A Few Tips to Boost your Twin Cities Marathon Weekend Experience
The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon is this Sunday! Nearly 30,000 runners from 22 countries and all 50 states, will participate in some event this weekend. 12,000 of those runners will gather in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday morning for their epic journey around the lakes, over the river, and up Summit Avenue all the way to St. Paul. If you’re running, all of us here at Minneapolis Running wish you the absolute best of luck! We hope you crush your big audacious running goals and above all, have fun!
For those of you not running the marathon or 10 mile this year, you may want to register for the 5k or 10k taking place on Saturday. You’ll need to do it in person at this point, and pay a little extra, but it’s worth it to take part in the marathon excitement.
If you’d rather just spectate, the TC 5K, 10K and other family events are super fun to watch! There will be some speedsters among the 10K and 5kers, and the kids in the Toddler Trot are guaranteed to melt your heart. The best part? It all takes place at the finish line of Sunday’s main event!
Below, Krysta and I share a few ways to get the most out of the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend. Together, we’ve run the full marathon six times (and the 10 mile 4 times), and reflected on a few things that you may want to know about the weekend.
The Twin Cities Marathon Course
Some quick tips about the course:
- Be careful with the rolling hills in the very beginning. They are small, but add up. It’s like when you only spend $2 on a coffee at Starbucks, but realize you’re doing it twice a day, every day. If you’re not careful, the hills can leave you in a debt later on in the race. Instead, take it easy going uphill.
- Summit Avenue is tough, but the hill right before you get to the University of St. Thomas is the worst. Don’t feel bad if you need to slow down here, in fact, you may want to mentally plan on it to avoid feeling discouraged.
- Save your energy for the back half of the race. It’s easy to get excited running through downtown and around the lakes, but once you reach Lake Nokomis (the last lake of the course), you’re still only halfway to the finish. For me, the halfway point is always a mental barrier – we haven’t even hit the the Mississippi River yet! For Krysta, the barrier always comes around mile 16 or 17 along West River Parkway when runners start to spread out and the course becomes more exposed. Wherever your mental barrier lives, be sure to save your legs (and mental space) for the hills!
- The finish line is pretty special, for all distances this weekend. Since they all finish in the same place (but at different times), you can camp out there and see a whole host of amazing finishers. The atmosphere is electric; you won’t want to miss it! If you’re running, plan to take some time making your way through the finish chute, gear pickup, massage tent, etc. It has always taken me 30 – 45 minutes, (mostly because walking is hard).
Something I love about the Twin Cities Marathon is that it has fantastic public transportation options. Even if you don’t live close to the light rail, you can drive to a stop (or get dropped off) and then take the train to the start.
Here’s a trick I’ve learned: get up early and drive to University Avenue in St. Paul. Park somewhere around here, then hop on the Green Line (LRT) all the way to the start at US Bank Stadium. (Runners receive free rides all day.) Then, after the race, you can catch the LRT at the finish line and head right back to your car. Krysta has used the same trick, parking in South Minneapolis near the 38th Avenue or 42nd Avenue stops. It’s the quickest and easiest way to the start, plus you won’t be alone! Thousands of runners ride the LRT to the start line every year!
Navigating the Expo
The expo takes place at the Saint Paul RiverCentre every year. If you can, head over during the day on Friday to avoid congestion and crowds. Parking can be tricky, especially in the evenings. Metered spots on West 7th Street are the best (and cheapest), but there is always plenty of parking in the River Centre lot for $15. Public transportation can also get you to the expo, no parking necessary.
I always prefer going on Friday; you’ll want to stay off your feet as much as possible before the marathon, so stopping by the expo on Friday instead of Saturday is a smart choice. Take the afternoon off, and spend an hour or two really taking in the energy. I always try to catch the elite press conference (12:30 p.m.), and if I have time, some of the other amazing speakers. Former Olympians, ultra runners, elite coaches, nutritionists and more have all graced the TCM expo stage.
Packet pickup is always a breeze thanks to the incredible Twin Cities in Motion event organization. Krysta says, “I don’t think I’ve ever waited in line to pick up my packet, and the race and bib number organization is fantastic!” Be sure to slide your packet through the chip checker to ensure correct runner information, and don’t toss that plastic packet bag! It serves as your race day drop bag, bib number sticker included! (Pro tip: if you somehow mangle or lose your plastic bag, extras can be found near bag check of the start line. Arrive early if you need bag drop assistance.)
After getting my race bib and swag (really the only thing you MUST do at the expo), I’ll wander around looking at the more than 120 health and fitness exhibits, stopping by some of the local running specialty shops, and sampling the various free goodies.
Don’t forget to grab thundersticks and signs for your cheer section! You can find these freebies at the front of the expo near the race maps and Caribou Coffee stand (also, don’t forget your free coffee!)
If you’re not running this year, you can still participate on race day by showing up along the course. The energy and excitement is real, and often motivates you to either run the following year, or get you more excited about your training goals. Seeing the expressions of joy, pain, happiness, excitement…the emotions are raw and at times, overwhelming. Knowing the tremendous sacrifice many runners make just to get to marathon day is simply inspiring.
If you want to be a good marathon spectator, there are a few simple rules to follow. My pet peeve is when people say, “you’re almost there” when clearly you are not. Also, if somebody is clearly in pain, don’t tell them they look good…they know they don’t and it will make them mad. Instead, try funny signs, quirky costumes, and loud cheers.
Here are a few quick tips on spectating at TCM:
- Nathan’s tips: In all of the years I’ve spectated TCM, I always pick two spots along the course to see runners. I love to catch the start, then grab coffee with my wife, and walk or bike roughly to Mile 20 along East River Road and Franklin Parkway. If you want to be a super fan, you can then hop on the LRT and scoot down to the finish line area.
- Krysta’s tips: On years when I didn’t run the marathon, I ran the 10 mile (and once even the Loony Challenge). I love running the TC10 bright and early, changing into warm and cozy clothing at the finish, and then catching a ride back to the start (typically by LRT). From there, I try to hit up as many spots along the course as possible to catch friends or family who are running. My favorite places to spectate TCM are along Minnehaha Pkwy around mile 15/16 and along Summit Avenue for the final miles to the finish line. A couple of years ago, I ran the TC10 and then managed to catch my husband running the marathon in a record 5 locations! Be sure to have memorable signs – mine read: THERE ARE PUPPIES AT THE FINISH with photos of puppies. It made even the most pained runners smile.
Your Twin Cities Marathon Experience
Krysta and I are incredibly excited for everyone who will be running and spectating this weekend. We’re both a little sad not to be participating, but would love to read about your experience. Please share your race goals below so we can cheer you on, then let us know how it goes!