Madison Mini Half Marathon and 5K


The 9th Annual Madison Mini Half Marathon and 5K took place on Saturday morning in Madison, Wisconsin.    The 2017 edition of the Madison Mini Half Marathon and 5k, featured a new expo and packet pick-up location, as well as a new course, eliminating “The Hill” at Mile 13.

The expo and packet pick-up took place at the Alliant Energy Center.  With free and ample parking, the Alliant Energy Center made for a low-stress and easy location to accommodate the combined total of 3,000 participants in the half marathon and 5K.  The small expo featured local businesses and races, a variety of Madison Mini merchandise.  In response to feedback from previous years’ race surveys, this year’s swag was a dark red technical t-shirt for men and a dark red singlet for women.  I don’t really wear t-shirts, (I either go long sleeves or sleeveless), so I really appreciated receiving a singlet with a nice, simple design featuring many of the landmarks passed during the race.

The race started and finished near Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin campus in downtown Madison. I arrived at the race site just before 5:30 a.m. when VIP Gear Check opened as I needed to get a 6-mile warm-up in before the 7 a.m. race start as this was to be my final 20-mile run in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin.  With just over an hour and a half to go before the race start it was very easy to find parking within a few blocks of the race site.  However, my husband arrived 45 minutes later and had to circle and wait in line to get into a parking ramp a block further away than where I had parked.

Race organizers had sent out an e-mail warning participants about the potential for deceptively challenging weather conditions due to high humidity.  With an hour before the race start temperatures were cool in the upper 50’s, but at 100 percent humidity the air was thick.  Upon completing my warm-up, I appreciated having easy access to the VIP gear check so I could grab my sunglasses and drop off my handheld water bottle before the actual race start.  By 6:45 the corrals were beginning to fill with runners while the UW Pep Band and Bucky Badger hyped up the crowd.

At 7 a.m the gun went off and runners headed up the first of many hills towards the Capitol.  Per instructions from my coach I tried to ease into the first 5K of the race and build into goal Ironman pace in the second 5K, but it was a difficult feat to hold back in the early miles as a very fast field, (almost 40 percent finished the half marathon in under 2 hours!), rushed past me and we were spurred onward by enthusiastic spectators at every turn.  After that initial climb to the Capitol, the next five miles are, comparatively, gentle as the course winds through the University of Wisconsin campus to Camp Randall Stadium, then making its way to Henry Vilas Park and the Henry Vilas Zoo.

I ran the Madison Mini in 2012 and knew, compared to Chicago, it was a hilly course-as all of the races I’ve run in Madison are.  I also knew that they had made some changes to the course, but didn’t compare the new course’s elevation chart with the elevation chart from the 2012 course, so I wasn’t quite prepared for what I encountered at the start of the second 10K, (where my coach had instructed me to pick-up the pace for miles seven through nine of the race), when we entered the Madison Arboretum.  A word to the wise—Chicagoans, do your hill training if you plan to race in Madison, Wisconsin!  While beautiful, and a welcome break from the sun, miles seven and eight really put participants to the test with net elevation gain of 25 feet and 29 feet, respectively.  Mile nine of the race featured a nice net elevation loss of 49 feet as the course took participants past the Nakoma Country Club and back towards the University of Wisconsin campus.

Mile 10 challenged runners again with the highest net elevation gain of the course at 32 feet.  However, what goes up must come down….and apparently back up on the Madison Mini course.  Mile 11 was another quad-shredder with a net descent of 41 feet, followed by a gentler mile along the lakefront path.  While the Madison Mini Web site boasts the elimination of “The Hill” at Mile 13 of the 2017 course, I was quick to find out that it didn’t mean that we weren’t going to be climbing in that final mile.  The final mile challenged participants with a net elevation gain of 21 feet before making the final turn and descending to the finish line in the last .1 of the half marathon.

The crowd support, especially at the aid stations, which were operated by various groups all competing in the BMO Harris Cheer Challenge, was phenomenal throughout the Madison Mini.  The course is beautiful, though very challenging, tour of major Madison landmarks, including memorial Union, Capitol Square, the Farmer’s Market, State Street, the Kohl Center, Union South, Camp Randall Stadium, Henry Vilas Zoo, the Arboretum, Lakeshore Path, Bascom Hill, Union Terrace and various portions of the University of Wisconsin Campus.

Once across the finish line, participants were received their hard-earned finisher’s medal, along with ice-cold water, bananas, chocolate milk and Bucky Badger popcorn.  The 14th Mile Post-Race Party was held on the Union Terrace overlooking Lake Mendota, where athletes could celebrate their accomplishments with a refreshing complimentary beer while listening to live music.

The Madison Mini Half Marathon is a well-supported, well-executed race offering a very challenging course that rewards participants with a fantastic tour of Madison and fantastic post-race party.  Registration is open for the 10th Annual Madison Mini and 5K, which will take place on August 18, 2018.

Overall Half Marathon Male Winners:

  1. Patrick Jenkins, 1:09:06
  2. Brian Finnel, 1:09:14
  3. Matthew Borneman, 1:13:29

Overall Half Marathon Female Winners:

  1. Elise Sigg, 1:24:43
  2. Amanda Edwards, 1:24:51
  3. Emily Jurlina, 1:25:44

Overall 5K Male Winners:

  1. Logan Schwinghammer, 19:25
  2. Sawyer Thorp, 19:40
  3. Paul Agignoae, 20:16

Overall 5K Female Winners:

  1. Tracy Demerath, 21:03
  2. Kayleigh Whipps, 22:10
  3. Amy Ruehlow, 22:25
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Kristan Huenink has been exploring the city in her running shoes for the better part of a decade and coaching runners from beginners to marathoners nearly as long. She enjoys road racing at all distances, having completed countless short-distance races and nearly 20 marathons. When injury demanded she seek alternative physical activity, Kristan took her PT’s advice and decided to give tri a try. She has fully embraced the multi-sport lifestyle, completing multiple sprint, 70.3 and Ironman-distance races, as well as qualifying for USAT Age-Group Nationals and earning Ironman All-World Athlete Bronze status. Kristan is a USAT-Certified Coach with Grit Endurance in the West Loop, where she coaches Computrainer sessions, group run and triathlon training programs of all distances and levels, and one-on-one personal coaching. When she’s not training or coaching, Kristan can be found devouring the latest endurance sport literature and studying training data from her Garmin in pursuit of her next PR.


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