Eisenbahn Marathon and Half Marathon Review

On Saturday, August 27th of 2011 I ran the Eisenbahn Half Marathon, which ended in West Bend, Wisconsin. Interested in running this race in the future? Were you there this year? Here is a detailed look at my impressions of the race. If you’d like, leave your thoughts too at the bottom of this long-winded article.

Eisenbahn State Trail in Washington County, Wisconsin

Let me give you an ultra quick review of the race. There weren’t a lot of runners, so you might be alone during the race. The best thing was the running on the Eisenbahn State Trail. The course is very flat and I really loved running on the gravel trail. The marathon course was hilly for the first six or seven miles, then flattened out. It would be nice if they could change these early miles to a flatter course. The footing was excellent and there were plenty of rest stops and beautiful scenery as I ran.

[Related - Use The 100 Day Marathon Plan To Run Your Best Marathon or Half Marathon Time]

The negatives all involved the pre and post race. The pick up point for the busses was not a comfortable spot, and it had no bathrooms. The start line had only three bathrooms and it delayed the start of the race. This is a huge negative. You have to get the bathroom situation in order next time organizers! Finally, the post race awards ceremony was right by the finish line, and it took place while runners were still on the course. Confusing to say the least. Bottom line, I loved the race itself, but the organization of the race needs to be cleaned up.

The Eisenbahn Marathon and Half Marathon Pros and Cons

The Good

  • Great course (gravel trail is excellent)
  • Flat – Super Flat actually for the half. Some big hills early for the marathon and then it flattens out.
  • Nice size race field (although it could be bigger)
  • Nice time of day for the race – Wasn’t too hot(starts at 6:45)
  • Ends right in town
  • Plenty of water/drink stations with very nice, supportive attendants
  • Marathon is certified for qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
  • Nice supply of food, and drinks after the race.
  • Registration was held at a really nice location (West Bend Mutual Life Insurance Offices)


  • No bathrooms while waiting for the bus
  • Needs more signage (example – Bathrooms here, Start line here, Food here)
  • Only 3 bathrooms by the ½ marathon start line
  • Finish line had one clock, for the ½ marathon, but no clock for the marathon finishing times
  • Couldn’t tell if a marathon runner or ½ marathon runner was finishing.
  • Awards ceremony not well organized - ½ marathon awards were done while marathon runners were still finishing
  • Registration office not the easiest to find
Suggestions to make it awesome in the future - This race has tons of potential because of the awesome Eisenbahn State Trail that you run on.
  • Lots of bathrooms by the starting line
  • Try and get more runners in the race
  • Have the finish line right in Downtown West Bend so there would be a bigger crowd cheering you on. (the current finish line is only two blocks away from Main Street)
  • Half marathon and marathon runners should have different color numbers on their fronts so fans and other runners can distinguish which race they are running
  • Two clocks at the finish line. One with the half marathon finish times, and one with the marathon finish times (The clock was running for the half marathon finishers)

Here is a way too detailed review of the Eisenbahn Half Marathon and Eisenbahn Marathon.

The Race Expo at the West Bend Mutual Insurance Corporate Offices.

First of all, it wasn’t easy to find the exact location of the race expo. They needed more signs pointing you in the right direction at this big complex off of 18th Avenue in West Bend. There are a bunch of windy roads by the West Bend Mutual Insurance complex. The expo was held in the Prairie Center section of the luxurious insurance companies offices. I guess I know what industry I should have went into instead of teaching, especially now that I have to pay a ton more towards my insurance. Thanks Scottie!

There were three different races that people were checking in for at the expo: the Eisenbahn Half Marathon, the Eisenbahn Marathon, and the AODA Triathlon that is held at Yahr Park in Washington County, Wisconsin. Check in was real easy, and the workers were very nice. I got a nice green tech shirt in XXL no less. Tech shirts always seem to come a size too small, and my shirt fits great, so I made a good choice there. Plus I didn’t have to pay extra because I am such a big boy. There were a few other things in there like coupons, a map of all the trails in Washington County, WI, and a little food, but nothing super ridiculous. I felt I got a pretty good deal for only paying $55 for an entry fee.

At the expo there also was a large area with a person presenting the different aspects of the races. He was using a huge screen to show the courses, where the rest stops were, and other points of interest. If you had any questions, he would go over your concerns right then and there. We stopped in at about 5pm and there was only about 40 to 50 people hanging around. You could check in anywhere from 4pm to 8pm. I guess I shouldn’t have worried about a big crowd at the race expo. These races are pretty small compared to some huge marathon races like Boston, N.Y. or Chicago. I looked at the results for the races today. There were 254 half marathon finishers, 172 marathon finishers, and 196 triathlon finishers not counting relay teams.

Pre Race.

I had to arrive in West Bend to catch the bus before 5:45am. The race was set to start at 6:45am and they have to drive all the runners out on a bus. There was plenty of parking around the bus pick up area by the River Shores YMCA in West Bend.

First of all, it was strange not running a course that starts and finishes in the same area. That was why they needed the busses to take us out to the start line. Once I had my car parked and I walked toward the area where we were to be picked up, it was a disorganized mess. The YMCA was closed, so there were no bathrooms to use before the busses came. The worst part about it is if they just would have put up some signs, the finish line was only about a block away and there were tons of port o’ potties there. There was no inside sitting area available either, so most people just meandered around on the sidewalk or stood against the side of the building.

