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Bataan Memorial Death March

M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '18

Bataan Memorial Death March

BOTTOM LINE: Are you a traveling runner in search of a uniquely inspiring (and patriotic) race experience? Or a 50 States runner looking for more than the usual race weekend … MORE

BOTTOM LINE: Are you a traveling runner in search of a uniquely inspiring (and patriotic) race experience? Or a 50 States runner looking for more than the usual race weekend of “fly in, collect t-shirt and medal, fly out”? Or maybe a recreational hiker looking to experience history through the eyes of those who lived it? All three opportunities await you on the White Sands Missile Range in the high desert of Southern New Mexico.

Bataan is a race with a purpose, and the marathon itself feels almost anticlimactic in the grand scheme of the weekend. In the words of one of the officers who spoke at the Opening Ceremony, race weekend is an opportunity “to honor the heroes of Bataan in a living history lesson.” If you aren’t familiar with the history of the event, I’d suggest you check out the race website (or my blog post) for details.

This year, the 76th anniversary of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II, seven survivors remained on the Symbolic Roll Call. With each of them approaching or exceeding 100 years of age, soon there will be none. Bataan will always be a special event for what it represents and what it honors, but being able to hear one survivor tell his story and to shake another’s hand at the finish line was incredibly special. And I’d urge any runner reading this to register for next year’s race while there are still Bataan survivors among us. Survivors like centenarian Ben Skardon of South Carolina, who shared an extraordinary narrative of the horrors and humanity he experienced as a POW, forced by his Japanese captors to march 69 miles over five days in tropical heat of 110°F. Along the way, with the help of his fellow POWs he conquered hunger and disease without ever giving up hope. And yet years later, he was able to visit Japan as a free man who harbored no ill will toward his former captors or the Japanese people. That feels like heroism to me.

In a country and a time when few of us will ever be asked to make any real sacrifices in our lives, Bataan is an opportunity to pay our respects to those who did and to whom we owe the freedom and the comfortable lifestyle we readily take for granted.

And speaking of comfort, one suggestion for race day: you don’t necessarily need trail shoes (the course is ~25% asphalt, ~75% dirt/sand), but do consider wearing gaiters to prevent any sand or small rocks from finding their way into your shoes and forcing you to either run in discomfort or stop to shake out your shoes along the course.

The upshot? Road shoes, trail shoes, marching boots or bare feet, it doesn’t matter — run/march Bataan and do it soon, before our nation’s last living connections to World War II are gone forever.

PRODUCTION: Throw out the first two miles, and the weekend ran with almost military precision. The most conspicuous race-day error was an apparent lack of signage in mile 2, resulting in a wrong turn that led hundreds of runners astray and added ~1.6 miles to my own total. Had this been most other races the fallout might have been loud and belligerent, but Bataan isn’t most other races — no one is there to set a personal best or qualify for Boston, and so instead I congratulated myself on my 4:34 finish in the inaugurual Bataan Memorial Death March Ultramarathon.

A couple of other race-day suggestions: 1) increase the number of porta-potties at the start, and especially if the event continues to increase its participant cap as it did this year with a record 8,460 marchers — unable or unwilling to fight the call of nature, many military personnel and civilians (like me) experienced the Opening Ceremony from our place in the long porta-potty lines; 2) create an actual start arch, or at least add clear signage to the existing “arch” (i.e. first timing station) to give runners and marchers a better sense for the start line.

Based on my Garmin the 26.2 miles of the official course were well measured, and after missing the first three mile markers due to the crowds, I saw every marker from mile 4 on. On the dirt portions once the runners spread out, there were a couple of side roads and potential detours off the main trail that could have been more clearly marked as “Wrong Way,” but even my own questionable sense of direction didn’t lead me down any of them.

Every one of the 2,000 volunteers, comprising both civilian and military personnel, was amazing. With 100% focus on the marchers and their needs, there was no drama and no distractions. I never had to waste valuable energy guessing who had water and who had Gatorade — that was made clear as I approached each aid station. A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the volunteers whose selfless hard work made Bataan weekend in White Sands a huge success.

As usual my appetite abandoned me after the race, despite an impressive selection of post-race food. The organizers did a nice job of refueling their marchers, offering all participants an entrée (including hot dogs and veggie burgers) plus three side dishes and a drink, with soft drinks and canned beer available. It all added up to one of the better post-race spreads I’ve seen at a marathon.

One last recommendation for the organizers would be to post the 6½-minute high-speed course video — shown on a loop at the expo — on the race website, to give all prospective runners a better sense for the terrain. (See video link on this race page.) I knew to expect hot dry weather on race day, so course layout and terrain were the biggest wild cards. And preparation is the cornerstone of a good soldier!

