The Twin Cities Marathon is Minnesota's largest single spectator event. With more than 300,000 people expected to line the 26.2-mile route on Sunday, there are lots of places to cheer on the runners. Some are more picturesque -- and easier to get to -- than others. As the 12,000 marathoners and 9,000 entrants in the TC 10 Mile Run wend their way from the Metrodome to the State Capitol, here are some suggestions for ways the cheerers can keep in good cheer.
Here's looking at you
The folks who have run the race multiple times have favorite places to send relatives and friends to watch.
The Lake Street Bridge is the top choice for Kelly Mortenson, manager and race team coordinator for the Run N Fun store in St. Paul. "You get to watch the runners on both sides of the course," he said. "First they pass Lake Street going north on West River Road. They reach the Franklin Avenue Bridge, cross and come back on East River Road past Lake Street again. All you have to do is cross the bridge and you can cheer them on again."
The 4-mile jaunt up Summit Avenue is the choice for Paul Horan, owner of Gear Running Store in Edina. "Summit is always great," he said. "There's a very festive atmosphere, with lots of parties."
The intersection of Summit Avenue and N. Lexington Parkway is where Kurt Decker, manager of TC Running Co. in Eden Prairie, asks his supporters to be. "There's usually a DJ playing music there and a lot of people cheering," he said.
Barb Leininger, founder of Running Ventures and a staff member at Marathon Sports in Minneapolis, says you can't go wrong along East River Road or Summit Avenue. "For spectators, the latter part of the course is wonderful," she said.
Keeping up with the runners
The marathon's horseshoe-shaped course can play mind games on tired runners -- as they reach the 19-mile mark, it hits them that they've only gone about 2 1/2 miles as the crow flies -- but it offers wonderful opportunities for spectators to hopscotch along the route.
In fact, it's so compact that when Decker's wife runs the marathon, he and their kids leapfrog along the route on their bikes.
"You can pick up the runners at Mile 3 near Lake of Isles and ride bike paths all the way to the University of St. Thomas at Mile 22," he said.
You also can get around by car, of course. The Lake Street Bridge goes above both the east and west parkways that the runners use, so it stays open for drivers needing to get from the Minneapolis part of the route to the St. Paul part. Finding parking usually isn't an issue, especially as the runners spread out along the course. But the area near the State Capitol gets very crowded. Allow plenty of time to get from your car to the finish line.
It can be hard to find one particular runner in a mass of moving bodies, and it often isn't much easier for runners to locate their supporters among the throngs alone the curbs. So the experts recommend that runners and their supporters establish certain points where they will look for each other.
Visual aids help, too.
"My family often makes signs, and that helps me find them," said Andrew Cooke, assistant manager of the Gear Running Store in Uptown Minneapolis. "And I wear a pair of bright-red soccer socks that I pull all the way to my knees. My parents have said they can see me coming a block away."
Or follow a runner from your easy chair. You can sign up for electronic monitoring that will send periodic text messages on how your runner is doing.
Here's how it works: The runners wear computer chips. Along the route, they pass sensors that detect the chips, record the time and send an update to a phone (or phones) on how things are progressing. All you have to do is put down your doughnut and coffee long enough to read the message on your phone.
There will be seven updates for the marathoners: at the start, at five points along the route and at the finish. The 10-milers will get three updates: start, finish and the halfway point.
You must register for the electronic tracking by 7 p.m. Saturday. Go to the marathon website, www.tcmevents.org. The link to the registration site is on the left side of the page.
Way to go, champ!
If you want to cheer the winners as they cross the finish line, get to the Capitol early. The first runners in the 10-mile race are expected to reach the finish line a little before 8 a.m. For the marathon, the projected times are: 9:40 a.m. for wheelchair racers, 10:15 for male runners and 10:30 for women.
Strike up the band(s)
Several groups have registered to perform along the course, and other ad hoc performers spring up along the way. Among the latter is Alan Page, who will be at his traditional post oompahing away on his sousaphone as the marathoners surge up Douglas Avenue about 2 1/2 miles into the run.
Here are the entertainment groups that registered (mile markers indicate general area; not exact location):
• Robbinsdale City Band - Lake Calhoun Parkway, Mile 5.
• Misora Taiko - Nicollet Avenue S. and Minnehaha Parkway; Mile 9.
• Steve West Band - Minnehaha Falls; Mile 15.
• DrumHeart - 38th Street and West River Parkway; Mile 17.
• Seward Concert Band - Lake Street and West River Parkway; Mile 18.
• University of St. Thomas Dance Team - Howell Street and Summit Avenue; Mile 22
• St. Paul Postal Band - Prior and Summit Avenues; Mile 22
• Zingrays - Saratoga Street and Summit Avenue; Mile 23
• The Outliers - Pascal Street and Summit Avenue; Mile 24
• Dr. Rock & the All Star Band - Victoria Street and Summit Avenue; Mile 25.
Keep it real
When you meet up with your triumphant runner at the finish area, keep in mind that he or she has just finished a long and challenging run. This is not the best time for you to whine about how far away you had to park.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392