Running in the NFC North: A Marathon Tour and Review
By Run Away Shoes Appleton Store Manager, Nate
We all get that “bug” to do certain races, in 2009 I got the “marathon bug” while watching my sister run the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Being a spectator for the marathon and a runner myself, watching from the side line as all these athletes went by was tough! I kept thinking, “I could do this and I should be out there with these other athletes.” After the race finished I was pretty set on trying my luck at running a marathon and began looking at the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon. The Green Bay Cellcom Marathon made the most sense to run as I am from the area and was currently living there. I started to put somewhat of a “training plan” together and set out to try and accomplish the task at hand. Training and finishing the Cellcom Marathon is what would set off what I would call my NFC North Marathon Tour (because I am a huge Packer and football fanatic). This “tour” of marathons would be something that would end up taking me five years to complete, which I was just able to complete in October. This Blog is meant to be both a combination of personal experiences with these marathons as well as a review on each of the four: Green Bay, Minneapolis, Detroit and finally Chicago. As always, these are just my personal experiences and thoughts on the events and I definitely don’t want to turn any of you away from these great races. If any are on your bucket list, GO FOR IT, as all four of these were great!! Hopefully I will be able to provide a little insight on what to expect!
Ah the first marathon experience! We have all been there before whether full , half or whichever you prefer to run, that first time training regiment, hardships, injuries, doubt, nerves, lack of sleep on race day, hitting the “wall”, yep…all happened!! Of course there are all those first time marathon memories that I have from this race, but overall this was a great marathon to start with (plus how can you top running in Lambeau Field?!) Many of my fellow runners out there are very familiar with the Cellcom Marathon whether being from the area or knowing family and friends that have done it through different training groups in the area. After finishing the Cellcom, it was only about 10 minutes afterwards that I knew I wanted to do a few more. I kept playing over in my head…if I did this, trained this way, ate like this etc. I could do better. I did not want to have to think of which ones I would do each year, I wanted some sort of plan. I wanted them lined up so I knew what time of year they would be and what I could expect. I thought, well, the next one is Twin Cities and I have family in Minneapolis. I am also a huge football fan so I figured why not do the entire NFC North Division, there is an easy four right there! Thus the idea for the NFC North Marathon Tour was created!
Course: Fairly flat and fast (when I did it, now a few more hills are incorporated but nothing too bad!) Some spots can get long in the residential areas, specifically those last few miles. The Fox River trail is beautiful to run on and gives a nice switch of pace from the city feel. Running through Old City Stadium (East High School Stadium) is fun for you football historians out there (this actually wasn’t on my course when I did it but love that they added it!) and of course Lambeau Field is the highlight! It is amazing running through the tunnel out and around the field, having spectators in the stands, it will give you chills!
Weather: Can be hit or miss. Being in May and coming out of winter/early spring can be chilly, rainy or it can feel super hot and humid with our bodies not being used to the climate change from winter. As always, hydrate properly!
Spectators: In some areas many people are cheering you on however, other areas especially in the 20 mile onward range, spectators become sparse.
Participants: When I ran a total of 1800 runners ran the full with 4600 running the half. There is a decent amount of runners on the course throughout, congestion is not bad at all and thins out pretty quick.
The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis is by far my favorite of the four which I think you will be able to pick up on below. The expo, people, the course, everything about this race is incredible. Early in October you can expect to see the fall colors. Being the second of four I still had some pretty good nerves going for this one but at the same time I also trained better and knew a little more of what to expect from a marathon. The course had some hills towards the end so be sure to train for that and do not become a victim like I did! Other reasons this race rocks is because of the other runners out there with you and the scenery. During the ascent up those hills, I established some real comradery with fellow runners, powering through hill after hill together. The scenery is amazing going from rural to urban back to rural areas around the city. The finish line is also quite spectacular. Cellcom will hold a spot with me forever as it was the first but the TCM was my first big, BIG marathon that I will never forget. If you are looking for a fall marathon this is the one I suggest checking out, you will not be disappointed!
Course: Semi Flat with a few hills (mainly with bridges), the end can be brutal with what seems like running hill repeats. The scenery is amazing with a great mix of urban and rural areas. Running around some of the lakes on forest paths was also a nice change of pace. The Finish line is awesome, after coming up that last hill you can see the giant American flag hanging over the finish line and then the route is all downhill at that point (approximately .2 miles). My adrenaline kicked in!
Weather: Great!! Early fall where temps can still be fairly warm, cooler in the morning, but great running weather.
Spectators: A ton! Both sides of the streets will be lined for a good portion of the course along with many bands at different parts.
Participants: Many! When I did it the TC 10 Milers and full started together, not sure if they still do it this way. The full had 8500 runners and the TC 10 Mile had 7500. It can get congested early on, specifically on some of the smaller roads but it really is not bad as you will just be going with the flow. You will always have runners with you on the course which can make those hills together much easier!
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will be sharing my experiences from Detroit and Chicago!