Something for Everyone During the Mankato Marathon Weekend
2016 is the 40th Grandma’s Marathon, and 35th Twin Cities Marathon. Most Minnesota runners can claim these venerable events on their racing resumes. But there’s another Minnesota marathon you may not be familiar with.
The Mankato Marathon started in 2010 by a group of local runners and has been growing in popularity ever since. The Mankato Marathon is the,
“Midwest’s boldest race, showcasing a dynamic course and determined runners!”
About 90 minutes from the Twin Cities, Mankato is home to Minnesota State University and sits in the scenic Minnesota River Valley. In the fall, the colorful spectrum of leaves offers runners a gorgeous backdrop as they travel along a trail system, river, city center, and quiet neighborhoods.
As I spoke to, and emailed with race organizers and runners who have participated in the past, there was tremendous pride in this community event. There was a sense that others need to hear about this event, because it offers a few things a little different from the others. Be that the bold course, small(er) group of runners who participate, or how the entire Mankato community comes out to support runners during these events.
If you’re looking for a well-organized event with a small town community feel this fall, look no further.
Something for Everyone at the Mankato Marathon Weekend
It’s cliche, but there really is something for the whole family here. Full marathon, relay, half, 10K, 5K, KidsK, Toddler Trot and Diaper Dash. They even host a bold walk for people with chronic diseases.
To get a better sense of the weekend events surrounding the various races, I spoke with Anna Thill, President of Visit Mankato. She told me runners started the event, so they modeled it after the best parts of others events they had participated in.
We have a speaker series, and the expo is very well attended with LOTS of different exhibitors, kids zone, Meyer’s field house at Mankato State (climbing wall – kids go wild!), lots of business come out to provide fun games, lots of stuff for the kids, life size angry birds. We’re really trying to make this a family experience.
Speaking to one local runner, Michelle Dick who has attended many times, the expo and other events keep growing. She likes it because, while there are lots of larger business, it doesn’t feel like a big commercial advertisement. With speakers like Carrie Tollefson and others, she says it, “feels like a small local event, but with the big vendors too.”
About the Mankato Marathon Course
One of the first things I look at for every race I’m running is the course. Lately, I’ve been trying to find ones that are flat and fast. According to Find my Marathon, the Mankato Marathon course is slightly faster than Twin Cities, or Grandma’s.
According to another local runner, Lindsay Henkles who has run the half marathon 5 times (and won it last year), the course is beautiful, but presents a few challenges.
The marathon has 2 big climbs in the first 7 miles. They look worse than they really are. You have large downhills just prior.
Dana Joseph, who ran the Mankato Marathon last year as her first, confirmed the hills, but mentioned it flattened out through town.
The course is beautiful! There are two large hills in the beginning but it flattens out through town and then goes back through the country roads and into the city park before ending downtown. Some of the race is run on bike/walking paths but is otherwise on paved roads throughout the city and surrounding area.
They also said there is a “nasty” downhill from approximately miles 17 – 19.5. While that will likely be a welcome relief, and opportunity to stretch out a bit, it can leave your quads feeling trashed. The rolling hills at the end aren’t bad if you’re expecting them.
The half marathon and 10k look to be blindly fast. Mostly downhill as it shoots you out of MSU into the country, along HWY 66, through Sibley Park and finishes downtown Mankato.
Support along the Course
Everyone I talked with said the one negative about this race (also listed as a positive) was the small size can leave you feeling lonely when runners get spread out. There are plenty of aid stations and bathrooms along the way, but as Dana Joseph put it;
Mankato is a small race [less than 400 marathon finishers, and about 5,000 runners total] so there are not a lot of spectators or fellow runners to build you up in those dark moments that marathon is sure to provide.
But race organizers know this, and have done something awesome to compensate. They have dedicated “Sports Psych team volunteers” on bikes to help you during those difficult times on the course. This point needs to be emphasized because these aren’t just idiots cheering loudly with “YOU’RE ALMOST DONE!!!” signs at mile 5.
These volunteers are trained by Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, sport psychologist, faculty member at MSU, and high performance coach. Anna Thill told me ,
They are along the course to cheer people on, decked out in their own gear. Seeking those runners who seem to be struggling. They’re there for the mental support. Backpacks with supplies (GU, Vaseline, etc), looking for signs of distress. They are also connectors to medical team.
There is a complete mental side to running, especially in the marathon. For first timers, having people trained to help you overcome the darkness during 26.2 miles is a pretty unique, and really cool perk that I’ve not heard of before.
Friends and family who come to see you can do so at multiple locations along the way. Rich Rein watched his girlfriend run last year, and said getting around was super easy. He was able to see her every few miles during the race because of how the course is setup.
When I talked to Michelle Dick, she was excited to tell me about her hometown race.
It’s been so cool to see the community getting behind this over the years. [during the weekend] People aren’t saying “oh what’s this?” they are now really getting into it… The community takes a lot of pride in it!
This sense of pride was evident from others I talked with as well. Anna Thill had nothing but positive things to say, and wanted to stress that this isn’t just a small country race.
People who haven’t been here for a while, are kind of blown away. It’s not the Laura Ingalls Wilder thing anymore, it’s an urban center. I think there’s a surprise factor. Who knew this about Mankato? Totally new downtown. We’ve completely rebuilt the skyline.
Your Mankato Marathon Experience
If you register today (April 22), registration is just $66 for the full marathon! That’s a steal as far as marathon prices go.
Have you run the Mankato Marathon, or other races at this event? What was your experience like? If you’re thinking about registering, let us know. We’d love to help you train, or just cheer you on!