Saturday, December 31, 2016

Run for the Lakes Marathon and Half Marathon

Run for the Lakes Marathon and Half Marathon - April 29

Cost: Probably the best part of this race is its value. It's only $55 for the full marathon before Dec. 31, and raises incrementally to $80 by April 28. The half marathon is $50 before Dec. 31 and raises incrementally to $75 by April 28.

Gear and food: I've liked my finisher shirts both years I've done this race. The food at the finish line is also pretty good.

Weather: The weather at this one is usually good for marathoning, though it has snowed and rained.

Aid stations: The aid stations are just the right distance for most people.

Scenery: If you like trees this is your race. The marathon is two loops through wooded areas-- I did find the second loop to be a bit tedious as far as scenery goes. If there was more to see than mostly trees, it'd be better.

Crowd support: This is not the race for you if a lot of crowd support is important to you. There are very few people cheering out on the course. It is, however, fairly easy for your own spectators to see you several times on the course.

Though Run for the Lakes isn't my first choice for a spring marathon, it's a decent course and a great value. All in all I would recommend this one if you're looking for a lower-priced race. The course is fairly flat, so it's reasonably fast.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Earth Day Half Marathon

Earth Day 1/2 Marathon - April 22

Cost: Registration is $50 through Jan. 8.

Gear and food: I've been happy with the finisher shirts for the years I've done this race. The food at the end is good--they definitely give you enough.

Weather: The several years I've done this race the weather has been good--cool but not too cold.

Course: I enjoy this course--it's got a lot of variety and has some decent scenery, especially along the river. There are some rolling hills on this race, but nothing real long and steep.

Crowd support: For the size of St. Cloud, this race has pretty decent crowd support, especially at the start and finish. It's also pretty easy for your own spectators to see you several times during the race.

I've always had fun at this event and definitely recommend it for a spring half marathon. It's a little earlier in the season, so it's a good one to use as a tune-up race for a spring marathon or half marathon. It's also late enough, however, that you cold use it as a goal race. If you're looking for a spring half marathon with an easy-ish course, this is a good one.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fargo Marathon and Half Marathon

Fargo Marathon and Half Marathon - May 20

Cost: The marathon is $85 before Dec. 31, and raises increments up to $100 by May 16. The half marathon is $65 by Dec. 31, and raises in increments up to $80 by May 16. 

Gear and food: I've been happy with the shirts for this race, and the finish line food has been good both years I've done the races.

Weather: In the two years I've done these races, the weather has been almost opposite. In 2015 the weather was almost perfect--cool at the start and throughout the race and overcast. In 2016 it was warm--not too bad for the half marathon, but tough conditions for those running the full marathon. Wind can be a factor in this one, but it wasn't in the last two years.

Course: One of my favorite parts of this race is that it starts and finishes in the Fargo Dome. This means you are warm at the start and don't need throwaway clothes. The course itself is nice and flat and goes through several college campuses and gives decent views of the area.

Crowd support: Though it's nothing like bigger city marathons, there's still decent crowd support. There are also quite a few bands along the course which is nice. If you have your own spectators it's pretty easy for them to see you along the course.

Of the dozen plus marathons I've run, the Fargo Marathon and Half Marathon is one was one of my favorites. There are a lot of big positives to this race, so if you're considering a spring marathon, the Fargo Marathon is a good one. There is also a half marathon distance. All in all this is a great race and I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a spring marathon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Goldy's Run 10 Mile

Goldy's Run 10 mile - April 9

Cost: $55 through Jan. 1

Gear and food: This one gives out nice long sleeve tech shirts. It's been awhile since I've done it, so I don't remember the post-race food.

Weather: The years I've done this one the weather's been decent, but as with any mid-spring race the weather can be hit or miss.

Course: A challenging, hilly course that runs through areas around the Mississippi, so somewhat scenic.

Crowd support: There's not much on the course, but the race finishes in TCF Bank Stadium where there's a good amount of people.

The years I've paced this race have been fun. The weather's been nice, the organization has been good, and the course presents a good challenge--lots of hills. If you're looking for a PR, this race probably isn't the one for you. Gold'y ample hills make it a good early season test of fitness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Gifts for Runners

Looking for a Christmas gift for a runner in your life? I could make a whole list for you, but I'll just give you a few suggestions. While most of my suggestions are safe bets, be aware that some runners are very particular. I'll give some ideas of how to get around that in my recommendations.

Socks: The classic groaner gift for kids, runners will actually enjoy socks--here's the caveat for particular runners: They may like only a certain type of socks. That might mean a brand, a level of cushion, or a length (no-show or ankle). Still, most runners aren't extremely picky, and would probably use a sock that's a bit different from what they have. It would, however, pay off to find out what your runner likes.

Technical Shirt: This one's probably a surer bet than socks. Most of my tech shirts are from races, so I pretty much wear what I get. I don't know a lot of runners who are real particular. Just make sure to get a shirt that doesn't have cotton.

