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M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '16

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a runner looking to make the leap to the 50-mile distance, do yourself a favor and check out the Ice Age Trail 50. It’s the perfect … MORE

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a runner looking to make the leap to the 50-mile distance, do yourself a favor and check out the Ice Age Trail 50. It’s the perfect course for 50-mile newbies, a reasonably challenging hybrid of runnable flats and hikable hills. Well-groomed dirt and grass trails make up the bulk of the terrain, which isn’t particularly technical despite numerous rocky ascents & descents (gaiters will help keep those rocks out of your shoes). And speaking of ascents, there are a few relatively steep hills but nothing monstrous, so if you strengthen your core muscles and shore up your power-hiking skills during training, you should be fine.

Kettle Moraine State Forest is a gorgeous venue for the race, particularly in mid-May when spring has sprung and when heat & humidity are less likely to be a factor. If you’re lucky, you may even get the perfectly cool temperatures we got, and two awesome running buddies to join you. I can even recommend the Lake Lawn Resort in nearby Delavan, an easy 25-30 min car ride from the start line, if you’re looking for convenient non-camping accommodations.

The only downside to Ice Age is the two-way traffic on the out-and-backs, though this only became a problem with a handful of runners who­—for whatever reason—came barreling down the center of the trail refusing to yield the right-of-way. This could have resulted in some nasty collisions had the rest of us not been hypervigilant and quick to step aside. As with any event, though, it’s tough to police assholery.

PRODUCTION: Race-day production was top-notch. Despite being one of the largest 50-milers in the country, Ice Age reminded me why I miss low-key trail races. The course was clearly marked with yellow (50M) and/or orange (50K) flags at every turn, aid stations were well-stocked and well-spaced (the longest interval between stations was 5.1 miles, and that was at mile 9), and without exception the volunteers were nothing short of brilliant. After all, these folks were selflessly sacrificing an entire day of their lives so the rest of us could work through personal issues run an absurdly long way. I introduced myself to Race Director Jeff Mallach after the race, and he seemed genuinely surprised and appreciative that we’d made the trip from California just to run his race.

The only potential issue—and one I never encountered personally—was a shortage of medical personnel & supplies on the course, e.g. when one of our crew drove a fellow who’d sustained a bloody gash beside his eye back to the start/finish area for medical attention.

SWAG: How to argue with my first-ever ultra buckle? The Ice Age buckle with its woolly mammoth logo is one good-looking piece of hardware. Credit to RD Jeff Mallach for not subscribing to the “Bigger is better” mentality—as with other things, garishly large medals smack of a race trying to make up for something. And though the long-sleeve tech tee may be a bit bright, its lime green color will go a long way toward making me visible to oncoming traffic on my training runs.

For a complete race-day narrative, check out my race report at https://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2016/05/25/ice-age-trail-50-race-report/

DIFFICULTY
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My Report
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My Media

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Otter FIRST-TIMER '13

If you like running in a mostly-straight line alongside massive freshwater lakes, then have I got a race for you! Grandma's Marathon is a late-June race in northern Minnesota that … MORE

If you like running in a mostly-straight line alongside massive freshwater lakes, then have I got a race for you! Grandma’s Marathon is a late-June race in northern Minnesota that (usually) features typical fall race conditions, thanks to Duluth’s relatively high latitude.

Runners are bused to the start line from a few different drop-off points, where a packed & crowded start line gradually spreads out over the opening miles. If you’re a runner that thrives off of crowd support, then this may not be the race for you; aside from aid station volunteers, you won’t see much of anyone until you reach the college about 20 miles into the race, where early-rising students will be more than happy to hand you a full beer for enhanced carbohydrate replenishment.

I can only remember 1 or 2 hills of note, as most of the course is flat and/or very gently rolling. The final few miles of the race travel insidiously over cobblestone streets (WHY?!), and the final 3/4-mile of the race features no fewer than 2,000 turns. The post-race party rocked under the big tent, and I’m certain that I was overserved in the end.

