TITLE: Two Thumbs Up for "On the Road for Education"
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: October 27, 2009 6:57 AM
I don't usually advertise much in this space, but
I have to put in a positive word for the
On the Road for Education
marathon, which I
ran this weekend.
Actually, the event is a set of races: a full
marathon, a half marathon, a 10K, and a 5K. They
are organized as a fundraiser for Mason City's
parochial school system.
I signed up for this race in large part because it
let me keep my options open as late as possible.
I started training late and wasn't sure I'd be
ready for an October marathon. On the Road for
Education was later than most midwest marathons,
October 25, and had a late early registration
date. It also was less expensive than other,
better-known races. All of these added up to an
attractive package for an unsure trainer. They
also left me uncertain; I had no idea what to
expect from the race or organization.
This was a great little marathon. It is super
small by the standard of most well-known marathons
these days. This year, 78 men and 25 women finished,
with only one runner who started not finishing.
Add in the 101 half-marathoners, 35 10K runners,
and 78 5K runners, and the event is still super
small. That creates an intimate setting, as well
as an opportunity to run a lot of the race solo.
The trimmings of the race were all good and better
than I hoped:
In addition, the race hotel was excellent and happy to
serve the runners from out of town.
The one risk you face with this race is one the organizers
cannot control: the weather. The last weekend of October
in northern Iowa can be dicey. We were lucky, with temps
in the 40s F. and clouds to keep the heat down at the
end of the race.
This was the 11th year for the On the Road for Education
marathon. These folks have experience putting on a race,
and it showed. I give it two two thumbs up and recommend
it highly for an intimate, personal marathon experience.
If you want the experience of a "spectacle marathon",
look elsewhere. This one isn't about tens of thousands
of spectators or bands playing at every mile. It's about
One final warning: don't expect a course built for PRs.
Eleven of the miles were net climbs, with steep rises
during miles 6, 7, and 21. Eleven of the miles were
net drops, and the rest of the course is flat. But even
that is deceptive. Miles 15-19 show as flat on the
course elevation map, but they were in a nature area.
They might be net neutral, but they undulate throughout.
This makes for interesting running! Just don't expect
a flat Iowa course and an easy PR.
- Aid stations every two miles offered water and
- Aid stations at miles 12, 18, and 22 offered
- There were more portalets than advertised.
- There more local spectators out cheering us on
than I had expected in such a small town, and
on such a cold morning.
- We ran on a variety of surfaces, including many
miles of soft surface: packed dirt in the country,
bike trails, and a few miles of off-road trail.
This was great for my legs.
- We ran in a variety of settings, including city
roads, country roads, bike trails, recreation
trails in town, and nature trail.
- The volunteers working along the course, including
the police officers patrolling the intersections,
were unfailingly friendly and helpful.
- The end-of-race food and drink were plentiful,
various, and tasty.
- Finally, the high school was open after the race
with hot showers and towel service. Awesome!