University of Okoboji Iowa Marathon Report - July 16, 2005
The School of Hard-knocks

Over the past several years, I have talked to many marathoners who have asked, "Have you ran the University of Okoboji Iowa Marathon in July?" Usually, they ask with a wry tone and a bit of a twinkle in their eye. They know, as those who have not ran this race, it is almost satirical to stage grueling events such as a marathon and triathalon during the hottest time of the year in northern Iowa. For those who know about "Homecoming Weekend" in Okoboji, it is a chance to gather with "alumni" and get a refresher course regarding true grit and fortitude. (For more on the "University of Okoboji see

The weather did not disappoint. Rebecca and I drove up on Friday and arrived in Milford IA around 5 p.m. where the local bank displayed the current temp ... 95 degrees! We went directly to the scene of the crime where the University of Okoboji was founded -- a humble clothing store by the name of "The Three Sons". There we met Herman and his cast of accomplices handing out packets. I assured Herman that I would be the first to traverse his marathon course barefoot. With well-wishes on both sides, we departed to check into our motel and then drive the course.

Lake Okoboji is a picturesque lake with small communities surrounding its shoreline. As with most lake settings, it has its share of hills, but none of the monstrous variety. Certain sections of the lake's course are primarily embedded chip seal which was a bit rough. However, this was probably only eight or nine miles of the course. The remaining majority of the course was smooth asphalt with some small sections of concrete. Not bad as far as barefoot-friendliness.

On Saturday morning, Rebecca dropped me off at the start line about 5:15. It was already 76 degrees! We started at precisely 6 a.m. and by the time we were through the first 6 miles the sun was already bearing down on us. I notice a bank temperature in Arnold's Park showing 81 degrees at the 7 mile mark. We headed off U.S. 71 to begin our journey up the
backside of the lake. At about mile 8, I heard some voices behind me yelling. I had gone the wrong way and was leading someone else besides. The course was pretty much deserted and the only markings were spray painted arrows on the road, which I obviously missed. Oh well, probably only a tenth of a mile out of my way. The person I "mislead" started running with me about this time, a 19-year old college student from Omaha. This was Katey's first marathon and she needed someone to run with and to pace her. Over the next several miles we chatted and kept each other company. At about mile 13, we were joined by Jordan, a 17-year old first marathoner, also from the Omaha area. Katey's desire was to beat Oprah's time and I told her that at our 9:50 pace she would do it. However, she was having a couple of problems at mile 18 and had to stop for stretching. Jordon and I continued on for a couple more miles and then he too had to stop and stretch.

I continued on past the starting point at Pike's Point State Park and wound through the same area of chip seal on Lakeshore Drive. Kind residents were out with their water hoses spraying us down, for the temps were now in the high 80s at around 10 a.m.

I finished at Arnold's Park at 10:18 a.m. with a finish time of 4:18:28. There was nothing like jumping in the lake after the run as many of us did!

Click Here For Finish Line Video!

I knew going in to this run that I would not be racing or trying for a PR time. Maybe others race at a July marathon, but not me! I knew this was going to be just experiencing a hotter than heck marathon and enjoying a new course that I had not ran before.

Postscript: What is really cool, after looking at the results, is that Katey finished about 20 minutes behind me and won her division! Way to go Katey! And, Jordan also won 2nd in his age group! Huge congrats, Jordan!

The University of Okoboji Marathon is not for all marathoners. It is hot, not much crowd support, hilly in parts, and basically a no frills marathon. However, if one is just itching to run a marathon in the Midwest in July, and needs a refresher course from the "School of Hard-knocks", then the UofO is the run for you!

Factoids (or see results):

Finish Time - 4:18:28
Pace - 9:52
AG Place - 6th
Overall Place - 26th

Back to Barefoot Rick's