Eisenhower Marathon 4/09/11, Abilene, KS

Let me preface my review by saying Dwight D. Eisenhower put this town on the map.  The Eisenhowers lived there from 1898 – 1943 and the town works that connection for all it is worth.  I’m surprised the town didn’t rename itself.  The location of the packet pickup is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Visitor Center, on the grounds which encompass the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum, residence and Presidential Library.  I was not particularly interested in viewing these sights but it had been a long drive and I arrived with some time to kill before the pasta dinner started.  I was more impressed than I thought I would be and enjoyed the chance to walk around and loosen up after the car trip.

The packet pick up was easy to find and well-organized.  There was no expo – no vendors, nothing.  In the packet was the race shirt, timing chip, instructions, bandana (nice touch – intended for dealing with strong winds), bib number, and a few handouts/brochures.  In place of an expo to explore and spend money at, there was the visitor’s center and museum/library/grounds to view.  This was actually very pleasant as the weather was good and the subject more interesting than I anticipated.

The packet pick up was across the street from the location of the pasta dinner and the start was in the street between them.  I was glad not to drive all over a strange town looking for these locations. 

The pasta dinner was basic – spaghetti with choice of meat sauce or marinara sauce, plain white bread, lettuce salad, fruit cocktail and tea or water.  Volunteers were encouraging and kept up with drink refills. 

Motel – I stayed in one of the motels associated with the race – the Budget Lodge Inn.  Well.  Budget it was – put me in mind of various state bunk houses I’ve stayed in while working in Colorado.  Right down to the enormous live wolf spider in the bath tub and the questionable state of the floors, etc.  HOWEVER – when I asked for late checkout, I was assured I could stay absolutely as long as I needed to.  This was nice to know as I was longer on the course than I anticipated the next day.  The room did have a mini fridge and microwave as well.  The race organizers provided shuttle pick up at all hotels they recommended but I drove myself so I don’t know how well that worked out.

The start was easy to get to and, because this is a small race, parking on the side streets was all right.  Between the visitor’s center and the church which hosted the pasta dinner, there were enough real bathrooms available that I didn’t need to wait for a porta potty – always a plus.  Gear check was fast.  The race started on time with a ‘barbershop quartet’ doing the Star Spangled Banner a capella – and very nicely, too.

The weather was about 70 degrees and 85% humidity at the start with about a 15 mph south wind.  By the finish, it was nearly 90 degrees and the wind was blowing much harder.

The course was an out and back straight south down the Eisenhower Memorial Highway/Chisolm Trail with a 2 mile loop through a park along the way.  It was gradually uphill on the way out, thus gradually downhill coming back.  Aid stations nearly every mile, most of them with fruit/power gel/and granola bars in addition to water and electrolyte drinks.  Entire course closed to vehicles and therefore very few spectators.  If you count on spectators to help you run, this is not your race.

The aid stations had plenty of energetic and helpful volunteers with plenty of snacks and drinks available.  I did not see very many porta potty locations and, along the road, there weren’t many places a desperate runner could get out of sight if they needed to.

There were 4 races with the marathon and half starting at 7 and the 5 and 10ks starting at 7:30.  Each race had its own finisher’s medal – small but obviously specific to this race.

I finished quite a bit later than I usually do and was concerned there would not be very much post race food available.  Actually, there was quite a lot – freshly made pancakes, sausage (links and patties) and cereal, granola bars and fruit.

This was a small town marathon with a small field (200 marathon, about 700 total runners).  Organization/staff and volunteers were all top-notch.  The course wasn’t particularly interesting but the surface was good.  I enjoyed the visit but probably wouldn’t run this race again.

Overall, I’d give this race a B.

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