Spring in Wisconsin means the start of race season! Spring race seasons means the arrival of one of my favorite races in Wisconsin – the Eau Claire Marathon! 3 years I headed to Eau Claire to work the expo for the marathon and realized I needed to come back to run it. Last year I did just that – I worked the expo and then ran the half marathon. I made some new friends that day and some of us made a pact to come back and run this race again this year! If you have been following me long enough, you may remember our race day adventures from last year. (if you want to go back and check those out again, click here)
We all have different reasons for running. Some run to be faster than everyone else, to break that tape at the finish line or win an age group. (this will probably NEVER be me!) Some run to challenge themselves and push themselves farther or faster, beating their personal bests. (this is usually me) Others run just for fun. To enjoy the outdoors and seeing new places and spending time with friends. THIS is what the Eau Claire Marathon is for us.
The Eau Claire Marathon is like coming home for me, even tho I have never lived there. It’s the place where I know I will always find friends. Where the race crew welcomes me back with hugs and smiles. Where I know that the half marathon is going to be another new and fun adventure.
This year, I got into Eau Claire on Friday afternoon and spent a relaxing afternoon at one of the local wineries that came highly recommended by the manager at my hotel! It was only about 15 minutes away, had a fabulous patio overlooking the vineyards and was the perfect relaxing afternoon I needed!
After heading into town and finding dinner at one of the restaurants that was recommended by the crew at the winery, it was time to change gears and get ready for work. I was working the expo again this year and Friday evening means setup time! I took a few hours to get everything ready for Saturday and made my way back to the hotel for some quiet time and a good nights sleep!
I love working the expo before this race because I always have so many people that I know running, it makes it easy to say hi to everyone when they stop to do a little shopping. Working an expo and being on your feet all day before a half marathon isn’t always ideal, but like I mentioned… this race is all about having fun and reconnecting with friends that I don’t get to run with often enough! This race is also one that feels like I’m coming home every year – even tho I have never lived in Eau Claire! I always know so many people running it and the race management team is amazing! Each year I am welcomed back with smiles and hugs! I love working with this crew!! They always do everything they can to take care of their runners!
After the expo, I met up with some of the girls to go out to dinner. The 3 amazing women that I was with, all met each other that day for the 1st time. But with all the laughing and joking around at dinner, you would think that we ALL had been friends for years! Yes, all my friends are crazy like me and it’s almost a given that if you are my friend, you will get along with any of my other friends! We left the restaurant with full bellies and abs that hurt from laughing so hard!
Sunday morning brought early alarms. Rebecca was up bright and early to head out for her 1st marathon, which started at 7:30am! Aubree and I had a little more time to get moving since the half marathon didn’t start until 9:15am. Yes, this is kinda a later start but they announced this year that start times next year would be changing (more on that later). About 8am, Renee stopped my our room so we could all head to the shuttle together. This is the 3rd year I have stayed at this same hotel and will continue to do so each year. Not only is it just a few blocks from the expo and packet pickup, but it is also only a few blocks from one of the shuttle stops to the start finish line!
As I mentioned, there are several shuttle stops around town to get runners to Carson Park. There is no parking in the park on race day, so you either need to take a shuttle from one of the parking areas, or park at the lot near the park and then walk up the hill into Carson Park. Have friends or family coming to cheer your on? Don’t worry, spectators are welcome on the shuttles too!
When we got to the park, Renee and I met up with Andrey, another fellow BibRave Pro for some pre-race chatter and a few pics! Check out all that awesome orange!
My friend Kristy found us in the start line area just before it was time to head over to get moving! We invited her to join Aubree and I, but also warned her… there was not time or pace goals for this race! It was all about the fun (and stopping for ice cream at the end) and she was welcome to join us for the party if she wanted! Renee headed over to cheer us on as we started since she was running the 5k and they started about 9:30am.
The race starts with a nice downhill run before you head into town and start your adventure over 11 bridges! The scenery along the course is amazing and helps keep your mind off the hills you keep rolling up and down.
As I said before, this is not a typical race for me. This is the race that brings me back to WHY I run. It’s all about the fun, the friends and the places I can visit! It’s the race that brings me back to being a kid and enjoying being outside with my friends.
It’s all about laughing with your friends and laughing at yourself. We made new friends out on the course that were having just as much fun as we were!
The weather was awesome again this year for the race! Mild 50 degree temps at the start and sunny. We were hoping for some cloud cover to keep the air from feeling too warm. Instead of just clouds, we actually ended up with some rain during the second half of the race, but the cool rain really felt good and helped to cool us off.
But it didn’t stop us from running thru sprinklers!
The highlight of our race was at mile 12.7 when we finally made it to the point in the race we had been looking forward to since last year…
With less than a half mile to go, it was time for a quick pitstop at Roadside Ice Cream for that long awaited treat! We each got one of their Legend mixers (think ice cream and candy bar or cookie pieces!) and headed out the door. We had a race to finish.
With ice cream in hand we finished that last stretch of the half marathon with a causal stroll up the hill into Carson Park amidst comments of “hey, they have ice cream” and “now that’s how to finish” from runners and spectators along the hill. The best comment however came from the race director who commended us on our choice and said that was exactly how he would have done it too!
13.1 miles done and we accomplished each and every one of our goals! We had fun, we played like a kid again and we crossed the finish line together with ice cream! After all that, we met up with Renee, stopped by the beer tent and then a few food trucks before hopping on a shuttle back to the hotel!
Will I be back again next year? You better believe it! Maybe I will even actually run this one for time… oh wait, who am I kidding! I’m going to head back in 2020 and have just as much fun again!
Care to join me next year?? May 2 and 3rd, 2020! New start/finish line area (which also means no more Carson Park hill!) as well as earlier start times for the half marathon and 5k! Hope to see you there!!