Overall, the Milwaukee Running Festival, on Sunday lived up to its name. Billed as “the race for every runner,” this marathon, half-marathon and 5K gives every Chicago runner a chance to explore a new city and celebrate running. And on a cloudless morning with temps in the low 50s, it was the perfect morning for a long run.

The half-marathon began at Veterans Park, overlooking both the lake and a gorgeous skyline. After two miles along on the water, we tackled a steep hill just before the 5K mark. Hard it was on my hamstrings, the hill brought us to the city’s picturesque Historic District, with its towering Victorians and trees with red, orange and yellow leaves.

From there, we ran through a row of pubs, where onlookers offered support and sips of their beers, before hitting Marquette University’s campus. This steady mile-long climb, halfway through the race, through campus left my quads and spirits lagging, but the roaring crowd of Marquette students and parents lifted spirits throughout.

Upon leaving Marquette, we left the crowds as well.  For a quiet two miles, we weaved through a more industrial section of the city. We crisscrossed bridges overlooking bustling expressways and flew down ramps, which let me relax and imagine that I was just playing at recess again. Running through less commonly traveled areas also created a more intimate, local feel; coupled with sparse crowds, it felt like your standard Sunday long run through your hometown.


Around the ten-mile mark, we reached Milwaukee’s riverwalk once again. Here, I watched the sun gleam on the water and had that moment of clarity every runner craves: This is why I love to do this.

The last three miles were a tour of Milwaukee’s most scenic sites and tourist spots, winding through the Summerfest grounds and along the balcony at Discovery World, all while kissing the shoreline. The enthusiasm, of both the crowds and runners, mounted as I approached the finish line, where an announcer shouted the name and hometown of each finisher.

The festivities continued well after the running ended, as runners and their families enjoyed free Coors, food trucks, live music and a rock climbing wall. Even though I well underperformed my PR, I really appreciated this opportunity to remember what I love most about running – not the numbers, but exploring new places, celebrating with other runner friends and just moving my body on a sunny Sunday morning.

 

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