Why the Mankato Marathon is the Midwest’s Boldest Race
Describing your event as “the Midwest’s Boldest Race” is a pretty bold claim, but when Trip Advisor calls your event the top marathon worth traveling for in our state, you have a pretty decent starting point. While the 358 finishers in 2016 at the Mankato Marathon are a far cry from the 8,560 finishers at the Twin Cities Marathon a week earlier, a short drive from the Twin Cities metro area during the weekend of October 21st and 22nd will put you in the midst of a great weekend of racing (even if you are just tagging along to snap a few finish line photos of your sweaty-but-smiling loved one).
Race weekend starts at the SCHEELS Sport and Health Expo (which includes race packet pickup, as well as some great vendors, activities, and speakers). Fun, kid-friendly distances such as the diaper dash and the Pork Power 5K occur on Saturday, October 21st. New last year was the addition of the Bold Walk, a 0.6-mile walk created for “anyone who may not be able to participate in a more traditional race distance due to physical inactivity, chronic disease, or disease”. The inaugural edition saw the “Heart” portion of Team Heart (Mike) return to the city where he and “Legs” (his sister Niki) ran their first marathon together - this time, Mike walked his own race!
The 10K race begins Sunday, October 22nd at 7:30 a.m., with the remainder of the weekend’s races kicking off half an hour later, including the showcase event of the weekend: the full marathon. Whether it’s the “psychs on bikes” crew offering words of encouragement (MSU students trained by Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, sport psychologist and faculty member at MSU, host of the High Performance Mindset Podcast), the crowds of spectators and volunteers lining the course replete with numerous “cheer tunnels”, or the 14 fully stocked nutrition stations, this race has everything you have come to expect from a well-run marathon.
Your 26.2 mile journey will start on the MSU campus, travel along quiet county highways (easy access for your cheering entourage to leap-frog your progress along a large portion of the course), glide along paved trails through the woods, make a loop through Sibley Park and along the Minnesota River, and then will finally head into the historic downtown area towards the finish line.
For the Runners
There are a few important logistical items for runners to keep in mind, first and foremost being transportation. While everyone should find ample parking near the fieldhouse on Saturday, October 21st for packet pickup, Sunday, October 22nd (marathon day) will be a bit different. Runners are asked to either get dropped off at the starting line or park at the finish and then catch a shuttle bus up to the start (pay attention to both pickup locations and times). Pacers from the Minnesota Pacers Pace Team will be available at the start to help guide runners along this certified (and thereby BQ-eligible) course in paces from 3:15 through 5:00 (1:30 through 2:30 half marathon pacers are also available).
Cap off your race with a celebration downtown near the finish line with plenty of food and hydration options nearby (based on my experience last year, WYSIWYG Juice Co was mixing some absolutely amazing Runner’s Recovery Smoothies just past the finish line!). River Valley Running is also a great stop either for last minute essentials before the race or to get yourself a “prize” afterward.
For the Spectators
While Mankato Marathon weekend is truly a race for everyone, the folks in charge of putting on the race have done a great job of making this a very spectator-friendly event as well. Beginning with easy access to parking and viewing at the starting area, spectators are then able to skip ahead and catch their loved ones at numerous spots along County Highway 90. Full marathon runners will loop back to the east and pass the starting area again on their way back to Hwy 90 (for the second time but turning west), while half marathon participants will make the turn west right away. From there, numerous spectator spots exist before reaching Mt Kato where parking will be a bit harder to come by. This will be your last chance to see your runner(s) before they head off down the trail towards the YMCA off of Riverfront Drive (another great spot to spectate as you will catch runners coming and going from Sibley Park). Alternately, seeing your runner(s) pass Burger King on the way into the Sibley loop is your sign to pack up and move one last time to the finish line.
As a bonus, here is a great idea you can use to really help give your runner a boost: head to the nearest Walgreens (there is one right by the finish line if you want to scout that area out ahead of time) and grab some sidewalk chalk. Park in the YMCA parking lot and head south on the paved trail. Anywhere between the parking lot and Mt Kato would be a great spot to leave a message of encouragement - just be sure to write in large letters, and keep the message simple (with a little luck, they will be going too fast to read a long message anyway, right?).
Related: How to Be a Good Marathon Spectator
Running the Mankato Marathon
There is plenty more information to study on the Mankato Marathon website, but the price alone should be all the encouragement you need! Starting at $49 when registration opens, and never rising above the expo price of $95, this is a great bargain race (whether you choose to tackle the full distance on your own, or round up some friends and carve it up into a relay).
Have you run one of the Mankato Marathon weekend races before?
Or have you signed up already for this fall? Let us know in the comments below!