Thursday, October 21, 2010

Checking out the marathon course

Throwing tapering principles to the wind yesterday, I finally got around to checking out the Mankato 1/2 Marathon course for my last training. Call it pre-race nerves, but I figured it'd be nice to know what to expect on Saturday. Besides, one of the perks of running a race in your own town is having the ability to do so.

Mind you, I didn't run through the entire course. I bypassed the Sibley Park portion of the course to keep the run relatively short (about 9 1/2 miles). However, I later drove through the park to see if all the flood debris had been cleared off the running trail. From what I saw, it appears the National Guard and everyone else involved did a bang-up job cleaning alongside the river. So marathon participants won't have to worry about running through the mud.

Other observations about the course:

  • I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that the wind is either minimal or constantly at runner's backs on Saturday, because the first several miles of the course (most of the South Route Trail) offers little to no wind cove. Granted, I decided to do this run when there was a 20-30 mph wind advisory in Mankato, all of which was blowing right into my face for the first 5 miles. It's not likely to be THAT windy on Saturday (though the forecast does call for rain), but it could still make things tough for runners.
  • The main reason for doing this run was to see how my legs would handle the steep downhill area on the South Route Trail (Miles 4-5 for the 1/2 marathon, 17-18 for the full). When I first heard that the course included that hill, I was concerned that the steepness of it would cause a logjam of runners to topple over each other on their way down, not unlike siblings accidentally knocking each other down a crowded stairwell at dinnertime (not a regular occurrence in my family, but it happened). After all, I've never known the hill to be a barrel of fun to bike up. However, after running down the hill, I can say that it is definitely steep (and hard on the hips, as I'm still feeling it today), but it's nothing for runners to be worried about. The only concern is if rains and the course gets a little slick.
  • The Red Jacket portion of the trail (Miles 6-9 for the 1/2, 19-22 for the full) is a section of trail I've ran countless times in the past, so there was nothing new for me to learn there. It's a very scenic stretch with a good canopy of trees for most of it and, more importantly, no serious hills to climb.
  • I didn't run through Sibley Park for that training run, but I have ran through that area before. There's a slight hill coming out of the park along the river (roughly Mile 11 for the 1/2, 24 for the full), but beyond that, runners needn't fret about it. It's an easy park to run through and should also be a good viewing spot for spectators.
  • I'm actually kind of excited for the home stretch of the race. Front Street seems like an excellent place for runners to close in on the finish line. There's good viewing spots for family and friends, and it has a cavernous appeal to it for runners. If my legs can hold up until then, I'm sure the cheering of the crowd will help get the adrenaline pumping for the last few strides.

That's about all I can think of. Until Saturday, my plan is to stretch the legs out, ice the hip and get my fair share of pasta intake. The last training run was enough work.

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