This past Sunday marked the start of October and the running of a brand-new course for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. Runners were treated to a tour of the City of Milwaukee and a rare opportunity to run across the Hoan Bridge, a landmark of the City, and notably, a non-pedestrian bridge.
As Wisconsin’s largest marathon, this annual event is a fan favorite for marathon runners from across the Country. Badgerland Striders is the host of the race, which this year, included a half marathon distance. Runners had the option of selecting the full marathon, half, or 5K distance. The full and half marathon runners began together and ran the first 10 miles jointly before the 13.1-ers turned back to head to the finish.
It was an abnormally warm morning for October in Milwaukee, as the runners toed the line to begin their trek. The race director warned runners in pre-race email to be smart and hydrate, as the temps were predicted to begin in the 60’s and rise to the 80’s by the race’s end. Runners were also encouraged to watch their pacing and listen to their body, as heat injuries mid-run can be difficult to come back from.
Despite the warm temps and high humidity, the start line was full of positivity and energy as we waited for our mark to go. The new course allowed runners to wait inside of the Baird Center, which is a large, multi-purpose venue in the heart of the Milwaukee. It also housed multiple set of real bathrooms which was much appreciated.
On the start, runners wove through the downtown streets of Milwaukee, past restaurants, bars, and shops, and even over several patches of historical cobblestone-lined streets. The morning began quite pleasant with a light cloud cover and slight breeze. Runners were treated to a tour of Milwaukee with a quick out and back north before turning back south and heading to the Hoan Bridge.
This bridge is an iconic landmark in the City and runs nearly two miles in length. It is closed to pedestrian traffic, as cars travel both north and southbound over four lanes in width. However, the southbound traffic was closed for the marathon and runners were treated with a million dollar view of the City, if they could catch their breath after the nearly mile long climb to the top. What a whammy of a climb. This climb came at mile 7.5 and we finished our time on the bridge at mile 10, where the half marathon runners got to turn around and tackle that climb again.
Full marathoners continued their journey south through the towns of South Milwaukee and Cudahy. We ran through the residential areas, while law enforcement closed streets and allowed us to cross. There were so many moving parts involved in this new course that kept it safe for runners. Cones were placed along the road to indicate where runners should be moving and multiple law enforcement agencies ensured streets were blocked and runners were protected.
At mile 17, runners turned onto Oak Leaf trail, which runs parallel to Lake Michigan and largely shaded by trees. This was a welcome relief, as the sun was out in full force and effect by this time. The trail also ran alongside a golf course and challenged runners to multiple sets of rolling hills.
Runners were routed off of the trail at mile 23, where we tackled the steep incline of the Hoan Bridge yet again. This was a true challenge to do as the sun was bearing down, the temps were near 80, and our legs had already packed on double digit miles.
At mile 25.5, we left the bridge and headed to the finish line, which was staged within an adult playground, known as Summerfest. These grounds are massive and bring the same emotions to me that Six Flags Great America used to bring as a child. There was a DJ cranking out the hits and several different food and beverage options. Not to mention a large medal, which I proudly draped over my sweat soaked neck.
The Badgerland Striders and Race Director, Scott Stauske really nailed this event, showcasing the City of Milwaukee and creating a day to remember. Watch for this marathon to open in 2024 and grab a spot so you can experience this midwest gem yourself.