Some friends of mine just got back from running a marathon in Duluth MN. They gave it rave reviews, said it was the best-run marathon they've experienced. The buses arrived early so they didn't have to wait in the muggy pre-dawn midWestern chill to get a ride to the start of the race. They loved the low-key, casual laid-back atmosphere at the restaurants in downtown Duluth. They smiled at the "don't'cha know"s from waiters, volunteers and receptionists. The ratio between volunteers and runners was so high that everyone they asked on the street knew all about the race and where runners needed to go and what they needed to do.
My friend loved that she met a 70-year-old woman who wanted to run the race in 4:13, but was upset when she went five minutes over and finished at 4:18. My friend, younger than 70, could only manage a time of 4:47. They loved that they could see the finish line landmark from 20 miles away around the curve of the lake.
They said the Kenyan runners, treated like royalty, walked the streets of Duluth. Before the race, they would look around, eat in the restaurants, mingle with the commoners. The Kenyans, of course, are there to win the races. The top runner at the 2010 race ran 26.1 miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes, not a course record, but still quite fast. After the race, the Kenyans walked through town with arms full of roses.
I love it that we have a world where African natives can and will visit Duluth MN and be welcomed and treated with great respect and that an entire town pitches in to make it all happen.
If I ever run, er, participate in a marathon, I may go to Duluth.