Nice course, great volunteers, post-race food from local restaurants is awesome. New course in 2016 adds a tough hill at mile 23.
Long uphill during miles 2-3. Once at top of hill, almost completely flat until back downhill around mile 12. Completely flat again until mile 23, with a big uphill around the State Capitol then back down hill again and flat to finish. Water stops at almost every mile, which was great. Even if you don't want water that often, it reduces the congestion because not everybody will be stopping at the same stops. Miles 20-23 have some out and back loops on streets, definitely less "scenic" than the first two-thirds of the course.
Local YMCA is open in the morning for runners to come in. Nice to stay warm/dry in case of cooler temps/rain. Real bathrooms and water fountains. Showers might be available post-race (not sure). Arrived 20 minutes early, corral start, easy to navigate.
By Mike about 2016
Very well run event. Interesting course. Great food at the end. Get to run a lap on the famous Drake Stadium track.
More hills than you might think for being in Iowa.
Des Moines Marathon is big and small at the same time - just like the city itself. It is definitely a well organized event, and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the racers and the spectators. The start/finish area is one of my favorites for its level of organization and its size - plenty of room to walk it off or even sit and rest. Doing this marathon again in 2014 because it is my favorite.
There is a nice hill at mile 7, but the overall course is fairly flat. Expect nice temps at the start line. October in Iowa can be either cool or warm, so watch the forecast as race day approaches.
I've run different years, and I've always stated at the Mercy Campus Holiday Inn. It is close to downtown without being in it, which means lower $$ than the downtown hotels, plus a nice warm up walk to the start line.