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Prairie Fire Marathon Reviews

3.5 Stars from 4 Runners

  Review of the 2017 race

By about 2017


- A nice urban loop course, mostly scenic through nice neighborhoods and/or parks
- Smaller event (maybe 450 marathon runners, probably more than 1000 in the half) makes it easy to get to the expo, parking, and start area.
- Friendly volunteers
- Expo was small (to be expected), but nice
- Traffic control was excellent
- Shirts are nice (you only get one if you finish), medals are huge (if that's your thing)
- Decent food at the finish (pizza, bananas, oranges, gatorade, water, chocolate milk (yes!), beer)

Could Be Better:
- Merging with the half-marathon runners between roughly miles 13-18 was a but tough, as many were walking, sometimes 3-4 abreast and I had to weave several times to get around them.
- Different tents around the start area (like bag check) weren't marked clearly (or not at all).
- With a concurrent marathon (400+), half-marathon (1200+), and 5k (400+) start, it's pretty crowded at the start (plus there was some road construction in miles 1-2, which created a bit of congestion, but nothing that slowed me down. Nothing the race organizers can do about that).
- Water and Gatorade at the start would have been nice touch
- Because it's a smaller race, the crowds will thin out, especially after the half-marathon runners split off again between miles 17 & 18. I was running with no one else in sight from just past mile 18 to just past mile 22. I almost missed 3-4 turns after mile 18 or so, simply because I had no one to follow, the course wasn't marked very well (some simple sandwich board signs in the 18-23 miles stretch would be a great help) and (the most frustrating part), there were either no volunteers to point the way, or the volunteers who were on the course were either caught up in conversation and I had to yell to ask where to go, or they were staring at their phones and didn't bother to look up.

Race Tips

- If you're running sub-4:00, be prepared to run alone in the later miles
- Even effort is probably the best strategy, given the relatively flat course. Of course, that means you go a bit slower on the uphills, and a bit faster on the downhills, but since it's mostly flat, there's no need to vary your effort significantly at any point along the course.
- The course is all roads and concrete paths. There are a few spots later in the first half where you'll run on a concrete bike path through a park or along a canal.
- Miles 18-23 can be disorienting and confusing lots of twists and turns that aren't necessarily well marked. If possible, try to drive that part of the course beforehand to get a feel for the surroundings.
- Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, but you can count on some kind of wind (according the locals, race day winds were pretty light). The race started well enough with temps in the mid-50s and a slight cross-wind (~5 mph) from the south, which isn't bad at all. The temps warmed up to the low 70s near the end, however, and the winds picked up to 10-12 mph, creating a headwind for the last 2.5 miles. Could have been a lot worse.

Logistical Tips (Hotels, Restaurants, Parking, Discounts, etc.)

- Parking west of the finish across the river at the baseball stadium was easy and convenient. I got there about 6:45 (race start was at 7:30) and had plenty of time to get to the start and check my gear.

- If you stay at the Hyatt or Drury, you won't have to worry about parking at all. The Hyatt is right next to the start/finish area, and the Drury is about two blocks to the north.

- Get in line for the porta-potties no later than 7:10 or so. There's only one set near the start area, and the lines are long.

3 / 5 Stars


By about 2016


Although it's not pancake flat, I believe the total elevation gain is around 150 ft, and the most noticeable inclines/declines were in my opinion in nice places (with the biggest incline in mile 5 and the biggest decline in 16). This is not a straight course. You'll be turning and curving a lot, so need to be cognizant of running the tangents and also watchful for the course markings. The course was well-marked on the ground and with signs, so even when I couldn't see other runners and the volunteers were playing on their phones, I always knew which way to turn.

This race has 500-700 runners, so I knew that I had the potential of running alone, and after the half marathoners split off after the 10K mark I ran alone for nearly 20 miles. I passed a handful of men during the second half of the race, and passed half runners when we overlapped back with them (around miles 13.5-17.5), but never had anyone actually running with me. The field is going to be thin out front (I finished in 2:58).

Weather: The weather factor at this one is kind of risky, as early October in Kansas can be nice or can be hot and windy. In 2016 we lucked out and it was around 52 at the start with cloud cover, and maybe 60 when I finished (not perfect but not 80!). We also had light winds, which meant a fantastic race day in Wichita.

Pace Groups: The race changed all of the pace groups by 3 minutes on the Tuesday during race week. Although this made sense for Boston qualifying seekers, it was a sweeping change even for groups this didn't apply to (e.g., 3:00 became 2:57). I also didn't like the strategy used by the 2:57 pace group, which was a slower first 5 miles, 16 miles at 6:39, then a slower final 5 miles. They ended up running the 16 middle miles even faster than planned, with many in the 6:20s. I did not run with them much (only when they were running close to my pace plan of a conservative start with a negative split), but I passed all of the men who tried to run with the group (and I finished in 2:58). I would have liked to have seen a conservative start followed by even pacing.

Co-Occurring Half Marathon: Having the half runners with us was nice for the first 10K, as it meant more runners around, but it may have been crowded at some paces. Picking back up with the half runners from 13.5-17.5ish was rough, as us marathon runners were over-lapping with half runners who were running a much slower pace and the course was very crowded. I also got nervous because I wasn't sure how the point where we split back off from them would be marked, and I didn't want to miss it (however, it was well-marked when we got there). We again picked up with the half course towards the end, and the half field of walkers was pretty thin at that point so wasn't as big of an issue. There were separate full and half finishing stretches separated by cones, which was helpful. This whole issue will vary based on the pace you're running in the marathon.

Swag: The shirts and medals were great. The expo was small, as expected, but nice. The race also offered free professional photos, which was nice but they didn’t take finishing clock shots which was disappointing. There was plenty of food and a wide variety of it at the finish festival, although you had to walk around to find different items. The overall and age group trophies were high quality. They also have space blankets for finishers and outdoor tent areas, but no indoor areas for the awards ceremony or waiting for it.

This is a great one to do if you're trying to check Kansas off your list! I would definitely run it again, as the positives outweigh the things to improve.

Race Tips

The course is conducive to a conservative start, even pacing, and picking it up in the final 10 miles. The starting area is pretty easy to navigate since it's a smaller event.

Logistical Tips (Hotels, Restaurants, Parking, Discounts, etc.)

I wrote more about my experience here:

5 / 5 Stars


By about 2016


Ran out of food and drinks at the very end. Even the volunteers said, "Wow, that was bad." I want to recommend it because it is my home town but man, I'm embarrassed. Even the 4:30 marathon group had nothing. And it's happened a number of years in a row. People complained, then they turned the music back on for finishers.

Race Tips

Fantastic pacers. Course is good.

Logistical Tips (Hotels, Restaurants, Parking, Discounts, etc.)

Parking and hotel prep is a breeze.

1 / 5 Stars


By about 2013


Great volunteers, well organized race. Nice, mostly flat fast course. Nice finish line festival with lots of free food and drinks. Nice amenities for a small race.

5 / 5 Stars

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