SWAG: Nobody runs Bataan for the swag, and in fact it almost feels like an afterthought with all runners/marchers receiving their swag in a reusable goodie bag before the race. And though I missed the pomp and circumstance of receiving a medal after crossing the finish, thumbs up to the organizers for the appropriate choice of dog tags rather than finisher medals. (The only problem with dog tags is they’re relatively small and, when hung on a wall alongside larger finisher medals, easily overshadowed.) Another cool touch would have been for the event to offer engraving services (e.g. name and finish time) à la actual dog tags at the post-race festival. At any rate, the dog tags are definitely one of my more unique and memorable pieces of swag.

Sadly I can’t say the same for the shirt, a neon green Gildan cotton tee with “bataan” printed in thin, unimpressive blue letters on the front and which I can’t see myself wearing among my collection of race tees.

Along with their bib number all marchers received a full-color “Certificate of Participation,” which the WSMR Arts & Crafts Center would custom frame — along with your dog tags and challenge coin — for $65 at the expo/In-Processing while you waited. This service wasn’t available at the post-race festival, so if you’re interested in a cool keepsake you should jump on this opportunity before the race.

For more details of an amazing White Sands weekend, check out my blog post at: http://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2018/04/17/bataan-memorial-death-march-race-report

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
4
My Report
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3
My Media

8 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon & Half – Washington

ExtraCat FIRST-TIMER '16

Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon & Half – Washington

There is a creepy long unlit tunnel in the first mile. Wear a headlamp and watch your footing. The ground is uneven in the tunnel and there are puddles. The … MORE

There is a creepy long unlit tunnel in the first mile. Wear a headlamp and watch your footing. The ground is uneven in the tunnel and there are puddles.
The course is gorgeous! Not a car or building to be seen the entire 26.2 miles. Since the course is remote there are not enough bathrooms (but plenty of bushes!) and not enough water stations. Carry water and wear sturdy soled shoes, the gravel will take a toll on your feet. And then just enjoy the blissful downhill grade!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

5 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Victoria Falls Marathon

M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '17

Victoria Falls Marathon

BOTTOM LINE: Victoria Falls may not be the largest, or the sexiest, or the most hyped marathon in Africa. But unlike many American marathons, it continues to grow each year … MORE

BOTTOM LINE: Victoria Falls may not be the largest, or the sexiest, or the most hyped marathon in Africa. But unlike many American marathons, it continues to grow each year and for good reason. No other race on the planet promises immediate proximity to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a potential close encounter of the two-tusked kind. If you’re a Seven Continents hopeful or a traveling runner of any kind, I’d recommend you take a good long look at Vic Falls when planning your African adventure.

Other than the initial out-and-back across the bridge alongside the Falls, you won’t have the benefit of head-turning landscapes. The dusty two-loop course lacks compelling scenery, a fact made more conspicuous by having to run it twice. And even in winter, you should plan for a warm day—you can always be pleasantly surprised if cooler temperatures prevail. This is Africa, after all.

And yes, a disgruntled African elephant (the largest land mammal on the planet) wandered onto the course next to me in mile 15, an encounter that seemed to surprise us both. I’m proud to say I managed to give him clearance and still snap a photo, all without spooking him or soiling myself.

PRODUCTION: The organizers do a first-class job of hosting their third-world marathon. The Kingdom Hotel where we and many other runners stayed is a 3-minute walk from the start line, always a huge advantage. Likewise the outdoor expo held at the Kingdom Hotel was pleasantly small and easily navigated. At the expo we were able to sign up for shuttle service from the finish line back to the hotel on race day. And though shuttle service at the finish line at Vic Falls Primary School was a bit disorganized, the brief inconvenience was nothing that a bit of patience didn’t resolve.

The course could have used another aid station or two in the closing miles, and maybe a few more buckets of ice in which to store the water sachets. And there weren’t a whole lot of spectators, but then again that’s not really the expectation in a tourist town like Victoria Falls. Besides, I’m pretty sure my ears were still ringing from all the cheering at Comrades, so a low-key but well-supported race was just what this doctor ordered.

The course wasn’t closed to traffic, but on sparsely traveled two-lane roads this was never a concern, aside from the clouds of dust kicked up by passing vehicles. Though seeing discarded water sachets being blown into the underbrush by passing trucks was disheartening, and I hope the organizers and volunteers were able to find and collect them before the wildlife did.

SWAG: First time ever I received a finisher’s tanktop (rather than t-shirt), and an attractive one it is—eye-catching red and blue with the race logo emblazoned on front. And it was cool to see everyone wearing theirs at the finish line festival. I’m not a huge “suns out, guns out” guy with my runner’s physique, but I’m sure I’ll find ample use for it in the SoCal heat. The finisher’s medal is also nice, though small and understated, and depicts three (male?) runners with the Falls in the background. And despite its diminutive size, it’s still the largest of my African medals!

