Chicago Athlete on the Road: Twin Cities

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Chicago runners… If you are looking for an early fall marathon, put the Twin Cities In Motion marathon on your list! I found that this marathon completely lived up to its tagline of being the most beautiful Marathon in the Midwest. Capturing a big city feel, quaint neighborhoods, and scenic lakes, this marathon route truly has it all. All distances are offered over the weekend including a 5K, 10K, 10 mile, half marathon, and full marathon. I ran the 5K with my children and the marathon the following day.

The 5K is free to all kids under the age of 18, thanks to the generous sponsors that support the marathon events. This was incredibly helpful to my pocketbook, as one entry to the 5K was over $60. I’ve never seen a race that has done this, and I’m so thankful that we had the opportunity to enjoy the 5K together. This was run on Saturday morning just after the 10K. Runners were able to sign up for single events or bunders, including the Ultra Looney Challenge which included the 10K, 5K, and full marathon.

For someone new to the area, the 5K was a great chance for me to see where parking would be on marathon Sunday. It also allowed me to develop a meet up plan with my family. The 5K was an out and back from the Saint Paul State Capitol, along the residential streets. The homes were huge and beautiful to run by. Neighbors were out all along the streets cheering and playing music.

The finish line for all events featured family events and food trucks.

This crowd support would continue through the marathon on Sunday. The crowds rivaled Chicago, with nearly the entire course covered on both sides. People were out with signs, music, snacks, and full support to runners as they tackled the course. The course began in downtown Minneapolis, right by US Bank Stadium.

The first few miles went through the city and reminded me a lot of downtown Milwaukee. Then runners began their trek to the Saint Paul Capitol. This point-to-point course ran through beautiful neighborhoods and circled many lakes. Most of the course was on the street, although there were some path areas. All of the course was on flat surface, however the hills were intense.

As a Chicago runner, I do not do much hill training. I found the course to be extremely difficult throughout. The hills were minor but constant. The real work began at mile 20 when the hills became intense. From miles 20 through 24, on already tired legs, runners had to tackle some extreme elevation. The sun was out, the hills were relentless, and it was the end of the race, making this a real challenge. The last 2 miles were delightful, flat and paved, as runners ran back to the state capital and their family and friends.

 

There were 8,000 runners who participated in the marathon, so it was a relatively large marathon, but done extremely well. Aid stations were placed well, mile markers were right on, and crowd support was amazing. I would definitely say that aside from Chicago and Boston, this race has the best crowd support of other races I have run in the Midwest. All runners received a long-sleeved Brooks T-shirt, running cap, and large medal. This was the 40th anniversary of the Twin Cities events, so all of the swag carried the 40th logo.

I made this a family trip, as it is drivable from Chicago, just over five hours. This area is extremely family friendly. We stayed at the Radisson Blu Mall of America Hotel, which is conveniently attached to the Mall of America. My kids joked that they were sleeping in the mall. The hotel is gorgeous, and staff was extremely helpful.

Being new to the area, we pulled up with that deer in the headlights look, and were immediately greeted by the valet and desk staff. They directed us where to park and how to get our luggage into the rooms. And the rooms… Where do I even start with that? We stayed in the Wellness Room, with lululemon’s MIRROR. The Wellness Room, with lululemon’s MIRROR, is the first of its kind in the Midwest and provides guests with unlimited access to a state-of-the-art fitness experience during their stay, all from the comfort of their own room.

The hotel created this offering to help meet the needs of travelers who want to prioritize their health and well-being while away from home and to support them on their journeys. In addition to lululemon’s MIRROR, each Wellness Room is equipped with a yoga mat and
blocks, meditation cushion and foam roller to help guests make the most of their stay.

The MIRROR offers more than 10,000 classes, each ranging in length from 5-60 minutes. Not only did we get to try out this incredible piece of workout equipment, but we received a lululemon gift upon arrival. The rooms were lush and comfortable, a wonderful place to be able to relax before the big races.

It’s easy to see why this hotel is named as one of the top 10 hotels in Minnesota by U.S. News & World Report, but I’d also say it is a top-tier destination for health and wellness enthusiasts, with offerings that support guests in their journey to health.

There is an adorable restaurant attached to the hotel, called the FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar. This restaurant featured a fireplace and cozy set up, welcoming diners in to relax. The farm to table food was fresh, healthy, and a great alternative to fast food options.

And of course, all Chicago parents know you have to have a pool. There was a simple but effective pool that the kids could play in. The water was less than 5 feet, so if you have non-swimmers, it is a safe pool to be able to relax in.

