Race It: Pettit Indoor Marathon, Half Marathon & Relays

Although the Pettit Indoor Marathon is a new race, it will seem familiar to runners who’ve run a Pettit race in the past. There’s a new race weekend (Feb 9-11) and a few changes to the race distances, but one thing that’s staying the same is the fun factor.

Below, Race Director Bill Schneider tells us more about the race weekend and how there’s a race distance for every runner.

Let’s start with a Q we’ve heard a lot of runners asking – is the Pettit Indoor Marathon a new event or is it a new name for the beloved Icebreaker Indoor Marathon?   

The Pettit Indoor Marathon is a new event. However, it will have the feel of the old event as most of the organizing crew from Icebreaker is organizing the Pettit Indoor Marathon. I have been a part, in some form, of all nine years of Icebreaker having run the full marathon eight times and on the organizing team for seven years. Because of my familiarity with the crew at the Pettit Center, they asked me to organize this new event. I was more than happy to keep the great marathon tradition alive at the Pettit Center.

What distances are offered during race weekend? 

On Friday, February 9th, we begin with a new event, the Half Marathon Relay. Just as the name suggests, it a relay equal to the distance of a half marathon (47.5 laps) for teams of four runners. Besides the normal divisions: male, female and mixed, we have added a new boys and girls high school division to the half marathon relay.

On Saturday, February 10th, we will have two heats of the half marathon at 7:00 AM and 9:30 AM followed by a 1:00 PM full marathon relay. Then on Sunday, February 11th, we will run our crown jewel event, the full marathon.

Also returning will be the “Running In The USA 142.3 Challenge” for runners brave enough to run the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. This year, not only will the 142.3 Challenge runners receive three total medals, but they will also earn themselves a dozen specially made Running in the USA Cookies.

What makes this event different from others in the area?

This event is unique not only in the area, but the entire nation. We are the largest indoor marathon in the world, on the longest running track in the nation. There are other indoor marathons in the US, but none with temperatures as perfect as at the Pettit Center (~50F) and gradual turns. Our 3-lane, 445 meter track allows for little to no extra stress on your turn leg and ease of passing throughout the race.  We have 95 aid stations for the full marathon and 47 for the half. There are 190 opportunities to use the restrooms only feet from the course. We are also the flattest race in the world, with an elevation change 0.

Can you explain how the relay races work? What types of strategies work best for achieving a fast time?

The relays are the fastest events of the weekend. Teams of two to four run the entire distance in relay format, alternating runners. Instead of a baton, runners exchange an ankle chip that counts laps. We allow teams to exchange as many times as they wish allowing for many creative strategies. It does take a few seconds to move the ankle chip from one runner’s ankle to another runner’s ankle (and, yes, it is REQUIRED to be worn on their ankle), so how long you run all depends on what is best for your team. I have seen teams running 4-lap repeats and some running 11 laps at a time. The chip exchange is always fun to watch. Teams may want to consider having a 3rd teammate do the exchange, thus saving a second or two.

We love the idea of a half marathon relay – can you tell us why you added this race to the weekend?

We decided to not have the 5K as the number of participants just wasn’t what it needed to be. When discussing what should be done instead. Randy Dean, the Executive Director of the Pettit Center, came up with the idea. The full marathon relay is always a very popular event, so, to be able to add more teams to the weekend, it was decided to add the half marathon relay. This allows runners who don’t run longer distances to participate (as the average distance per half relay runner is only 3.3 miles). So, if you are a 5K runner, this is right up your alley.

Obviously, the course is mega flat with ideal temps. But, do you have any tips for runners hoping to run a fast time?

Fast times are possible at the Pettit Center. Since a lap is 445 meters, making it virtually impossible to have mile markers, runners should review the pace chart in advance in addition to keeping track of their lap times. Every 445 meters can be seen if your lap time is on pace with your goal. Also, if all runners follow the rules as to which lane to run in, this will allow for the best possible passing situation. If slower runners are in lane 1, it makes passing difficult. If there is anything special you need during the race, please make sure you keep it trackside (along the wall on the east turn) for ease of pick up whenever needed.

Are overall and/or age group prizes awarded?

For full marathon and half marathon we will have awards for the top three overall males and females.  Each runner will receive a finisher’s medal. For the relays, awards will be given to the top 3three teams for males, females, and mixed. We will also have awards for the top boys and girls high school relay teams in the half marathon relay. All members of these teams must be in high school or younger.

What do participants get with their race entry?

All participants receive a goodie bag including a Pettit Indoor Marathon long-sleeve technical shirt, ideal for running at the Pettit Center. Runners will have post-race refreshments in the Hall of Fame room, including the world-famous Running in the USA cookies.

Are spectators welcome?

Absolutely! Spectators are more than welcome to sit in the bleachers and watch their family or friends run their race. We encourage the kids to give high fives from the bleachers and signs are welcome.  Where else can you watch someone run a marathon in person and see them pass by 95 times without moving an inch? Just bring a light jacket or sweatshirt as it gets cold in the Pettit Center.

Tell us more about these famous sugar cookies …

Mary Flaws from Running in the USA is baking her world-famous cookies for all runners. They will be available after every race. In fact, Mary and Running in the USA are now sponsors of the Running in the USA 142.3 Challenge. Runners who complete both the half marathon on Saturday and follow up with the full marathon on Sunday will receive a dozen of these cookies.

Any other comments?

We will be keeping the great running tradition at the Pettit Center alive and well. We hope those who have run at the Pettit before return in addition to introduce a new batch of runners. For those who have more questions, please see our website at www.pettitindoormarathon.com or email us at pettitindoormarathon@gmail.com. Feel free to ask me questions, in person, at the Pettit Center. I am usually there running on Saturday mornings in the winter, and on some evenings with my daughters.

Thanks for chatting with us, Bill – we’re looking forward to an awesome weekend of racing!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

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One thought on “Race It: Pettit Indoor Marathon, Half Marathon & Relays

  1. I still think it’s a shame there’s no 5K in the new iteration of the race. I would argue that one of the reasons participation wasn’t great was because some people thought space was limited, and shied away because they thought only faster, more serious runners would be participating due to space limitations (I actually know two people who told me that).

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