Charting the Race Course

When most of us think about a race course, chances are, it’s mostly about how flat or hilly it is and perhaps the aid station locations. But did you ever think about the planning that goes into the course for a major race?

We recently chatted with Chris Ponteri, Executive Director of Milwaukee Marathon, Inc., and got the scoop on what went into planning the courses for the upcoming Milwaukee Running Festival.

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Can you tell us a bit about the planning that goes into the courses for a major event like this one?
My background has been in planning races with 1,000 runners or less, so this has been quite a learning experience. There are so many things that go into planning a major event like this. From small things like choosing the size of the stage for the expo speakers to big things like how many EMS units to have on the course, it’s a huge undertaking. I can’t begin to describe the enormity of setting something up like this. And this has been done with minimal staff.

When did you start planning the race courses? What was the process for getting them approved?
The original work on the courses was started a few years ago. Over time, changes were made for this reason and that reason. Just last week there were a half a dozen changes made to the marathon course. They are always a work in progress due to construction or logistical concerns. In fact, our marathon course is still not finalized because it is in the process of being certified to make it a Boston qualifier. So even though our GPS measurements say it’s 26.2 miles, it’s likely shorter than that and distance will need to be added somewhere.

How did you decide on the course locations and path traveled? Were there any factors that influenced the courses?
We tried to strike a balance between going big and going small. By big, I mean major urban arteries like Wisconsin Avenue, and by small I mean trails like the Hank Aaron State Trail. If you are paying $90 to run an urban marathon, you want to make sure you get the urban experience. But at the same time, if every street on the route was a major one it would make police costs and barricade rental costs too expensive.

Do things like water stations, port-a-potties, and other types of aid stations require additional permits? Also, how did you decide where to place these stations on the course?
We did not have to get any permits for those types of things. The permits we have gotten are from the city, county and state for use of their land by runners. We have 18 aid stations on the marathon course, which I think is higher than your average marathon, but we wanted to make sure our participants were safe. We chose locations by distance from the previous aid station more than anything.

Were there any landmarks, hills, bridges or other components you really wanted to include in the courses?
Obvious things like the Milwaukee Art Museum and lakefront needed to be on the course, but we are also very pleased to be going through or by several county and city parks in both the marathon and half marathon. We wanted to make sure we were going by the corporate headquarters for two iconic Milwaukee companies: Harley and Miller. My personal favorite landmarks are all on the marathon course: Sherman Boulevard, the VA Grounds, and the Journey House Packer Practice Field in Mitchell Park. The marathon runners are really in for a treat.

Can you rate the difficulty of the race courses (marathon, half marathon, 5k, 1-mile) on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the hardest?
I would rank the marathon course as a 3 on difficulty level. There are more hills than you think there would be in Milwaukee, but none of them are crazy hard. Whatever the hills add to your time the cool weather will more than make up for it.

Marathon course, as of today

The half marathon course is much easier than the marathon course since most of the hills are on the west portion of the marathon course. I would give it a 2 on difficulty level, and that’s mainly because of the early hill on Lincoln Memorial Drive.

The 5k and 1-mile courses are very flat and are a 1 on the difficulty scale. The 5k course sticks to the lakefront and is very scenic. I am particularly proud of the 1-mile course. It’s entirely within the confines of the Harley-Davidson Museum grounds and is actually quite beautiful. I think people are going to be very surprised when they see how cool that mile course is!

What can you tell us about course set-up and take-down? How many volunteers are needed?
Course setup will begin on Friday afternoon and will continue on Saturday and into early Sunday morning. We have trucks that bring out aid station supplies and tables, other trucks with cones and signs, and we have hired a company to put out all of the barricades (we need over 1,000 of them!).

Any other comments?
I can’t even begin to tell you how humbled I have been by the support of so many people in the Milwaukee running community. There is a long list of people who, without their help, this would not have been possible. It takes so much teamwork to get to the point where we are. I just wish I could properly express my gratitude in words to all of those people who have worked so passionately to make this happen. They know who they are.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! There’s still time to register for the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival. To learn more about the races or to regsiter, visit milwaukeerunningfestival.com.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: The Winter Run Series

It’s tough to get motivated to keep your fitness up during the winter months! But signing up for a winter running series can help you stay fit and who knows, you may even set a new PR along the way!

Craig Braun, race director of the popular Winter Run Series, tells us about this year’s races and why all runners should consider signing up!

