This past weekend was the Cellcom Green Bay Race weekend. Events included a 5K and kids race on Saturday, May 18, and a half and full marathon on Sunday, May 19. More than 8,000 people were expected to participate in the weekends’ activities as we celebrated a 20-year anniversary of the event.
I signed up for the marathon and made the 2.5 hour drive north with my family to spend the weekend in Packer country. As we pulled up to our hotel, my kids instantly noticed the wedges of cheese tied around the heads of different statues in the lobby. This prompted our discussion about the origin of “cheesehead” and how it is a source of pride for many Wisconsinites!
Packet pick up was held at Lambeau Field, which is a beautiful football stadium nestled in the middle of a residential area. It is so strange to see it pop up after passing a Walmart and line of homes. Houses that face the stadium are aptly painted yellow and green with fences displaying Packers players and football paraphernalia. Some residents have even created a rooftop bar on top of their garages; even as a Bears fan, it was a sight to see.
The expo was small but included running products and race attire. I purchased a light gray tank top that will be fun to sport this summer. I was able to grab my race bib and Brooks running shirt that were included in race registration at the expo and then we headed back to the hotel to spend the day at the indoor waterpark with the kids.
The race directors worked with several of the local hotels to arrange a free shuttle service on race morning for out of town runners. This amenity is so greatly appreciated and takes so much stress out of race day planning.
As I was waiting in the hotel lobby with my fellow runners, they announced that the marathon distance had been canceled due to flooding issues on the course and anticipated severe weather that was predicted later in the morning. Apparently, an email was sent out to all participants at 1 a.m. the morning of the race. After checking my phone to confirm this was not a practical joke, it was confirmed that I would no longer be running the full marathon, but instead the half. The race directors had placed all of the runners into the half distance automatically.
In all of my years running, I have never had a marathon cancelled. After the disappointment set in that my training would not be put to the test, I accepted the truth that I would not be running the full 26.2 and had to take a few minutes to change my mindset. I have to admit I started out angry that I had driven up from the Chicago area and had to change my race plans to a half. However, once I reached the convention center in downtown Green Bay, my spirits were lifted by my fellow runners.
The atmosphere was light and fun as we waited indoors for the race to start. Real bathrooms and a heated facility can make all of the difference to a runner who is down in the dumps!
Runners lined up at 7:30 a.m. and the race started shortly thereafter. The course was scenic and showcased the beauty of Green Bay as we wove through neighborhoods and industrial areas. It was fun to see all of the different residential areas of Green Bay. Even though the weather was chilly and misty, there were spectators along the entire course.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the race, the route had been changed from previous years to reflect when the race first began. Instead of starting and finishing at Lambeau Field, we began in downtown Green Bay. While the field was a part of the race, the race director wanted to capture the heart of the city of Green Bay as well.
The half marathon was extremely scenic, with lots of twists and turns as we rolled in and out of downtown Green Bay and through residential areas. It was far from boring, with a few hills, but mostly flat, paved streets. The wind provided an extra challenge as did the misty air, but the heavy rains and thunderstorms did hold off for most runners to finish the event.
The real highlight of this race is running through Lambeau Stadium. At mile nine, runners routed through the shoot and onto the field, where the Green Bay Packers play football. You are instantly caught up in the excitement of running on the actual field and even Bears fans can be Packer fans in May!
We finished the last few miles through Green Bay and wound back to the start/finish line located at a park just near the convention center. Finding families was extremely easy and only required runners to cross the river to the convention center where most people had parked or had rides waiting.
The race was extremely well organized and well supported. Fluid stations were located throughout the course and medical personnel were available every few miles. Hundreds of volunteers were out ensuring everyone had what they needed to finish the race.
While it was a disappointment not to run a full marathon, I am extremely happy to have been given the option to run the half. This is a race that is somewhat close to home and can be done within a weekend. If you are looking for a fun midwestern marathon or half marathon next spring, keep this one in mind. The race director, staff, volunteers, first responders, and spectators are amazing and I am looking forward to returning and having the chance to tackle the 26.2!
First through third female half marathon winners were Valentyna Poltavska, Flannery Cerbin-bonach, and Kathy Derks.
First through third male half marathon winners were Panuel Mkungo, Christopher Zablocki, and Paul Tiongik.