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A spectator’s guide to the IMT Des Moines Marathon


Fourth Street and Court Avenue is a great place to cheer on weary runners as they complete the final 385 yards of the marathon. Photo by Ken Sherman

More than 8,000 people will be hitting the streets of Des Moines in the 11th Annual IMT Des Moines Marathon, Half Marathon, Bankers Trust Marathon Relay and Principal Financial Group 5K on Sunday, Oct. 21. At the same time, an equal number of people will be lining those same streets cheering on athletes from Des Moines as well as those visiting from all 50 states and several foreign countries.                

Marathon spectators are crucial for the athlete, and it can be just as exciting and almost as exhausting as participating in the event itself for the cheering crowd. Fans are known to chase runners from one location to another, cheering and supporting those running.                

To make it easy, we’ve come up with a list of a few good places to watch much of the event that are easy to get to and help you see as much of the event as possible without making eight trips around the outskirts of town to reach another cheer-point.                

1. Nollen Plaza — All races begin and end at the newly designed plaza. After an April storm knocked down many of the trees, the south side of the Plaza is now a wide-open green space. The new open space allows for additional spectator amenities like food vendors, bounce houses for the kids and bleachers for fans along the finish chute.            

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2. Polk Boulevard — Easily accessible via Ingersoll, if you pick a spot between Grand and University Avenues, you can catch runners twice as they pass north to Drake University, make a loop around the blue Drake track, then back south to Greenwood Park. You’ll see them at miles eight or nine and again between 15 and 16. Catch a relay exchange at mile 15 just south of Kingman Boulevard.                

3. Waterworks Park — You will be able to watch the thousands of half-marathoners as they loop through the park, heading west of Fleur Drive, around the large loop and past the shelter behind the Izaak Walton League. Marathoners will also head through the park, hitting miles 19 through 22 before looping around Gray’s Lake. Parking is available along George Flagg Parkway with direct access back to the finish at Nollen Plaza via Indianola Avenue and 3rd Street.                

4. Downtown — Runners in all races will start and finish at Nollen Plaza, and will pass nearby at least twice, once at mile three (near the finish of the 5K) and once again at the finish. The marathon and half-marathon finishers will be heading north on 4th Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to the finish. Fourth Street is a great place to cheer on weary runners who will need some encouragement as they approach the line.                

The marathon, half marathon and marathon relay start together at 8 a.m., while the 5K begins at 8:30 a.m. The awards ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the presentation of the 5K prizes, followed by the half marathon awards at 10:30 a.m. and marathon at noon.                

For information on the all of the events, maps and schedules, pick up the complete IMT Des Moines Marathon Guide in the latest issue of Iowa Momentum magazine, or visit the race website at www.desmoinesmarathon.com.

Locker Room note: Before race day, the Scheels Sports and Fitness Expo will be held at Hy-Vee Hall. It is free and open to the public. Vendors and presentations will be available from 3-8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20. Iowa Kidstrong will be hosting a special Kids Expo just for kids from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. CV

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