Read Part 1 of Nate’s NFC North marathon experience HERE
This was the one marathon I was looking the least forward to doing out of the four, mainly because of the distance from Green Bay as well as not knowing anyone out there. This one is late October as well, so I was nervous what kind of weather I would get. To my surprise this race was really great as well, and should be checked out if you have the chance. Warning though: you will need your passport as you run about 7 miles in Canada!! Labeled as the only marathon where you run a mile under sea level (courtesy of the Windsor Tunnel ) the course is also decent. It is a good mix of Cellcom and TC marathons; some areas do not have many spectators while other areas did. The scenery incorporates some of downtown Detroit and other residential areas like Green Bay. If I had to nitpick, it would be that you run with the half marathoners up until the 13 mile mark and hearing from spectators to those half marathoners “you’re almost done!” gets old real quick when you are not even half done!J
Course: Very flat and fast. One hill at mile 3 which is the Ambassadors Bridge going into Canada. The scenery is pretty good and it is cool running through downtown Detroit with the skyscrapers on each side of you. It was also a great experience running in Canada and even more so through customs, I could definitely tell I was in a different country. Make sure to have that bib number visible though, customs will chase you down! I witnessed it with runners on the other side of the street! Belle Island is also a great atmosphere to run around being a public park with statues around, but it is very open and windy by the water!
Weather: Was very windy the second half especially on Belle Island otherwise the temperature was not bad, cooler in the morning and a little warmer later on, layer properly and you will be good to go.
Spectators: Pretty good, some spots can be less but overall you will have good crowd support.
Participants: With two half routes, relay teams and full running together it can be a bit crazy, but not nearly as congested as early parts of the TCM. The US half had 7500 Runners, US/Canada half had 11,700 runners, the Relay had 500, and the full had just over 4000 runners.
This was the final marathon of my NFC North tour, which I just completed this October. Chicago was probably the most stressful of the four, mainly because of having to plan so far in advance for the hotel and preparing for the lottery (if you go that route). Heads up: if you want to run this, plan on getting a hotel before registration even opens (February), even then, expect to pay a pretty penny. Of the four, this for sure was the largest marathon all around. I have talked to many customers and friends that have done this and the Boston Marathon that claim Chicago has a larger feel than Boston. I am not sure about that as I have never ran Boston, but I will say this, Chicago never felt too overwhelming with the 40,000+ runners. I believe the different start times, corrals and organization of the race helped there. Don’t get me wrong, you will be running in large groups most of the way but never to a point or sense of panic. One downside I will say about the different corrals is if you are running a faster pace than some of the pacers in other corrals expect to catch up to them and have to weave through, probably my biggest gripe about the race. The course is alright, nothing really stood out for me, such as Lambeau for Green Bay or the Windsor tunnel for Detroit. Much of the course seems to be repetitive with some buildings, sadly never running through downtown Chicago, only seeing it from a distance. I get it though, hard to close downtown roads! One thing I will say, if you are looking at doing your first marathon I would recommend passing here and coming back if you choose to do more. You’ll have more than enough to stress and be nervous about with your first marathon rather than having to worry about the big city life, transportation to the expo, going out to dinner, not to mention all the runners and people around the city the day of and before.
Course: Very flat, not fast unless you are in the elite corrals as you will get bunched up in parts. Scenery tends to be repetitive with nothing really standing out to me, but could be different for you. Finish line is odd because of the Boston bombing so spectators are not allowed near it.
Weather: Great! Early fall October weather, much like TCM, not too cold or hot.
Spectators: In the masses in parts, surprising in other parts with not many at all.
Participants: Expect to be in groups, you will be making friends for sure!! Careful of catching up to those corral pacers and getting blocked in! Can get congested, just run safe and keep an eye out and you will be fine! The race caped out with 45,000 runners running the full marathon.
We all have memorable races, ones we may like over others. What started out as a simple “let’s see if I can do a marathon”, turned into a great tour of some other races in the Midwest. There were races I probably would never have participated in without running the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon. Even though the Twin Cities Marathon is my favorite experience of the four, each have their memories and experiences that I will always remember. I am happy that what I set out to accomplish five years ago is now complete, but also not taking any of that time training and running for granted. Always enjoy the races you do whether you had a bad experience or a great one! These are my thoughts on these four marathons but do not let any of what I said sway you from doing any of these, they are all amazing for different reasons. Have fun with what you do, whether training for a race or running for fun, keep setting those goals! Keep on running and be safe out there as winter approaches!