Once the busses arrived, there weren’t enough busses there to take the whole running group out to the start line. It turns out that some busses were late for taking the marathon runners out at 5am so the start of the marathon race was delayed a half hour, and the start of the half marathon was delayed by 10 minutes.

The bus ride was uneventful. Some runners were talking and joking about how it has been years since riding on a school bus. I get to ride on them several times a year for school field trips, so no big deal for me I guess.

We arrived at the start line, which was in the middle of a country road. The worst part about it was there were only three port o’ potties there for over 250 runners with nervous bladders. Poor planning indeed. If you know anything about the anxiety level that many people feel before a big race, you would know that you need to have the bathroom situation as one of your number one priorities. Countless men, and a few brave women ducked into a nearby corn field because the wait was way too long for the bathrooms.

The late busses for the marathon arrived only ten minutes after most people were taken to the half marathon start line. All the competitors were at the start well before the 6:45 scheduled start time. However, the line for the bathroom was still there when it was 6:45 so they delayed the start for ten minutes. The start was a bit disorganized as a few runners were doing strides when all of the sudden, one man grabbed the microphone and started counting down from 10. One runner sprinted back to get behind the line before the air horn sounded to start the race. That little sprint didn’t seem to hurt this runner though, as he was the eventual champion of the race.

The Race Course.

I loved it. The start was a bit haphazard, but the course itself was ideal. There was one hill on the entire course, and this hill was only ¼ mile into the race. Once you were up that hill, it was flat the rest of the way. Real flat. In actuality, the course drops in elevation, but it was so gradual, you would never be able to tell.

The first mile and a half was on roads, through a small rural subdivision. Once you made your way out of the subdivision you stepped onto the Eisenbahn State Trail. Eisenbahn is German for Railway. This trail was covered with gravel. Now some gravel trails can be loose and poor for running, but this trail was packed down hard, and was an excellent running surface.

The course was very straight. You could see your competitors at all times, which is encouraging if you started out slow and were chasing people down. There were plenty of water/aide stations too. The volunteers were vocal, letting you know if you wanted water, Gatorade, or even jelly beans. My personal favorite for the aide stations was one Hawaiian themed station where everyone was wearing hula skirts. There was even someone playing a ukalele.

Eisenbahn Marathon Aide Station with Hula Dancers

The course also follows the path of the Milwaukee River. We crossed several wooden bridges on the 13.1 mile course. My personal favorite was a bridge that was at least 100 meters long that crossed over a larger section of the river called Barton Pond in West Bend.

One thing that you should be aware of if you are considering running in this race: there weren’t a lot of runners to keep you company. If you want to have someone to run with the whole race, this is definitely not a run you would want to consider. I ran more than eight miles all by myself.

From about the 1 ½ mile mark to 11 ½ miles, you are on the gravel Eisenbahn State Trail. Once you arrive in the town of West Bend, the trail is paved asphalt. I felt a little faster on this paved path, but it hurt my legs a bit more too. I’m not sure if it was because I tried to pick up the pace, or because I was just so worn out.

The course had a few very gradual turns once you were in the West Bend area. As you approach the finish, the trail has a gradual bend, so you don’t see the big finish sign until you are about 200 meters away. This is probably for the best so you don’t start kicking it in for that great finish too early. It seemed kind of strange though because you are right around 13 miles, and you know the finish is coming, but there are no fans on the course until right at the end.

Eisenbahn Marathon and Half Marathon Finish

Post Race

There was cold water right there after you cross the line. Also they give you a medal right away for anyone who finishes their race. I have to admit that this felt pretty good. An announcer is right by the finish and by looking at your race number they find your name in the program and announce it to everyone. This was a nice touch because people at the finish call you by name, and ask you if you need any assistance.

Just down a small hill was a tent with tons of much needed refreshments and food. They were well stocked with more water, chocolate milk, orange slices, bagels, pretzels, and bananas. My wife and three children were there at the finish line, and the attendants were very kind as they let my kids grab a few things to eat and drink too.

The results were posted near the tent where the food and refreshments. If you didn’t finish high up in the standings, you didn’t miss much as far as awards were concerned. The awards ceremony was held right next to the finish line as marathon runners were still completing their races. It was not well done at all. Most of the people who did well didn’t even hang around to pick up their medal. The top three overall finishers for male and female received some strange statues. Then there were medals for the top three finishers in each age group. With only 250 runners, and a lot of age groups, there were a lot of medals to hand out. Sadly, most of the medal winners were gone by the time the race officials had got around to giving out awards.

I didn’t partake in any more festivities, but only two blocks away on Main Street in West Bend was Germanfest and the Saturday morning farmers market. I imagine these were nice to visit on a regular day, but I was pretty wiped out from my 13.1 mile race.

This race has great potential going forward. They have to get the bathroom situation in order first. That is almost unforgivable. If they could alter the marathon course in the earlier miles to make it flatter, both race courses would be ideal. The awards ceremony needs to be polished. Last but not least, they could give different color bibs for each race so the people cheering at the finish would know when the first marathon runners start to cross the line. The two separate clocks with a marathon and half marathon running time would be a very nice touch as well.

What did you think of the race? Share your thoughts below.

- Written by David Tiefenthaler

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