For more details including traveler’s tips for Zimbabwe, check out my race report at https://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2017/09/13/victoria-falls-marathon-race-report/

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
My Report
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
My Media

4 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Toughest 10K in the USA

M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '16

Toughest 10K in the USA

The first thing you’re likely to notice about this race is the name—you’ll want to pay attention to that. This is a one-of-a-kind trial-by-fire, and if you’re an endurance snob … MORE

The first thing you’re likely to notice about this race is the name—you’ll want to pay attention to that. This is a one-of-a-kind trial-by-fire, and if you’re an endurance snob who looks down on shorter distances, trust me you’ll look up to this one. Pulling into the parking lot adjacent to the race venue, my brother @CSohaskey and I immediately noted the number of vehicles sporting “26.2” stickers; clearly this was not your typical family-friendly 10K. This was a race that attracted masochists and those in search of a singular challenge. And they’d found it in quiet, suburban Newbury Park.

What makes this the Toughest 10K in the USA is of course the hills, made more challenging by the uneven, single-track dirt trails used to access them. By the time I reached mile 4, I found myself longing for a nice flat 26 miles. My brother’s Garmin recorded a total elevation gain/loss change of 2,123 ft while mine logged 1,954 ft up/1,945 ft down. Ironically, in 76 races this was the first timed 10K I’ve ever run, so it’s now officially my 10K personal best and less than 12 minutes short of my half marathon PR.

The race begins (and ends) with ~½ mile on asphalt, circling the Newbury Park Academy that doubles as the staging area before transitioning to dirt and making its first real ascent. This initial uphill is steep enough to require your second (and third) wind, and will cue the nervous voices in your head to start questioning what you’ve gotten yourself into. This is just a warm-up though, so don’t listen to them since the rest of the course will only get steeper. And keep in mind the uphills are the easy part—after all, what goes up must come down. That said, at each peak you’ll be rewarded not only with an aid station but also with amazing panoramic views in all directions. To the victors go the spoils.

Much of the course is narrow single-track, so at the same time you’re babysitting your own suspect footing, you’ll be watching out for other runners approaching in the opposite direction at varying speeds and varying levels of body control. On one steep grade I put a momentary scare into the woman ahead of me, who could hear me shuffling quickly downhill toward her and was bracing for the collision that (fortunately) never came. On another descent—a narrow single-track with slanted sides and a narrow groove down the middle that made for tenuous footing—I could hear the fellow just ahead of me respond to the steep grade in real time: “Shit, shit, shit…” before finally regaining control of his momentum. At one point, hoping to slow my own momentum I reached out to grab a thin branch which broke off in my hand as I slid by. Sorry, Mother Nature.

Despite all this, I lost my footing and ended up on my backside only twice. And I never fell forward (this is the key to success—your butt was designed to land on, your face was not). And though the Toughest 10K is a definite challenge and a race your quads won’t soon forget (my left quad and IT band were still tight 5 days after the race—5 days after a 10K!), it’s not a dangerous course. As long as you maintain focus, take your time and avoid being reckless, you’ll get up and down just fine. Unlike the Mount Marathon course in Alaska where runners routinely cross the finish line bruised and bloodied—and where one fellow disappeared mid-race, never to be heard from again—this was not a group of reckless runners. Everyone was careful and courteous, and even the two 70-year-olds in the group eventually found their way down from the hills, completing half a loop on the Newbury Park Academy dirt track before finishing on the field.

The Toughest 10K isn’t cheap—we paid $65 a month before the race—but then again for an experience this unique, the price is actually very reasonable. Certainly more so than a $190 Disney half marathon. And given that my calves, quads and IT bands have a year to forgive & forget, I can definitely see myself running again next year.

Pro tip: For greater success on uphills, power-hike with your palms resting on the tops of your quads, to help drive each leg downward like a piston. I followed this strategy at Ice Age, and it helped tremendously by lowering my center of gravity, improving my balance and providing more power on steep ascents. And on particularly steep descents, sideways is the only way to go.

PRODUCTION: Low-key and easy peasy, as befitting a race of ~100 finishers. We rolled up 30 minutes before the 7:30am start, parked next door in The Home Depot lot and quickly picked up our bib, timing chip and t-shirt. This left plenty of time to visit the indoor restrooms at the Newbury Park Academy. There’s something very special about low-key trail races, particularly when you can talk your intrepid brother into running with you. The course was well marked, so there was no concern about taking a wrong turn and, you know, accidentally bypassing one of the killer climbs. 🙂 And Alex, who was manning the finish line mic, enthusiastically announced each and every approaching finisher while encouraging others in the crowd to cheer them across. Thanks, Alex!

