We’re less than a week out from one of MKE’s most celebrated races – the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon!
We recently had a quick chat with this year’s race director, Dr. Jon Mueller, to learn more about this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday, Oct. 6. Read on to find out what runners can expect, get course tips and learn just how fast you need to run to break the current course records.
As always, LFM sold out several months in advance of the race. Why do you think the race is such a popular one in the area?
This year we opened registration on January 14, and by April 13 we reached our maximum capacity of 3,100 runners. I believe this was 2-3 days earlier than last year.
There are several factors that I feel contribute to this: first, the Badgerland Striders good reputation, both locally and nationally, for putting on a quality race despite being an all-volunteer club. Second, the price is very affordable compared to other local races (some half marathons in the area charge more for their races then we do for ours). Third, we have become known as a fast and rather easy course; about 20 percent of our finishers qualify for Boston and 30 percent are first-time marathoners.
This is your first year as the LFM race director – what has the year been like?
It has been a very exciting and energizing experience for me. The Striders have an amazing pool of talented, very knowledgeable and dedicated people who stepped into key positions that I needed to fill. They have mentored me, encouraged me and they have totally supported my vision and goals for the marathon.
And now, we get to see all of our hard work pay off by watching hundreds of fellow runners have the thrill of being at our start, running our course, and coming across our finish line to accomplish a single, yet unified goal, to finish a marathon.
This is what motivates the Striders as a running club and why I decided to become the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon director; to help runners realize their dreams and goals.
What should runners expect at this year’s race?
The same high quality expo and well-managed race course will be waiting for them as it has been in the past. As our logo says – this is a run “By Runners. For Runners.” I believe we understand what type of experience runners want because most of us are runners ourselves. It has always been our goal to provide our runners everything they could find at larger marathons, but obviously on a smaller scale.
Is there anything new or different happening this year?
There are several new events and services that we have put in place this year. Our expo and packet pick-up will feature mini seminars throughout the day on topics ranging from training, motivation and injury prevention. At the finish-line area we have two first-time events taking place: first we have Noodles & Company sponsoring the food tent in the runners secured area – they will be offering three types of pasta to aid the finishers’ recovery. Secondly, we have a post-race party tent with live music, beverages and food. We want to encourage the spectators and runners to hang around a bit and have some fun celebrating their achievement.
Our kids running program “I can 26.2 it” concludes with the kids running the last 1.2 miles on Sunday morning by crossing the same finish line and receiving a finisher’s medal just like those runners completing the marathon will a short time later.
Also new this year, as part of the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon festivities, we will be hosting our first-ever “Community Unity” run. It will be 2.62-mile fun run, traveling alongside Lake Michigan and the Veterans Park lagoon. This charity run starts at 8:30am on Oct. 6th. Participants will be supporting Girls on the Run and the Milwaukee Police Department Endurance Club. All donations will assist them in continuing the excellent work they do daily for keeping our local youth active, inspired, educated and empowered … all through running. Anyone can register for this unique event by going to our website at milwaukeelakefrontmarathon.org and following the information on the home page.
What is the course like?
The course starts at Grafton High School and winds it way south through seven communities before it finishes at Veterans Park at the Milwaukee lakefront. The first several miles of the course consist of gentle rolling country roads and wide running lanes. For miles 7-8 the course winds through Concordia College and offers the first view of the lake. During miles 8-14, the running lane becomes a little narrower because of the gradual residential influence on the course. From mile 14-23.5, the runners are running more on a combination of road and the shoulder of the road mainly because the course shares its running lane with a much busier traveled road. At approximately mile 23.5, the course shifts onto a paved bike path that runs along the lakefront to the finish line. This part of the course often gives the runners their greatest and also unexpected challenge of the entire course. Because it is the flattest part of the course, most runners take it for granted that they can just cruise though this and then are hit right in the face with the usual seasonal, and sometimes strong, wind that comes directly out of the south. Combine this with legs that are already tired, fatigue setting in, and you have a combination of things just right to catch the runners off guard.
The last 1.2 miles brings the runners into a picturesque finish line chute lined with spectators cheering the runners on and where a wonderful finisher medal will be waiting to be placed around their necks.
So the best advice I can give runners for this course is to start off a little slower – let the course warm you up and get you up to speed, but keep a little in reserve for the unexpected surprises awaiting them over the last 3 miles and to the finish.
This year’s course map – for a better look, visit the marathon’s website
Who are the top contenders for overall male and female this year?
This year anything is up for grabs. We do not have the returning male and female runners from last year. We do have a little bigger men and women’s elite running field then the last couple of years.
Do any other runners stand out?
We have three registered runners who have run all of the 32 Lakefront Marathons. They are Jim Bahr, Bill Boeham and Duane Tate. That’s pretty cool.
We also have seven international runners coming from Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Dubai, Finland, France and Germany. And our oldest runner competing is 75-years-old and the youngest is 17-years-old.
Do you anticipate any new course records this year?
It would be fantastic if a new course record is established in my first year. Any runner, by training smart, staying focused and under the right weather conditions has a chance to break records whether that is course recorded or a personal record (PR). Steve Benson set the course record for the men in 1981 at 2:14:09. The women’s record is 2:39:15 set by Nancy Mieszczak in 1983.
What is your background as a race director and also as a runner?
I have always been passionate about running and use running both as a form of physical exercise, relaxation and mental training. The first marathon I ever ran was the 2003 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon and from there I just caught “marathon fever”. Since then I have successfully completed 52 marathons, three 50k (31 miles) and numerous smaller races. My best PR is 3:32:30. I have run marathons all around the United States and next year I plan to do an international marathon.
I joined the Badgerland Striders in 2003. I managed the Badgerland Striders Marathon Build Up run program for five years. I received a lifetime membership award in 2010.
And now I can add race director for the 2013 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon to that club resume.
Even though I have never been a race director before I believe that my running experience and passion, my positive mental attitude, my entrepreneurial experience of owning my own business for 22 years and my dedication to the Striders purpose as a club are the attributes the executive board saw in me when they considered me as a possible candidate for this position.
I am truly honored to be entrusted with this position and to be surrounded by great people with a single purpose of sharing their passion for running with others.
Thanks for chatting with us Dr. Mueller!
If you’re interested in spectating this year’s Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, you can find a complete spectator’s guide on the race website.
Best of luck to all of you running this weekend’s race – we’ll meet you at the finish line!
Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!