Monday, October 25, 2010

A successful beginning: Recapping the Mankato Marathon

A few scattered thoughts on what was a memorable first marathon weekend in Mankato. I would have gotten around to this earlier, but a combination of work, icing and 'Inception' in the cheap seats conspired against it:

  • Hats off to the marathon organizers for setting up the pasta feed like they did. Rather than crowding everyone into one area for it (which would have been tough at the Verizon Center with Colorado College in town to play the Mavericks), they set it up at multiple restaurants all over town. Each restaurant also had it's own unique style of pasta on the menu. Not only does it help get local businesses involved with the marathon weekend, but it makes it possible to accommodate a large number of race participants (a number that will probably get bigger in the future, more on that late).
  • Local businesses seemed to take definite interest in the inaugural race. Aside from the pasta feed and numerous sponsors setting up stands at the expo, there was a healthy amount of coupons to be found in participants' race packets and goodie bags. This offers further encouragement that the marathon will have some definite staying power in the community. Also, it gives me an excuse to finally try out Number 4 for dinner.
  • Even though he didn't participate in the actual marathon (apparently due to a knee problem), getting Dick Beardsley to speak at the expo and sound off the start of the race was a nice touch. New races often take a year or two to catch on in a community, and getting a running legend like Beardsley (click here for a video of his famous Boston Marathon race) involved instantly gave the event credibility.
  • I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the race course. Maybe I'm a little biased because I've biked/ran on the Red Jacket Trail more times than I can count, but I thought it was the ideal area to run the marathon through town without completely blocking off traffic. In my limited experience with racing (this was my third half marathon and there were people running Saturday whose have done more than 50), here's the checklist I have for what makes a good race course. Feel free to chime in with more suggestions:
  1. Did the course showcase the city it was in? You bet it did. As my column in Sunday's paper indicated, the race almost served as a tour guide through Mankato. All that was missing was Minneopa Falls and Glen Taylor's mansion.
  2. Was the course clearly marked and easy to navigate? Very much so. There were twists and turns along the way, but each one was clearly marked with signs and volunteers were usually available to keep runners on track.
  3. Did it have ample spots for people to watch? It wasn't a constant wave of cheering spectators, but there was definitely a fair share of people lining the course throughout the race. The biggest crowds I remember seeing were at Sibley Park, Mount Kato and Front Street.
  4. Was it challenging without being overwhelming? I can't speak for the full marathon runners (I heard the hill for that course around Mile 4 was tough but manageable because it was early in the race), but surprisingly, the toughest part of the half marathon was actually a downhill slope. The hill along Hawthorn Road was a doozy to run down and probably led to plenty of runners nursing sore hips the next day.
  5. Were there plenty of water/aid stations? They had stations set up every 2 miles or so with EMT staff stationed throughout the course. The only thing I wish they would've had is a halfway point station with sport gel and energy shots.
  6. Did it have a picturesque spot for the finish line? Front Street was an excellent choice for the last few blocks of the race. Lots of history, vibrant downtown area and plenty of spots for spectators. It's hard to top finishing at the lift bridge and Canal Park in Duluth for Grandma's Marathon, but this was pretty darn good.
  • Even while attending the marathon forum last winter, I could tell that Mark Bongers and staff didn't intend for this to be a small-time event. They wanted to organize a premier race with the ability to grow in the future. If the inaugural race was any indication, they've most certainly done that. The 2,000-person registration filled early (with estimations that close to a 1,000 interested runners missed out) and according to the notebook in Sunday's marathon section of the Free Press, Bongers intends to bump up the registration to at least 4,000 next year, if not more. After running the race, I can say that the course can definitely accommodate more runners (aside from the start, it was never crowded). The only way I could see them needing to tweak the course is staggering the starts of the three races, and even that might be unnecessary.
  • Not that it has anything to do with the actual weekend festivities, but the fact that Bongers and his staff were so prompt about cleaning up after the marathon is just a further testament to how organized they were. There's hardly any evidence downtown that more than 2,000 runners raced through there on Saturday, and I'm sure Mankato residents and businesses appreciate that fact.
  • This is the first race I've ever done where I got to walk from the finish line back to my apartment. I could definitely get used to that, though in hindsight, a Bloody Mary at Pub500 immediately after the race wouldn't have been a bad idea either.
  • As far as how the race went for me, as the photo on the right (I'm the one rocking the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt) would indicate, I'm hardly a paradigm for good running form. However, despite concerns about a recently-sore hip and side aches coming into play around Mile 10, I held up pretty well. I ran the entire race without stopping, passed the 1:35 pacer with a couple miles to go and finished with a time of 1:33:46. It's close to 5 minutes behind my half marathon time earlier this year, but considering how much less I trained for this one (averaged about 20-25 miles a week for 8 weeks), I was more than happy with it. Another plus: I'm not all that sore from it.

No comments:

Post a Comment