About 3500 La Crosse residents and visitors participated in the annual Festival Foods Grandad Bluff Half Marathon recently, a variety of events, including a relay, a 5K run and walk, Coulee Region bike tours, a running time trial, and free youth races held at the riverside.
“I was really nervous before the race,” explained Lexie Krueger, a UW-La Crosse sophomore in the half marathon. “When we sang the national anthem, though, it became real. The coolest part of the run was going down the bluffs, and then seeing the waterfront with everyone cheering you on at the end is the best feeling ever.”
Registration fees pay for permits and personnel who organize the event, with additional profits donated to charities including the St. Clare Health Mission, the La Crosse Youth Enrichment Association, and Special Recreation of La Crosse. The top three male and female participants in 5K run, half marathon, half marathon relay, and bluff challenge received special awards for their achievement. Awards ceremonies were held at the band shell in Riverside Park.
The event is funded by extensive sponsoring from local corporations, as well as the entry fee for registrants. The half marathon is capped at 3000 participants, who run and walk a course beginning at the top of Grandad Bluff and descending through bluff forests and residential neighborhoods. The race finishes at the banks of the Mississippi River downtown.
The event began in 2009, with the goal of celebrating La Crosse’s ambition to become America’s healthiest city. Annual partners include the City of La Crosse, Festival Foods, Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System, Altra Federal Credit Union, Ho-Chunk Nation, Smith’s Cycling & Fitness, and Advertising Concepts.