Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Twin Cities Marathon Course Preview

I had the pleasure of taking my wife and kids to visit my parents who live about 40 minutes south of Minneapolis. Since I'm planning to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October, I thought it would be a good idea to preview the course. I was particularly interested in checking out the final couple of miles which appear on the course map to be fairly significant inclines.

Link to course map: http://www.mtcmarathon.org/PDFs/MarathonCourseMap08.pdf

The Start
The race starts right outside the Metrodome. If you haven't been to Minneapolis then you are missing out. It's a beautiful city. The first few miles take you through the core downtown area which is pancake flat. The skyline is small enough that I don't think the winds that are often exagerated when among tall buildings will be an issue.

Miles 3-8
At the three-mile mark, you turn south out of the downtown area and enter an amazingly beautiful 5-mile stretch that takes you through some of the most beautiful if not luxurious neighborhoods of any metro area I've ever scene. When you're finished looking at the homes on your right, you look to your left and realize you are running along side three of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. The best part is the much of this section is heavily shaded with big trees protecting runners from much of the direct sunlight. This stretch is also dead flat.

Miles 9-11
This stretch is also quite protected from the direct sunlight giving runners a breather from temperatures that can be quite warm even in October. This stretch struck me as particularly narrow but by Mile 11, things will have thinned out sufficiently such that it shouldn't be a congestion problem.

Miles 12-13
Due to some road construction, we actually had to skip this part that goes around Lake Nokomis. According to the map it is also flat. I don't know what the shading is like.

Miles 14-16
We rejoined the course at Mile 14 which rejoins this narrow street called Minehaha Parkway. It again is pretty well shaded.

Miles 17-21
We were running low on time so we skipped this part that follow the Mississippi River back up to St. Paul. According to the map it is flat.

Miles 21-23
The elevation maps would have you believe this is a pretty substantial slope but if I hadn't looked at the map ahead of time, I'm not sure I would have noticed any uphill at all. Over the two-mile stretch, it rises just 120 feet. I know by this time in a marathon the slightest incline feels like Heartbreak Hill, but seriously, this stretch is no problem at all. You lose all of the shade on this stretch as the street widens dramatically and you enter some of the most upscale and gorgeous neighborhoods of St. Paul. The worst part about this stretch will be a lack of protection from sun and wind if either are present on race day.

The Homestretch
The last three miles are an almost unoticeable downhill slope to the capital building in St. Paul. I'm really looking forward to this stretch of the race because if there is anything left in the tank, it will be a perfect stretch to run. The finish area looks awesome.

I can't say enough about how great this course looks. The biggest x factor, as last year proved, will be the weather. It could be 40 and breezy or 85 and humid. Of then 10 days I just spent in Minneapolis, 8 of them were very pleasant with low humidity. But the day we left (Sunday) was miserable. It was 85 degrees with 70% humidity. If it's like that on race day in October, I won't bother running. But if the weather coooperates, I think this will be a very fun and memorable race.


Ryan said...

I Stumbled on your blog. Most of your assessment of the course is pretty accurate- Ive run it 4 times and lived in Mpls most of my life. But- BUT! You missed the big hill! There is quite a rise at mile 20-ish. You skipped it. Its comparable to heartbreak in Boston. (yes, Ive done Boston and TCM so I think they can compare)

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