The 2016 Mankato Marathon Weekend Recap
Editor’s Note: There are so many great races across the state of Minnesota. While we certainly can’t run them all, you can! Our readers provide tremendous feedback and insight into the plethora of great events out there. The Mankato Marathon was this past weekend, and over 3,000 runners took part in one of the weekend’s many events. Since this is a newer race, and not many recaps are available, we asked two of our readers to share their experiences. Who knows, maybe the Mankato Marathon will become your next favorite race!
Mankato Marathon Recap by Steve Patten
This weekend was a personal mission for me. Another first in my running journey. Not my first marathon, in fact this was marathon number 14. Not my first Mankato Marathon, as this was my third time running here. No, I was going for the ludicrous goal of running two full marathons in the same weekend. I started out at the Whistlestop Marathon in Northern Wisconsin on Saturday, and Mankato was my natural second stop.
There are plenty of fall marathons to choose from in Minnesota, but my personal favorite is the Mankato Marathon. It doesn’t boast iconic landmarks like Grandma’s, or 300,000 spectators like the Twin Cities Marathon. Instead, the other great aspects of this small town race are what have made it my personal favorite fall marathon over the last three years. The weekend kicks off with an expo geared for the entire family. Along with kids races of various lengths, Saturday also includes a 5k race with a bacon stop and more bacon at the finish line. (Even the medal has a pig on it!) New to marathon weekend this year was a one-mile Bold Walk, specifically for those who are not physically able to complete the other distances. There were rest stations every 300 feet in case participants needed a break.
Sunday morning features the 10k, half marathon, full marathon, and 4-person relay. As if Mankato hadn’t already been shining, this is where they pull out all the stops from the very beginning. While it’s a smaller race, boasting about 1,400 half marathoners and about 350 marathon finishers this year, Final Stretch and Visit Mankato put on a fantastic event. The course doesn’t claim to be flat or super fast, but the variety in terrain and scenery is part of what makes Mankato so enjoyable. There are hills of varying degrees throughout the course with a couple good ones in the first half. But in the span of 26.2 miles you’ll see farm fields, quiet streams, beautiful city parks with leaves just past peak color, residential areas, the Minnesota River and the finish line in historic downtown. Along the way there are well supplied aid stations, medical personnel, plenty of course markings and volunteers, and the famous “psychs on bikes.” These MSU students volunteer to ride sections of the course on bikes encouraging runners. And, of course, after finishing those long 26.2 miles, a beautiful and colorful medal!
So what did this all mean to me as a runner with a crazy goal? It may have made all the difference. I completed Saturday’s Whistlestop marathon in just over 4 and a half hours, and even managed a negative split. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it will usually get you to the finish line.
Now, with the Minnesota sun still rising on this cool Sunday morning I joined the throng of runners near the back of the pack. Farther back than usual, but since I’d never run two marathons this close together I wasn’t really sure what to expect and certainly didn’t want to start out too fast. I wasn’t even totally sure I could finish within the course time limit. I should add here that I am not some epic specimen of physical fitness who runs 100 miles a week. Though I’ve lost almost 90 pounds since starting my running journey, I’m still overweight and generally train on 35-40 miles per week. I like to think I’m a pretty average middle of the pack kind of guy.
The race started and we made our way across the start line with friends and families cheering, and a wall of people for almost the first mile. I took the pace very easy and just waited to see how I would feel, knowing that the first of the two largest hills on the course was only a few miles away. I needed to decide whether to run or walk up those hills. By the time I hit the bottom of the first hill I still hadn’t made up my mind. I decided to just try to keep a steady effort and continue running up the hill until it wasn’t comfortable anymore. Before I knew it I was at the top. The next hill went the same way. By mile 10 we were heading back into town and I was feeling pretty comfortable. I had struck up conversations with other runners along the way and my pace was actually picking up a bit. I cruised through the next handful of miles, still feeling comfortable enough, and crossed the halfway point. Miles 14-16 are usually tough for me at Mankato because the wind seems to be coming right at me, but this time around there was a nice breeze. Here and there I would pass spectators with signs and cheer stations. Of course, my favorite part of any race is my own personal cheer section; my family. My wife and all four of my children were volunteering as course marshals around mile 23 and they were a welcomed sight as always; high-fives all around as I passed. The final miles certainly felt about as painful and uncomfortable as one would expect. I made the last turn onto the home stretch entering downtown, and crossed the finish line with a time about fifteen minutes slower than the day before. My second negative split of my running career!
So, again I ask, did all of the little, special things about the Mankato Marathon make a difference to me? All the difference in the world! The psychs on bikes, the spectators, the awesome cheer zones, and the beautiful course. They all meshed together into a combined work of running art that helped me finish the race and reach my goal: two full marathons in one weekend. Maybe not something I’ll do again on a regular basis, but I crossed it off my bucket list. So what’s next? Running more great Minnesota Marathons next year.
From Makenna Schmiedel
Without a doubt the Mankato Marathon weekend is the best race weekend I’ve ever participated in; there is literally something for everyone, whether you’re a runner or a spectator. My favorite thing is that no matter which race you’re running, there are people everywhere, I mean everywhere. There was never a moment during the two races I ran over the weekend that I didn’t hear cheering, music, or some type of encouragement being thrown my way. I’ve run races where there is literally no one cheering or chanting on runners, so to come and experience this race weekend with so many people cheering was pretty amazing.
The courses for all the races are awesome as well; they’re challenging but also some of the most fun courses I’ve ever run. If you’re looking for a course that will lead you to a PR, I would recommend any of the Mankato Marathon courses. The half marathon course is ranked one of the best in Minnesota by Runner’s World Magazine, and after running on Sunday, it’s easy to see why. The course itself is mostly flat with a few hills to keep it interesting and fast. The first time I really looked down at my watch, I was already at mile 8 of my half marathon and well on course for a huge PR. In the end I ended up with a 13 minute half marathon PR!
All of the Sunday races (10k, half, relay, and marathon) finish downtown, which was my favorite part of the weekend. The atmosphere at that finish line is like nothing I’ve experienced before. People everywhere are cheering, yelling, and grinning ear to ear while crossing the finish line. After the race there’s plenty of food, fun, and if you’re old enough… beer!
The Mankato Marathon weekend is my favorite weekend of the year, and I can’t wait to come back and run again next year!
Your Mankato Marathon Weekend Experience
Did you run the Mankato Marathon or other events this past weekend? Tell us about your experience below!