I rolled in to 'Kato about 8:20 PM on Saturday night to stay with our good friends the Yenishes. I'd agreed to pace the 1:30 half marathon group as part of the Mankato Marathon races, but since we'd hosted some company the night before, I drove the hour-and-a-half to Mankato at about 6:30 PM.
I was a little disappointed I missed the marathon expo—I heard good things about it, including the fact that Kathrine Switzer was one of the featured speakers. I would have loved to tell her I really enjoyed her book, "Marathon Woman."
The Yenish hospitality was superb, though I don't think it's available to many of the 3,000ish runners of the weekend's various running events. If one wanted to find their own nice family to stay with they might have to do a little more leg work, and would probably be better off just getting a hotel room.
The Yenishes were nice enough to live about half-a-mile from the shuttle buses area, so I jogged down to the Verizon Center parking lot to ride the shuttle to the Mankato State University campus. It was a brisk thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit, but I was dressed well with a heavy jacket over two running shirts, shorts, wind pants, gloves, and hat. The shuttle ride to the start went off very smoothly (take note Twin Cities Marathon), and there was no waiting out in the cold.
I chatted with a nice gentleman on the shuttle who was running his third marathon after having started running at age 59. He was looking forward to the race, and so was I. The fall colors were fantastic, though at 6:37 AM they were still not visible as the bus drove through the morning darkness.
After meeting some pacers, I found the pace director, who had picked up my packet for me. The race organizers had arranged for the pacers to be able to wait inside a bus stop warming house, though I felt bad that civilian runners kept getting asked to leave. It was chilly outside!
After a start line photo with the pace team, Kathrine Switzer, one of Laura's idols, gave some inspirational words at the start of the race before I froze my skull off during the national anthem. The bald fade haircut seemed like a good idea, but in the 20 degree windchill it was a little chilly.
|Laura and K.V. Switzer at the 2011 Boston Marathon|
I gave my standard, "who else is shooting for a PR?" joke at the start. and I had a big enough group that it actually drew a couple of laughs. One guy did ask, "is that really your PR?" He was 19 though, and he was losing his voice, so I'll give him a pass. Looking behind me at the start line, the race looked pretty full. After the race I found out that and between the 10k, half marathon, and marathon, there were almost 2,700 finishers.
|Course map from Garmin data (plus the extra mile I ran at the end|
The race course went south out of town, then made a loop to the east before coming back north through some scenic countryside near the Blue Earth River. I ran pretty even splits (considering how many rolling hills there were) up to mile 10. My group was all looking pretty good at that point, so I told them to go on ahead of me. The weather was perfect for racing, and the course was net downhill, so I'd told them they'd all go out and get PRs.
|Course elevation profile from my Garmin|
One guy, Craig, was hurting. He'd run Twin Cities Marathon two weeks before, and he'd decided to run Mankato on a whim. My group had gone ahead, so I said I'd stay with him until mile 11. After running between 7:01 and 6:39 per mile, I ran about a 7:11 with him, then wished him good luck.
From there to the finish I was mostly by myself. I caught one guy around mile 12, but convinced him he was looking good, and he accelerated past me with about a mile left. With about 1/2 a mile left, I caught one more runner, and he ended up running to the finish with me.
The finish was nice because I could see it from a quarter-of-a-mile away, which gave me time to pick up the pace. I sped up slowly so I wouldn't lost the guy I'd caught up to. I came through at 1:29:57--my best performance as a 1:30 pacer.
The pace director had the finish line announcer interview me over the loudspeaker. When he asked me how I came so close to my pace I replied, "good luck." That got a few chuckles, and it was at least a little true. He asked me if the weather or the course was a factor and how it affected my pacing. "It was a great day for racing," I replied. "My group was looking strong at mile 10, so I told them all to go for PRs. They all did a great job."
"We saw them finish," he said. He said some other stuff and I don't really remember how I answered, but at the end I said, "thank you." I admit I felt like a little bit of a big deal getting interviewed in front of all those people.
It was great seeing Craig afterward after leaving him at mile 11. He ended up running a 1:31:03. "Thanks," he said as he shook my hand after telling me about his finish. I then ran into the 19-year-old, who gave me a sweaty hug—my third hug in three years as a pacer. He fnished in 1:29:18.
After freezing my fingers off for about an hour, the Yenishes took me over to Applebees to see some camp friends (Laura and I met at a Lutheran camp near Faribault). It was pretty great seeing them--Kevin was in my wedding and his wife Kelly had just run her first half marathon. It was great catching up with them and their three kids. The last time I'd seen them they had two kids, and Kevin had help me change the brakes on Laura's Saturn.
I'd definitely recommend Mankato Marathon. It was well-run event and a beautiful course. If you're looking for a fall race in Minnesota, this is a good one.