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Can you tell us a bit about the Winter Run Series? How many years has the series been run in the MKE area and what makes it so unique?
This series marks our 11th year in business and the 8th year of a “series”. The series has grown from four races to six since its birth. There’s a lot that makes the Winter Run Series stand out in the area. I think one of those reasons is the charities we work with. Racers Against Childhood Cancer and the Milwaukee Rescue Mission will benefit from this year’s series. I love the idea of helping local families and local charities. We also hand out A LOT of hardware throughout the series by medaling down to 10th place in each age group. Paying close attention to the small details and making sure each athlete is taken care of no matter their experience level. There’s no other joy like witnessing someone finish their first 5k or 10k!

What are the six races in this year’s series? Are there any specifics or course tips for the races that participants should know? What do participants get with each race entry?

Oct. 18: The Pumpkin Run in Oconomowoc
Nov. 22: The Elf Run in Brookfield
Dec. 31: Run Into the New Year in Franklin
Jan. 24: The BIG Chill in Hartford
Feb. 14: The Cupid Shuffle in Waukesha
March 20: Luck of the Irish in Hartland

The things I always emphasize are course conditions and weather. We are a winter running series and it does get cold out there. When you dress properly and wear proper shoes, winter running is really one of the best types of running. Not much can compare. We had 7,000 runners race with us last year – we can’t all be crazy, right?

We hand out A LOT of gear to each athlete. The usual stuff like shirts, beer, food and cookies. We have finisher’s medals for the Run Into the New Year. Champagne, roses and more at various events. Check out www.racelighthouse.com/winter-run-series to see all the race goodies!

How do you select the locations and courses for the races in the series?
There are a few key factors that come into play when we scope out potential venues:

Parking – can people get in and out easily without disrupting the event?
Size – Can it fit 1,200 + people inside to stay warm?
Roads – Hills and sharp turns are tough as it is. Through some snow or ice on it and it’s nearly impossible!
Scenery – It’s tough when you’re planning for winter. Trees are dead, nothing is green, no water to run next to. It’s tough, but we manage.

Is there anything new or different at this year’s Winter Run Series?
Lighthouse Cash! We’re focusing on getting those who race with us in the stores of the sponsors who support our events. Supporting local business is HUGE to us, and Lighthouse Cash is a great way for us to emphasize that with our athletes. You can earn Lighthouse Cash by placing in your age group and in return, use that cash at our sponsors’ retail stores to help save the budget!
We also have a new venue this year in Hartford that will be exciting. We’ve added in another “Be Easy 5k” for the mid-pack runners. Luck of the Irish will have some Irish Dancers at the finish, RINY has a finisher medal. We changed and rebranded the entire series. Now that I type these things out – there is A LOT that’s new for this year!

What’s the incentive for people to sign up for more than one race in the series?
Simplicity. Signup once and you’re done. It saves you some cash in the long run plus you get rewarded with a free commemorative 1/4 zip top at the first race. The family atmosphere of the series is one of the main things that bring people back to take on the Winter Challenge. Friends are made here, and I love that about this series. The first race is always a huge winter running family reunion kind of deal.

What types of overall/age group awards are offered at each race? For the series?
Top 3 male and female are rewarded with custom stained and carved wood plaques. They are really nice! Age groupers get custom placed medals with the series logo on them. These are nice as well. We try to go all in on the awards because it means so much to the athletes.

Points are collected throughout the entire duration of the series. If you do well enough to place in the top 3 overall for your age group you’re rewarded with a “Series Award” at our Winter Run wrap up party. These can be blankets, hats, jacket, hoodies – we change it up from year to year.

Are there any favorites yet for winning for the overall series titles this year?
I can’t say there are any favorites as of now! Josh Pinter swept the series last year but we do have some fast guys out here who run with us. There’s always a good run for the top 3 overall in male and female. It’s fun to watch the series points and keep tab on who’s hammering and going for the next spot in their age group or even for the overall.

Any other comments?
If you haven’t tried out the Winter Run I’d love to invite you to give it a shot. You can register for each race individually and test the waters or jump right in and take on the Winter Challenge. Right now we have 1,000 runners signed up for the Pumpkin Run and are pushing 800 to take on the challenge. We have fast runners, midpack runners and walkers. All are welcome to join!

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Thanks for chatting with us, Craig! To learn more about the Winter Run Series, connect here:

Website: http://www.racelighthouse.com/winter-run-series/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lighthousewi
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Racelighthouse
Instagram: https://instagram.com/racelighthouse/

TGIF! Where and what is everyone running this weekend?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Lake Michigan Trail Marathon + A Race Entry Giveaway!

We’re just a few days away from September , which in our minds means fall – specifically fall running and racing. And one of the very first local distance races on the fall calendar is the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon.

When: Sunday, September 6; start time varies by event
Where: Sheridan Park, Cudahy
Cost: $90 for the 50k; $80 for the marathon; $60 for the half marathon; $20 for the 20-mile training run

Below, race director Chris Ponteri gives us an update on what to expect at this year’s race!

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Can you tell us a bit about the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon? How many runners are you expecting at the event?

It’s a unique race; it’s urban yet scenic. One minute you are running on a trail through the woods and the next minute you are running on a bluff with a spectacular view of the Milwaukee skyline. We are expecting between 600 and 800 runners this year.

Have there been any race changes/updates since the race was announced at the start of the year?
We had hoped to use the Grant Park Beach, but the Lake Michigan water level is still high so we are going with the same route as last year.

It sounds like there is a distance for everyone. Can you go over the options?
We have a 50k ultra-marathon, a regular ole’ 26.2-mile marathon, a half marathon and a 20-mile distance.

The 20-mile training run option is really unique – can you tell us more about it and why you decided to include it?
It’s really meant to appeal to those training for a fall marathon like Chicago, the Milwaukee Running Festival or the Lakefront. It gives runners a race experience, but it’s not timed nor do they get finisher medals. The price is just $20 in advance and $30 the day of the race.

When is the deadline to register online? Can runners register on race day?
Online registration is open at www.lakemichiganmarathon.com through Sept. 3 and race-day registration is available beginning at 5 a.m. at Sheridan Park #1.

Are there any plans to expand the event in upcoming years, i.e. adding shorter distances, etc.?
I am definitely considering adding a 5k, but no guarantees on that.

Are volunteers needed? If so, who should interested people contact to learn more/sign up?
Believe it or not, we are all set with volunteers. We have some great groups helping out including the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the Friends of Grant Park, the Friends of Sheridan Park, Starting Line Athletics and the South Milwaukee High School cross country team.

Any other comments?
Many runners said last year’s race shirt was one of their favorites of all-time. This year we believe we have come up with something even better.

Thanks for chatting with us about the race, Chris! If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming race, here’s how you can connect:

Website: http://lakemichiganmarathon.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lakemichiganmarathon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lakemarathon

Who wants to win a race entry?
The Lake Michigan Trail Marathon has generously provided a race entry for one lucky Keep Running MKE reader.

To enter to win a free race entry, tell us in the comments section:

What is the most beautiful course you ever raced?

Best of luck to all who enter. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, September 1.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Hank Aaron State Trail 5k Run/Walk + Race Entry Giveaway!

The Hank Aaron State Trail is one of the most popular places to run in MKE. So why not celebrate one of our favorite routes by running this year’s Hank Aaron State Trail 5k Run/Walk?

Laura Mueller and the Friends of Hank Aaron State Trail want you to join in the fun this year. Read on to learn more about this year’s race, including course tips, prizes, participant perks and more!

For race specifics, view our Featured Races page.

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Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Hank Aaron State Trail 5k Run/Walk?
This is the 16th annual Hank Aaron State Trail Run/Walk. We had humble beginnings with just a few hundred participants, but now have grown to 2,000+ participants and volunteers!

The Trail is, of course, named after the great Hank Aaron. Hank and his wife Billie are invited to the 5k every year, and we have been fortunate to have Hank visit with us four times over the 15 years.

What makes the race different/unique?
This isn’t your average 5k! The course, for the most part, is on the Hank Aaron State Trail, traveling through the revitalized Menomonee Valley and along a wonderful stretch of the Menomonee River, and through Three Bridges Park.

It’s also a very fun atmosphere at the start / finish area – Milwaukee’s own De La Buena plays their world music before and after the race, and Ted Perry (FOX 6) is our emcee!

Also – every 44th finisher wins a prize to commemorate Hank Aaron’s baseball uniform number.

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Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?
The Run/Walk route winds through the newly opened Three Bridges Park, crossing the Menomonee River two times! Click here for the route.