Shoes: These would be near the top of the price range as most running shoes are $90 or more. Make sure you know the exact brand and model your runner wears. Knowing just the brand isn't enough to get them the right shoe. You'll need to know the model as well.

Running Watch: This one could be hit or miss. Most runners use GPS watches, and they're pretty pricey.  If your runner already owns a GPS and are looking for a new one, it's probably a good idea to let her or him pick one on their own. If your runner has never owned a GPS watch and their just looking for something basic, some models can be found for less than $100.

Gift Card: Here's the safest bet. Get your runner a gift card to a local running store or an online retailer. A gift card may seem less personal, but your runner knows what she or he likes, and a gift card is usually appreciated.

If you're looking for more ideas, check out Gift Guides for Runners from Runner's World. It contains several lists, including thirty running gifts for less than thirty dollars.

Run well.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


It's that time of the year again--running on treadmills. Though I got out a couple times this past week, Friday night was a bust. I was planning on running six miles, but the snow on the sidewalks was too deep. I only ended up running three and a half miles.

Though I'd prefer not, treadmills are sometimes the best option in the Midwestern winters. You can almost always dress warm enough to run in the cold, but running in snow deeper than an inch or so is pretty difficult. Snow kept me inside five of seven days this week, four days on the treadmill and one on an indoor track.

The biggest complaint I have about treadmills is they are boring. Still, there are things you can do to mitigate the boredom. Many fitness centers have televisions built in to their treadmills or on the wall. I listen to audio books to take my mind off running in place for forty five minutes or more.

You can also do workouts on treadmills. Varying the pace and the incline on a treadmill can break the run up into smaller segments that can make the run more bearable. Read "Four Great Treadmill Workouts" from Runner's World for some workout ideas.

Run well.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fred Kurz 10 Mile

Fred Kurz 10 Mile - TBA

Cost: $10 MDRA member, $20 nonmember

Gear and food: Another bare bones race, but there are awards (MDRA gear) for age groups along with food at the end.

Weather: A mid-spring race, the temperature is usually good for racing, but Minnesota weather is unpredictable this time of year.

Aid stations: I've only done this one once, and I can't remember if there was an aid station. I can't find information about aid stations on the website.

Course: Flat and fast, most of it on the Luce Line trail, a nice surface of granular clay. The scenery is also decent, running through wetlands and along a couple of lakes.

Crowd support: None along the course other than the occasional encouragement from other trail users.

This one is an interesting race. You send in a few race times, and the organizers estimate your finish time and give you a start time. The idea is that all runners finish around the same time, and it's also fun to try and beat your estimated time.

I think this one is a great race. The course is flat and fast which makes for a PR course, and the uniqueness of the handicapped start makes for a fun event. I'd highly recommend this one.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Intense Exercise

In previous posts I've mentioned the benefits of exercise, as well as setting goals about exercise. While I still think 20 minutes is a good minimum to aim for, there is some research to support the benefits of shorter bouts of exercise ranging from seven to thirty minutes.

If you feel really crunched for time or 20 minutes of exercise seems like too much, you do have another option: intense interval training. Here's a seven minute workout from the New York Times:

The trendy new interval workouts are called high intensity interval training, or HIIT. This type of exercise means doing an intense interval of exercise followed by a rest interval. Research on the benefits of this exercise includes improved cardiovascular fitness and blood glucose control.

Though HIIT can be beneficial, as of now there is not consistent evidence that HIIT is superior to longer periods of moderate exercise. So, while I would still recommend 20 minutes or more of moderate exercise, those who feel that's too long or are really on a time crunch could benefit from HIIT training.

Read more about the potential benefits of HIIT Training in this article from NPR.

The best takeaway from the above article and from my own experience is: the best exercise is one you relatively enjoy and can stay committed to.

If you're interested in trying out some HIIT, here a a couple you could try:

Run well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ron Daws 25k

Ron Daws 25k - Date: TBA

Cost: $5 preregistred MDRA members, $15 nonmembers, $20 for all on race day.

Gear and food: Another bare bones MDRA race--no shirts or medals, but there are cookies and race rolls at the finish.

Weather: Totally unpredictable. It's been perfect weather, freezing weather, and crazy windy in the past few years.

Aid stations: You go by an aid station with water several times.

Course: Incredibly hilly and challenging. It goes through neighborhoods, so nothing scenic.

Crowd support: None to speak of.

This is a great race to test your fitness. The course is tough and makes for a good challenge. I also enjoy racing a 25k--the extra 4k compared to the half marathon makes pacing interesting.

Monday, December 12, 2016

MDRA 7 Mile

MDRA 7 Mile - March 25

Another of the MDRA nonstandard distances, it makes pacing a little more interesting. It's also another race that comes free with a Minnesota Distance Running Association membership. You can sign up at Join MDRA.

The MDRA 7 Mile is a great race if you like a low-key event. Although it's bare bones and a pretty small field, there are a wide variety of runners, so whether you're running fast or slow you'll probably find at least one person to run with.

