeck Hall Saturday as over 1,600 runners were in St. Cloud for the 16th annual Earth Day Half-Marathon.

The energy was palpable as smiling runners were gearing up for the first big race of the Spring on a cool and sunny morning -- perfect conditions for a run.

Mark Morris, Danielle Nies, and the rest of the Minnesota Pacers Pace Team were in town to help runners achieve their goals in the half-marathon.

"We're pretty much cheerleaders," Morris says.

Pacers motivate their group of runners to keep up a certain pace for each mile during the half-marathon.

"So people who have specific goals, we make sure they cross the finish line," Nies says.

"It's fun to go out there and encourage people, especially if it's their first race, that for me is hands-down my favorite part."

Morris says getting to interact with the runners during the race is what he looks forward to.

"I hear a lot of stories [talking] to people in my group -- if I can talk to them, if they're not dying," Morris says.

"You get to hear a lot of neat stories from runners from across the country, so it's just a unique opportunity -- it's unlike anything else."

A post-race party featuring the band Hairball will be held tonight (Saturday) at 8:00 p.m. at Bernick's Arena in Sartell.

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON