Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon Weekend/Ultra Loony Challenge

October 3-4, 2015
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
10K, 5K, 1 Mile
Marathon #13
Events #83-86

This was a weird one.

Leading into this event, I felt off. My training was not ideal, and I was running considerably slower then in the past. I knew that I would finish, but the finish time would be disappointing. I elected not to worry about it. I have struggled with my motivation this season. If anything could snap me out of it, it was this weekend. The TCM is a beautiful event on a fantastic course. It is always the highlight of my season. To top it off, the weather promised to be absolutely perfect…the best it has been since I started to participate in 2012.

Then a shadow fell on the event.

Black Lives Matter announced that it would hold a protest at the event. They would deliberately block the finish line to prevent runners from crossing it. The rhetoric from that group indicated that finishing a marathon is trivial when people are dying. Caring more about finishing a marathon then about this issue was “white elitism”.

There was a lot of anxiety among runners that this would set the stage for a potentially violent protest. Police and marathon officials did not make any statements for several days except vague comments about the safety of runners/volunteers/spectators. People were questioning if the marathon would be canceled.

I will refrain from discussing the views of BLM or my opinion about them. But their tactics were horrifying. There are many several awful things going on in the world that need our attention. There a lot of strong and opposing points of view on political issues. From climate change to ISIS. From PETA to lack of clean and safe drinking water for millions of children in Africa. Both sides of the gun control debate, both sides of the abortion debate. All of these are issues full of passionate opinions and beliefs. Do all of these concerns warrant our attention, discussion and action? Yes. But to state that one group with a concern or agenda (legitimate or not) should have the right to prevent others from performing any activity under the threat of violence should be viewed as a crime. BLM stated that they would not interfere with the marathon or runners if TCM publicly demanded that the DOJ investigate the St Paul Police department. To me, that is extortion.

In response, the St Paul police and mayor announced that any disruption of the marathon would result in arrests and that there would be a strong police presence at the event. However, the local BLM also received closed door meetings with the mayor and the governor. I feel that this was a mistake. It has set a very bad precedent. Any group can now feel that can threaten a marathon and the runners involved to get favorable attention from elected officials. This likely will not be the last time this occurs. One would think that, after the Boston Marathon bombing, that there would have been zero torrerence to this kind of mass threat to the safety of 12,000 athletes. Apparently not…

In the end, a 10 foot tall fence was erected along the final mile of the course. There were clusters of 4-5 police officers every 100 yards or so towards the end. It felt like I was running in the Thunderdome from the Mad Max movies.

I never saw a single protestor.

For me, the goal of the event was to enjoy myself and to reconnect with running. The Twin Cities Marathon is the best marathon event that I have ever completed. It is a great course, great organization and fantastic crowd support. This year also promised to be the best weather that I have ever seen for this event. It would be in the low 50’s, sunny with light winds. Perfect!

I was competing in the Ultra Loony Challenge which is the 10k and 5k on Saturday with the full marathon on Sunday. I decided to add the 1 mile untimed fun run since it offered a separate metal which complements the other race weekend medals (no bling left behind is my motto).

I arrived in St Paul early. I parked by the expo (about a half mile from the race start). After hiking up the hill, I was able to pick up my bib for the short races and headed over to the corporate team challenge tent. My company had a team so I had access to this tent right next to the start and a coworker kept an eye on our gear while we were running. It was still chilly when the first race started (10K) at 7:30am so I wore long sleeved thermal top, tights and gloves. I intended to pace myself and go slowly (I did not want to blow out my legs for the marathon) and I partially succeeded. It was an out and back along Summit Avenue (the final three miles of the marathon where I would be in a lot more pain the next day). I kept an average pace of just over 9 min/mile for the whole distance…which is quite a bit faster then my recent training runs. Overall, I was quite pleased and was really enjoying the morning.

10K Finish Time – 57:06

10k finish

By the time I got back to the corporate tent, I was overheating. So, I ditched the gloves and the thermal top (keeping only a short sleeved running shirt). I didn’t bother bringing running shorts since I figured that would be a little bit chilly, but I was starting to regret that decision.

I met a couple of office mates who had come down for the 5K. It was great running with some familiar faces! We didn’t have much time to talk, and we quickly made our way to the start coral. This was another out and back on Summit Avenue, but with the turnaround moved a little closer. By the time I started to run, I was a little cold again, but warmed up fast. I again went a little faster then I had wanted and my pace was a little under 9 min/mile. It was turning into a perfect day!

5K Finish Time – 27:43

5k finish

I got back to the tent and chatted with a few other runners while waiting for my colleges to get back. Once they did, they were willing to watch my stuff for my 1 miler.

I have to admit, I felt silly doing the one miler. It was an untimed kids race. Most of the adults were running with their children. But, this year’s medals were very nice and I was willing to look foolish to bring home more hardware. Not much to say about this one. Same start and finish, turnaround was even closer. Same general pace as the other two events.

1 Mile Finish Time (unofficial) – 9:06

Once back in the tent, I did a quick change and headed to the expo. TCM always has one of the better expos and it was fun wandering around and checking out the gear. I didn’t need anything, but I did get a couple of pairs of free socks (can’t remember the last time I had to pay for these). I got my bib and my legs were already sore (not a good thing with a marathon the next morning). So I packed it in and head home to rest.

I drove to Minneapolis very early on Marathon morning. The marathon starts at 8am, but the equally large 10 mile race starts at the same location at 7am. I got there early enough so that I didn’t have to fight for a parking spot. It was chilly outside and I just hung out in the car for a while. I wasn’t sure what to wear for this race. Start temps would be in the low 40’s, but it would climb into the upper 50’s and be sunny. So, I could freeze at the start or roast by the finish. I ended up with tights, long sleeve thermal top (with a hood), throwaway gloves, and a “Police Lives Matter” cotton t-shirt (my little rebuttal to the BLM threats earlier in the week). Usually, I would avoid cotton, but I was lucky to get this in time for race day (random gift from someone on FB who’s husband is a cop and who has a friend that makes them). I figured that wearing cotton over a thermal top would not be a problem (it wasn’t).

In years past, runners could wait inside the metrodome to stay warm before the race. Since the metrodome has been demolished and the new US Bank stadium is under construction, we had to wait in the cold. Fortunately, low 40’s with layers was warm enough.

This was my third running of this marathon (and easily the best weather I have seen for this event). It is my favorite course, and I remembered why on this day. The start is in the concrete jungle of downtown Minneapolis. We leave the core by passing the Basilica and the Walker Arts Center before hitting the chain of lakes (running around four different lakes by the halfway point), followed by a run along one side of the Mississippi River, over the bridge into St Paul, back down the Mississippi and along the beautiful tree lined Summit Avenue before running past the St Paul Cathedral with a finish at the State Capitol. With the exception of the first 2 miles, the entire course is trees and water. Every mile is beautiful and packed with spectators. There is not one moment on the course where there weren’t at least a handful of well wishers cheering us on.

My legs were tired from the previous day, and I was struggling by the halfway point. By the time I got to St Paul, I was feeling lightheaded and was taking regular walk breaks. My goal at this event was just to finish. I knew that my finish time would not be one that I would boast about, but I elected not to worry about it. As I approached the finish, I realized that I was in jeopardy of getting my first 5+ hour finish. I tried to pick up the pace but to no avail…

Marathon Finish Time – 5:00:25


The finish line festival really isn’t anything special. I got some chocolate milk and chicken broth. Fortunately, I had access to the corporate team challenge tent with better food options and changing tents.

TCM’s race medals have improved dramatically over the last few years. The 2012 medal was horrid (I refer to it as a lump of coal on a string). This year’s medal won’t win any “best marathon bling” awards, but is quite satisfactory. The series medals are the same as last year’s (which worked out for me since I got the loony last year and the ultra-loony this year and the two medals look great together…but I hope they update this hardware for next year). The finishers shirt was a huge step back. The last two years were awesome. This year was a plain white shirt with the word “Fin15her” on it.

I doubt that I will ever do this marathon again, but would recomend the race to anyone. Next year, I will go back to the Loony challenge and compete in the 10-miler instead of the full marathon.


1 Comment

Filed under Race Reports

One response to “Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon Weekend/Ultra Loony Challenge

  1. 5 medals in a weekend is way fun, I would have done the mile as well! May have to try this race out in the future. Completely agree about the handling of the BLM setting a bad precedent for future races. I don’t understand why anyone would think it’s ok to use an event for any sort of propaganda after Boston.

    Liked by 1 person

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