When I was in my twenties, I used to say that a marathon was 20 miles of hope and 6 miles of reality. That was because I'd usually be on the pace I wanted for the first 20 miles, only to have everything blow up in the last stretch. These days things are different. I now say a marathon is 6 miles of hope and 20 miles of reality. But hey, as long as it's sunny and there are friendly people and there's beer at the end, you can't complain now can you?
I've done about 3 Eau Claire Marathons and this race keeps getting better and better. Two years ago there was some danger that the event was going to cease operations, but then a new owner swooped in and is doing everything right to make this one of the great mid-sized (and growing) marathons around.
It's fun when a marathon is a huge party as much as it is a running race. Grandma's leads the way in that category (Twin Cities is in that category too), but those races are so gigantic that the logistics part becomes a bit of a stress. Eau Claire is in a sweet spot with a huge atmosphere feel without parking or travel difficulties.
Also, last year there was a special deal for anyone who registered for the event on the day registration opened. I can't remember what I paid exactly, but I think it was in the $40 to $45 range...which makes this race a priority!
Organizers seem to change the course every year which is kind of strange since certification costs a couple grand. Their objective is to show off all the beautiful trestle bridges that have been converted to bike paths throughout the city, and it's a smart strategy. Every marathon needs a talking point, and the bike path railroad bridges that meander through Eau Claire are certainly that. As I was running on Sunday, I thought it must have been neat to live in Eau Claire in a time when trains were constantly passing through.
The new course also goes right through downtown Eau Claire, although Acoustic Cafe or somebody needs to set up a beer garden there. Downtown didn't have a lot of spectators. Things really picked up, however, when you ran through the Eau Claire campus. The students were out in force and it was fun to share their energy through mile 24.
State St. was also packed with people which was fun. In prior years, the marathon has gone down the bike path that follows the river, but it's a lot more fun to run down the middle of state street. Kudos to the organizers for taking the trouble (and expense) to get all those roads shut down. You take a right turn at Dairy Queen and then run up a big hill to the finish. I'm thinking that I'm going to bring a couple bucks next year and buy a blizzard at Dairy Queen and then just walk up the hill (unless i'm on pace for a PR...which I won't be).
I think the best way to describe the Eau Claire Marathon is as an ascending event. I love it when race organizers are clearly committed to growing their event. The EC marathon is in good hands, and it will be fun to see how big this race gets. In the future, more of the Cyclova peeps should make a weekend out of coming down to EC, perhaps camping at Lake Wissota, and turning this into a 2 or 3 day festival!