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Kalamazoo Marathon course preview from 2012 champ Justin Gillette

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Justin Gillette crosses the finish line first at last year's Kalamazoo Marathon
Justin Gillette crosses the finish line first at last year's Kalamazoo Marathon

KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- If you’re participating in the running events this weekend or plan to in the future, you’ll be in for an amazing tour of the city. No one knows the course better than defending Kalamazoo Marathon winner, and record holder, Justin Gillette.

The 30-year-old professional marathoner from Goshen, Ind., had more than a few words to say about the literal “peaks and valleys” that the course has to offer. Read below a course preview from Gillette himself:

The Basics

“We are in a running boom. Marathons are popping up faster than a Lake-Effect snow storm during a Michigan winter. Usually new races take a while to get established as the race directors learn what runners want. Not the Kalamazoo Marathon. These race directors did their training. I can’t say exactly how race directors train, but regardless they come prepared to put on a great event. Every mile marker is in place, every cup of Gatorade served at the right temperature, and that is just the beginning, the Kalamazoo Marathon course is a unique experience.

"Flat and fast" are buzz words in the running industry that races use to attract runners. This sales gimmick is used by race directors to make running a marathon seem simple. The Kalamazoo crew bucks the trends, heck maybe they are starting a new trend perhaps? This race course could easily be like other marathons where they send you on the first road out of town, and after miles of country boredom runners barely sneak a peak of the host city just prior to finishing their marathon. Not here, not at this race! That is the mentality of Blaine Lam as he laid out a course that shows off his city, hills and all!”

Mile by Mile

“The course has rolling hills, and remember not call it a slow course. Saying a course is “slow” is an insult to anyone who finishes. Runners shoot off from the Nazereth Campus headed downhill into the heart of Kalamazoo. The first 3 miles are a gentle downhill, banking time, or running faster than your goal pace, is about a beneficial as saving money with today’s interest rates. Banking time is pretty much worthless, it is better to run with an even effort on this course.

The 26.2 mile tour of Kalamazoo takes you through the Western Michigan campus, which is miles 5 through 6, be sure to cheer on the Broncos as you pass through their stomping grounds. Miles 7 through 9 are pretty rolling. Remember that Chuck Norris never ran a marathon, that will help you power up the hills. Miles 9 through 11 take you through a nice business research park, probably where those WMU graduates work. This area has the fewest spectators, but you will be so busy taking in all the sights that these miles will pass quickly.”

From mile 11 to mile 17 you can only expect one thing, “more cowbell”! The course takes you back into residential areas of Kalamazoo, be ready for the noise as the crowds will be cheering you on. In my opinion my favorite part of the course is from mile 17 to the finish line. This is when the half marathon and full marathon courses connect again. Adding half marathon runners onto the course only leads to the excitement. Try mental tricks to maintain your speed. For example aim to catch a half marathon person who you see in the distance, once you catch them go after another one. There are a few tough hills in the last few miles. You did not expect your medal to be given away easily did you? These hills are manageable so do not worry much about them.

The Finish

“Soon enough you will be back at the finish line celebrating running a great marathon. Until then relax and trust your training. This course, the entertainment, volunteers, and spectators will be ready for you on race day.”

Thanks to what he calls his “running addiction” Gillette already has won 62 marathons. Gillette will be back to defend his title on May 5 and says he has every intention of making the 2013 Kalamazoo Marathon number 63.  

WKZO will be providing a live video stream on race day, check it out at our marathon page ‘Everything Kalamazoo Marathon’. You can also receive updates to your phone by texting MARATHON to 80373. Remember that standard message and data rates apply. 

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