Three Bridges Park is a restored natural area that was formerly used as a rail yard. The Park and the Trail connect with the near South neighborhoods along National Avenue and are used by the new branch of the Urban Ecology Center as their outdoor classroom.

What is the course like? Do you have any tips for runners hoping to PR at the race?
The course will start and finish at the Miller Park Sausage Haus. We have a wide start on the parking lot and the ring road around the parking lots and then a short stretch on Canal Street including a water stop.

The course then narrows to the 10’ wide-paved bike path as it crosses the Menomonee River at 33rd Street Court, heads west on the bike path through the new park, crosses back over the river on a covered bridge and back to Miller Park along the Menomonee River. Basically, travel east going out and west coming back on a flat terrain. The tightest turns will be entering and exiting the bridge crossings.

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Are there any overall and/or age group prizes awarded?
There are awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place male and females at five-year intervals from age 10 and under to 80+. There are also awards for the fastest team (top 3 times), largest team and team spirit. And don’t forget about the prize for every 44th finisher!

What do participants get with their race entry?
Each registered participant will receive a t-shirt and pre- and post-race refreshments including Colectivo coffee and bakery, Cargill Grill hamburgers and Sprecher root beer floats.

There is also a prize drawing and a silent auction. Items this year include a Trek 820 Bike donated by Wheel & Sprocket, a 2014 autographed Green Bay Packers football, concert tickets for the Pabst Theater, and more!

Can you tell us a bit about how the race will benefit the trail?
Proceeds raised from this event are used for enhancements along the Trail, and youth bike camps for those living in the communities along the Trail. Over 500 kids between the ages of 10-14 have benefitted from these camps, which teach bike safety and encourage active lifestyles and discovery along the Trail.

Any other comments?
FOHAST continues to be an advocate of the Trail, working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, local communities, organizations and businesses to bring the Trail to reality. From the 5k, to our annual Spring River Clean-Up and Planting to our hikes through history, the Friends helps people enjoy and appreciate all that the Trail has to offer.

We invite you to learn more about the Trail and our organization, and to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the Hank Aaron State Trail.

Many thanks to Laura and the Friends of Hank Aaron State Trail for all the great info about the race! If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming race, here’s how you can connect:

Website: http://www.hankaaronstatetrail.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HankAaronTrail
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HankAaronTrail

Who wants to win a race entry?
The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail have generously provided a race entry for one lucky Keep Running MKE reader.

To enter to win a free race entry, tell us in the comments section:

Where is your favorite place to run in MKE?

Best of luck to all who enter. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, August 4.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

*Winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize by emailing keeprunningmke@gmail.com. If the prize is not claimed within that time frame, we will select a new winner.

Race It: Running League

Let’s see a quick show of hands:

Who likes running?

Who likes running with friends?

Who likes celebrating after a race with friends and beer?

If you raised your hand to any of the questions, you might want to check out Running League – a newer series of local races geared toward bringing people of all running abilities together for race – and post-race – fun.

Read on to learn more about the league, the courses and the awards!

For race specifics, view our Featured Races page.

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Can you start off by telling us a bit about what makes this race unique in the MKE area?
There are bowling leagues, volleyball, softball, etc … but no running league. We started the very first running league that we know of and it’s a hit. We love the head-to-head matches each week where teams of all abilities can match up against each other because everyone has an average.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the league? How long has it been held in this area and why was it started?
It all started in November 2014 at the Pettit Ice Center. That night after an hour run and a couple beers, Scott turned to Mike and said “we should start a running league.” Mike owns a bowling alley where he coordinates bowling leagues so a running league only made sense. Over the course of the next six months, after more hour runs and beers, they put together a website, Facebook page, talked with other race coordinators, set up a registration account on Active and advertised on Running in the USA. They aimed for May as their start date and now it’s into July, starting Round 3.

What was behind the decision to make this more of a team-oriented event?
The idea of a team-oriented league was really important to us. We loved the idea of runners putting together a team of friends and competing. We loved the idea of the “back of the pack” runners being able to talk trash to the “front of the pack” runners because everyone is on an even playing field. The goal is to run the fastest under your team average so that really benefits the runners who are improving each week.

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Do people need to sign up with a team or can they also sign up as individuals?
Everyone should sign up individually and then let us know if you have a team. If you are a single runner we will create or find a team for you.

