Mile Motivation Monday
Week 2: How to Run a Great Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon by Kirk Walztoni
Take it easy—take it too easy. You will run faster than you think due to the adrenaline coursing through your veins and the veins of those around you. If you find yourself trapped amongst a bunch of people who are running too slowly for you, do NOT weave in and out of them. Save your energy.
If mile 1 took longer to cover than you thought it would, do not panic. You have 25.2 miles left to go.
There is a nice downhill on mile 2 taking you down to the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden, where you will take a left and then head up a long hill. Take it easy up the hill. Do not judge yourself on how others are running around you. Many people charge up this hill because they are feeling good. Do not let your breathing rate increase up the hill and hold your perceived effort, because…
Just after you hit mile 2, you take a hard right and continue to climb. Keep your effort even here, letting people pass you. You still have 24 miles to pass them back. Conserve your energy. There is always a great crowd here, usually including Justice Alan Page (ex Purple People Eater) playing his tuba.
The first waterstop of the race is at mile 2.5 and this is a long water stop. Do not go to the first table and more importantly do not skip Powerade here. It is important to hydrate often and hydrate early. I like to take one Powerade and one water per waterstop, especially if they’ve over-mixed the Powerade and it is sticky sweet. (Powerade is roughly 6% carbs by volume—if it has more sugar, it impedes absorption into your blood stream).
Now that you have hydrated, enjoy the nice downhill taking you down towards Lake of the Isles.
Cruise control time. You should be finding your pace through here. If you ran too fast the first few miles, slow down and get yourself back on schedule. If you ran too slowly, don’t worry here and do not try to make the time back up. There will be plenty of time later to try to get back that minute you lost in the first few miles.
Run the tangents, as this is a curvy section of the course. Do not be the person who runs 26.5 miles because you stick to one side of the road—26.2 miles are far enough.
There is a water stop at mile 5. If you’re over 40 minutes to this point, consider taking your first Gel here. Take Gel with 2 cups of water to get close that 6% Carbs I mentioned earlier. Do not take Gel with Powerade as this can give you a stomach ache.
Harriet to Calhoun—you know the hill, you’ve run it 100 times during training, but it feels bigger this time. Let the people around you pass you. Once you reach the top of the hill, relax and regain any breath you might have lost. Let the view of the Bandshell pull you down the hill and around the left hand turn down to Lake Harriet. There is another water stop at mile 7, so if you haven’t done so already, down that Gel now.
Enjoy the crowds here at miles 7-8 as these are the thickest crowds you’ll see until Summit Avenue. After mile 8 take note as to how you feel. You should feel fresh at this point. If not, take a mile off (slow down by 15-30 sec/mile) and reassess.
This is the trickiest part of the course and where most people wreck their Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Why? You’ve run the on the path a zillion times but how many times have you run the road? The road is MUCH hillier than the bike path. I’ve seen many people blow themselves up here by running these hills too hard. You may be tired of hearing this, but take it easy here. Let other people pass you on the uphills. If you are not getting passed, you are running too fast.
Once it flattens out (shortly after Portland), relax and find your goal marathon pace again.
You take the right hand turn on to Cedar Avenue where this is another water stop and another hill. This might be another great spot for a Gel, depending on how long you’ve been out and your personal fueling-strategy (you have one, right?). There is also another long hill here—be careful and let people pass you (again). Once you’ve reached the top relax, and find your marathon pace. Head over the bridge, take a sharp left hand turn on to Nokomis Parkway and head towards the half marathon mark. If you’ve followed the instructions so far, you should hit the half marathon mark feeling good. Mug for the cameras as this is your chance to look good (I promise you, these pictures are always better than the finish line photos).
Assess your situation. How do you feel? Does doing another 13 sound easy? Does it sound impossible? Adjust your goals as necessary. There is not doubt about it, the 2nd half of the race is tougher than the first half, so be honest with yourself.
You zip around Nokomis, take a hairpin curve back onto Minnehaha Parkway and lo and behold, there is another hill. Hold your effort even up this hill—If you do, and you’ve taken it easy on the hills prior to this one you will notice something new—people falling back compared to you. All of these people ran too hard too early. Do not be tempted by the Melo-Glaze donut shop and keep on trucking down Minnehaha Pkwy. I always take my second Gel at the water stop at mile 13.5, leaving me with one more left to go.
