Minneapolis — City of Lakes Half Marathon (#15)

Have you ever been to Minneapolis? According to my scientific poll of friends that I randomly queried, less than 10% responded in the affirmative. You, along with the nine people who answered negatively in my poll, should make a visit. Minneapolis has a lot to offer.

Though I was only there for 36 hours (and I have been there before), I got a lot done. First of all, for a mere $1.75, I rode the light (fantastic?) rail to downtown from the airport.

It took less than 30 minutes and I had to walk just a block over to my hotel. Try accomplishing that in a major city! After dropping my bags, I took an Uber uptown to the Mia (Minneapolis Institute of Art) and saw the landscape collection of Paul Allen — think Microsoft, Seattle Seahawks, Portland Trailblazers, and Seattle Sounders. He also owns several Manet’s, Monet’s, etc which are worth more than a few quarterbacks and point guards. The Mia is really an impressive place, but I didn’t want to be on my feet too long, so I wandered around for just a few hours.

After the Mia, I picked up my racing packet at the Running Room store on Lake Street, not far from the race course. The race, perhaps reflecting its modest midwest locale, was minimalist as far as gear and support go these days. Along with my bib, we received a reusable (and returnable!) timing chip. No t-shirts (this news was received with a few grumbles from those standing in line) were provided, but you were to receive a finisher’s medal and beer glass after the race. After picking up my bib, I found a friendly sports bar and watched the first half of the Wisconsin-Akron game along with a few of the many Badger-faithful that live in Minneapolis.

Claude Monet — The Water Lilly Pond (1919). Purchased in 2008 for a cool $80m.

The Cleveland Indians happened to be in town to play the Twins on Saturday night. Target Field was a just a few blocks from my hotel, so I ambled over right before the first pitch (I had purchased a ticket on Stubhub). The stadium is in a great downtown location and, as they say, there doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house. On the other hand, the interior stadium was designed to look like a Target store with lots of silver and red. I actually felt that I was in a Target, not the best environment to watch America’s pastoral game. I kept looking for the bright red shopping carts. The Tribe ended-up losing in 12 innings, 2–1. (By the way, Twin’s fans are incredibly friendly and forgiving. Joe Mauer is getting paid $23m/season and has 43 RBIs. Twin fans are pretty much, “What can you do?” When a 27 year-old rookie (James Beresford) came up to bat for the first time in the majors, he received a standing ovation! This is all for a team with the worst record in baseball).

Because it was Minnesota in September and the weather was cool, the race didn’t begin until 8:00 am on Sunday morning. I Ubered over to Beard’s Plaisance (Pleasant Beard?) park area next to Lake Harriet for the start of the race. There were just over 1,000 runners, so the starting area was very low key and friendly.

There was no bag drop-off, but I noticed runners just left their extra gear near the tennis court. I had a long sleeve shirt which I hung on the tennis court fence (the finish was a mile away, so I never made it back to retrieve it. It’s probably still sitting there). The port-a-potty line was stretching, so I skipped it. I did a short run to warm-up, but mostly did some people watching as we waiting for the start.

Since I was running three half marathons in a four week period (attempting to get five races in this year), I didn’t have a firm race strategy when I crossed the start line. I wanted to finish under 1:50, but would see how I felt after a few miles. The race had pacers which was unusual for a half marathon and a small local race. I made my way through the throng of runners between the 1:45 and the 1:50 pacers. I didn’t hear a gun go off, but the line started moving forward just after 8:00 am. The race course consisted of two laps around the perimeter road of Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. There was a very narrow strip between the two lakes, so I couldn’t really tell that we were running around two separate lakes. The road was narrow and there was a big crowd of runners, so I clocked in the first mile at a pace of 8:47. I was able to do the next three miles at around 8:05 as the race was opening up a bit. I was running with a somewhat older gentleman (perhaps he was my age!) and his daughter. He said he had run the world’s top marathons (Boston, Berlin, London, etc.) and, given his effortless and fast pace, I believed him. At one point he said, “Well, I am going to catch my daughter,” and broke into an ever faster trot as he pulled away.

At the start with pacers with the blue balloons.

At mile six or so, I joined the 1:50 pace group which consisted of a 7–8 runner horizontal peloton making its way around the course. There were two pacers, one carried a balloon with the goal time and the other carried the balloon with the pace (8:25). Ironically, they had a hard time keeping pace with each other and we ended up running somewhat unevenly between 8:04 and 8:25 through mile 10 (the mileage pacer seemed irritated at the goal pacer for running to fast. I guess they had different goals). Regardless, it was helpful to run with a group through the middle section of the race. The route was generally flat, though there were a couple of places where there were modest elevation changes to contend with. There were some beautiful homes surrounding the lakes. And I thought that I had it easy living off the Crescent Trail.

I broke off from the group after mile 10 hoping to finish better than 1:50. I ran a couple of miles with a younger Somali woman. She was using the half marathon as a training run for her first marathon (Minneapolis) that was taking place in October. My legs were definitely tiring, but we were able to run through 12 miles at around 8:15. I used the counting technique (just counting silently each step up to 75 to get through each quarter mile) to keep my mind off my wilting legs. We hit mile 12 and I felt that I had a long/last kick in me. I sped up and was able to run 7:49 the last mile to cross the finish line at a respectable 1:48:54. That last mile was something of a “in the zone stride” in that I was able to ignore leg fatigue and just “running form” my way through. I am sure the top marathoners are able to do this for many more miles than moi.

Zachary Hine (28), from Colorado Springs, won the race while clocking a 1:07:18 time at a 5:08 pace. I was more impressed with Jeff Renlund from Chaska, MN. who, at 49, placed 11th and finished at 1:15:20 (5:55 pace). But, most impressive of all was a Mr. Alan Phillips, an 82 year old from St. Cloud who smashed the Minnesota state record for his age by more than 13 minutes and finished at 2:29:11. On the woman’s side, 75 year-old Sandra Dalquist set the state record for her age group running a 2:22:54 race. I could only claim the Maryland division championship.

That puts #15 in the books and I can start getting ready for Keen, New Hampshire on September 25th and Newport, RI on October 9th.

With beer glass and medal after!