How many teams are signed up to date?
The first round we had 6 teams of 3; 2nd round was 8 teams of 3; and it looks like 8 teams are signed up so far for round 3.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about signing up to encourage them to participate?
Free beer afterwards! Oh, and it’s only $9 per race.

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Can you tell us how the awards work for this race?
Each week the team that is the most under their team average wins $45 to split. Awards at the end of round 2 – 1st place overall received $60 to split and the traveling trophy, 2nd – $30, 3rd – $21, 4th – $15.

What are the courses like? How did you select Frame Park and the travel date courses? And do you have any tips for runners hoping to crank out fast times?
Frame Park works great because we start and finish at Mike’s bowling alley – Fracaro’s Lanes. The course is flat and uses most of the same course that other Waukesha 5k races use. Scott is an expert trail marker. He found a great one that starts and finishes at Stubby’s Pub and Grub on Humboldt. That course is little hilly and part trail. Minooka Park is a staple in a lot of Waukesha runners’ workouts. Scott marked a tough but great trail run that starts and finishes at a site we rented. All of these courses fit nicely with the extremely fun after-race party we have.

What are some of the participant perks?
Did we mention free beer? Also, the unbelievably great running leaguers put together a food sign-up online each week for after-race fueling and sustenance to soak up the beer.

In the upcoming seasons/years – do you anticipate the league growing to include other locations in MKE?
One of our dreams for Running League is to have several locations. For example – Running League Waukesha, RL Milwaukee, RL Tosa, RL Brookfield, RL New Berlin, etc., and then have a SE Wisconsin state tournament in which all the RL’s will battle each other to be Running League champions.

Any other info/comments?
We are looking for energetic people to help manage these other RL’s, specifically a league secretary/manager who can keep the energy level very high and the atmosphere exciting. Running League night is our favorite night of the week and we strive to make that the same for everyone else.

Thanks for all the great info from Running League! The first race of round 3 is Thursday. If you’re interested in learning more and/or signing up to run, here’s how you can connect:

Website: http://www.runningleaguewi.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/runningleaguewi

We’re halfway through the week! Or, depending on how you look at it, halfway to our weekend long runs 😉

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Race for the Bacon

Peanut butter & jelly. Salt & pepper. Runners & bacon.

Let’s face it – some things belong together 😉

You won’t want to miss out on this year’s Race for the Bacon – which is quickly becoming the most popular MKE summer race. Below, Boss Hog tells us all about this year’s event, including the new 0k race.

For race specifics, view our Featured Races page.

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All photos by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Race for the Bacon turns four this year – can you talk a bit about what makes this one a favorite for Milwaukee runners?
This has to be considered one of the best races of the summer. It brings together running and bacon, and also the setting is perfect for an event like this. It’s a celebration of running and bacon!

What should participants expect at this year’s event?
It will be more of the same: a fun race in a nice park setting and some great food, beverages and live music at the finish.

Can you tell us about this year’s course?
The course is a combination of streets and parkway. The highlight is going down Lake Drive in Cudahy; it’s such a beautiful street. Runners also get to experience the beauty of Sheridan Park right along Lake Michigan. It’s mostly a flat course with a few rolling hills, but definitely not difficult.

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Will the race have a mid-race bacon station again? Any tips for grabbing and eating a piece of bacon without breaking stride?
Yes, the bacon station will be back! One thing I have noticed is that the fastest runners always manage to grab a piece of bacon and get it down without slowing their pace. I figure if they can do it, anyone can. We make sure to place the water table after the bacon table so if you need something to wash down your bacon, it’s right there.

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Are there any top contenders yet for overall male and female? What are the prizes for placing overall?
I am not sure who the top runners will be this year, but we usually get a few of the faster ones from the Milwaukee area. The top three male and female finishers will get a cool plaque, but even better, they get to take home a bunch of Patrick Cudahy bacon.

New this year is the 0k race – can you tell us a bit about it?
The 0k race was designed for those who want the post-race bacon and the cool shirt we always give out, but don’t want to run a 5k. We will have some type of start/finish for these people and then send them over to the bacon tent. It’s the first 0k race that I know of in the Milwaukee area and probably one of the only in the country.

What’s on the menu at this year’s Bacon Bash?
The menu is somewhat of a secret, but I can tell you that Chef Ernie at Skyline Catering has some treats in store. It will be every bit as delicious as last year.

