This past Sunday, some friends and I ran the Quad Cities Marathon Relay. For those of you out-of-staters, the Quad Cities are: Moline and Rock Island, IL and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. (Oh, who am I kidding… I had to look that up. I’m from Illinois and I had no clue.)
A few highlights:
- Packet pick up/pre-race went pretty smoothly. A nice local lady recommended the Blue Cat Brew Pub in Rock Island for dinner. The food was great, but the service was terrible. I was the only one brave enough to try the beer and it was just okay. I’d definitely go back and try some of their other selections some time.
- The Quad Cities are a LOT nicer than I expected. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but they had really cute shops, a quaint downtown area, etc. Definitely worth a visit.
- Race day weather was *perfect*– it was a little chilly at the start and I got goose bumps when I was waiting at the relay exchange zone, but it was perfect for running. Sunny and about 67 or so.
- The course was breathtakingly beautiful– It was a 5 person relay and 4 of us had scenic routes. There were 3 bridges and 4 towns. One of my teammates got to run on the Interstate bridge from IL to Iowa. Most of the routes ran along the river and it was just a picture-perfect fall day.
- I’d never run a relay before, so I was a little apprehensive about getting from one leg to another and making sure we didn’t “miss” one another. Luckily, they had a well-organized shuttle system to transport runners from the start/finish line to their legs. My exchange zone happened to be 1 block away from our hotel. I could’ve walked there, but I wasn’t familiar enough with the area, so I rode the bus from the start/finish line and waited for about an hour.
- My leg was the middle leg, so I wasn’t able to watch any of the other exchanges, but we didn’t get lost and no one had to run an extra leg because the next runner wasn’t there. Definite plus in my book.
- The exchange zones themselves were well-run. There was a volunteer with a bullhorn yelling out bib numbers so you didn’t have to worry about missing the exchange. Each relay exchange was well-stocked with water and snacks, too.
- Speaking of snacks—this race went above and beyond in the amenities department. In addition to the usual water/Gatorade/Gu, they had oranges, bananas, cold sponges and even Vaseline on the course. Which made for a *really* funny story when one of my teammates mistook the Vaseline for Gu.
- As far as the actual running, it went pretty well. I haven’t really been training and the last two races I’ve entered have been disastrous (think: walking during a 5K). My leg was 5.6 miles and my *only* goal was to finish without walking… which I did.
- The course I ran was scenic and uneventful for the most part. I ran from Rock Island (which isn’t an island) to Arsenal Island (which is). It’s also—according to Wikipedia the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States. (which explains the COUNTLESS volunteers in uniform—HEL-lo!!). The last mile and a half or so were along a scenic river path. I had studied the map prior to the race but forgot to pay attention to the mile markers, so when I got towards the end I was having a hard time calculating how much further I had to go.
- I’ve never run on the second half of a marathon course before and I have to say—it’s different. The only people on the course were uber-fit marathoners and relay participants. So, for the most part I felt like I was running a training run. A training run with occasional snacks, a cold sponge and a gorgeous view of the river!
- There was very little crowd support, at least during my leg. It didn’t really bother me because I only had 5.6 miles to go, but I think if I was running the half (or the full) I’d probably appreciate a little more crowd support. But maybe my expectations were too high from my experience running the Illinois Half-Marathon in my hometown. The volunteers were super nice as was almost everyone we met in the Quad Cities. Good folks, they are.
- The race was definitely good for relay teams– there was a designated relay meet-up spot where we met our last teammate and we all ran in together. We each got medals and nice tech running shirts. No lame-o cotton t-shirts for this relay team.
- After the race, we had our complimentary beers (Miller Light) and headed home. Everyone was raving about the course and the weather. Well, everyone except Bobbi who ran the last leg. It was a brutal out-and-back with no river view. She wasn’t impressed, but I can’t imagine how it must have felt for the marathoners to have to do that in the last miles of 26.2.
- I think the only *real* complaint we had about the race is that it is gun-timed and there are no splits for individual runners. I ran with my phone and my RunKeeper ap, so I know how fast I ran, but no one else does. And since our team started near the back, we don’t have accurate timing. Again, the scenery and “intimate” feel of the race definitely make up for this, but it sure would be nice to have more accurate timing
- I’ve totally re-caught the running bug and wonder how much better I could’ve done had I actually *trained* properly for this race. However, it taught me a valuable lesson: It seems as though I’m more motivated by successes than failures. I thought the last two botched races would be the “wake up” call I needed to get me running again. Turns out, running *well* is what I needed to get going. Running well, great friends, beautiful scenery, and a perfect day!
If you’re looking for a small(ish) fall race, I highly recommend trying it out. We are definitely going back next year and some of us are thinking of running the half. They also have a 5K and a 1 mi fun run for the kids. I really can’t say enough good things about this race and the Quad Cities in general.
And, now for the pictures: