Flat and friendly home town marathon (about: 2002)|
Bob Musselman from Plymouth, Minnesota (9/11/02)
Greg Sturm from the local YMCA took over as race director for the first time this year. He did a fine job, but would like to improve the race if it's going to be worthwhile. Total runners for 2002 were down from past years, because it's got new competition from the Minot, ND marathon for 50-state runners. The Minot marathon suffers from unpredictable weather for North Dakota in April. But the Bismarck schedule suffers because it's held on Pow-Wow week, where thousands of Native Americans book every hotel room in the region months in advance.
So first recommendation, if you're going to run this race, book your room way in advance. Months, not weeks. But maybe Greg will take the hint and schedule it another week!
I picked up my packet at the Y the afternoon before and drove the course. It can be a little tricky with many street turns, but without crowds. The only markers were small white arrows painted on the roadbed. I missed a few on my drive, but the next day in the middle of the pack I came close only once to making a wrong turn. Driving this flat, fast, and very pretty course can be helpful, and it provides another opportunity to observe the communities and parks along the Missouri River.
The race starts at 7:30 a.m. which at the far west end of the time zone is almost dark in early September. Packet pickup onsite at 6:30 was a flashlight affair in a park with only one small, unlighted restroom at the park. And if you get there early bring mosquito repellent. The single-restroom-in-the-dark problem would be worse if there were more than 100 runners (plus another 100 or so for the half-marathon). But get in the potty line early. And bring water to the start if you are hydrating; there was no water at the start this year. It seemed like a real tailgate affair.
Once the run starts it's a real delight. Small crowd, friendly people from all over the U.S. doing their 50 state ND run. Water and Poweraide every 2 miles on the out and back course, with no crowding at the tables.
Oh, no chips here. If you are aiming for a PR, get in front or you'll lose the 15 seconds it takes for the whole pack to cross the start. That's a joke of sorts... a very small crowd.
Did I mention flat? Yes, very flat. Oh, well the last mile has a slight uphill grade which you don't notice on the way out. Everyone at the stops is very friendly, and the few families sitting at the end of farm driveways give good cheer.
The end of the race has more water and poweraide, but not much in the way of food as I remember. That was a disappointment, but keep in mind this race isn't supported by big sponsors, and they don't get much in the way of freebies.
However the YMCA, a mile away from the start/finish, provides shower facilities after the race and a very nice pizza party and awards ceremony. There were almost as many trophies as runners, it seemed. And everyone got a medal as well. It was a very nice get-together of runners from all over in the YMCA gym. The locals were very nice about making the out-of-towners feel welcome.
I drove 7 hours each way from the Twin Cities to run this as a training run for the Twin Cities Marathon, and it was worth it. Bismarck is a beautiful town and you get to see many of the nice parks along the river on the run.