After taking a start line selfie with all his runners, race director Caleb encouraged us to take our time, hike the steeper hills sideways to slow our momentum, and basically treat the race as a beautiful 6-mile hike. And he and his team had an impressive post-race party awaiting us at the finish on the Newbury Academy sports field, with plenty of snacks (see photo), a few interesting sponsor tents, a raffle for cool prizes and a series of competitions that I watched while seated atop a foam roller—including a 40-yard dash (yes, you read that right), a push-up contest and a plank competition in which the 67-year-old winner held perfect planking posture for over EIGHT minutes. So much for 6-second abs.

SWAG (see photo): It’s been a while since I got a cotton race t-shirt, but this one’s a definite keeper with the wicked course profile printed on front, and in fact I’ve already worn it proudly a couple of times. The medal too is unusually eye-catching for a trail race, depicting (what else?) the hills of Newbury Park, so your quads will always be reminded of what they accomplished, even after the joyful muscle memory fades.

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
My Media

4 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Brazen Goonies Half Marathon (fka Lagoon Valley Half)

M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '16

Brazen Goonies Half Marathon (fka Lagoon Valley Half)

BOTTOM LINE: Enjoy trails? Want a terrific race day experience? You’ll never go wrong with Brazen. And that’s saying something since Sam, Jasmin & the team produce 26 races a … MORE

BOTTOM LINE: Enjoy trails? Want a terrific race day experience? You’ll never go wrong with Brazen. And that’s saying something since Sam, Jasmin & the team produce 26 races a year. This was my 12th Brazen race (and my first since 2012, after which I moved to SoCal) and the experience was just as awesome as I remember. I even had the good fortune to meet a lot of amazing Brazenites and RaceRaves am-badass-adors in person for the first time at Goonies, which made the morning that much more special. Definitely looking forward to seeing my new friends again soon, before another four years elapse!

Brazen has the most devoted following in the Bay Area and maybe the state, and that’s no hyperbole—136 (and counting) “streakers” including @mikebeckwith, @greeneyegirl9 and @ravyoly have run every Brazen race in a single calendar year, and some have done it more than once. You don’t command that kind of loyalty without taking pride in your product and caring deeply about your runners. The Brazen experience means family-friendly events, scenic yet challenging (!) courses, awesome swag and a post-race spread fit for a king. Even if you’re the last runner to cross the finish line a feast awaits you, so leave your craving for dry bagels at home.

Goonies is the quintessential Brazen course, run on hilly trails (mostly dirt) through a hidden gem of a regional park (Lagoon Valley) with rewarding views of the park and lagoon. This in fact is one of Brazen’s strengths—Sam & Jasmin have the Midas Touch with their ability to find relatively unknown, out-of-the-way green spaces throughout the Bay Area (even in far-away Vacaville) and spin them into trail running gold. Lagoon Valley isn’t as hilly as some of their other courses, but it’s definitely hilly enough, and your calves and quads will no doubt agree. Admittedly it wasn’t my favorite of their courses—that would be Wildcat (with its views out over the SF Bay), and Rocky Ridge (toughest half marathon in the state!)—in part because it included two identical loops. But I actually appreciated the two-loop route at Lagoon Valley since I was able to get a sense for the hills in loop one and then pace myself accordingly in loop two. And my personal highlight at Goonies was a paved mile 12 that, thanks to its downhill trajectory, allowed me to build up a head of steam and notch my first-ever sub-7:00 mile on a Brazen course. Flying recklessly down that hill with only a mile remaining was an incredible feeling.

PRODUCTION: From the runners to the photographers to the volunteers who mark the course, work the aid stations and hand out medals, everyone is part of the Brazen family. And corny as it may sound, as a runner you’ll feel like part of that family. But there’s nothing clique-y about a Brazen event—the team offers an early start for hikers, and in his pre-race announcements Sam makes sure to ask about first-timers and warn new trail runners that they should carry a course map to avoid taking a wrong turn. That said, the course at Lagoon Valley was so well marked with colored ribbons and flour arrows that even with my miserable sense of direction, I never missed a beat. Everything ran smoothly in Lagoon Valley, from parking to packet pickup (both a breeze) to the race itself. Turns out the course was roughly 0.2 miles short (my Garmin read 12.9 miles) due to the turnaround being in the wrong place, but I learned long ago as a trail runner to leave the type-A mindset at home, and +/– mileage on trails doesn’t faze me. The race itself is too much fun for that.