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Is race day registration offered? Also, can Bacon Bash tickets be purchased on race day?
Yes, people can register at the race although pre-registration is recommended to guarantee a shirt. Tickets for the Bacon Bash will also be available at the door.

If you could pick any local celebrity to come run Race for the Bacon, who would you pick and why?
I would love to see the ghost of Patrick Cudahy participate in the Bacon Race. After all, he founded the City of Cudahy and the bacon company.

MKE Runners – who wants to win a race entry to this year’s Race for the Bacon??

To enter to win a free race entry, tell us in the comments section:

If you could run Race for the Bacon with anyone, who would you pick?

Best of luck to all who enter. We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, June 24.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

*Winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize by emailing keeprunningmke@gmail.com. If the prize is not claimed within that time frame, we will select a new winner.

Race It: I Run Kids Marathon

Looking for a way to help your kids stay fit this summer? The 7th annual I Run Kids Marathon is a great way for kids to have fun with both running and reading.

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Race Director Bill Schneider recently gave us the scoop on the upcoming summer-long activity (which by the way, costs only $15 per kid to participate!):

The event begins at the end of the school year. Kids in grades kindergarten through 8th grade can enter to run a full marathon over the summer in intervals of a ¼ mile at a time. They use a log sheet to keep track of their mileage. Participants also read a marathon worth of books or time – either 26 books or 26 hours (15-minute intervals) over the summer.

Toward the end of summer, usually late August, the kids gather to run their final mile together at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s football/track stadium. This final mile event is very similar to a real marathon with music, a warm up, post-run refreshments and door prizes. When the kids arrive, they receive their shirt and when they cross the finish line at the 50-yard line of the football field, they receive their finisher’s medal.

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We try to get a local running celebrity or athlete to show up and give encouragement as well. In the past we have had Olympic Speedskating Medalists and well as Bango the Buck.

Schools can get involved by having representatives encourage kids to sign up. Usually a teacher or parent volunteers but we also allow individual kids to sign up.

Proceeds are given to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. We like to call that “Kids Helping Kids”. But they are also helping themselves have healthy bodies and minds.

Thanks for chatting with us, Bill! To learn more about I Run Kids Marathon, visit the event website: http://www.irunkidsmarathon.com/

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

From the Beginning: How the Milwaukee Running Festival Got Its Start

By now, you’ve all heard about – and have likely already registered for – the Milwaukee Running Festival, the inaugural event being held Oct. 30-Nov. 1. But did you know initial ideas for the three-day event were actually conceived back in 2006 – nearly a decade ago?!

Below, Chris Ponteri, Executive Director of Milwaukee Marathon Inc., tells us more about how the upcoming festival came to be.

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When and how did you get the idea of bringing a big-city race to Milwaukee?
The first time I ran what I would call a “big city” marathon was the San Francisco Marathon in 2006, and that is when I thought to myself “why doesn’t Milwaukee have an event like this?” I had run the Lakefront Marathon several times and, even though it is a first-class event, it lacks the “big city” pizzazz and really doesn’t capture the culture of our city at all. There are very few spectators and most people in Milwaukee have never heard of it or don’t know when it’s happening. I felt like Milwaukee needed to have an event like a marathon to showcase what a special city we have.

What about the idea appealed to you?
You can do some unique things with a 26.2-mile city course and there are also some neat ways to involve the entire community. Really, these are community events that are a reflection of our city. This event will definitely be a celebration of the City of Milwaukee.

What were some of the first steps toward making it happen?
Interestingly, I had wanted to start small and use the roads and parkways in the South Shore/Bay View area the first year (this idea later was the genesis of the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon). However, when I sent a courtesy email to the president of the Badgerland Striders about my plan, he responded in such a rude way that it motivated me to go big. So I started thinking about what it would take do a large-scale Milwaukee Marathon, and realized that I had the skills, experience and team to do it. The first person I approached was former Lakefront Marathon race director Kris Hinrichs, and when she said would support the idea, I knew it had a chance. She has many contacts in city government and throughout the Milwaukee area, and those have proven to be invaluable to me. Another key early partnering was with Hanson Dodge (the ad agency). They took a chance on me, coming on as a sponsor before I even had an event, and helped with the branding, which gave us a lot of credibility.

