The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was my 3rd marathon and it was the first time that I ran this race. My goal for the race was to pace well and not experience a big slowdown in the second half of the race, particularly in the last 3-6 miles. My previous marathon PR was 4:25. After some deliberation, I set my target pace for 9:50, about a 4:18 time goal. I had the feeling I could run faster (my goal pace runs were done at 9:40 pace) but decided that being conservative and making this a positive race was the way to go.
The marathon is the crown jewel of the Badgerland Striders, a local running group. Until a few years ago it was Milwaukee’s only marathon. October in Milwaukee is generally perfect marathon weather. The course is fairly flat, the only significant hill being a downhill. Total elevation was 405 ft on my Garmin with 603 ft of elevation loss. Net loss, you can’t beat that! The course is point-to-point.
Packet pick-up at the Italian Community Center was smooth, there was a small expo. Race swag included a long sleeve tech tee. Race morning starts early, with shuttle buses to the start of the race at Grafton High School. The school is open so runners can wait in the cafeteria before the race. Warm gear can be kept on and deposited into a UPS truck while headed to the start line. The race increased the number of runners to 3,000 this year but the race was not full. Porta-potty lines were pretty long at the race start. One bathroom was open indoors.
The race start is fairly congested and the pacers were very close to each other. My plan was to start and stay in front of the 4:20 pacer. A few feet separated the 4:10 and 4:20 pace groups. The first 2 miles are a net downhill so my plan was to run a bit faster than the goal 9:50, but a controlled pace. I caught up to the 4:10 pace group so I moved to the side and slowed down.
Drizzle had started as we rode the buses to the start of the race and the first 20 miles of the race were in drizzle and light rain. The starting temperature was close to 60 degrees, so the rain felt good. I felt OK, but not particularly strong. As the race went on I was surprised that I continued feeling good. I was tracking at an average pace of 9:45 but my Garmin was slightly ahead at the mile markers. The 4:20 pace group was close behind me and even passed me at a water stop.
The race starts in a suburban neighborhood then heads onto some country roads. Most of the course is not closed, there are cones to separate the runners from traffic, most of the roads were just one lane in either direction. Though it is called the Lakefront Marathon you don’t actually see the lake until the end of the race, when you head onto Lake Drive and also see the spectacular lakefront homes. Spectators were plentiful despite the rain. Our names were on our bibs, so cheering was done with our name. Volunteers were also plentiful and were very friendly. Water stops had the usual water and Gatorade with 2 stops also offering gels.
I walk through water stops since I cannot drink and run. I stopped at every water stop except the final two. I was able to easily speed up after the stops. I was always passing people and kept the 9:45 average pace. I knew I would have to speed up eventually, my Garmin was still tracking ahead, but I figured I would save it until the end. There is a slight uphill at mile 22 and 23 and I knew that after that it was pretty flat, with the big downhill at mile 24. I had run this part of the course often so it was great, familiar feeling. I felt surprisingly strong and started to push the pace heading to the downhill. I finally lost the pace group. My final miles were 9:25, 9:35, and 9:37. I ended with a time of 4:16:56 and an average pace of 9:48. The most important thing was the race was fun! I never thought I would say that about a marathon. 🙂
The finish line area was very muddy due to the rain. Collecting checked bags was quick and easy. A small changing tent was provided. The post-race snacks were in a paper bag, which was handy. Beer was free for runners and spectators. Some hot food was also available for purchase. Shuttle buses were provided for the short ride back to the parking at the Italian Community Center.
Overall this was a very enjoyable race. It’s very well organized, with a small city of volunteers. I can’t count the number of times that spectators cheered for me by name. It’s a great feeling!
Time: 4:16:56, 9:48 pace