TITLE: Two Thumbs Up for "On the Road for Education" AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 27, 2009 6:57 AM DESC: ----- BODY: 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 the run. 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. -----