What can you tell us a bit about the planning that goes into a major event like this one?
Where do I begin? Let’s just say that my organizational skills are being tested every day. There are so many details – both major and minor – to worry about. For example, just today I have spent some time working on our Elite Runner and Athletes With Disabilities programs, meeting with a potential sponsor and printing out return address labels. The work is interesting, rewarding and challenging, but it requires a lot of list-making and other organization skills. I can’t think of the last night where I didn’t wake up at some point and think about a detail that needed to be addressed.

What type of feedback did you get from others along the way?
Almost everybody has welcomed this event with wide open arms. The most common reaction I get from people in the running community is “it’s about time Milwaukee has an event like this”.

What barriers have you had to overcome?
I can think of at least three times where I was close to giving up. I have received threats from individuals who were trying to protect their own events (I will leave out the details). One powerful alderman told me three times that he was against our idea before I eventually won his support. And then, as I’m sure many remember, there was the issue with Alderman Wade in front of the Public Works Committee that made national news when he scolded me for not being inclusive. Even though I didn’t care for his method of attack, I did take his concerns to heart and have used them to make the event better. He has since become a big supporter of what we are doing. We were also threatened with a lawsuit if we used the name Milwaukee Marathon so rather than risk going to court before our first event even took place, we changed the name to the Milwaukee Running Festival.

What was your reaction when the event was finally approved?
I don’t think I have really had a chance to celebrate yet. The approval process was so drawn out and incremental that it has taken awhile to sink in. I finally felt like it was official when I went to the City of Milwaukee’s annual birthday celebration last month and both the Mayor and Common Council President were eager to tell me how excited they were to be a part of the event.

How did your background in race planning and race directing help with getting the Milwaukee Running Festival off the ground?
First, it gave me some credibility since I could say I have directed other races in the Milwaukee area. Second, and more importantly, my past race directing experiences have given me so many great connections, which was vital to assembling a first-class team like I have done. We have a real “who’s who” from the Milwaukee running community on our team, and all are dedicated to making this a world-class running event.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! If you’re interested in learning more about the story behind the Milwaukee Running Festival, Chris is speaking at the upcoming Milwaukee Running Expo on Saturday, April 11 at 11:30am at Fleet Feet Brookfield.

To learn more about the Milwaukee Running Festival, or to register for one of the races, visit MilwaukeeRunningFestival.com.

If you’re already signed up for a Milwaukee Running Festival race, which distance are you doing?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Run for the Hills 5k

If you’re looking for a family friendly spring race, look no further. Run for the Hills will be a fun event for all ages. A flat and fast course, age group awards, kids runs and more – what’s not to love?

Below, co-chair Anne Coffman tells us a bit about this year’s race.

For race specifics, view our Featured Races page.

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Can you tell us a bit about Run for the Hills?
This is the 4th year for the race. It was started by a group of parents as a PTO fundraiser for Wisconsin Hills Middle School. This is my first year taking over as co-chair. We have a 5K plus a 2-mile walk option. There are also kids races for kindergarten through 5th grade and these start after the 5K so parents can do the 5K then watch kids in the shorter races.

What makes this race different/unique?
Besides the family environment, this year, all three of the grade schools that send kids to this middle school have started running clubs to have their students/families participate in the race. It’s very exciting to get young kids started in a life long sport. And the mascot race is very unique – different businesses send their mascots for a race much like the Brewers sausage races. This is quite the hit each year.

Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?
Being our first year organizing the race, we are following last year’s plan, although we did add chip timing to simply the results process. Next year, we plan to have team registration online to minimize paper entries.

What is the course like? Do you have any tips for runners hoping to PR at the race?
The course is flat and fast – it heads out from Mitchell Park, around and through Foxbrook Park and finishes at Mitchell again. It should be a good opportunity for a PR and winning an age group awards unless you are in grade school – then the age awards might be competitive!

RFTH Course Map

What do participants get with their race entry?
They get a t-shirt with artwork designed by a WHMS student. This year’s winning design was submitted by Niyati Hansaria. We have refreshments post race along with door prizes and a raffle. There will also be live entertainment and chip timing as well as prizes for the top male/female finisher.

What types of overall/age group awards are offered?
Top male/female win gift cards from Performance Running Outfitters. Age groups awards are medals for every ten years.

Can you tell us a bit about who the race benefits?
The funds raised go to the school’s PTO for projects such as student retreats, musical performances and, we hope, to start a running club for next year’s race at the middle school. It is the main fundraiser for the school.

