All of my other marathon posts seem to have the "three parts" theme going, so it probably fits for this writing. On the second of May, I ran the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha. It is combined with a half-marathon, and a delayed start 5k. I had a terrible experience, but I came away with some fantastic personal post-race analysis.
1) Terrible Marathon Course
Pre-race logistics were fantastic. There were plenty of port-a-pots that I was in line for less than two minutes, with only fifteen minutes before the race started. Most other races I have been to include extremely long lines that snake out even a half hour before race start. The gear check was easily accessible and close to the start line. The self-seeded corrals were large enough that there was no crowding at any of the pace signs (at least from what I could see between the 7:00/mile and the 10:00/mile corrals). The race started on time, and most people seemed to do pretty well in that first mile at keeping with their selected pace.
The first twelve miles shared the same course as the half-marathon. There were a few gently rolling, small hills, and the pavement was almost always in good condition. Water stops were a little far apart and a little understaffed, but it was a small race and I can accept that. Had the weather been any warmer at this point (and runners thus taking more time at the tables), it would have been a real hindrance to anyone trying to run while grabbing water. The very northern point of the course had a long bend to the right, just before the turn-around, which seemed to stretch on forever - but that's just a mental part of the course, not something I would deduct from the quality score of the course.
However, once the half-marathon turned around to head to their finish, the course took a complete nose-dive. Cheering was already lacking in the northern half, but it became almost non-existent in the southern half. However, I figure that is part of being a small field. One of the worst parts of the course where patches on gravel. Not that nicely packed, small grain gravel - no, this was freshly dumped, large, pointy rocks with sharp edges that jam into your foot through the thin racing shoes. I felt really bad for anyone running in minimal or five-finger shoes. That would have been just disastrous. The worst part was between miles 18 and 20. It was two long miles, at the very southern point in the race, that were completely without shade and on freshly laid, sticky, heat-radiating, jet black pavement $endash; with one water station. Absolute, race killing, misery. My pace was slipping going into that stretch, but that took everything out of me. I had nothing left by the time I pulled out of that awful zone.
2) Poor On Course Support
As I mentioned before, the water stations (with Gatorade) were small. They were also spaced a bit farther apart than I was comfortable with. Allegedly, they also ran out of Gatorade at the last two stations shortly after I had passed them (a friend who finished fifteen minutes behind me said they were out of Gatorade). I don't know if this was because of lack of volunteers or not buying enough for the size of the field, but that seems to be a huge oversight. Additionally, there was nothing but water and Gatorade on course, and one table of PowerGel around mile 19. I would have killed for a banana at each hydration station after mile 20, and I'm sure those following me were in even worse shape.
3) Sad Post-Race Party
The website advertises "Our race offers everything you can dream of, plus our famous Big Cheese Medal and a brat and beer at our Post Race Party!" Directly after the finish line was water in bottles (good), bananas (great), plain bagels (acceptable), and chocolate milk (the best). However, that was it (well, there might have been Gatorade, but I didn't go looking for it). The Big Cheese Medal isn't all that big - but there's a picture of cheese on it. My pet peeve is that it is the same medal for the full and the half marathon - only the ribbon is different. The brat was less than special, and cut in half and stuffed into a pita - a PITA! Who puts a brat in a pita? It goes in a bun! The only condiment options were yellow mustard and ketchup. This is Wisconsin - brats are a culinary staple. How did they screw it up this badly? And the beer was probably a 6 oz serving. Very weak.
Overall, I would not recommend that marathon. If you happen to be in Kenosha, first ask yourself why you're in Kenosha; then, see if you can run the half-marathon. I would have probably had a very positive race experience if all I ran was the half-marathon; it's a shame the race was so terrible on the back half of the course.
Random footnote: if I had run the 5k, I would have placed first overall for men, possibly first overall. The top three times were:
- 19:25 - Leslie Patterson, 32F
- 19:54 - Samantha Helgesen, 26F
- 21:32 - Jeffery Kiekhofer, 31M