Race Preview: Gold Medal Challenge 2016

Every year, MKE runners look forward to the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay and 5k. All are wonderful events that are as fun as they are competitive.

And for those who really love a good challenge – and lots of running in circles indoors – there’s the Gold Medal Challenge. Two days of running, 39.3 miles. This year’s challenge kicks off on Saturday so today Race Director Chris Ponteri is here to tell us more about the challenge and share this year’s top contenders.

sm20150124_070342_IMG_0081Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Tell us a bit about the Gold Medal Challenge – What do participants need to do to complete the challenge? Why do you think this type of challenge appeals to runners?
To complete the Gold Medal Challenge you must run the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday. We then add up your times to determine the winners. I think it appeals to runners who like to push themselves. Many of them are ultra runners.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Gold Medal Challenge? How did it get started and how many years has it been run?
This is the eighth Icebreaker and the seventh time we have done the Gold Medal Challenge. I copied the idea from the Goofy Challenge, which is part of the Disney Marathon.

What are some memorable moments from past Gold Medal Challenges?
One of the highlights was last year when both the male and female winners (Matt Jacobson and Ruth Lunz) had a small lead over the second place person after the Half Marathon and decided to employ a similar strategy on Sunday, which was to follow the second-place person as long as possible. In both cases, the second-place runners ended up falling back. It was a smart strategy by the winners.

sm20150125_122242_IMG_1393Last year’s Gold Medal Challenge winners, Matt Jacobson and Ruth Lunz. Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Another highlight came several years ago when the male GMC winner, Mac McCauley, swept both the Marathon and the Half Marathon. That is the only time that has happened, although a few others have come close.

What’s the best strategy for completing the Gold Medal Challenge in one piece? Also, any tips for runners hoping to win or place?
The key is to take it easy in the Half Marathon. If you are a 1:30 half runner, you will want to finish around 1:35. The best strategy I can offer for winning is to know where the competition is at all times.

Who are this year’s top contenders and what makes them ones to watch? Are any past winners returning this year?
The favorites on the women’s side are three-time champion Mary Flaws and Icebreaker newcomer Kim Arbinger. Mary is running very well right now and had a big year in 2015 while Kim is coming off a strong finish at the Lakefront Marathon (3:25) and a third-place finish at the Glacial 50-miler. Both ladies put in a lot of miles and should challenge each other. On the men’s side, it is wide open.

sm20150125_080416_IMG_0053Mary Flaws, in blue, is a top contender in this year’s Gold Medal Challenge. Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Are spectators welcome at the races? What makes the indoor races especially exciting to watch?
Spectators are certainly welcome and admission is free. It’s a real treat to watch these races because how many times can you see a distance race up close like this? In outdoor races you are lucky to see a certain runner 2 or 3 times, but here you can see them every lap. The spectating experience is as unique as the running experience.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! If you’re interested in checking out this weekend’s Icebreaker events, visit indoormarathon.com to get the full schedule. We hope to see you at one or more of the distance events!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

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