No disrespect to the Des Moines Half Marathon or the Drake Relays Half Marathon but the Dam to Dam Run is simply the best race of its distance in Des Moines. Sure, waking up at 4:45 to catch a shuttle leaving Valley West Mall at 5:15 doesn’t seem like the best way to start a Saturday. However it all makes sense once the school bus takes its right turn into Saylorville and joins up with countless other school buses and literally thousands of runners.
The pre-race vibe is an anxious excitement, the same feeling one would get being backstage at a play opening night. For some people this is the culmination of months of training. For others, a chance to fret over missed runs. And always –always- on everyone’s mind is the weather. The last two years alternatively brought a downpour and scorching heat. This year the weather gods (or Ed Wilson) were much kinder and brought high 50s or low 60s at the start and the sun danced in and out of the clouds. It was perfect race weather.
My favorite part about the course is how much runners get to see, compared with races that start and finish at the same spot. The 20 kilometer course, starts at Saylorville Lake and winds runners through the country side, over I-35 and 80 and into Des Moines northern neighborhoods. After passing through the Birdland Park runners are spat out by the Botanical Center and cross the Center Street Bridge. Considering this was the second dam I saw I was disappointed to know that there was still a mile left. Runners continued onto Grand Avenue where the finish line was visible.
The finish area was changed this year from Nollen Plaza to Western Gateway Park. Even though it made the end of the race seem longer the change of venue was an upgrade. Not only is there more space but it allowed locals and out of towners alike a chance to stroll through the sculpture garden while enjoying the post race refreshments.
A total of 6,895 of the 8,000 registered runners crossed the finish line. According to race organizers six of those crossing the finish line participated in the original race in 1980. After 33 years Dam to Dam is not showing any signs of its age. For some running the race is the ultimate goal, while for others it is just one step towards the Des Moines Marathon. For everyone though it was a chance wipe the sweat out of their eyes and get a unique view of our great city.