North Dakota was completely unexplored territory for me in 2009 when I signed up for the Kroll’s Diner Bismarck Marathon and Half Marathon. At the time, I hadn’t been anywhere near Bismarck or anywhere in North Dakota for that matter.
The race started at 7:30 am and it was in the mid-50’s then, so weather-wise, we had ideal racing conditions. The start and finish were at a nice park but the rest of the course was pretty uneventful and not very scenic.
I got a long-sleeve white technical shirt at packet pickup and at the finish was handed a pretty hefty medal with the race logo on it. Logistically, packet pickup was quick and easy and getting to and from the race were the same. The race website always has hotel discounts every year so check there before you make reservations.
My family and I found Bismarck to be a very depressed area with not much to do. I would only recommend this race if you’re going to be in Bismarck anyway and are looking for a good half marathon while you’re there. It’s not bad for a half marathon, it’s just that there are better ones out there in my opinion. South Dakota on the other hand, was a completely different story.
From my post-race notes:
“Ran much of the course along running trails that wound around a park. Was flat and had nice weather from start to finish of race. Sufficient water stops, good volunteers, sporadic crowds. Out and back course with a loop in the first part. Start and finished near a playground, which was perfect for runners with kids. Decent medals and long-sleeve technical shirts. Overall not a bad race, just nothing too exciting about it. My finish time was 1:59:00.”
I signed up for the Traverse City Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon because I knew other runners who had ran the half marathon or marathon and raved about the course. My family and I were also going to a christening for my husband’s twin nephews fairly nearby the area in April, so the timing would be perfect.
When I ran the half marathon in April of 2009, the marathon and half marathon both were filled to capacity (1700 for the marathon and 1500 for the half) in January. Both races were filled less than seven weeks after registration opened in December so they’re obviously very popular races, or at least they were in 2009. I imagine it’s still a popular race since it’s still going strong.
The course was definitely one of the most scenic ones I’ve ran and unlike race directors who mean hilly when they say that, I don’t. The half marathon is a pretty flat out and back course. You get nice views of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. The finish is on a track for the last quarter mile, which I liked.
I highly recommend this race and spending some time in Traverse City before and after the race. Traverse City is a popular vacation area during the summer but in April when this race is, the weather is nice but it’s not so crowded. There are many wineries and places to try all things made with cherries of all sorts. One place you can’t miss is Sleeping Bear Dunes. Who knew there was an enormous sand dune you can climb up (or roll down as I saw many kids doing) in Michigan? We loved this place! It was only about a 35 minute drive from Traverse City, which makes it an easy day trip but you can camp at the park if you prefer to stay there overnight.
From my post-race notes:
“Course was 90% along Grand Traverse Bay, which is beautiful. Ran past beautiful homes on the water. Mostly flat. Spectators were sparse except for a couple of viewing areas, partly due to fact that half-marathoners were required to be bused in for start. Was chilly entire race. Would have preferred later start, in hopes it would be warmer. Long line at finish for food. Finish on outdoor track was fun. Finish time 2:00:37.”