By Jess in Minneapolis
I ran the Madison Mini-Marathon yesterday, August 17, 2013.
Dustin and I were actually in Madison for my cousin’s wedding, so it worked out perfectly that we could run this race as our long run Saturday morning. Two of my sisters ran it as well, though no LL this year (although she did a great job cheering for us from the sidelines!)
This was the fifth year of this half marathon, which also includes a 5k. This half marathon was rated by Runner’s World recently as the #14th best half marathon in the nation.
Runner’s World attributes their high ranking to
1) Great pace teams
2) High-energy course
3) Free beer at the finish.
Aid Stations: I would personally add to Runner’s World’s list that there were plenty of well-manned and well-marked aid stations. In fact, the aid stations had to be the most frequent that I have ever seen at a half marathon. Granted, this race does take place in the middle of August, which historically can probably be pretty hot. Each support stop was definitely welcomed, at least for a quick pour of water on my head! Each aid station had large flags and signs 50 feet beforehand, so you knew they were coming, and you easily plan your GU or other fuel intake. Each station had plenty of volunteers handing out water and Gatorade.
*Best tip? Make eye contact with the person at the aid station and clearly say “WATER” or “GATORADE”. This really helps avoid any spillage or delays.”
Weather: The organizers had a “flag” warning system in place based on the danger level of the weather: Green: Everything is normal. Yellow: Heat index is at a point that runners should slow down and drink plenty of water. Red: Dangerous weather. Timing of the event has stopped. Black: Race has been cancelled due to extreme weather.
By the time I finished yesterday, I overheard someone say that the flag had been changed to yellow, as the temperature was in the 80’s and it was definitely humid. Perhaps it wasn’t PR weather yesterday, but it wasn’t necessarily unbearable. It could have been a lot worse! However, my parents were spectating, and they did say that they saw some runners go down, and there was a girl throwing up right in front of me when I approached the finish line. Poor thing.
SWAG: I would also add to Runner’s World’s comments that the finisher’s medal was really cool. Its actually a beer opener! Only in Wisconsin, right? The finisher’s shirt was dry-fit, but honestly, it wasn’t that great of quality and it was very bright red. (I probably won’t be wearing it again, but I rarely do wear my race shirts again….) But at least the medal was great!
This mini-marathon was also part of the “M2 Challenge” with the Summerfest Rock ‘n’ Sole half marathon. My sister Cresta did both of these races, so that means she was a finisher of the “M2 Challenge” and she received another special medal:
Course: The start line was right outside the student union, which was also walking distance from the Madison Concourse Hotel, where we stayed. (FYI, the Madison Concourse Hotel is a great hotel in a perfect location. If you stay there, be sure to pay up for the Governor’s Club- it includes breakfast and all-you-can-drink cocktails during your stay!)
The race started at 7 am. There was great music playing while we lined up in our corals, which were also very organized. Then, there was a nice rendition of the star-spangled banner, and we were off right on time at 7 am.
The course was really pretty cool. I’m the only one out of the five girls in my family who did not attend the University of Wisconsin- Madison (I was the black sheep, i.e. a Golden Gopher) Even though I didn’t go to school there, I was still somewhat familiar with the city, and I felt that the course really showed off some of the city’s best parts! We ran by the Capitol of course, then the Kohl Center, Camp Randall, and the Henry Vilas Zoo. We ran along the shore of Lake Wingra, and then through the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, where we encountered some hills. Eventually, we made our way back to the lakeshore path, and ended in the same place that we started at the union.
Crowd Support: I was really surprised by the number of people that came out to cheer us on, especially so early on a Saturday morning! There were a lot of good signs along the course. My favorite?
Post-Race Party: The actual finish line was a bit of a cluster when I first crossed. They were handing out a lot of nice goodies (Wisconsin cheddar cheese popcorn, chocolate milk, etc) but they were shuffling us through the chute really quickly. They also didn’t offer up any type of bag to put all the goodies into, so my hands were full of my two water glasses to grab anything. Instead, I just went through the cool water “shower” they had set up (that was a nice touch!) and quickly found Dustin on the terrace of the student union.
We were able to go back towards the place where the rest of my family was spectating and watch my other two sisters come through the finish. They both had good races, and it was fun to share the experience with family.
Personally, I was a little disappointed with my performance. I did okay, considering the warm temperatures and the hills, but I really wanted to be around 1:47. The last half marathon I did was the Kalamazoo half marathon (1:53 with a darn bathroom stop). Before that it was the Get Lucky half marathon (1:50) and the Securian Winter Run (1:50). And the Madison mini-marathon was yet another 1:50…I need to break away from this 1:50 rut! I felt like I started really slow and easy, and had planned to kick it in at mile 8, but what felt like “kicking it in” turned out to be nothing remarkable. Funny how that works. If only mile 7 and 10 would have been a little stronger…
mile 1: 8:38
mile 2: 8:02
mile 3: 8:05
mile 4: 8:14
mile 5: 8:20
mile 6: 8:23
mile 7: 8:37
mile 8: 8:26
mile 9: 8:13
mile 10: 8:41
mile 11: 8:14
mile 12: 8:25
mile 13: 8:17
mile 13.3 (clearly didn’t run the tangents if my Garmin said 13.3 miles total!): 7:16
Expo: I am mentioning this as a bit of an afterthought because I actually did not attend this expo. It was held at Union South on Friday from 10 am to 8 pm. My sister was able to pick up our packets for us on Friday (though she did have to bring copies of our driver’s licenses). She did say that the parking situation at the packet picket was a bit of a disaster. They waited in the parking ramp for over an hour to get out. It was a very busy day on campus as well, as it was move-in day for students. I’m sure the location would have been fine on another day, but it was a lot of time spent for what should be an easy packet pickup.
Overall Experience: Overall, I would give this half marathon a 9/10. I thought the course was really great. There was a lot of crowd support for a half marathon, as well as great aid stations. Other than the expo, the event was really well-organized. I would actually make the drive for this race in the future, especially if I get to run it with my sisters!
**LL, I hope you join us next year!