I found the hotel to be extremely convenient and comfortable to stay in. But beyond all of the amazing amenities this hotel offered, it was safe and clean. The room was impeccable, the bedding was crisp, and the coffee bar was stocked. As we enter into flu season, I’m constantly thinking about keeping my kids safe and this hotel really did that. I knew my kids were safe using the towels, sleeping in the beds, and even handling the remote control!

I did notice that this hotel is not near the start line. It is about 8 miles away. I know many runners select a hotel based on the start line placement so you can walk to the start. Please don’t let that dissuade you from selecting this hotel as your number one choice for marathon weekend. The drive was extremely easy in the morning. It took 15 minutes for my husband to drop me off just a block from the start line and he easily was able to get in and out. The road closures are not as extreme as Chicago, so maneuvering around is much easier. The amenities that this hotel offers in its cleanliness, comfort, and all around warm atmosphere far outweigh location for me. This hotel also embraces an active lifestyle, with their MIRROR rooms, spa, pool, and healthy eating options. Another bonus, the fitness center offers three Peloton bikes! Talk about fitness luxury! I could talk about this hotel for ten more chapters, but have to move on. Check it out for yourself and you will see how this hotel pairs family, fitness, comfort, and convenience into a perfectly wrapped package for travelers.

Before checking into the hotel, we visited the Como Zoo, which is one of the only free zoos in the country, just like Lincoln Park Zoo. This zoo was small, but charming. We got to see the primates in action and even Sparky, the famous sea lion.

This is a great pairing to marathon weekend, as it allows you to shakeout your legs on a walk and get up close and personal with animals of all kinds.

As I mentioned earlier, my children and I ran the 5K on Saturday morning. So, we were up and ready to go sightsee by 10 AM. Our plan was to spend the entire day at the Mall of America, which goes against everything I tell my running clients. I think I logged over 20,000 steps on Saturday before the marathon, but it was worth every step.

This mall does not disappoint and helps you to support a healthy active lifestyle with your family. We began at Nickelodeon Universe, which is a large indoor amusement park. As the nation’s first indoor Nickelodeon theme park, it is home to seven acres of unique attractions. I had thought my son would have no interest, since he is a devoted Six Flags pass carrying guy. However, he was shocked by the intensity of some of the roller coasters. They went fast, looped the loop, and did not disappoint for Thrillseekers.

To follow with my cleanliness theme above, this park was extremely clean. The floors were bright and sparkling, the rides were immaculate, and the workers were well informed and helpful. We opted for the all-day ride wristbands which allowed us to leave the amusement park and come back throughout the day. We ended up opening the park at 10 AM and shutting it down at 9 PM.

In between our rides, we visited the mall and were thrilled to find an Arc’teryx, North Face, Columbia, Athleta, and even an experiential lululemon! I’ve only ever visited the experiential Lululemon in Lincoln Park, so this was such a treat. Complete with a café and yoga studio, the store had all of the pieces that are sold out online.

We also couldn’t help but visit the M&M store. Check out the massive line of colors that this store offers. For $13.99, you could fill a bucket to the top with your choice of colors and types of M&M’s. I don’t know about your family, but we always allow a sweet treat on vacations!

 

We also took some time out to play mini golf at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, also located in the Mall of America.

Moose Mountain Adventure Golf is an 18-hole miniature golf course, and allows golfers to play 365 days of the year, since it is conveniently housed indoors. The course featured an original, whimsical design with an old-time north woods feel—complete with life size moose, horses and more! It was a nice escape from shopping and a chance for some good natured competition.

We closed out our day by going to SEA LIFE at Mall of America, which is Minnesota’s largest aquarium and includes the state’s only underwater tunnel.

It felt unreal to have sharks, stingrays, and huge turtles gliding above and around you. This too was located in the Mall of America, and carried a mystic feel as you entered at the base level of the mall.

I had a great weekend, ending with a 3:26:32 marathon finishing time, which I couldn’t be happier about. If you’re looking for a family friendly, drive-able trip, try this out and let us know your thoughts! Keep watching for Chicago Athlete on the road, as we tackle races and active family events throughout the Midwest!

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Mandi has been running for over 25 years and has participated in the Chicago, Detroit, and Boston Marathons. Mandi regularly competes in regional events and enjoys being a part of several running groups including CARA and the Badgerland Striders. She is a co-host on the Ten Junk Miles podcast and looks forward to hosting the Chicago Athlete Podcast. An RRCA certified coach and Les Mills certified instructor, Mandi is also a coach with Chicago Athlete Coaching. Mandi is a local government attorney by weekday and race warrior by weekend.

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