SWAG: With 26 events per year, you couldn’t fault the Brazen crew for mailing it in and designing a reusable template for their shirts and medals. But they don’t. On the contrary, their t-shirt and medal designs stand out in my collection, and their swag consistently gets rave reviews from their runners. I’m not a huge t-shirt guy (they even give runners the option to opt out of the tee and subtract $5 from the registration fee), but the Goonies skull-and-crossbones design is strong, and strategic parts of the medal glow in the dark (see photo). Sam even designed new age-group medallions specifically for Goonies, just as he had for their previous Tarantula race in Los Vaqueros. Just another example of the attention to detail that made Brazen the 2015 Best Trail Racing Series of the Pacific West region, according to Competitor Magazine. And unless the voting is rigged 🙂 , look for them to reclaim their title in 2016.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5
My Media

3 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Golden Gate Half

M_Sohaskey REPEAT RUNNER '16

Golden Gate Half

BOTTOM LINE: The race name says it all—the iconic International Orange landmark that attracts tourists from all over the world is the main attraction of this race. And it’s worth … MORE

BOTTOM LINE: The race name says it all—the iconic International Orange landmark that attracts tourists from all over the world is the main attraction of this race. And it’s worth the price of admission. Not counting relays, this is one of only four races I know of—the other three being the SF Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll SF Half and Across the Bay 12K—that crosses the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. And whether it’s a clear day, or a foggy day, or a windy day, or a rainy day, I’ll never turn down a chance to run the bridge, especially with the added bonus of not having to dodge pedestrians on the walkways. I’ve run this race 3x now (twice in its original iteration as the U.S. Half) and could happily run it 20x more without ever tiring of the course—from the start in Aquatic Park through Fort Mason and the Presidio, to the bridge itself, to the quick down-and-back-up turnaround on the north side of the bridge, to Fort Point for a cool underside view, to the final mile along the marina before finishing in Fort Mason. San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world, and if you don’t like running here then you probably aren’t cut out for urban running.

Three things for first-timers to keep in mind: 1) In foggy or rainy weather, footing can be slick on the bridge’s steel access panels; 2) If you’re looking to set a personal best and this isn’t your first half marathon, you’ve come to the wrong place—this is San Francisco in all its hilly glory, and you’re more likely to enjoy the ride if you ease off the accelerator and focus on the journey rather than the destination; 3) This is always a crowded race, and for back-of-the-packers the first few miles can be tough to find elbow room. So if you’re a faster runner and want to ensure you can run at your own pace, do yourself a favor and don’t get stuck waiting for the porta-potties when the starter’s pistol fires, as I’ve done twice now. Line up close to the front of the start corral so you don’t waste valuable energy weaving around slower runners.

PRODUCTION: Smooth as silk, for the most part. Sure there weren’t enough porta-potties, but then again there rarely are at road races, and if I’m planning to run a serious race I take no chances and hit the lines early. As far as the expo, it was small and easily navigated—we showed up on Saturday afternoon (race was on Sunday) and picked up our packets lickety-split with no waiting. The course was well-marked, not that making a wrong turn is a concern when you’re following several thousand people the entire way. And there were a couple of out-and-backs including opposite sides of the bridge, where you could keep an eye out for friends coming the other way.

Despite the chilly weather, the SF Marina is an awesome place to finish a race. The highlight of the post-race party was catching up with fellow Raving Lunatics @kenspruell, @JennyMax and @emcclendon and enjoying a complimentary beer at the Sierra Nevada tent—never a bad idea after a 13.1-mile effort. And for those who brought their wallets, several opportunistic food trucks were serving coffee, donuts and other offerings. One production-related glitch: finish line volunteers handed out nice GGH-branded water bottles (which I now use regularly) but didn’t bother to make finishers aware of the huge jugs of water available near the back of the chaotic finish chute, so that several of us were left carrying empty water bottles while absentmindedly hunting for water.

SWAG: I’m torn on this one; thus the 3-shoe rating. On the one hand the medal scores high marks for doing exactly what it should do—it features the Golden Gate Bridge (see photo, and note that 5K finishers weren’t so lucky), and for that reason it’s an eye-catching conversation starter. On the other hand the shirt is disappointing—a black tech shirt with ¾-length sleeves and an attractive-enough design, but with a sloppy neckline that made it look like a woman’s blouse on me and which earned it an immediate trip to the recycle pile. It also proclaimed “FINISHER” in huge white letters on the back, which seemed a bit presumptuous given how many runners wore the shirt *during* the race. Overall I’m much more of a medal guy than a shirt guy, so I’d say I came out ahead. 🙂

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3
My Media

3 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Peace Love Run Half Marathon – San Diego

M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '16

Peace Love Run Half Marathon – San Diego

BOTTOM LINE & PRODUCTION: The Peace Love Run Half is a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde race. On the one hand, Mission Bay Park is a beautiful area and … MORE

