16,000 + runners in Duluth this past weekend.  7337 (2630 men, 4707 women) in the half marathon.  6441 (3509 men, 2932 women) in the full.  54% in the half, 46% in the full.  Not quite an even split, but remarkably close to it.  William A. Irvin 5K with 1849 (711 men, 1138 women).  Our trip from Minneapolis to Duluth, short 132 miles, took us over 4 hours due to road construction, I was trained up for the 5K but saw the medals already  swinging by the time we pulled into the Radisson.

Thousands and thousands and even more  thousands lining the race course, human density increasing directly proportionate to proximity to the finish line.  It was packed folks.

What we saw was runners, runners everywhere.  Every shape, every size, every ability.  You couldn’t tell the half runners from the full.  Fans and families of runners, many thousands more.

Two things.

Thing one-  Why not Omaha?  What differentiates our country cousin up north?  Duluth’s population is a pittance, 86,000, compared to Omaha’s 443,000.    Go ahead, ask yourself, you already know the answer.

Thing two- We didn’t see a single 13.1, 26.2, 50K, 100K, Angry Beaver, or any other type of cock-a-doodle-decal adorning these athlete’s windows.  We didn’t see a single pair of headphones, not one!  We didn’t see fanny packs.

What we saw was Real Runners.  We saw their expectations of a fast, beautiful course with support from top to bottom.  We saw runners that had no worries about  running on a sidewalk.  We saw runners that didn’t have to jump curbs or run on grass or deal with community bikers insisting the road was theirs.  We saw Real Competition.

We saw a Real Race.