How can people participate in the raffle and what are some of the prizes?
We will be selling raffle tickets at the race. So far, prizes include race entry to the Milwaukee Running Festival, a gym membership at Wisconsin Athletic Club and Elite Fitness, Tins of popcorn from Pop‘N Spot, a party package from Karate America and a spa package from Studio 890. Door prizes are smaller items and will be drawn randomly separate from the raffle.

Any other comments?
Early registration ends March 27th. Prices are only $18/person or $60/family which is much less expensive than most 5K races.

Thanks for chatting with us, Anne! To learn more about Run for the Hills, or to sign up for the race, visit www.whmsrunforthehills.org.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Lucky Leprechaun 7k + A Race Entry Giveaway!

Leave it to the luckiest race in town to keep St. Patty’s Day festivities going through the weekend! Below, Sandra Chambers from Vision Event Management gives us the scoop on this year’s Lucky Leprechaun 7k race.

For race specifics, view our Featured Races page.

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Can you tell us a bit about the Lucky Leprechaun race and what makes it unique?
The 3rd Annual Lucky Leprechaun 7K will take place on March 21st beginning at 10am, when participants (most of whom will be dressed in their best green gear) with run or walk through Wauwatosa and Hart Park. After the race, participants keep the St. Paddy’s festivities going at the post-race party hosted by Legendary Leff’s Lucky Town. Here, participants will get their two complimentary beers and enjoy music from the band, Talleymoore. The race is open to all ages and benefits the MACC Fund.

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Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?
2 FREE BEERS!

What is the course like and do you have any tips for runners hoping for a fast time?
If you’ve never run a 7K, then you are guaranteed to PR! Lucky Map

What are the award divisions?
Awards will be given to the top 3 male and female finishers.

What can you tell us about the various contests on race day?
The Out Run the Leprechaun Promotion is presented by Performance Running Outfitters – if you think you can run faster than a leprechaun, prove it! The top five individuals who can out run Zippy, our Leprechaun, will receive a $20 gift card to Performance Running Outfitters. Get your training shoes on and “Out Run the Leprechaun”!

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Costume Contest!
We invite all participants to dress in their St. Patty’s best! Wear your St. Patrick’s Day themed outfit and upload your photos to our Facebook page after the event. Winners will be mailed a prize.

Lucky #7, #77 and #777 Finishers!
Have you been skillfully training to cross the finish line as finisher #7, #77 or #777? If you cross the finish line as one of these finishers, you will become the lucky winner of many gift certificates, provided by Performance Running Outfitters, Cafe Hollander, Leff’s Lucky Town and more! Be sure to check your results and come to the finish line to claim your prize if you happen to be one of these finishers!

What do participants get with their race registration?
Each participant gets a 2015 Lucky Leprechaun 7K participant shirt, entry into the 7K race, entrance into the Leff’s Lucky Town post-race party, participation in all the festivities and contests and 2 FREE BEERS!

When and where is packet pickup this year?
When: Friday, March 20th, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Where: Performance Running Outfitters, Ruby Isle Shopping Center, 2205 N Calhoun Road, Brookfield

OR

When: Saturday, March 21st, 2015
Time: 8:30-9:45 AM
Where: Hart Park, 7300 Chestnut Street. Wauwatosa

Who is this year’s charitable partner?
The MACC Fund is the official charity partner for the Lucky Leprechaun 7K.

Founded in 1976, Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc. (the MACC Fund) is dedicated to funding childhood cancer and related blood disorders research. Their goal, with your help, is to find a cure for childhood cancer and related blood disorders by providing critical funding for research. The MACC Fund gives the Gift of Hope through Research. Every penny counts. Every donation matters. Why? Because every child battling cancer or a blood disorder is someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s friend. Every donation gives hope to a child fighting cancer or a blood disorder.

Our goal is to fulfill the mission and to cure the MACC Fund out of existence. For more information please visit MACCFund.org.

Are you feeling lucky?

One Keep Running MKE reader will win a free entry to the Lucky Leprechaun race! To enter, tell us in the comments:

What race day ritual, item of clothing, mantra, etc. helps you feel lucky while racing?

Best of luck to all who enter. We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, February 18.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

*Winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize by emailing keeprunningmke@gmail.com. If the prize is not claimed within that time frame, we will select a new winner.