By Amy Bailey
You know that Miranda Lambert song? “The House That Built Me” one?
I don’t know every word of that song, but the sentiment behind it? That’s how I feel about Milwaukee. It’s the city that built me.
I was reminded of that the first weekend of November when I ran a half marathon through the streets of the MKE at the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival. It was one of those rare November days with super blue skies and warm sun in Wisconsin’s biggest city. It was a great day to run.
It was the first time I’ve done a race in Milwaukee, the city I was first introduced to life as a Wisconsinite in 1994 — I was an 18-year-old Cleveland native starting as a freshman at Marquette University.
In keeping with college ‘expectations,’ my days as journalism major had some bad decisions: caffeine and nicotine to name two. Oh, and beer and nicotine most nights. Ah, the too-cool-for-school college smoking habit that stuck around until just after I turned 30.
So here I was 20 years later, as a 40-year-old mother runner going through 13.1 miles of memories so thick it felt like they were playing on a screen in front of me. We went past the college dorms, the lecture halls, the student union. And I could, in my mind’s eye, see 20-year-old Amy looking at me from these spots during this race.
The course went down Wisconsin Avenue, right through the heart of the downtown college campus. This is the same thoroughfare where other Marquette students over the years have run all the way to Lake Michigan to celebrate the Marquette men’s basketball team’s performance in March Madness. I finally got my turn to do it this month since it never happened in my years as a Golden Eagle in the mid-1990s.
After an amazing sunrise over Lake Michigan, the first half of the 13.1-mile course didn’t disappoint. I had a ton to look at, think about and just take in with what seemed like a thousand other runners.
The second half? The opposite. Unexpected inclines that felt like they went on forever in industrial parkways, empty city streets and a narrow lakeshore path, to name just a few. The last few miles were especially difficult because the course featured a finish line that could be seen from more than a mile away. Granted, it was along the beautiful blue waters of Lake Michigan, but feeling like the finish was closer than it was at that point in the race? Punishing.
The course, despite its difficulty, felt very much like a complete circle to me. The first half went through the campus where I started my adult life. The second half finished through a newly renovated area along the lakeshore that features the Discovery World museum where I have taken my son when he was younger.
I recently heard Dean Karnazes talk about running as a great tool to explore areas. And this half marathon was exactly that. I got a chance to be on Milwaukee’s city streets, see the cracks on the sidewalks and even go over a foot bridge that I never would have otherwise.
In a way, I got to go home. And I think 20-something-year-old Amy would have been proud to see me run by.
Hotel: Double Tree by Hilton in downtown Milwaukee, which was just a short drive to the race.
Pre-race dinner: Red Lion Pub on Tannery Row. This is a true English pub down to the dark wooden bar and the British bartenders. No wait at the bar for a delicious burger with fries, my go-to pre-race meal. #TeamRedMeat
Why I did it: The chance to run the streets of my alma mater, Marquette University, AND meet up with other Wisconsin members of the Oiselle Volee.
MRG Contributor Amy Bailey is a mother runner in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and got her first taste of Wisconsin as a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee. She’s got a great connection to Michigan as well! She lived in the Lansing area for six years as an Associated Press reporter at the state Capitol while her husband, David, earned his doctorate at Michigan State. The two went on to live in Pennsylvania for a short period of time before moving to Green Bay in 2007, just six months before their son was born. As a reporter and then editor for 15 years, Amy has always been a writer, but she didn’t write about running until 2009. She only started running a year before that — a few months after her son was born. Since then, though, she has done a handful of half marathons in each of the past several years. She’s regularly running 4 to 5 miles a day on some of the nearby trails. Amy was among those writing mother runners who contributed to Tales from Another Mother: Triumphs, Trials, Tips and Tricks from the Road. Read Amy’s first Midwest (Running) Monday post here »