My Take: The 2018 Prairie Fire Marathon
As this post/episode is released, I’m a week out from running the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita, Kansas.
I’m not one for writing a detailed race recap of my performance on race day. So if that’s what you’re looking for…
Yeah, I’m not really that sorry.
What I am up for doing is sharing my perspective on the Prairie Fire Marathon as someone that has run the race.
What things does this race get right? Where could they improve?
So that’s what I’m doing today.
I’m giving the basics below, but the podcast will have much more detail (ie I’ll probably be rambling like a mofo). So if you want the full scoop, make sure you press play above!
(And if you’re not already subscribed to the show on your phone, get on it eh?)
The Prairie Fire Marathon
The good. The bad. And the meh.
The Prairie Fire marathon is, in my opinion at least, almost all good with just a hint of meh.
I really didn’t experience anything that I would call bad in my time in Kansas, save for the weather.
But the last thing I’m going to do is fault the race for having a cold front move through during the race that brought some pretty strong winds, rain, and rapidly dropping temperatures.
More on that in a bit.
If you’re coming in from out of town, the Prairie Fire marathon travel is not a big concern!
I flew into Wichita, which was super convenient.
The Wichita airport services several different airlines, and the price point wasn’t any higher than I would have expected had I been flying into Kansas City and then making the 3-ish hour drive.
So if you’re flying to Kansas for this race, just get a flight straight to Wichita.
And if you’re driving, Wichita is located right along I-35.
Can’t get much easier than that.
The Prairie Fire marathon claims to have a flat and fast course, and that description is pretty much spot on.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of small hills, but up and down, in order to break things up just a little bit.
Feel free to check out my Garmin data to see the course profile for yourself, but note that when I say “hills” I’m basically meaning nothing more than 30-50 feet of elevation at a very gradcual incline. These aren’t hills proper, I think my total elevation change for the marathon was 230 feet, but some small little ups and downs.
I think it’s safe to say that you’d be hard pressed to find too many marathons with less than 230 feet of elevation change.
So yes, this course if flat!
One issue that you may have with this course, however, is the tangents.
Honestly, this may be the only complaint I have with the Prairie Fire marathon.
And to be fair, I didn’t dislike the course at all.
There are just a lot of turns. And as such, it makes tangent running very difficult.
I was talking to some friends at the expo that had run the half in the past, and they said that for them it would be at least a 13.2 mile day. And the marathon route was even more twisty and turny, so I was anticipating a 26.5 mile day. According to my Garmin, it was at least that, probably more like 26.6.
Is that a big deal for me? No, not really.
But if you’re trying to BQ, having to run nearly an extra half mile is something that you should at least be aware of coming into the race.
Another thing with the course that should be noted, not all of the streets are closed to traffic during the race.
Major intersections were manned by police officers directing traffic, and just about every other street had a volunteer present to alert traffic to be aware of runners in the road. (More on the volunteers in a bit.)
A few roads had a lane or two blocked off for us to run in, with other lanes being open to traffic.
Even with most of the roads still being open, I can’t think of a single issue I had with any cars along the course.
The expo for the Prairie Fire marathon is located in downtown Wichita, about a block from the host hotel and the start/finish line.
The expo had about 20-25 booths, I think.
Not a huge expo, by any means. But enough going on that most runners walked around for at least a few minutes to see what was going on.
You could also sign up for the race at the expo if you are the kind of runner that likes to wait for the last minute to regiester for a race, and I believe they had the option of switching your race distance if you wanted to. (Though don’t quote me on that!)
The expo was Saturday only, and no race day packet pickups were allowed.
After the expo wrapped up Saturday evening, I headed back to the hotel, grabbed some food, and then made my way to the pasta dinner.
After people had a chance to eat, Bob Hansen, the race director, made a few announcements and then began something that I’d never really seen done at other races.
He invited everyone in the room to introduce themselves and to share a little bit about what brought them to Wichita to run the race the following morning.
Even though being the speaker at these dinners is kind of my jam, I really enjoyed just being a small part of the evening’s entertainment and sharing the stage with everyone else in the room.
The morning of the race, things went pretty smoothly as far as I could tell.
I walked out of the hotel a few minutes before the race started, and was still in the corrals in plenty of time.
If you weren’t staying in either the host hotel or one of the other hotels in the area, there was parking available for you to drive to the start/finish area. I’m not exactly sure how complicated the logistics would have been with road closures and what not.
As for the post-race festivities, I don’t have much to report.
Remember how I said I wouldn’t hold the wind and the rain and the cold against the race? I stand by that claim. But after running in the rain for nearly 4 hours, and being proper soaked through and through, I knew that as soon as I stopped running I needed to get inside, out of my wet clothes, and into a hot shower ASAP.
The only food I saw right at the finish wasn’t of much interest to me (gatorade, bagels, etc), but there was supposed to be some more food available as well. I saw the tents set up, with the sides on to protect them from the elements, but instead of investigating I headed inside.
One other thing that struck me as unique with this race was the fact that you didn’t get your t-shirt at the expo.
The Prairie Fire marathon gives out finisher’s shirts, meaning that you have to finish the race to get your shirts.
I’ve never seen that before, but getting the shirt wasn’t an issue at all.
That tent was right there in the finisher’s chute, and the volunteers manning the tent were on the ball with the shirts.
The bling for the Prairie Fire marathon is solid.
It’s not too big. But it’s not too small either.
Just a nice piece of hardware signifying a job well done.
Point blank, without volunteers there are no races.
Every race I’ve ever attended has had some great volunteers, but the volunteers at the Prairie Fire marathon were beyond amazing.
All told, this race requires over 1000 volunteers, and from what I could tell there were very few that decided they didn’t want to show up due to the rough weather.
In my view, there isn’t a much worse combination of weather elements to run in than cold, wind, and rain.
But at least when you’re running you’re generating some body heat to help keep you warm.
When you’re standing at an intersection directing traffic, or manning a water station handing out cups, there is no heat generation.
And yet every volunteer was friendly and helpful and smiling when we went by.
All volunteers are special, but these folks went above and beyond the call for this race.
Staying at the host hotel for the Prairie Fire marathon is worth every penny.
The hotel was nice, it was a Hyatt afterall, and I think it was fairly reasonably priced for being a higher end hotel.
There was a nice pool and hot tub. A nice workout room.
The business center had a mac, which is aces in my book!
And since the expo, the pasta dinner, and the start/finish are all within a few minute walk of the hotel lobby, the location couldn’t be much better.
I didn’t get out and explore the area near the hotel too much, but from what I could tell there were a few restaurants within walking distance for sure.
Wichita also has a bike share program, so if you wanted to go a little farther than walking distance you can grab a bike and go! Not sure on the cost of it, but that would be a great way to get around to some different restaurants.
And if you have friends or family that are planning to spectate the race, that would be a great option for getting to various point of the course to see you.
The Prairie Fire marathon has promised free photos for all runners, but as of this post the photos aren’t yet availalbe for upload.
But with 2,700 runners in the three races, I’ll cut the photographers some slack on how long it takes to make the photos availalbe!
Overall, the Prairie Fire marathon is a good race.
It’s well organized. The volunteers are amazing. And in spite of the weather, there were even a decent number of locals that were out spectatining in the front yards on a Sunday morning.
Would I run this race again, on my own dime? Probably.
Would I encourage you to run it if it fits into your schedule in 2019? Absolutely!
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Have You Ever Run Prairie Fire? What are Your Thoughts on This Race?
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