BOTTOM LINE & PRODUCTION: The Peace Love Run Half is a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde race. On the one hand, Mission Bay Park is a beautiful area and scenic venue for a road race, since a) it’s always sunny in San Diego and b) the course follows paved footpaths removed from automobile traffic. From that perspective, I’d definitely recommend PLR if you’re looking for a leisurely morning run, either alone or with friends.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to race competitively as I was (using it as my tune-up race for the Boston Marathon), then Caveat Emptor — this was a bit of a clusterf#@*, especially once the 10K runners merged with the half marathoners in mile 4. At that point I lost track of the faster half marathoners ahead of me, and ended up expending a lot of energy trying to weave around a) slower runners in the left lane, b) runners wearing earbuds in the left lane so they couldn’t hear me yell “On your left!” or c) a mash-up of the two: slower runners wearing earbuds in the left lane who were completely oblivious to everything going on around them. Unfortunately there were plenty of these runners, as well as groups running together side-by-side-by-side spanning the path like a human wall, so that I actually had to slow to a walk long enough to “Scooz me” my way past them. Certainly this wasn’t intentional on their part; they just weren’t paying attention to the other runners around them.

The course required that half marathoners run two loops around Fiesta Island Park, with confusing signage at the end of each loop directing 10K runners in one direction and half marathoners in another. At the end of the second loop, half marathoners (I know this now) were supposed to ignore the signage and follow the 10K arrows. Confused yet? Then you can imagine how my brain — in its fatigued state, with all mental energy focused on weaving around runners and maintaining pace as the morning heated up — ended up missing a turnoff. The result: I ended up running an extra loop (i.e. 2 miles), meaning that by the time I crossed the finish line, my half marathon ended up being a 25K. No big deal — no harm no foul, since it was actually good mental & physical training, and luckily I wasn’t chasing a personal best. But I did sign up for a half marathon, and I would have won my age group by roughly 12 minutes on a 13.1-mile course. Haphazardly labeled courses are something I’ve come to expect in trail races, not road races… and for a half marathon registration fee of $80, I naturally expect the course to be clearly labeled at all times with unambiguous signage in place if there’s any possibility of confusion. Other half marathoners ahead of me after my bonus third loop were clearly confused by the “10K in one direction/half marathon in the other” signage, despite the valiant (and much-appreciated) efforts of one poor volunteer who was standing at the juncture trying to direct the oncoming flood of runners in the right direction. All in all a chaotic scene, like, “Duuude, where’s my turnoff?”

Another sub-optimal course consideration: the last several miles took us through a section of the park where the path was shared with the public, a situation which always makes for a near-collision or two when someone out for a morning stroll with poochie fails to anticipate or acknowledge oncoming runners.

So my two main recommendations for making Peace Love Run the excellent race it deserves to be: 1) much-improved course markers and signage; 2) pre-race emails/announcements emphasizing to slower runners and earbud wearers that they’re not the only runners on the course, and they need to stay to the right.

That said, the finish line festival was groovy, with plenty of music and a cool backdrop for taking photos (though it should have been facing toward the sun rather than away from it, for less shady results). And the post-race bananas were great!

SWAG: Aside from the chance to run with a good friend who recently moved from Boston to San Diego (and who won his age group), the swag was the highlight of the morning. The race shirt is a shiny white tech tee with the colorful Peace Love Run design on front, while the medal is an equally colorful VW bug decked out with flowers & surfboards (see photos). Very cool and, despite my on-course experience, definitely a medal that makes me smile when I look at it.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Ruidoso Marathon

Profile photo of Debbie Gelber
russelds FIRST-TIMER '16

Ruidoso Marathon

This race was an inaugural race and I understand that there will be a few problems that need to be sorted out, but I also ran an inaugural race in … MORE