Another big bonus is that race day registration is in a church basement--it's great staying warm and being able to use an indoor bathroom before the race. If you're looking for a challenging yet low-key race, I'd highly recommend this one.

Cost: Free to MDRA members.

Gear and food: No shirts or finisher medals for this one, but there are usually cookies at the end.

Weather: The years I've done this one it's been good--usually cool, sometimes cold. It is early spring, however, so the weather can be pretty unpredictable. 

Course: Hilly and challenging. It runs mostly through neighborhoods, so if you're looking for scenery, this isn't the race for you.

Crowd support: Not at this race.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Winter Training

The dreaded "W" word is upon us in Minnesota. The change in weather means training in cold, snow, and ice -- at least it does for my Midwestern readers. The temperature was 4 degrees on my eleven mile run this morning.

However, just because it's cold doesn't mean you have to abandon your outdoor training. There's lots you can do to have a successful winter of training and maintaining or even improving your fitness. Here's some tips to make winter running successful (and maybe even enjoyable):

Dress for Success
Some essentials here are warm socks, gloves, long sleeve tech shirts, and a windbreaker. If you're going to run in very cold weather, a face covering of some sort is helpful. Make sure you avoid anything cotton. Runner's World has a nice tool to help you decide "What to Wear" based on the temperature and conditions.

Traction for Your Shoes
If you're looking for cheap, effective traction, trying turning some of your older running shoes into screw shoes. Detailed instructions can be found here, and more information on screw shoes can be found here. There are also several other traction options that can be placed on your shoes, such as Yaktrax Run. I find screw shoes work best on packed, shallow snow and ice, and Yaktrax work better on more powdery snow.

Lights and Reflective Gear
Winter means fewer daylight hours. With that in mind, it's good to have reflective gear and a headlamp. If you're running in a city with lots of streetlights, you're not going to need a real powerful headlamp. I mainly use mine to shine at cars in intersections so I know they can see me and won't roll into me through a stop sign. There are many options for reflective gear--hats, pants, jackets, or a reflective vest you can put on over your clothes all work well.

Start You Running Into the Wind
Try to start out the first part of your run going into the wind. It's a much more pleasant experience to be a little cold at the start of your run and finish with the wind at your back. Also, if you start with the wind you may get sweaty and warm, potentially making the run back a cold, miserable experience.

You can read more of my thoughts on winter training here, here, and here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lake Johanna 4 Mile

Lake Johanna 4 mile - March 18

A nonstandard distance, the Lake Johanna 4 Mile is a fun race on a reasonably challenging course. With the hills and the nonstandard distance, picking a pace to run consistently is a nice challenge in and of itself.

This is one of the several free races included with a membership in the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA). Like the other races, I think this race alone is worth the MDRA membership, which also includes a bimonthly magazine, discounts at several local running stores, and discounts to several other races. To join MDRA, go to: Join MDRA.

Cost: Free for MDRA members.

Gear and food: This race is a low-key event--no finisher shirts or medals--but there are cookies at the end.

Weather: The years I've run this race the weather has been perfect, but like every spring Minnesota race, the weather can be unpredictable.

Course: I really enjoy the course--rolling hills around Lake Johanna. The hills make it a challenging course, but not overly so.

Crowd support: There'll be a decent amount of people at the start and finish.

If you're looking for a low-key and challenging early season race, the Lake Johanna 4 Mile is a good one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Get Lucky 7k, 14k, and Half Marathon

Get Lucky 7k, 14k and Half Marathon - March 11

I've done this race a few times and have been a spectator a couple of other times. The race isn't spectacular, but it is a good early season test of fitness.

Cost: TBA

Gear and food: Team Ortho is known for it's gear and most people like it. The downside for this one is that a "Get Lucky" sweatshirt's double entendre may not play well in all settings. Food at the end is average.

Weather: Generally cool, but Minnesota springs are inconsistent. There was one year with snow and ice. Another year was sunny an warm--especially difficult for an early season race after training in cold and cool weather.

Course: There's not information on the course as of this writing. The course has been changed several times, though it usually contains several rolling hills.

Crowd support: Not a whole lot along the course, but a decent crowd at the finish.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Spring Races

Looking for a race this spring? Over the past six years I've had the pleasure of racing or being a pacer at quite a few Minnesota races. I included the date and cost of these events unless they haven't released them. For several races, I used the cost of last year's race, so the price may be different this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you're not from Minnesota or you're looking for a different race, check out Running in the USA's calendar to search for races.

You'll notice several of these races are free or discounted for MDRA members. I highly recommend a Minnesota Distance Running Association membership for Minnesota runners. Any one of the member benefits is worth the price alone. Not only do you get free or discounted races, you also get a bimonthly magazine, a running log with a race calendar, and discounts at many Minnesota running stores. I've been a member since 2010, and I've got my money's worth every year. Sign up at Join MDRA.

  • Ron Daws 25k - April 1 - $5 MDRA preregistered, $15 nonmember, $20 for all on race day
I'll be posting reviews and more detailed information about each of these races over the next two weeks.

Run well.

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