I was really impressed with Minneapolis as a city first and foremost – especially from my perspective as a visiting runner; there were walking trails and biking trails (yes in dual configuration) all over the city. In fact nearly everywhere I went driving around there were bikers (bicyclists) out in force. Walked around Lake Calhoun in downtown Minneapolis and there were people walking and biking everywhere… of note though is that it was late May (30th) and it was decidedly chilly out.
So… on with it… race morning. At a hotel in Bloomington got up about 4:10am, got ready without rousing anyone and slipped out the door. Down to the lobby to grab a complimentary coffee and the desk staff is not so surprised to see anyone up getting coffee, but lost their composure when I headed out the door into the dark.
About half a mile down the road I catch a bus for the Route 55 Hiawatha line. Normally I could have caught the train for a 33 minute trip (which was another half mile down the road), however it was not to be. As luck would have it there was construction for a 2-3 day period on the train depots at the time and a bus had to suffice for a couple of stops. After a short bus ride though, jumped on the train at the airport (Humphrey station) and headed downtown to Government plaza. It’s amazing to me, public transit. I’ve used it in London, Boston, Atlanta, and now Minneapolis — but never anywhere I lived… it never ceases to amaze me how damn convenient it is to ride all over the city for a couple bucks. The Minneapolis Metro even had bike racks inside the trains. Old hat to any urban dweller of these cities of course, but a source of delight and wonder for me from small town America (and next to KC with no trains, and no reason for me to ride the Metro). Despite the construction I was able to plan my trip online (nice website) and get downtown in no time.
Nice downtown too… clean, uncluttered, friendly people. Well I get to the staging area about 5:30ish I think it was… not much to do now. Sat down and laced in my timing chip since I had hurriedly wedged it in prior… I had time to burn… so… got that laced in… chit-chatted with a few people. Instantly recognized John Larson – one of the race organizers who requested to be my friend on facebook right after I signed up for the marathon in February… so that was fun to see the man behind the plan. The rest of the morning consisted of watching people arrive, donning vaseline, hiding my jacket, and fitting into the starting slot that I picked somewhere in the vicinity of the 9 minute mile.
As the race began I noted it was not particularly crowded despite the large number of people. The start line was well spread out over well more than a city block. We ran around town somewhat… crossing the Mississippi river on Broadway Ave. bridge, running under an art museum wing, through a quaint theater district, back along the river… really all quite scenic and pleasant. This section ended as mile 6 approached and we neared the area of the starting line. It was here we got to a large water stop with a long row of port-a-potties. Here – there was a temporary chaos.
There was a large amount of spectators, and it was still early in the race so it hadn’t quite thinned out as much as it does after 1/2 marathon turn. People were in and out of the port-o-pots, running back and forth to find a vacant one, getting water, seeking spectators… just some general chaos. Here coming up on the port-o-pots I attempted to determine if there were lines for any of them, or if there was probably a vacant one somewhere in the row of 20… I then observed a female run up to a stall – open the door – and then quickly shut it and run off to another. Then as I got closer I observed the same thing happen again… Well curiosity got the best of me, and as I got closer saw that the stalls on all sides were occupied already… save this one. I opened the door slowly, half expecting someone to be in there but instead there was a stall that was COVERED from floor to ceiling with uh… well it was bad. Someone had a blow out… and it was in such a fashion that I’m not entirely sure how such decoration was even possible… yeah think about it. I guess you might have had to see it. But… WHY!?! HOW!?! WHO!?? WHERE!? Eh who cares… so what did I do? Took a piss of course!!! EWWWWWW You say? Well, I had to piss ok!? And look… I didn’t have to view it at all… guys after all have that little side thing so I was just able to turn away from the er, backdrop, and quickly urinate while holding my breath. Well, I really had to pee and my breath didn’t hold out (remember I was in the middle of running a marathon). I began to realize that using this one may have been a mistake. Just before I was overwhelmed with the need to regurgitate I threw the door open and took off back on the trail! The door didn’t even shut behind me as someone else grabbed it attempting entry. I guarantee they didn’t use it… it was another female.
Well… with the foul memory quickly fading behind me I headed off into the next era of the course. Here was a long road of fresh asphalt along the Mississippi river which seemed to either be flat or sloping downwards. Nice. A couple of miles down this road is where we started running into Half-Marathoners on their way back. It’s always fun to see those guys the first few are always flying, and then gradually increase in numbers and pace.