Overall, Grandma’s is a biggish marathon with a nice small-town charm, and one that I’d recommend.

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jeannecorey64 REPEAT RUNNER '18

I love this marathon. This was the 5th consecutive year I've run it. This was my fastest year even though the course had changed and had to run on the … MORE

I love this marathon. This was the 5th consecutive year I’ve run it. This was my fastest year even though the course had changed and had to run on the sidewalk of the bridge. Logistic for this race are fantastic. Expo is one of the best that I’ve been to. I volunteered the past 2 years (from CT to CA) Post race party was great with Barefoot Wine as an additional choice. Course is hilly and challenging. The end of the race had a downhill that was tough! Breathtaking views on this course!

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My Report
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Donnald69 FIRST-TIMER '16

From the start, you notice that the organization of the Tokyo marathon is awesome. The expo was large, covering 2 floors, but spread out enough that you weren't overwhelmed. Lots … MORE

From the start, you notice that the organization of the Tokyo marathon is awesome. The expo was large, covering 2 floors, but spread out enough that you weren’t overwhelmed. Lots of souvenirs were available with the chopsticks, labeled “Tokyo Marathon 2016” quite popular. Because it is run in winter, there is a late start, 9:00, so getting up at 3 a.m. is not necessary.
On race morning it was still pretty chilly. Though they break the runners into a number of “gates”, it still seemed very crowded and chaotic. Nonetheless, you knew where you were to go, and at what time. They had quite a few Porta potties, including a number of “Western style”, so if one needs to go poop, they can choose their style. And they were plentiful along the course, although at times you had to go a ways off course to get to them.
The course was awesome. Obviously you ran the streets as you are in a city of several million. They traversed the city well taking the runners by a few beautiful sites. By train, it takes over an hour to get to the finish line so I believe the organizers gave the runners a great tour through Tokyo.
As in many big city marathons, the finish line arrives, and then the long trek through the stadium begins. I believe it added 2 more miles to my run, but heck, I walked and I ate. The best peanut butter sandwiches ever!
The crowds along the course we’re amazing. Every step of the way you had locals and visitors cheering you on. Although there was a plethora of water stops, the beautiful people of Tokyo were also handing out drinks, oranges, candy bars and a whole bunch more options. I would say the locals LOVE the marathon and are proud to display their beautiful city. As they should be.
And finally the swag. The t-shirt was just okay. White (ugh) and a funny textured material. A finishers towel was given upon completion and then the medal. Simple, but gold and elegant. One of my favorite medals.
The Tokyo marathon is a fantastic destination race.

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Donnald69 FIRST-TIMER '16

First off, the Vancouver USA marathon is run in CONJUNCTION with the local Beer Fest. The expo is relatively small, and is adjacent to the first day of the beer … MORE

First off, the Vancouver USA marathon is run in CONJUNCTION with the local Beer Fest. The expo is relatively small, and is adjacent to the first day of the beer fest held in a beautiful park (outdoors) in downtown Vancouver. Pick up your race packet and sit down and enjoy a beer.
Geographically, Vancouver is just a few short miles from Portland, so flying into Portland is the best way to get here. I live in Portland, so drove over 45 minutes before the race and found parking plentiful. If staying in Vancouver, there is a hotel (Hilton) across the street from the start and finish lines. Expensive, but convenient. There are others close by, so do your research to save money, or pay for the extra convenience. The expo is fairly small, mostly touting other local races, but there were a couple groups selling souvenirs.
The course was quite nice. For the most part, you are running on paved trails, although you run on a road periodically. Safety was never an issue, as the roads were either closed off or blocked off for the safety of the runners. I never felt boxed in or crowded on the course. There were 400-500 marathon runners, and about 1500 half marathon runners. Marathon runners started at 7, with the half runners starting at 9, so you do see the half marathon runners, starting around mile 15. It never feels crowded though. If you hate being passed by “fresh” runners, you may not like this race, as the half runners race right on by the tired full marathoners. As I mentioned before, the race starts and stops in Esther Park. The beer fest is in full swing at the finish. All runners get 5 free glasses of beer (bring your ID for any age). It is one big party after the run and you are awarded with a large medal at the finish.
This is a great race. The course is beautiful most of the way. There are a few hills at the end, especially at mile 20, but nothing overwhelming and a course that I truly believe will grow in the future.

