Event Feature: Whistlestop Marathon

Ah, the Whistlestop Marathon... This was my very first marathon, and a key part of one of Ben's favorite stories involving me and a "crazed gnome". This is an event that I know very well and hold close to my heart. I participated in the first 4 editions of this race, 1998 through 2001, as well as a couple of other times. This is an event that is on par with any event in terms of organization and overall experience, just at a smaller scale than something like the Twin Cities or Chicago marathons, which can be a refreshing thing.

This event is held on a limestone bike trail (an old rails to trails trail), with the full marathon spending the entire distance on the trail from Iron River, WI to the finish in Ashland, WI. The half starts somewhere in the middle, follows the same course, and also finishes in Ashland. The beauty of this race is that it's on a soft surface (limestone and gravel), thus it is far easier on the body than races held on pavement. This is definitely something that appeals to all of us injury prone runners! On the other hand, in my opinion, this is also a very tough marathon because the course is SO FLAT. As there are literally no hills the entire race, you are using the same muscles every single stride of the race with no downhill sections to "coast" or recover on. So even though this event is held on a soft surface, I believe my legs have hurt more after this marathon than any other I've ever done (due to the fact it is so flat). Also, times are usually slightly slower on this course than they would normally be due to the soft surface.

One constant theme in this race is that you never have any idea what the weather will be like. In this race, I've experienced everything from 75' perfect sunny skies to horizontal 40' rain, to 30' cold with an inch of snow/ice on the course. Come prepared with clothing for any weather and don't make the mistake of dressing too lightly if it is cold. Remember, your in the north woods and Lake Superior is less than 1 mile from much of the course!

Friend of CyclovaXC Michelle Flannigan-Haag enjoying a beautiful day at the Whistlestop

As mentioned in Ben's above mentioned favorite story, I would definitely advise reserving a hotel room in advance for this race, even though it is in "small town Ashland". You wouldn't want to have to beg to share a room with some random "Crazed Gnome" as we had to back in the day. Also be aware that the fish feed the night before the race at the registration stadium is excellent and affordable. Finally, after you're done with the race, be certain to enjoy some quality brews from the South Shore Brewerey, on of my favorite micro breweries. While enjoying your brew, you'll likely want to check out the after race party under the tent at the finish. There is much good food and live music to enjoy the afternoon with.

To view the official event website, click HERE.

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