The Paavo Nurmi Marathon is the longest running marathon in Wisconsin. Named for the Finnish Olympic runner from the 1920s, this year was the 45th running. A lot of Wisconsinites tout this as their favorite marathon. It has been on my To Do list for many years, and this year, it worked into our schedule.
I enjoyed this marathon, but I am not understanding the hype. There were some nice things, but for a marathon that has been around for so long, they had a few disappointments.
Let's start with the disappointments:
1. The line for packet pick up was ridiculously slow. I have done many many many of these, and when I see a line with about 15 people in it, I expect it to take about 10 minutes. That's pretty standard. Pre-registration generally moves people in and out pretty quick. For reasons that I cannot figure out, this line just did not move. We waited and waited and waited, and just could not figure out what the hold up was. I think we were in line nearly 30 minutes. For a marathon that has been around for so long, I would expect they would be a tad more efficient.
2. There were only 4 porta-potties at the start line, for about 450+ people (200 marathoners and another 250 relayers). That is NOT enough. I got to the start area about 40 minutes before start time, and immediately got in line, and was in line until about 2 and a half minutes before the start. Again, for a marathon that has 44 years of experience, I cannot figure out why anyone would think only 4 porta-potties would be sufficient.
3. Finisher medal distribution. They were not handed out at the finish. I had read that they had to be picked up at a nearby bar. I didn't remember the name, and there was no clear communication about this process at the finish. I wandered around looking for a sign or something, and eventually I had to ask a fellow runner where to go, as did many others, as many people also asked me. It is odd to not have medals handed out right at the finish. In all my marathons, I don't think I have ever had to go into a bar to get the medal. Having to go wander to find it, go into a bar, go all the way to the back room, to a table, give your name, have them look you up, and then give you your medal really takes away from the sense of a special moment of getting that medal seconds after you finish.
4. The awards ceremony was difficult to find. The website and pre-race information indicated that the awards would be at Ricelli Park. I figured that this location would be obvious after finishing. It wasn't. It was about a half mile away. When I tried to ask volunteers where it was, I was only told 'a few blocks that way'. If your finish ceremony's location is not obvious from the finish line, please have a little map somewhere to help us find it.
5. The overall awards were the exact same award as the age group awards: a generic medal whose color indicated first, second or third. If you do not make the overall award anything special, then its hard to feel like an overall placement in your marathon was anything special.
Now for the good:
1. The course was nice, and well marked. It was pleasantly scenic, and had enough hills to keep in interesting. We went through a handful of small towns where local residents sat out in lawn chairs to watch and cheer. This was very charming.
2. Plenty of aid stations with water and sports drink. Sponges were also available. Typically the weather for this marathon is very hot. Today we had pleasantly cooler than normal temperatures.
3. Mojakka at the finish line. This is a finnish stew, and is tradition for this marathon. This is an unusual post-race offering. Its basically a hearty beef, carrot, potato soup. The meat and potatoes, and the salty broth really hit the spot after a few hours of running. And I always enjoy something a little out of the ordinary.
4. Race shirt. I love this shirt. Its a cotton/poly blend. Very soft, and it actually fits. Its an orange-yellow color that is a bit unique. The shirt says "Marathon Finisher" on it, and is given out after the finish. That is a small touch that I appreciate. The back has the logo and course map on it. More stuff I like.
5. The awards announcer at the awards ceremony was very charming. She was a grandmotherly non-runner type, and interjected random commentaries that had definite "small town charm". When she called up one woman for an award who's city and state were not listed, she said with a smile: "You have no city? That's okay, dear, we'll adopt you."
All in all, this was a nice marathon. If I were a local person, I would likely do it every year. However, it doesn't earn a spot in my favorites list. I am glad to have completed it, and have it checked off my list.