3 Perspectives on the Twin Cities Marathon
The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon isn’t a race.
It’s an experience.
Not only is it the “most beautiful urban marathon” in the United States, but it offers an interesting blend of scenery that will help all 26.2 grueling miles fly by. It’s not the flattest race around, but if you run the course right, you won’t even notice the hills.
The first time I ran the Twin Cities Marathon was in 2008. It was my second marathon and it did not go well. In 2014, I ran the marathon for the fourth time and after revamping my training, I barely squeaked out a 3:09:30 Boston Qualifying time.
My memories of the Twin Cities Marathon are filled with glee, excitement, despair, and lots of pain. This race has given me some incredible highs, and some very painful lows. Despite not having run the race for a few years, I always think of it fondly.
I have no qualms saying it’s my favorite running event of all time. (This is probably why we’ve written more about this event than any other.) This year, we decided to take a slightly different approach and share some thoughts on TCM from the perspective of three different types of runners.
- The first time marathoner who chose TCM as their first marathon race.
- The repeat runner who has run Twin Cities more than once.
- Members of the TCM Charter Club, those who have run every single Twin Cities Marathon since the first in 1982.
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We found a couple of people who are tackling their very first marathon this year and have decided to do it while they traverse the undulating terrain between Minneapolis and St Paul.
For Kristen Schmitigal, the course really highlights the best parts of Minneapolis and St Paul. “Downtown Minneapolis, the chain of lakes, the Mississippi [River], historic Summit Avenue, the Basilica and the Capitol. I feel like it’s a good mix of nature, history, and culture we have in the cities.”
And while you might overlook these details as just another pretty course, for a first-time marathoner, this can be huge! Take it from me, I’ve run a few marathons and half marathons with very long, boring stretches where everything looks the same. It messes with your head. The constantly changing scenery of TCM has helped many a first-time marathoner get through 4 or more hours of pavement pounding.
Another great aspect for first timers, the amazing crowd support! Schmitigal has spectated the race before and knows first hand how important these folks are for the runners on the course. “I’ve been out to watch the marathon for the past couple of years and I really enjoy the way people come out and cheer on the runners. When you look at how much time and energy goes into training, it’s nice to see the support from the community when it comes to race day.”
Jennifer Spies, another first-time marathoner (but not a new runner), has done other Twin Cities In Motion events during marathon weekend, but finally worked up the courage to do the full marathon because of the great crowd support. “Last year, while running the 10 Mile as the last race in the Loony Challenge, I kept on seeing the marathon mile markers and thinking ’I could do that’. I’ve run parts of course already (between local races and my regular runs) and I know the crowd support is awesome and can pull me to the finish.”
The Repeat Runner
There is no shortage of people who have run TCM in the past, and return to run it again and again. Their reasons are as varied as running shoes.
I haven’t run TCM since 2014. The first few times were because I lived a few minutes from the starting line and had run every mile of the course many times in training. In 2014, I decided I was going to go all in for a Boston Qualifier and chose TCM to do it. Part of choosing TCM for a B.Q. attempt was because of the familiarity of the race course, but it also had to do with a number of other factors. TCM is a really fun race, partially because of how accessible the course is for spectators. After now having run a few other marathons with not so great crowd support, I think I will always choose a race like TCM when attempting any ambitious goal.
It’s also very well organized. Many of us have stories from other races that seemed to be organized like church potluck: terribly. The course is too long, too short, not enough water, or gets canceled altogether. The Twin Cities In Motion organizers, while not perfect, is pretty freakin’ close.
In fact, it’s so close to perfection that Krysta has managed to run the marathon or other marathon weekend event an impressive six years in a row!
“My first experience with TCM was running the 10 Mile back in 2010. I had just started running earlier that year and only had a few races under my metaphorical running belt. The experience so was amazing, so well-organized, so near-perfect that I went back to run the marathon the next year (and the next year, and the year after that!). TCM will always hold a special place in my heart - trust me when I say that this is the BEST race in the Twin Cities.”
Krysta continued, “If no one has mentioned this yet, the weather is absolutely perfect every. Single. Year. It’s as if race organizers plan it that way or something! Somehow every year when race day rolls around, the Twin Cities hits its first cold snap. Race morning is typically chilly, sunny, and graced with blue skies. I don’t know how they manage to do it year after year, but if you’re looking for a race where you don’t need to worry about the weather forecast, this is the one!”
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The Charter Member
After 36 years, there are only a handful of runners left who have completed every single Twin Cities Marathon since it began in 1982.
Lisa Boulay says she keeps coming back year, after year, after year because the Twin Cities Marathon is in her blood! “It is part of my life. I cannot imagine not being able to run in it. I consider it a holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving.”
She went on to tell me that TCM is not like, “the Hunger Games” in that, all Charter Club runners try to encourage each other to keep at it as long as possible. There’s a drive and desire to make it to the 50th anniversary, in 2031 when she is just 74 years young.
“Fast Eddie” Rousseau, the oldest member and the glue of the Charter club, plans to always be the oldest Charter Club member left running. As a prolific runner himself (over 100 marathons and ultras), he recommends newcomers to follow a reasonable training plan and make sure to take the early miles slowly so you don’t burnout at the finish. Great advice for all marathon runners!
The 2017 Marathon, which runs from downtown Minneapolis to the State Capitol grounds in St. Paul, takes place on Sunday, October 1, and limited to just 11,500 participants. Runners start at 8:00 a.m. Along the course, you can expect well-stocked aid stations (at approximately miles 2.5, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24.5, 25) with Powerade, water, and Clif Shot Energy Gu at miles 17. You’ll also enjoy a plethora of bathrooms along the way.
You can find more detailed course descriptions here, but my one piece of additional advice is that the hills on the back end can be a doozy (despite what I said above about not noticing them). To conquer them, plan to have several or your long runs end going uphill for a few miles. You’ll get used to running up when you’re tired.
Are You Running the Twin Cities Marathon this Year?
Are you running the marathon or other marathon weekend event this year? Let us know in the comments below!