This race was an inaugural race and I understand that there will be a few problems that need to be sorted out, but I also ran an inaugural race in NV the month before that was first rate, so there’s that.
I won an entry to this race through a raffle at our local running store. That was a plus. The organizers did these raffles around the area. I hope they keep this.
The full marathon had a total of 25 people registered. There were over 100 registered for the half.
Packet pickup was a bit confusing and they registered me for the half by mistake, even though I emailed the race director 3 times, telling him that I was running the full.
Shirts have a nice logo, but are cotton.
I tried to drive the course the night before the race and couldn’t follow the printed map very well, I was really afraid I would get lost during the race (more on that later).
The course was brutal. There was no relief from incline after incline. I was walking up the mountains backwards just to get some pressure off my quads. The one at mile 20 or 22 (can’t remember, I have blocked it out of my memory!) was over a mile long and straight up. The roads were not all paved as the course description states, but I think they are changing the course for 2017, so maybe they will be.
Course spectator support is pretty much non-existent. I was out on the course alone for the majority of the 5 1/2 hours I spent out there (my slowest marathon time ever, I had just BQ’d the month before). In fact, by the time I got to the last water stop, there was no one there, but they did leave the cups and coolers there, so that was good. There was a very nice man at the top of that awful hill though with water in the back of his pickup. It was nice to see a human at that point!
I did get lost once. For the most part, there were white arrows painted on the road at the turns. I missed one and went about .25 mile out of the way, turned around and came back to find the arrow and a water stop. The person at the water stop said she saw me going the wrong way, but didn’t know if I was in the race or not!!! Uh, running outfit, bib number, looking lost…?
I ended up coming in 2nd overall Female (more confusion in the results occurred, another person got even more lost than I did!) and winning what was supposed to be $200.00 cash. I opened it later and found that it was a voucher that had to be cashed in at the local bank. I am not from Ruidoso, and it was Sunday, so I had to go to a lot of trouble to finally get the bank to send me a money order.
So, I have nothing to complain about since the race really didn’t cost me any money at all, but hopefully this review will help out those that will spend money to come run this race.
A few pluses – the views in the mountains were beautiful, the medals are a good size with the race logo on them, there was good food at the end of the race, free race photos.
If you like a lot of hills, this one will be for you!
I will not be running the full again, but may consider the half in the future.

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3
My Media

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Beyond Limits Ultra

lalarun REPEAT RUNNER '16

Beyond Limits Ultra

48 Hours to run any distance as far you heart desires. You meet friendly ultra runners, a lot of comrades The race is a 2 mile loop with one aid … MORE

48 Hours to run any distance as far you heart desires.
You meet friendly ultra runners, a lot of comrades
The race is a 2 mile loop with one aid station with all kinds of goodies to keep you going, the volunteers go out of thier way to accommodate you and your needs.
There are cabins that have bunk beds, heaters, hot shower.
Breakfast and dinner are provided
Both of the race directors go off the way to put a great race with beautiful shirts, medals, and awards

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
My Media

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Des Moines Marathon

rlrunner22 FIRST-TIMER '16

Des Moines Marathon

I was in the lead pack. The first major turn was not marked and we blew by it. Would have been a fast time. Race Director felt awful and apologized. MORE

I was in the lead pack. The first major turn was not marked and we blew by it. Would have been a fast time. Race Director felt awful and apologized.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
1
SCENERY
1
SWAG
5

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Miracle Mile & 5K Holiday Classic

Angela FIRST-TIMER '15

Miracle Mile & 5K Holiday Classic

I decided to run this race at the last minute to see what kind of shape I was in. I really wanted an accurate course, so I felt like I … MORE

I decided to run this race at the last minute to see what kind of shape I was in. I really wanted an accurate course, so I felt like I was lucky to find a race that a) fit my schedule, b) was super close to home, and c) was USATF certified (ie, you know for a fact it’s exactly 5K).

The race was super small (~120 finishers) and plenty well organized for a tiny local race. Parking in Golden Gate Park was super easy, and the flush toilets by the Conservatory of Flowers were open & just a short walk away. The course was a nice lollipop from the Conservatory to Stow Lake, looped around the lake, & back–no sharp turns & maybe just a couple of short hills. Finishers received a logo cotton T and a metal UCSF water bottle, which was nice.

The race was chip timed, but there was only a finish mat & not a start mat, and my one complaint is that there must have been some other issue with the timing. I turned my stopwatch on when I crossed the start & off when I crossed the finish mat, but my official time was nearly a minute over that, which seems really strange. (I didn’t mind too much, though, since I knew the distance was accurate.)

Definitely a good option if you live nearby and just want to run a reasonably fast 5K (or mile) and see what kind of shape you’re in.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
My Report
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
My Media

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Surfside Beach Marathon and Half Marathon

Joerobe FIRST-TIMER '17

Surfside Beach Marathon and Half Marathon

The title says it all, this was a tough run. Here are the details: This entire marathon is run on the beach, and although the sand is fairly hard packed, … MORE

The title says it all, this was a tough run. Here are the details:

This entire marathon is run on the beach, and although the sand is fairly hard packed, it is not an easy run. I had never run on sand, so I took the 5:30 early start. Thinking there would be enough ambient light to run without a headlamp, I left mine at the tent…there was not enough ambient light…it was really dark (my fault). We ran with the wind for a couple of miles and then turned back for 13 miles directly into 15-20mph non-stop, unrelenting, will sapping wind in the face. But no problem right, when you get to mile 15.5ish you get to turn around with the wind at your back and cruise down the open beach…wrong…at about mile 14 the tide started coming in and the nice wide flat beach disappeared and left hard packed wash outs or dry sand; aka ankle death trap. So what I thought would be a medium difficulty run turned into a tough run. Not a big deal. No complaints. Take what you get, and don’t throw a fit.

