A couple of days ago, exactly Sunday October 9th, I ran my fifth marathon in Minnesota. The Twin Cities Marathon holds the title for “The most beautiful urban marathon in America.” In a later post I’ll tell you about my personal experience running my fifth marathon, but for now, I want to share some facts about this marathon in case you’re planning on running it someday… and you should!
- Great variety of views and buildings throughout the entire marathon
One of the things I enjoyed the most was the variety of architecture and different landscapes along the way. The Participants Guide has a chart with all the landmarks you’ll be seeing in every mile. From bodies of water to parks, churches, and houses. You start off in downtown Minneapolis, right next to the amazing new US Bank Stadium. Off you go through Minneapolis and run by the Basilica of Saint Mary’s (first basilica in America) and the famous Sculpture Garden -which was closed for renovation, but will be open next year-. Then off you go to run along several beautiful lakes and many lakefront neighborhoods. Then you’ll run across the Mississippi river, and enter St. Paul, where you’ll run through many neighborhoods and finally St. Paul’s Cathedral (smile when you hear those bells! You’re close to the end, my friend!). Every couple of miles you’ll be changing scenery, which is very refreshing when you’re running for such a long time.
VARIETY ALONG THE COURSE: 9/10
2. The whole 26.2 miles is a ginormous cheering zone
This is coming from a person who has run in the happiest and most magical place of Earth, aka Walt Disney World, more than a few times, including 4 half-marathons, 3 marathons, and a marathon relay. If there is a marathon with a larger cheering population than at WDW, I would say it is certainly in Minneapolis-St Paul. No matter which precise mile or km or centimeter you were at, at least dozens of people were there cheering for you. Hundreds of children hi-fiving runners along the way, hundreds of posters encouraging strangers to keep on going, hundreds of spectators generously handing out gummies, candy, fruit, and more.
3. The only incline IS NOT between miles 20-23
The Incline Chart on the Participant Guide showed mostly a declining course with a progressive incline between miles 20-23. The teeny tiny inclines shown on the chart were not so teeny tiny in real life. And they were ALL ALONG THE WAY. I kept listening to some spectator yell ‘just top this little hill and it’s all downhill till the finish’. That I heard about 10 times at least. Make sure your training includes running continuously uphill at least once a week. BIG inclines were never a problem, just the number of climbs here and there all along the course.
ADVERTISED HILLS: 5/10
4. Beware of the LOW temps
Minnesota is cold most of the year. I was expecting around 48ºF race day, according to previous years and to weather forecasts. But then, after I had already packed, a day before leaving for Minneapolis, I rechecked the weather and a bit more cold was expected. On race day we sang the National Anthem before start of the race at 36ºF. Talk about COLD -specially for a person who lives in South Florida-. The marathon had WHITE flags throughout the course. I remember they said it would warm up at some point and they would be able to replace those with Green flags. I only remember seeing white flags (at least until mile 18 all white).
Because you run along many lakes and open spaces, there is cold wind blowing and even though it might feel refreshing, it can take a toll on your breathing. The back of my nose and my throat were extremely cold and sensitive. It was very hard for me to breath because of this, and it lasted, along with a tremendous headache, for more than a couple hours after the race had ended.
PERFECT RUNNING TEMPERATURE: 3/10
5. No ‘Runner Funnels’ whatsoever
Every time race officials release your Wave/Corral, it is pretty normal to take a while to pass slower runners, and the courses tend to narrow a lot, so ‘Runner Funnels’ are expected in most races. I can say I did not encounter any on this Marathon. I started almost in the back of Corral 2, and the pacer warned us about possible congestions along the way, specially at the start and on water stops. None of which were a problem. Two thumbs up!
CONGESTION POINTS: 10/10
6. Excellent water-sports drinks stops
-There are water stops about every 2 miles.
-They were not congested at all.
-Volunteers were perfectly spread out on one side of the road.
-Cups perfectly placed on their hands.
-Sport drinks at the front, water at the back.
-Amazing volunteers, a lot of them, all of them super happy and willing.
WATER STOPS: 10/10
7. No Finish, No shirt
I suppose that if you’re certain you’ll be finishing the Marathon this is not a problem for you -except for the fact that you have to go to the Shirt Tent after running 26+ miles-. Now, this is what is really called a bragging right.
I remember I met a guy once who was wearing a NYC Marathon shirt. So, I went up to him hoping to get some tips since I was training for my first HM. Turns out this guy had broken one of his toes -or that’s what he said- and he never even finished training for the marathon, but a friend picked the shirt up for him and he wore it around… Whatcha think about that?
On another note, I LOVED the shirt! Bright yellow with a big 26.2 on the front. By Brooks, so the material is great as well.
8. Very complete EXPO
I’ve been to several Expos. This one was similar to some others, I loved the venue, but a few extras:
-Lots of free GUs. These are my go-to energy products for racing, so I was HAPPY!
-Lots of equipment I had not seen on previous Expos, such as ellipticals and others.
-Lots of free COFFEE. One of the big sponsors was Caribou Coffee, so lots of coffee at the Expo, at the Family Events (my daughter ran the Half Mile), here-there-every where.
9. Free transportation for runners?
The event documents explicitly say that transportation would be free on Sat and Sun for runners if you have your BIB. I don’t know about the METRO, but I rode the bus to the start line and believe me… I paid.
FREE TRANSPO: 0/10 (in my experience)
10. Experienced pacers
I can say I was very happy with the 4.15 pacer. Right before the Start he gave us directions, explained to us that he would be running even splits, that the Start could be a bit difficult, he explained about potty breaks, how to catch up to him, water stops, etc. The Clif pacing team I know has experienced pacers, so I’m glad they ran with us this race.
11. Super easy SWEAT BAG drop off and pick up
This was amazingly well organized. UPS had trucks with BIB number ranges next to each Corral for runners to drop off their sweat bags. They closed about 15 minutes before the Start of the Marathon and they took all the bags to a spot right next to the finish line. It couldn’t have been more perfect and easy.
SWEAT BAG D.O./P.U: 12/10
12. Entertainment along the way
Even though there’s a big cheering crowd along the way, entertainment I would say was not up-to-par. We had a couple bands, a couple of radio station stalls… I think that was about it. The cheering was amazing, can’t complain. But, I would bring my iPod if I were you.
13. Immediate Results and Runner Tracking
My family tracked me using the link provided on the TCMevents page and happily reported the tracking was great and that it showed the marathon map and where I was at, along with my time and prediction for the next checkpoints.
As soon as I got to my hotel room, about an hour after finishing, I already had an email showing my results.
RESULTS PROMPTNESS: 10/10
Over all, an amazing experience. I don’t think I’ll be running TCM soon, mainly because of the climate and wanting to experience running in different cities. But I did love it!!
If you’re interested, just go to the Twin Cities Marathon web page to check out all the info.