On Saturday, May 7, I attended the Wisconsin Marathon. This annual event takes place at the lakefront in downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin and offers runners a marathon, half marathon, and 5K option. The race sold out this year with 1,600 runners participating, although with the rising Covid numbers, several did have to defer until next year.
The race directors, Tracy and Jonathan, are friends of Chicago Athlete and put on an event truly tailored toward runners. There were several packet pick up options leading up to the event itself. I had the pleasure of assisting with the pick up scheduled the day prior. This allowed me to interact with several of the runners that were heading north to tackle this course.
Not surprisingly, the majority of runners were signed up for the half marathon. This has become a popular distance for runners. Training is not as daunting as that of a full marathon and the longer distance is still quite a challenge.
Runners were encouraged to arrive early, as there is no parking at the race. There is plentiful parking throughout downtown Kenosha, but nearly every location would include a 10 minute walk to the start/finish line area. Race directors made runners very aware of this and encouraged everyone to arrive early. I have run this race several times and have found myself running to the start line while the National Anthem was being played. So, I did not make the mistake this year!
All distances began at 7 AM promptly and runners left the Kenosha museum campus area to begin their trek. The first 9 miles were an out and back southbound, taking runners through the residential streets of Kenosha. Runners were treated to scenic homes, a historic cemetery, and several schools. Runners were then routed back on the lakefront to the start/finish line area, where they crossed over to finish the 4 miles northbound. In my opinion, these last four miles were the most challenging, as the headwind was extremely strong and there were several hills nestled into the course.
At the second turnaround, runners enjoyed a tailwind for the last mile as they headed back to the start/finish line area and were able to enjoy the crowd support. The half marathon runners finished and were able to partake in the post race festivities and food. The full marathon runners went on to complete a second loop of the same course.
I am a fan of double looped courses, as you know what to expect the second time around when you are starting to feel fatigue. This is helpful for me both emotionally and physically, as I can store energy for the portions of the course that I know I will need it. As I mentioned before, the first half was easier for me as the wind was more cooperative. Although, the wind speeds picked up for the second loop and runners had a headwind for Miles 19 through 24, making it a real challenge. Not only are you extremely fatigued at this part of the course, but that headwind was relentless. At one point I remember thinking to myself, when will we get some relief!?!
But it was all worth it when we turned around at mile 24 and had the tailwind for the last portion of the course. That combined with the great crowd support to bring us into the finish line were much needed.
I decided to run with a pace group this year and stuck close to the 3:30 team. There was a portion where I fell back about a minute during the middle part of the course, but I rallied and pulled into the group for the end. I was able to cross the finish line with another runner as we broke away for the last mile and finished at 3:28.
The pacer was amazing and kept reminding runners of the basics. He would urge us to fuel appropriately and grab hydration frequently. He also give us notice of course turns and hills. I don’t always run with pace groups, but there’s nothing like a good pacer to bring you through the challenges of a 26.2. I find myself leaning on the pacer through the last 3 miles when my legs and mind are both fatigued. I’d like to give a huge shout out to our pacer who kept us all going strong through the finish line.
I’d also like to thank the race directors who put this amazing event on and keep runners safe, prepared, and having fun throughout the event. As I mentioned before these two individuals are friends of Chicago Athlete and have created an event with runners in mind. This is evident in every detail from the multiple packet pick up options to the plentiful pre-race communications to the technical fit T-shirts and the cheesy metal, yes cheesy – It is Wisconsin! The course is always extremely well marked and hits on the mile markers perfectly.
I would urge you to watch for this race to open registration and get registered early, as they sell out quickly. Downtown Kenosha offers restaurants, shops, and beautiful lakefront views. It’s a fun area to visit and a quick and easy drive from Chicago.