Earn Your Mittens Challenge, Part 1: Wisconsin Marathon

If you are new to my blog, first let me say welcome and thank you for checking it out.  If you want to know how my race went, keep reading.  If you are more interested in hearing what I think of the Wisconsin Marathon in General, scroll down to where it says “Overall Review of the Wisconsin Marathon.” 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the first full weekend of May brought on a new challenge for both myself, and Tina.  I would be running the Earn Your Mitten Challenge and Tina would be running the Half and Half Challenge.  You can read about Tina’s experience in the Wisconsin Half Marathon here.

Just To review, the Earn Your Mittens Challenge consists of running the Wisconsin Marathon on Saturday (May 7) and the Kalamazoo Marathon (May 8).  For the Half and Half Challenge, you can run either run the Wisconsin Half Marathon or the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon (aka Indy Mini) on Saturday and Borgess Half Marathon (Kalamazoo) on Sunday. 

A week before the Wisconsin Marathon, Tina and I made the trip toChicago’s   Fleet Feet in Old Town to pick up our race packet. Due to scheduling issues and possible traffic going through Chicago the day before the marathon, we were not confident in getting to Kenosha in time to get to packet pickup before it closed.  So we went a little out of our way to ensure we got everything on time.  This was actually a hassle free process (except for Chicago traffic and paying $12 to park). 

Friday at around 2:00, Tina and I left Wakarusa (after Chloe’s school program) and headed towards Kenosha.  After what should have been a 3 hour drive turned into a 4 hour drive, we arrived in Kenosha.  We checked into our hotel, got our stuff around and then went downtown to check out where the race starts and also for dinner.  As it turned out, we did got there in time for packet pick up which was located in the Kenosha Museum near the start/finish area.  There were a few local vendors and a couple local races represented but not much.  They also did have a few race related items for sale.  

We found the start area with ease, just east of the museum and right by the shore of Lake Michigan.  Not wanting to miss our dinner reservations, we headed to eat at Villa D’ Carlo. This place was highly recommended online as well as by fellow BibRave Pro, Lisa

Got to do some coloring before dinner. 

And the food did not disappoint.  There is chicken parmigiana under there somewhere.  

Following dinner, Tina and I walked around Kenosha along the lake shore to see what the town had to offer.  There are some nice restaurants, and stores in town.  We took advantage of a special that a bakery had for runners.  Show them your race bib and get 4 cupcakes for $5.  We left our bibs in the hotel but the owner seemed to believe that we looked like runners so she gave us the deal. 

My post Challenge snack!

We also took time to see the harbor and lake shore.  Very beautiful! 

After a good nights sleep, the alarm wakes us up at 5:00am.  After getting everything around and packing up the car, we drove down to the starting area. Maybe one of the negatives of this race is the parking.  It was a little ways to walk from any available parking to the start area, but not too bad.  The race did have plenty of Port A Potties at the start area.  The weather for the morning started out near perfect with temps in the mid 50s.  Winds were also out of the west and light.  The course mostly went north and south. Another nice aspect of the race was that for gear check, you used your own bag.  

A little pre race fun and relaxation.  Can’t take the morning too serious.

As I said, the weather leading up to the race was perfect (“was” is the key word). About five minutes before the start, during the national anthem, the winds shifted from out of the west to out of the north and dark clouds moved in.  While we did see one bolt of lightning to the west, the storm luckily moved southeast and away from us.  Unfortunately, the wind stayed.  The race started right at 7:00. 

The official starter 

The goal of this race was a sub 3 hour marathon, however if the weather turned out to not be favorable at the end, just get under 3:30.The race course started heading west away from the lake and after about a quarter mile made its way south through downtown.  The course actually went south (wind to your back for the first 2-3 miles).  One issue that crept up before the race that prayed would go away was that I apparently had too much to drink.  However, it did not.  Luckily at the first aid station at mile 1.5, there was a port o potty.  I find it easier to take the restroom break early in the race and get going than to run half way, stop, and try to get going again.  30 seconds wasted and I was back at it.

The crowds along the course were great for about the first 3-4 miles through town.  Miles 4-8 were run straight north out of town, into the wind. At this point, with the wind, I was just trying to conserve some energy until the approaching turn around and not use too much energy. I was really looking to find a pack to run in and it seemed like every time I was bringing one in, they either surged ahead or for whatever reason, the pack spread a crossed the road.  I could not understand why on a day that the wind was so bad that runners were not running together.  But they weren’t. Mile 5 was of the more intense moments in the whole race as we ran right off the beach and had to battle blowing sand pelting your body.  It lasted for only a quarter of the mile but felt bad for those not wearing sunglasses.  Mile splits for 1-8: 6:40, 6:57, 6:51, 6:42, 6:50, 7:07, 7:15, 7:00. 

