We're pretty lucky to live in an area that has events like Grandma's Marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon and the American Birkebeiner (not to mention the spectacularly beautiful upcoming Gandy Marathon taking place on October 10th--online registration closes Wednesday at noon so REGISTER NOW!). If you've never run the Twin Cities Marathon, you need to put that one on your bucket list. It's a beautiful race that winds through the Twin Cities with a massive crowd to cheer you along at every mile.
Fall colors seem to be a little slow in arriving this year, but there's still the sense that summer is over when you line up at the start of the TCM. This year, you couldn't have asked for a better day. Morning temps were in the 40s, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and by the afternoon it had warmed up to the 60s. This is exactly what you want in a marathon because nothing is worse than getting dehydrated and collapsing in a strenuous event like this (race organizers all let out a sigh of a relief when they see a forecast like we had for Sunday).
There had been a bit of a dark cloud hanging over this race since protesters had declared they would physically impede the finish, but that turned out not to be the case. The people who did show up to protest did so peacefully, so it was not an issue.
Eric T Olson (who was going after marathon #74) and I woke up at 3:15 AM to jump in the car and drive down to the start area. We got down there in total darkness and met up with Tammi Braund who was fresh off winning the Birkie Trail Marathon the previous weekend. It's always crazy that you manage to meet friends in the midst of a crowd of 10,000 people.
Having run a dozen or so marathons with Eric, I'm also finding that you start to meet the same crowd of people over and over (and they're all great people). I'm starting to understand the draw of shooting for 100 marathons. The races become routine, but meeting your friends, and making new friends is always good for the spirit!
TCM is fun because for the first 10 miles or so you're running into the morning light and that creates a pretty effect of runner silhouettes wreathed in the soft light of breaking day. Lately, marathons are just an exercise in waiting for the "wheels to fall off" for me. I knew going into this stretch of marathons on consecutive weekends that I didn't have the kind of fitness I wanted, but that's OK. You don't get into good shape by not running the marathon now do you?
At about mile 11 I told Eric that he should probably go on without me, so he accelerated off on his way to a solid finish. I decelerated and started looking for spectators who were handing out beer. By mile 16 or so, I was really hurting, and not finding enough people with beer...but it started to get better around then. One of those mansions that lines the race course had set up a big tent with a full bar, and I almost ran over to serve myself a drink (they had a full spread set up on a folding table). One of the spectators seemed to figure out what I was thinking and handed me a beer, and that was the start of something great.
I came to find out that TCM is a good race course for getting beer hand-offs. Grandma's is always good for two or three...but at TCM there are a TON of beer options. These are never at the official water stations of course, but there are always nice folks who set up their own tables and serve their own beverages. Just ask, "Got any beer?" and chances are they'll dig up some for you.
I said that at one stand and the guys were like, "yeah...right here!" only to hand me a tiny little shot glass full of beer. I actually snorted when I saw the tiny little glass and said, "how about beer in a big glass?" They laughed (sometimes people don't realize that I'm dead serious), then they started to scramble for a big glass, but I'd already taken four beer shots by then, so I just thanked them and trotted off.
Another table had a big sign out front that said "Growlers" so I figured they must have beer to hand out so I ran over for a closer look even though it meant crossing the street. Sure enough, there were a bunch of large plastic cups of beer set out on the table. I slammed one and the lady goes, "those are travelers." To which I replied, "the second one is the traveler," then I grabbed another and headed out.
I also grabbed a guy's half-full can of bud light out of his hand. I thought he was offering it, but in reality I might have stolen that one...oh well, I needed it more than he did. You can run up and grab a person's beer and, amazingly, they aren't likely to chase you.
By the time I got to about mile 22 I was feeling good enough to dance to the music a little bit. I was also on the lookout for people taking selfies so I could photobomb them. Actually, I had so much to drink out on the course that I turned down the post race beverages!
At the flag for mile 26, in sight of the finish line, I stopped and looked over at the crowd. "That's it, I'm done, I've had enough, I'm pulling out!" I said. They just looked at me like I was a maniac, then somebody said, "nooooooo!" So I reluctantly kept going. Finishing up, I found my way back to the car and met up with Eric. He was deservedly happy about his finish.
We've been stressing a lot about getting everything ready for the Gandy Marathon, so it was nice to take the break and run TCM. Great day, great event, and we're looking forward to seeing all of our new and old running friends next weekend! Sign up for Gandy Marathon HERE!