Three Half Marathons you should Run this Spring
Spring in Minnesota is glorious. Melting snow reveals budding foliage, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief as winter retreats. As soon as temperatures hit 50, you’ll see people running in shorts around lake Calhoun. This is the perfect time for a half marathon!
For the past five years, I’ve begun my race season at the Lake Minnetonka half in May. I use this to gauge the effectiveness of my winter training. If you’re you’re looking for a half marathon to tackle, here are three you should consider.
Get in Gear – April 26
The quintessential Twin Cities spring racing event is the Get in Gear half marathon, 10k, 5k and 2k. The race started in 1978, right along with the first running boom. Dayton’s department store got behind it to promote their athletic wear, and soon 5,000 people had signed up. Now in it’s 36th year, this is the largest 10k in Minnesota (15th in the nation). Total participation is around 9,000 with the addition of the half marathon in 2009.
The race starts and ends at Minnehaha Park. Runners have amazing river views all along the course, which runs up and down both sides of the Mississippi near Ford Parkway. The whole event feel like a huge party.
For many, the Get in Gear is not only a way to test your winter training, but meet up with fellow runners. It has also become increasingly more competitive. International runners began arriving in 1994, and the 10k was won by a Kenyan until Matt Gabrielson won in 2011. From elites, to walkers, April 27th is a day for all Minnesotans to Get in Gear.
Ham Run Half Marathon – May 3
Up for an adventure? Five hours north of Minneapolis near scenic Grand Marais is the Ham Run half marathon and 5k. This race commemorates a 2007 fire that burned in this area along the Gunflint Trail. According to race organize Sue Prom,
We wanted a way to commemorate the event and get people up there to help plant trees and clean up the area.
The course, running through parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), follows some of the same path the fire took. It’s a way for people to see the growth taking place year after year.
Race organizers have found creative ways to make this a green event. Awards, made of wood, rock and birch bark, are only give to top finishers. They compost, recycle and are cup free by using the hydra pouch. The post race party takes place at Way of the Wilderness Canoe Outfitters and the Trail’s End Café.
As you run through the BWCA, you’ll be captivated by lakes, gigantic pine trees and wildlife. Moose, bear, wolves and chipmunks manage the aide stations. Book your lodging soon as spaces are limited, although you could always bring a tent.
Maple Grove Half – May 10
If you’d like to get out of the city, but still swing by Dunn Brothers after, checkout the Maple Grove Half Marathon and 5k. This comes at a perfect time to gauge your speed for a June or July marathon. This race starts at Maple Grove High School, loops through the city, then winds through Lakeview Knolls Park, Kerber Park and the shores of Rice Lake and Rice Pond.
When Paul Wisnewski and Tom Kilzer began this race six years ago, they never anticipated the popularity. They approached 1,000 runners with two weeks to go, when someone asked if they had counted parking at the high school. Wisnewski recalls,
I went home, pulled up a google earth image of the lot, and we promptly closed registration!
Not in half marathon shape? There’s also a two person relay. The first runner does a 10k, hands off to their partner, and buses back to the start while they complete it. Last year, more than 940 runners crossed the finish line, 600 in the half marathon.
This year they have invited CROSS food shelf to set up a booth at the stadium. They ask race participants to bring non-perishables to donate.