After the turn around (at about mile 7.75) it was like being shot out of a cannon. All of the sudden, running just seemed so effortless.  The key here was not to get too carried away with the pace and kill myself early on, after all, I knew I would still have to battle the wind the last 7 miles.  We came back into town, the way we came from (blowing sand and all). From mile 8 to mile 19, the wind was now at our back and the field of runners were really starting to thin out. Miles 8-19 splits were: 6:38, 6:39, 6:39, 6:45, 6:38, 6:48, 6:53, 6:43, 6:52, 6:53, 7:02.  At this point, I was on track for a sub 3 hour marathon.

Right after mile 19, we turned around and headed north again, right into the wind.  This really became the begging of the end of my goal of running a sub 3 hour marathon. But I could tell right after the turn around, I could tell the wind has really picked up (as it turns out, winds were sustained between 20-25 and gusts were up to 40-45 mph). At times it felt like I was not making any progress.  

I attempted to tuck in behind another runner and his pacer, but then he started battling what looked like stomach cramps.  Now I was alone after mile 20.  I kept on pushing myself through mile 21 where I saw fellow BibRave Pro Lisa, through 22, 23, and 24.  Splits for miles 20-24 were: 7:17, 7:40, 7:35, 8:01, 8:16.

Honestly at mile 24, I just stopped caring about my time and just wanted to finish, and save some energy for the next days marathon. My legs had had it with battling the wind. This was just obviously was not my day and you can’t do much about the weather.  It is what it is.  And so, at mile 25 I started to walk at times. 

I remember watching runner and runner pass me by.  At mile 22 I believe I was in the top 15. And one by one, they kept passing me. A biker on the course came by me, just checking on me.  After I told her that I was fine, she tried to encourage me to start running again.  I basically said to her, “right now, I don’t care about my time, I am doing it again tomorrow so I am going to just going to conserve energy.” She seemed satisfied with my answer and wished me luck. I ran walked the last 2 miles. The splits were 10:01, 10:54 (like I said, I stopped caring, I am not sure I have ever felt this way in a marathon before). 

This just shows how windy of a day it was.

After passing mile 26, I ran to the finish, after all, I didn’t want any race photos of me walking. It wasn’t a strong finish by any means, but it was a finish.  Finishing time was 3:13:04, 31st overallout of 674 runners and 8th out of 61 in the division.  So overall, the weather once again played a huge part in my marathon goals just as it did in Carmel. There is one thing in running that you just don’t have much control over, and that’s the weather.  

Overall Review of the Wisconsin Marathon



  • The Wiscondin Marathon did a great job of updating registered runners on important details leading up to race morning
  • Runners had three options on where to pick up their race packet. They could go to a location in Milwaukee, or Chicago a week early or the day before the race at the race location.  There was a small expo with a few vendors and races at the race location the day before. 
  • The course is right along the lake shore for most of the race, offering a lot of great views
  • With good weather, this could be a great PR course
  • Unique finishers medals  
  • Unique race logo allaround, used on race shirts.
  • 13 aid stations along the marathon course and 6 on the half marathon course with water and Gatorade.  Mile 18.5 aid station has ClifShots.  Aid stations also seemed to be well staffed with volunteers
  • Post race food options included bagels, water, cheese (of course), and bananas.  Each runner Aldo had a tab on their bib for a free brat and beer.  I didn’t partake in the beer but the brat was fantastic.
  • Live band at finish line 
  • Well marked course
  • If you took your bib into participating businesses in Kenosha you could get discounts or free selected items. 
  • Mostly closed course.


  • Parking was a little ways away from the start/finish
  • Roads need re-paved in some sections
  • Second half of marathon there isn’t much crowd support, gets pretty quiet
  • There are a couple of sections of gravel roads.  Most of it is packed down well though. 
  • Would like to see more food with salt (chips or something).  After a marathon, I need to replenish on salt after.
  • Race photos are not free and seem to be over priced. 
  • Could do better at utilizing social media to get the word out about the race

We would have loved to spent more time in Kenosha, but we had enough of the wind and decided to head to Kalamazoo for the next days race. 

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5 thoughts on “Earn Your Mittens Challenge, Part 1: Wisconsin Marathon

  1. Nice report. Glad you enjoyed the race. I set up the race course race morning (500 cones etc). Could not believe the wind. Say the bathrooms that got blown down plus some of the verticades cones we placed on the course where you ran on the left lane (British style as I call it) and I had to get extra sandbags/weights to the police for the road closed barriers. The part you mentioned that needs repave is bad indeed. One of my friends tripped badly there but was patched up. Guy I worked with works for the City and apparently it is budgeted for a 2017 repave, guessing after 2017 race though. Ad to let you know if you go to Chicago Fleet Feet for a packet pick up, at list at the Wells St store you can get validated parking in the lot next to them (think it is above a gym). Last time I picked up a race packet it was about $3, just ask the staff where the punch machine is. OK to read Mitten’s part two


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