Lakefront Marathon 2018-a RD’s perspective

What a year!  

It seemed like it was going to rain for 40 days and 40 nights leading up to the 38th annual Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon this past October 7th but the early morning showers subsided just in time for the runners to depart the warm confines of Grafton High School and it turned out to be perfect running conditions, according to the majority of participants.  It was the beginning of a memorable weekend for the organizers, runners and spectators alike.  Of course a race of this size cannot be set up in one day and the Saturday crew headed up by Tom Buthod with excellent assistance from Amy Baxter among a couple dozen more hard working, boot wearing volunteers surveyed the Veteran’s Park grounds and quickly realized that it was going to be a lot more work than usual Saturday set-ups in the past.  The grounds, which already had seen damage from a Harley-Davidson festival held there weeks before, were so saturated that driving trucks without the fear of getting stuck and tearing up the turf even more was impossible.  This meant that just about all tenting, barricades, food and all the necessities were going to be hauled by hand.  Merilou Gonzales and Mary White spearheaded the search and hauling of truckloads of hay in anticipation of all the mud that would soon be made by the thousands in attendance within the next 24 hours.

Race morning started out with the rain and while the finish line crews were busy bringing in the food, putting finishing touches to the hallowed chute and making certain that we put on the best and safest party possible, the runners were being dropped off at the Start line.  There was plenty of nervous energy felt by all as the majority of the 2772 runners that signed up were visualizing and preparing for the task at hand, a 26.2 mile run through Ozaukee County, several north shore communities before crossing the Milwaukee border and the finish line about 3 miles later.  The runners took off from the BWO Insurance Starting Line at 7:30am.  Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon 5K, headed by first year Race Director, Jen Wehr was about to start.  The 5K distance is a perfect way to take advantage of being a part of the “Marathon Sunday” experience and this year saw the participants almost double from the past year.  Congratulations and thank you to all those who participated, including experienced runners from our “I Can 26.2 It! youth running program, sponsored by InStep Physical Fitness and Running Centers.  Over a 10-week period leading up to race day, Kelly Flynn and parent volunteers led kids ages 5-12 in at home and group running schedule complete with warm-up games, education and life-skills seminars.  This has been one of the fastest growing programs within the Badgerland Striders and the approx. 140 kids took off at the conclusion of the 5k to put the final 1.2 miles of the commutative 26.2 distance event.  If you missed it, please show up next year to see the pride and huge smiles on the kids faces as they cross the same finish chute as the marathoners would only a couple minutes later.  The first marathon distance competitor to break through the Morgan-Stanley finish line was Fr. Dale Grubba, a multi-year wheelchair division champion in a time of only 2:11:25.  The first competitor to break through the official finish line tape was Fr. Dale Grubba, a multi-year wheelchair division champion in a time of only 2:11:25.  Our 2018 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon champion with a winning time of 2:21:24 was David Luy, a Brookfield native.  David has been improving his marathon time with each race and it should not be long before David qualifies for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.  This year, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon added a “Bonus” to the first Male and first Female that had the needed qualification time for the Trials (2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women).  While David was close, you could hear the screams from 1/2 mile away as the spectators learned that our first female had a real shot at earning her bonus.  In the end, Kameron Burmeister, a 22 year old from Menominee, MI fell short by only 21 seconds.  What makes it even more special was that this was Kameron’s first marathon distance race.  Both David and Kameron were gracious, obviously talented and we are proud to have them as our champions.  The $5000 bonus on top of the first place cash prize will be back next year and we sincerely hope both of our champions are also, as they have now earned lifetime entry into the Lakefront Marathon and their name is prominently displayed on the new LFM Champions Cup.  Our second and third place winners competed hard and it was a pleasure watching them chasing with everything they had.  Elias Rutto from Sun Prairie and Brian Finnel of Cross Plains rounded out the male overalls and Corina Canitz and Lori Nedescu from Rochester were our female winners.  Corina, a local from Brookfield (is there something in the water there) was not only a dominant runner in the field of 1264 female competitors but she was also our Grand Masters female champion at 51 years young.
The Veterans Park finish area saw runners finishing on the JumboTron screen before crossing into the protected “runners only” area where nutrition, massage and even hand-delivered beer was being poured. A special VIP only section even had delicious cinnamon rolls courtesy of Papas Bakery.  Rumor has it that the brats being grilled were a great treat for all the hard work completed.  As you can imagine, as more spectators and runners came onto the grounds, the grass quickly turned to mud and the straw place to help quickly disappeared.  What could have been the focus for complaints was quickly turned into a “might as well have fun with it!” attitude and nobody seemed to mind.  Walcheske & Luzi treated us to local band, the Love Monkeys which got spectators tapping their hands and entertained weary finishers.  Matt Tobin of Walcheski & Luzi not only helped get the band set up but he was also responsible for carting the delicious and much appreciated Lakefront Brewery beer, by hand across a vast distance.  Runners proclaimed him to be a volunteer VIP!  Our Oak Leaf Landscaping awards ceremony provided a nice break to the action and the bounce house, corporate tents and food provided by Gift of Wings kept the spectators busy while waiting for their special runners.  In the end, 2123 runners had an official time under 6:30:00 and an additional 18 completed after the course was closed.  We stay as long as we can to welcome those who persevered and many of us were still there when Caitlin Groom Maranville and Susan Zarwell raised their hands in victory just past the 8 1/2 hour mark.
This was my first year as Race Director for this event and what I am most proud of is the understanding that it takes so much work to put on an event like this.  We are all volunteers and asking for help can be a daunting task but the community at large, business partners/sponsors, school groups and parents/friends all gave freely of their time, talent, funding and energy.  They all worked under the tremendous leadership of our LFM Captains who not only deserve the recognition but have my sincere gratitude for not only excelling in making this year a tremendous success but for also challenging themselves to learn how we can be even better.  Our captains work on their specific areas of expertise but they are all overseen by the tireless and true talent of the LFM organization.  Barb Drees, Tom Buthod, Len Wachniak and David Finch are the heart and soul of this marathon.  If you enjoyed this event, please thank any volunteers that you know or hear about.  Better yet, please consider giving a bit of yourself in a future Strider event or next years marathon.  The Badgerland Striders, owners of the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon use all proceeds to provide low-cost or free running opportunities, running related community needs and grants to other running related non-profits and schools.  We give back to you and we’d love for you to become a part of our family.
Now we rest for a couple weeks before we start planning for 2019.  Registration will open in January and we look forward to providing another great experience.
Scott Stauske
Rookie Race Director
(see you in 2019!)