Chances are if you live in Des Moines and like to run — heck, even if you don’t like to run — you’ve probably run the city’s most iconic race: Dam to Dam.
The 39th and final run of the city’s much-loved race, which starts on top of Saylorville Dam and finishes in downtown Des Moines, marked the end of an era on June 2.
I first ran Dam to Dam in 2014. And while I’ve run many races since then, there’s something special about Dam to Dam — waking up at 4 a.m. on race day and loading onto buses with fellow runners from across the area, riding out to the starting line as the sun rises, standing among thousands of runners on top of Saylorville dam while looking toward the downtown skyline (and the finish line) in the distance. And, of course, hitting all the landmarks along the route — Memorial Hill, the cheering crowds in Oak Park, the guy who sprays runners with a water hose on mile 8, the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corp near the finish, and that first sip of beer at the end of the race. You can’t beat it.
To commemorate the end of Des Moines’ favorite race, we asked some of our associates to share their favorite moments from races past.
Jeff Warren – “My most vivid memory is from the first time I ran Dam to Dam, when a 10-year old kid blew past me in the last 300 meters. I can’t tell you how fast I ran any of the races, but I can remember that plain as day, this gangly kid zooming past me on my left and leaving me in the dust.”
Kyle Hanson – “It’s the most community-involved race I’ve ever done. There are people not necessarily there to support someone they know, but just to watch and be a part of it. And the same old man sitting in his front yard spraying runners with a hose on mile 8 — that man is a legend.”
Minda Kuckuck – “I ran Dam to Dam about 10 years ago. It was my first time running more than a 5k, and at mile 8 I said to myself that I would never run a marathon. But about five years later, I was training to run Grandma’s marathon in Duluth!”
Tony Lieb – “As someone who generally runs alone, I was surprised by how much the community aspect of the race made the miles fly by. The music, the crowd, the snack stands — they all make a difference.”
Erich Baker – “Finishing my first Dam to Dam all those years ago was an awesome personal accomplishment. At the time, it was the furthest run I’d completed, and it inspired me to push further to run the Des Moines marathon later that same year. I also met up with my future-wife after that first race for one of our first dates, so the race has always held nostalgic meaning for me.”
Jamie Jackson — “The best part of Dam to Dam (other than crossing the finish line) is the spectator support along the course. People are literally standing in corn fields to cheer you on. From the flags lining Memorial Hill to the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corp pumping you up as you head into downtown, there was never a dull moment. The worst part? People yelling ‘you’re almost there’ at the 11-mile mark. After running 11 miles, two more miles seems like a long way to go!”
Gregg Hennigan – “I ran Dam to Dam around 10 times, and all but one of them my brother did as well. We always went up to the start together and hung out after. More than running, I associate Dam to Dam with family, which is the main reason it was my favorite race.”
Molly Bannon – “I’ve never been a runner, but learning it was the last Dam to Dam race this year I knew I had to do it. After training for a few months, I was ready for the big day — but not for the rain. Standing out in the rain with thousands of other people was a crazy experience, but once the race started, the weather cleared up and made the run a bit more fun. Back when I started training I could barely run more than a mile so finishing Dam to Dam was a huge accomplishment for me!”
Greg Ehm – “The best part of the run was always turning the corner at the Embassy Suites hotel — at this point you’re just flat out tired — and seeing all the people, friends, and family members of the runners lining the street and cheering encouragement to finish strong. That is an experience I will never forget.”
Jennifer Cunningham – “The first year I ran Dam to Dam, the friend I ran with knew I hated hills, so as we started running up the hill in the Oak Park neighborhood between miles 7 and 8, she turned around to run backwards and hummed the Rocky theme song the entire way up. I remember being so mad at her for loving hills way too much, but not wanting her to stop because she kept me motivated to get up that hill!”
Ann Reinhart — ”I ran Dam to Dam with a group of moms from my son’s preschool class, as a way to get to know them better. We ran it more for social than fitness reasons, and I’m still close with most of them nearly 10 years later. We finished just under our 10-minute mile pace goal, so that was also a good memory.”
Hillary Ferry — “I ran Dam to Dam in 2014 just weeks before my wedding, and I made it a goal that I wouldn’t walk no matter what – and I didn’t. I still remember rounding one of the last corners and seeing and hearing the Isiserettes, which was just the motivation I need to cross the finish line.”
Thanks for 39 years Dam to Dam! #39Forever