Last week I wrote about my performance in the Wichita Prairie Fire Marathon, but I intentionally left out many details of the race logistics or course information so that I could write this post. Actually, I've blogged about this race in previous years, but in looking back, I don't think I did a good enough job describing the event. Plus, the Prairie Fire has evolved and changed. Full disclosure, this is my hometown marathon, and I want to see it do well. However, I'm planning on stating all the facts both good and bad.
The Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon has been in existence for 3 years now replacing the Wichita Marathon which was a point to point course. The Wichita Marathon was taken over by the Kansas Sports Commission and renamed after the sponsor, the Prairie Fire coffee roasters. One of the first changes was to the course. It became a dual loop course, with shared start and finish lines, all within the Wichita city limits.
|Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon course as mapped by my Garmin.|
|Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon elevation as measured by Garmin.|
Another change was the addition of an expo the day before. I can't say that there is anything that really stands out about the expo, but it's better than nothing, and you can find some deals there. Most of the deals might be difficult to take advantage of if you're from out of town since a lot of the vendors are local. Actually, one nice thing about the expo is that it's only a block from the starting line, so if you're coming in from out of town, you can stay at a hotel within walking distance of both like the Hyatt, Drury, or Fairfield Inn.
|Prairie Fire "Fit For Life" Expo|
|Prairie Fire "Fit For Life" Expo Packet Pickup|
Arriving to the starting area 45 minutes before the race, one thing became obvious right away that can also be an issue at large races. A shortage of port-a-potties. Not that there weren't a lot of them, it's just that everyone tries to use them at the same time before a race. I found some public bathrooms in a nearby parking garage that most runners didn't know about, and I still had to wait in line over 10 minutes. The bottom line is, don't show up to the starting line at the last minute. Despite bathroom lines, and thousands of people at the start, it's still not as congested as a big city marathon, and therefore not as hard to get around or find a parking spot.
While running the marathon, I was pleased with how much shade there was going through the neighborhoods to help keep me cool on a sunny morning. The bad thing about the shaded streets was there were some turns to navigate. The turns honestly didn't bother me at all, but I hear other runners complain there are too many of them. Another thing related to the turns, the course transitions between roads and sidewalks in a few places. Some transitions happen in a way to slow you down, but they are later in the race where you aren't competing with other runners for position.
The Prairie Fire Marathon uses the Bib Chip timing system which are disposable stickers on the back of your bib to track you. It's nice not to have to deal with chips on your shoes. As of this year they expanded the timing equipment to register your 10k, half, and 20 mile splits. They also allowed you to register your number with social media like Twitter and Facebook to automatically post updates as you crossed the mats. On the down side, they have yet to post those splits all in one place as part of the final results.
One of the unique aspects of Prairie Fire for my family is that they can park along the course almost anywhere and cheer me on, then along some roads, drive beside me until another car comes up behind them and forces them to speed up. While in the downtown areas of the course, there are a variety of bands playing tunes to add some energy along the way. And about mile 25, the runners are taken over a trendy foot bridge that passes the 44 foot tall Keeper Of The Plains statue where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers merge.
|Keeper of the Plains|
|2010 Commemorative T-Shirt|
|2010 Finisher Technical T-Shirt|
|2010 Finisher Medal|
|2011 Commemorative T-Shirt|
|2011 Finisher Technical T-Shirt|
|2011 Finisher Medal|
|2012 Commemorative T-Shirt|
|2012 Finisher Technical T-Shirt|
|2012 Finisher Medal|
|2012 Finisher Medal|