The 39th Annual Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon brought a new finish line to the game for participants. For the first time in many years the finish line was at Summerfest rather than Veteran's Park. Let's talk about that journey to the finish.
The first step in the journey to the Summerfest Grounds started at UW - Milwaukee's Student Union. Everything about the Expo was fantastic. Pickup goes smoothly and there are a variety of local running vendors. The expo is well worth your time. The only issue I have with the expo, is finding the exact location in the Student Union. The past two years, there were no signs on the ground floor, so it made finding the expo difficult. Other than the signs, I have no complaints.
The next morning at runner pick up, there was ample parking and numerous buses to bring you from Summerfest to the start line at Grafton High School. Upon arrival at the high school, there are indoor bathrooms and porta potties in the parking lot. I suggest you use the restrooms early to avoid the lines.
In 2019, there was a different set up for VIP and Elite athletes. This made the area for regular athletes smaller, meaning a more crowded pre race wait. Since it was not raining, this was not a problem because athletes could go outside and watch the sunrise if they chose. There was also coffee, water and gatorade available for participants.
While waiting, the race crew made announcements over the school's intercom to keep athletes informed. Announcements continued up until the time of the start. Prior to that point athletes were directed to the start line. Bag check was on the way to the start line. The line grew long because people did not tie their bags and or write their bib numbers in the the designated place. Come prepared and follow directions.
The start line was full of energy. People who were competing and those who were spectating alike stood and waited in anticipation for the start of the race. Pacers held their signs high, while there were also pace signs for starting line placement. With a short count down, the race then began.
The course is set in a rural turning urban setting, with minimal hills. There are water stops about every two miles. People tend to gather at the major intersections on the course. Signs are everywhere to make sure you do not run an ultra instead of a marathon.
Below are a few highlights of the course and what to expect.
After the first 6.5 miles of country and picturesque settings, you arrive at Concordia University, in Mequon. There you are greeted by their marching band and large crowds of people. This was a great time to feed off the energy of the spectating crowds. The next major spectator stop was around mile 10. People line the streets waiting for you to run on by. Mile 13 was a treat since Tri Wisconsin hosted this water stop. Athletes serving athletes was a spectacular experience. Near mile 15 you begin to see a more rapid change in the scenery. Houses are closer together and the setting is by far more urban, but very residential. Spectators become more regular along the course.
The 18th mile brings you into the heart of Milwaukee's North Shore neighborhoods. If you love older luxury homes, you are in for a surprise as these homes are jaw dropping.
Mile 20 is home to a new marathon feature, a jumbo tron with a live stream of the finish line. As of 2019, the LFM is the only marathon in the United States to have this form of encouragement. From this point on in the race, geographically, it is all down hill to the finish line.
The last 4 miles consists of a bike path along Lake Michigan that feeds into Summerfest. Mile 25 is where the old finish line used to be, so this was a mental barrier for me trying to pass the old finish with another 1.2 miles to go. Further down the bike path, the finish becomes visible along with Discovery World. Before you know it you are in the finish with spectators cheering you on while your name is announced.
Crossing the finish line is a great feeling at the LFM. You are greeted by volunteers and other runners. then you are given a bag of food and some drinks. Then you exit the finisher area to grab you gear check. The new set up was not finisher friendly. Spectators crowded the gear pick up area, and there were no places to sit. As a tired athlete, I was disappointed.
If I were to give one suggestion about the race, it would be to create a finish area for athletes only to have their gear and recover.
Overall this is a perfectly run race. The aid stations are consistent and filled with happy volunteers. Miles markers and the final distances are accurate too. If you want a low key, but energetic marathon, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is your race to run.