BLOG: The ups and downs (and ups) of the Door County Half Marathon

“Mistakes were made.”

 That was the extent of the email message I received from my friend Dan, just weeks after we had committed to the Door County Half Marathon for the first time several years go. Though we had both completed other half marathons before, none of them had been like this one.

 Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – we were already registered and there was no turning back now.

 The mistake Dan was referencing was signing up for these particular 13.1 miles before reviewing the course. His email included the link to this time-lapse course video but I refused to let him rattle me. After all, I had completed half marathons in three other cities, from Miami to Las Vegas to Des Moines, so I knew I could do this one.

 The video sat, unwatched, in my email until curiosity got the best of me.

 “Crap,” I replied one day a week later. “I finally watched the video. And looked at the elevation map.”

 Here’s what got me more than anything – the elevation swing from a mere 75 feet above sea level to 745 feet above sea level (twice!) Granted, it’s not like we were going to have to run 670 feet straight up – it was gradual – but there were some steep inclines ahead of us to be sure.

 Tough on the legs, easy on the eyes

Race day came and it was nearly 80 degrees and sunny and the other thing I wasn’t prepared for (other than those darn hills) was exactly how scenic the course would be.

 The Door County Half Marathon is a USA Track & Field certified course, paved and with plenty of twists and turns. It is anything but boring. The entire course is within Peninsula State Park and takes you past historical markers and scenic overlooks as you run under a canopy of trees starting to bud and bloom in the early spring.

 When you run Pen Park, you’ll get a look at Tennison Bay and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse as well as panoramic views of Nicolet Bay, Green Bay and the islands dotting the waters of Lake Michigan. The green hue of new growth will catch your eye and provide a bright, stark contrast to the grayish-brown, still-thawing earth along the roadway. It is nothing short of spectacular.

 13.1 addicting miles

Being a glutton for punishment and a lover of nature, I have completed the Door County Half Marathon twice now and in just a few days, I will be participating in the Nicolet Bay 5K for the first time. I can’t wait for my fix of fresh air and scenery; the camaraderie of other runners; and any excuse to spend a weekend in Door County.

 A number of friends and co-workers have also begun making the voyage from Milwaukee to Door County the first weekend in May each year. It’s becoming an annual tradition to lace up our running shoes and take a run in Pen Park. The response from everyone I know has been virtually the same: It’s one of the toughest and definitely one of the most scenic courses they’ve ever been on.

 If you’re preparing for this year’s Door County Half Marathon, good luck on those hills and please, enjoy every breathtaking view. See you at the Finish Line – and maybe, just maybe, at a local tavern to hydrate afterwards.