This continued for a while, and it was during this time that I began to notice some chanting coming from in front of me. It was the 4 hour pace group. I was curious enough but continued on my gradual catch up. About mile 9 or 10 I caught them. It wasn’t quite as fun for some reason as it had sounded when I was just within earshot. Here, there was an overly enthusiastic pacer who had all of the best intentions and seemed to be doing a good job – and from listening to some of his talk I believe he said he ran a marathon in about 3:10 or so… so, he obviously knew what he was doing. I’m not sure – but I think he was not happy with anyone that wasn’t running with him. He pleaded with those around him to not go too fast – to stick with him – and other things. He didn’t stop talking for a period of any more than about 10 seconds. This wasn’t necessarily entirely bad – there were inspirational quips, solid advice, small talk, among other things… but it was a bit too chattery for my taste. I began to pull away.
At about mile 13 I’d left this pace group behind and was continuing to pull away. It was here that the course dropped almost straight down a hill… one of the steepest hills I’ve ever seen! I pretty much had to walk down this hill to avoid barreling into a tumbling mass of broken limbs… others were too and there was a race volunteer set up to warn people. It would have been fun to try to run up – on a training run that is. At the bottom of this hill the course continued to my surprise on a dirt path which disappeared into the woods! Well this course had more to it than I thought! A long trail back into the woods in Snelling State Park was the next section of the course. It was so peaceful and nice (the temperature was perfect) that I could scarcely believe I was in downtown Minneapolis still! I was however quickly reminded as a jumbo jet roared directly overhead… and when I say directly I mean I could read the PSI rating off of the landing gear tires. The Airport was *directly* above the path to my right, as I see now looking at google maps satellite photos, but – I could have told you that. Well… an occasional plane wasn’t too bad. The course continued for about 4 miles or so on this dirt trail… passing signs with info about the area that I would have liked to stop and read… running around Snelling Lake and Gun Club Lake(?). This was an out and back section with a timing mat at the furthest point, 16 miles into the race. I crossed at 2:23:32 – up to this point, an 8:58 pace.
So coming back out of this, at about mile 18… ok *NOW* I’m starting to get fatigued… but I’m pressing on. Legs hurting. Head wants to quit. Legs keep going anyway. About mile 20, we’re back on a road, one we were on before for the last trek back to the finish line…. a 10k to go… and I can’t believe this as it dawns on me: ANOTHER HOUR TO GO. That was one long hour. The minutes were creeping by, as I checked my watch every few seconds. And here, the 4 hour pace group has caught me. I was at one point a minute or two ahead of them. Now I’m slowing down… and I tested for minute to see if I could keep pace with them… nope. Not quite. And here we have a nasty exchange I witnessed… but I guess everyone might get a little testy at mile 21. Guy in front of me that is dropping back (like me) comments to a couple other racers that are dropping back that, “If I keep this pace I’ll have to listen to this guy for the next five miles” — meaning the 4 hour pacer. Yes he was still at it with the stream of encouragement, advice, and cheering. You don’t really hear runners get negative too often… at least I haven’t heard such. But this pacer guy was just a little much. Someone else comments to the negative guy “well, you just go on with yourself there” – to which he replies “don’t worry, we’ll see each other again” – hey … I didn’t say it would make sense. Maybe delirium was setting in.
From about mile 22 to the finish, I ran by myself. Everyone was spread out and at this point I was passing people walking left and right — but I was barely “running” myself. I was beat and the sun was really starting to beat down on the fresh asphalt (remember? that same fresh asphalt that I had kind of liked 16 miles ago). I trudged to the finish line… maintaining a “run” even up some last son of a bitch hill finishing at 4:02:37 according to the “gun” clock.
I had been on track to run about a 3:55ish finish, which would have been a PR for me – but 4:01:17 (net time) was still something I was satisfied with. I wonder though, if I had just stuck with the 4 hour pacer… instead of pulling ahead for miles 13-20, if I wouldn’t have finished at just under 4 hours? A little ironic in my mind, but it is what it is.
Nice city, nice course, nice run, nice time. That’s 2 states down and 48 to go!
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