If you’ve run a conservative race, this is the time to really start running your race. The course is flat to downhill through this section and you’ve run these miles so many times that there should be no distractions. You’ll fly by Minnehaha Falls and then take a left on to West River Road into the area I call “The Vacuum” due to the lack of cheering fans and the isolation that it entails. Motivation and cheers are at a premium here, so soak in the energy when you can. Keep your water intake up and make sure to find the shade here wherever it is possible. Also, continue to run the tangents as people continue to run too many miles during this 26.2 mile endeavor. However, if it is sunny, find the shade and don’t worry about tangents. The sun is moving up in the sky by this time and you want to keep as cool as you possibly can.
If you don’t feel great, take it easy through here (don’t be afraid to slow down) and conserve your energy. You’ll want as much of it as possible come miles 20-23…
Lastly, there is a Clif Shot Zone here at mile 17. Take one only if you know for a fact that 1) You can stomach Clif Shots and 2) They have a flavor you know you can stomach.
There is another short but very tough climb up to the Franklin Bridge—again, take it easy here and conserve energy. Once on the bridge, take a look to your right and check out the fall colors on the river bluffs--simply beautiful.
The Medtronic Plaza is located just after the bridge and so is the ALARC “Wall” once you’ve turned onto East River Road. Again, find the shade through this section of the course if it is a sunny day. I always take my last Gel early in this section of the race.
Through this section there are a few more hills for you to conquer. The first one comes immediately after the “Welcome to St. Paul” sign and is a surprise every time I run this race. People should look like they are moving backwards relative to you on this one if you’ve run a smart race. There is a nice downhill to the base of Lake St and then the 2nd half of the marathon begins…
The best thing that can be said about this section of the course is that it is only 2 miles long—remember this, only 2 miles long. First, there is a climb from the base of the Lake Street Bridge to where you turn left and face the hill to St. Thomas. Keep moving through here and attempt to keep your heart rate as low as possible. Once you reach the base of the steep hill stare at the top of the hill and keep trucking until you reach the top. Don’t worry about the people around, just keep moving and just keep your effort even. Do not run so hard that you find yourself out of breath at the top of this hill. Once you’ve reached the top, the course turns right, and then quickly left onto Summit Avenue. What awaits you???
Crowds, sun and more uphill running. Find the shade wherever possible and keep drinking water. Did I say that this section is only two miles long? Maintain your pace through here—if you do you will be moving past people around you. Break this portion of the course into small chunks—Cretin to Prior, Prior to Snelling. Once you’ve hit Snelling, you can smell the end of the climb and the end of the marathon.
You are done with the hills. Are you passing people through this section?—if so, keep it up. Find someone to “lasso” and pull them in. Take a little break and do it again. Note how strong the sun is—aren’t you glad you avoided it the last 10 miles??? There is no hiding from it in this section of the course. If there is a headwind here, work with other people going your speed (if there are any). Be greedy here and don’t be a hero by being in the front of the group.
Once you are inside of 20 minutes to the finish do not stop for water. Do not stop for anything—it can be tough to get moving again.
Did I say you were done with the hills? I lied. There is one more small hill, right at mile 25. You can attack this one if you like (this is the first one that I’ve said this about). Once you take a left (remaining on Summit), there is 1 more mile left. Enjoy the scenery around you and pull in that guy/gal in front of you. You either trained harder than they did or ran a smarter race than they did, right?
Once the Cathedral appears out of nowhere on your left, find that last drop of energy you have. It is a downhill sprint to the finish. Do not ease up and keep truckin’. Pass as many people as you can in the last quarter mile. You’ll be surprised at how much strength you have left in those legs. Count how many people you pass as you cruise to the finish. Congrats on running a great TCM.
Kirk is a previous MDRA Coach and President and has run more than 24 marathons, including 8 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathons. His lifetime best is a 2:40, but his running is on hiatus due to the birth of his twin sons this March. The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon remains his favorite marathon topping Boston, New York and Chicago.