I arrived to Wichita (about 4 hours away from Grand Island, but it was the best deal I could find) just before midnight. An uneventful drive to Grand Island where I met up with Andy, Gary, and Gaby who had been staying at a hotel in the area. Bleary eyed and tired we headed to the start where today’s theme was already in motion: rain.
As we awaited the start we were told that the course had been slightly changed to account for flooding in the area. This generally raises my anxiety levels. Race directors of late seem to be making the old “whoops that cone was in the wrong spot” an awful lot lately (Mississippi Gulf Coast, Chattanooga, Reykjavik, Bend, et cetera, et cetera) and a change in course raises that probability significantly. In the mean time I calmed myself visiting friends awaiting the start. Hollie, Aki, Tibby were among the people I ran into before we started.
As we started there was no rain, but within the first mile the rain would start in earnest. I recognized the gait of 50 State Treasurer Dave Bell who I ran into in Anchorage the previous weekend. It would seem I was following him. The first 6 miles was 3 miles out to a park (flooded from excess rain) and back, then another few miles around an area museum, and onto a local greenway. At this point we started to move through neighborhoods and the half broke away while the marathon bounced around neighborhoods before returning to the state fair grounds. In those neighborhoods I ran into another friend, Mike, a Kansas local who won his age group.
I didn’t bring my earbuds from my bag in the hotel so I had no music to listen to on course so I found myself chatty on the course to distract from what is not an unpleasant course, but at times can be a boring suburban wandering.
The volunteers were amazing. Volunteers are always great, but to stand in the rain all day and hand out water takes a special kind of awesome. Aid stations were well stocked with electrolyte, water, gu, fruit, and in one case Skittles that I probably should not have had. It’s surprisingly hard to chew and breathe at the same time. The only criticism I would level is there was a strange penchant for putting lids and straws on the water cups. Just when I think I’ve seen it all someone throws me a curve ball. I’m not sure what the thinking was there, but everyone seems to be phasing out the use of straws in general, and drinking from a straw whilst running is a stupid, dangerous idea.
After the race entry to the state fair is free for you and we were given another ticket as well, presumably for another day, or a spectator. I didn’t really have the energy to explore everything and the prospect of fried butter on a stick or something turned my stomach after the race so no silly photos of that. Fun fact: Grand Island was named after an island formed by a fork in the braided Platte river. That fork has since dried up so there is no longer an island.