From Watching Twin Cities to Racing Chicago

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by Barbara Powell

They’ve coined it “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America” and I know why, even without running it myself. Runners come to the Twin Cities for this 26.2 because they love and appreciate everything from the landscape, to the weather, to the people and the organization. It’s a well-executed, competitive-yet-friendly race, with about 30% of the runners competing as first time marathoners. Ranging in age from 11-80 years old, racers took to the Twin Cities’ roads to compete in ninth largest marathon in the US. Great numbers, right?

The marathon set off the morning of Sunday, October 4th, preceded by the USATF Men’s and Women’s 10 Mile Championships. The timing of the race was absolute perfection: the first crisp, autumn weekend of the year. Leaves turning hues of red and orange along the Mississippi River collaborated with the crackling of sneakered feet against the pavement, a welcoming undertone to the trees’ rustling shimmer. A Twin Cities Trolley, bright red like the apples falling from nearby orchard trees, led the crusade to the Finish line.

Twin Cities: Getting me pumped for Chicago. Photo by Barbara Powell.

Setting out in three separate waves, the marathon began at the Convention Center in Downtown Minneapolis, slipping northwest to Hennepin Avenue and snaking South around a handful of the 10,000 lakes that dot the state. Once the runners hit the halfway mark, they make their way back to the Mississippi River, running north alongside it to cross over to their final 10k into St. Paul. The final 300 meters dips downhill from the Capitol, rewarding the runners with an open and fast finish. Seriously, one of the better finishes I’ve run.

With 300,000 spectators for the 8,500 competitors, the course pulses an electric surge of excitement as runners passed through the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The usual marathon-spectator scene emerged: warm cheering from families, their youngsters at bay, their dogs leashed up, signs waving in the air and cowbells clanging in support.

Men’s winner, Kenyan Dominic Ondoro, broke the tape in 2:11:16, missing the course record by just over a minute (2:10:05). Just before the final miles, he paced through a 4:36 mile, shaking off his training partner, Elisha Barno. Barno was runner up in 2:11:39, a nice return from his win at Grandma’s Marathon back in late June where he just out-did Ondoro. (There is a nice additional bonus of $10k if one wins both Grandma’s and Twin Cities, but—alas—not this year for Ondoro or Barno.)

Women’s winner Abraha Serkelam Biset of Ethiopia came down the final 200 meters of John Ireland Boulevard to cross the finish line in 2:31:39 with Jane Kibii just behind her in 2:31:44. It’s great to hear the cheers of the crowd get even LOUDER for the female contenders, women from all walks of life cheering for these remarkable athletes.

On a personal note, I watched both the start and end of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon knowing that in one week’s time I would be running through the streets of Chicago, enjoying my own marathon efforts. I let myself get lost in the moment, caught up in the cheers around me, pulled in by the grit in the leaders’ eyes and legs. There is no better way to mentally prepare for a big race than to watch one go down in front of you. Standing there at the sideline of the Twin Cities’ Marathon, breathing in October’s familiar scent of distance running (Yeah, Cross Country! Does one every forget that seasonal association?), my legs and heart wanted nothing more than to get out on the course and join in. But I was good, I held off.

So here’s to the next one: Chicago Marathon.


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