The swag at this race was sweet, a 1/4 zip pullover, nice medal, and cool little stone coasters, but that’s the best of it.

Please know that I’m not a complainer by nature, but if I’m going to write a review, I’m going to write the truth. I have never been an RD, so I don’t know the pain…but the production at this race was not great.

My wife and two daughters were volunteering at an aid station, and trying to get all of that sorted out was a mess…there was a seemingly large shortage of volunteers, and I suspect the organizational process was part of it.

Getting registered was a fairly chaotic ordeal, although I did wind up with the right stuff. Getting the race started was the same, it wasn’t really ready, perhaps because I was in the early bird section, but still seemed pretty disorganized-but, it did start, and the timing worked. There were a lot of unmanned aid stations, which is not a big deal for me since I carry my own stuff, but if you were depending on them, you may have to mix your own drink.

The finish was fine, and the RD (guy in charge) seemed like a nice guy.

All summed up, I would say this. This race is tough to run, and will get started and finished, but if you’re looking for a super smooth flow and flawless race management, this is not it. The swag was excellent and food delicious. It is a unique experience, and barring the relentless wind that just happened to be there that weekend, could be a much easier run.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
My Media

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Surf City Marathon & Half Marathon

ExtraCat REPEAT RUNNER '17

Surf City Marathon & Half Marathon

A wonderful course next to the Pacific Ocean! Be sure to visit the facilities before the start, as every porta-potty along the course had a line of runners waiting. The … MORE

A wonderful course next to the Pacific Ocean! Be sure to visit the facilities before the start, as every porta-potty along the course had a line of runners waiting. The full marathon is a mentally challenging route that goes through central park, all along PCH and back, and then down the bike path to the end of PCH again! and then back all the way along the ocean to the finish. The half marathon on the other hand is only half as challenging. 🙂 The view of the ocean, the seagulls and pelican swirling above, the awesome bands playing, the wonderful volunteers…all make this one of the most memorable and enjoyable races ever!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon

Profile photo of SenoraCorredora SenoraCorredora
SenoraCorrida FIRST-TIMER '15

Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon

Well organized, beautiful race on hilly pavement alongside a burbling brook. The race is not within the national park, but the mountains create gorgeous vistas. Fabulous medal. MORE

Well organized, beautiful race on hilly pavement alongside a burbling brook. The race is not within the national park, but the mountains create gorgeous vistas. Fabulous medal.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Long Beach Marathon & Half Marathon

thirdgenlb FIRST-TIMER '17

Long Beach Marathon & Half Marathon

As an LB native who lived there for 35 years, it was great to run around all of my old haunts! The course is pretty flat and fast. The weather … MORE

As an LB native who lived there for 35 years, it was great to run around all of my old haunts! The course is pretty flat and fast. The weather was perfect. Plenty of water stations, although they should have had water at all the C2O stations. Started about 10 mins late, which isn’t bad, but an eternity when you are ready to run! My Apple Watch GPS said 26.8 miles when I finished. It was right at 13.1 at the half way timer. Curious to hear if others thought the course was more than 26.2.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
2

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

LA Cancer Challenge

ultratall REPEAT RUNNER '13

LA Cancer Challenge

In honor of a few friends who have succumbed to pancreatic cancer (Heather Stevens at age 38, Etta Shaftel), I try and run this event each year. It is always … MORE

In honor of a few friends who have succumbed to pancreatic cancer (Heather Stevens at age 38, Etta Shaftel), I try and run this event each year. It is always around Halloween time and always has a nice turn-out from costumed runners to research supporters. The 10K is two loops around a somewhat hilly VA course and the 5K is one loop. It is timed generously enough that one can run both races (I usually racewalk the second, which is the 5K.). Afterwards, there are booths with samples, as well as free bagels, apples, bananas, and more. Finishers’ medal and tech t-shirt (plus more swag for heavy fundraisers).

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
2
SWAG
3

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Oktoberfest 10K & 5K (CA)

nall FIRST-TIMER '15

Oktoberfest 10K & 5K (CA)

This was my first race since I'd started actually running again back in June, so I was a bit nervous. I went out too fast, but managed to reign it … MORE

This was my first race since I’d started actually running again back in June, so I was a bit nervous. I went out too fast, but managed to reign it in within the first mile or so. The second mile felt pretty good and while I was starting to feel it a bit in the third, I pushed as hard as I could.

I’d hoped to get under a 30 minute 5k (something I didn’t think possible even a month or so previous), so I was really happy with this result.

This was a fun race with great participation and a fun vibe. My biggest complaint is that the beer steins promised to participants ran out immediately and I didn’t get one. That did not prevent me from enjoying a post-run beer downtown.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
3
SWAG
3
My Media

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?