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raider1990 FIRST-TIMER '16

This wasn't a great race nor was it a horrible race. I did not like that there was not race day packet pickup without paying $30. As an out of … MORE

This wasn’t a great race nor was it a horrible race. I did not like that there was not race day packet pickup without paying $30. As an out of towner it was less than convenient to get to the packet pickup on that Friday and without adequate directions. I was able to find it but I wish it could have been better mapped out.
The number of participants was good and wasn’t too many and wasn’t too small.
Course volunteers were awesome and water stations nicely spread out.
Swag and medal were nice and I will likely don another of these at some point if my schedule permits.
Overall an average to slightly above average experience.

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ucd76 FIRST-TIMER '10

Be prepared for the hills, especially in the second half. Take it easy on the first half. Be prepared for cold and fog. Lots of turns so pay attention to … MORE

Be prepared for the hills, especially in the second half. Take it easy on the first half. Be prepared for cold and fog. Lots of turns so pay attention to running the tangents.

DIFFICULTY
5
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michaellhicks FIRST-TIMER '18

Race was organized very well, with plenty of drinking stations. The beginning was fast and fun, running along the ocean while you still have energy. Running across the Golden Gate … MORE

Race was organized very well, with plenty of drinking stations.
The beginning was fast and fun, running along the ocean while you still have energy. Running across the Golden Gate Bridge (miles 6-10) was amazingly enjoyable and meaningful to me, though some people might be put off by the fog. Plus you get a little bit of fun trail running in on the other side of the bridge.
After that you run city streets for a couple miles and then hit Golden Gate Park for about 6-7 miles. This part is tough because the half marathoners are all running past you at faster paces at this point, which feels demoralizing, but the park is peaceful, though with some tough hills.
For the last six miles or so, you’re just running through endless city streets, and it’s honestly pretty darn boring, especially when you’re feeling exhausted.
You get plenty of snacks and drinks at the end, which was really nice. Overall, it was a great race to run, and not as hilly as I was afraid of at all. I was just a little surprised/disappointed how few San Franciscans were out to cheer the runners, compared to other races I’ve run.

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rramnani FIRST-TIMER '18

I would recommend this race to anyone looking for a challenging full marathon. During the first half, the cool breeze was quite a relief along with the GG bridge view … MORE

I would recommend this race to anyone looking for a challenging full marathon. During the first half, the cool breeze was quite a relief along with the GG bridge view and surrounding scenery. The hills are quite challenging.
So please plan your training accordingly.
I think it is through the help of all the lovely volunteers who make such a big event a successful one. Please do reward them with a free race or at least a free lunch for recognizing their efforts.
Go ahead and earn your medal.

DIFFICULTY
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My Report
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My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

daysirebeca FIRST-TIMER '18

Perfect running weather! The hills kill but I’ve never felt more accomplished and proud! It might have been because it was my first time running a race but I was … MORE

Perfect running weather! The hills kill but I’ve never felt more accomplished and proud! It might have been because it was my first time running a race but I was a little confused about where to go and what to do at the beginning (chip on the shoe, bus stop to take you to the 2nd half start, etc) Great aid stations, volunteers are very helpful and kind. The residents around haight & ashbury are super kind and have cute make-shift water stations and cheering sections. Every penny I spent was worth it. I love my race shirt, great swag!

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gwoodjim FIRST-TIMER '18

Great flat beautiful course. A great way to see the City with great fan support throughout the race...even for the chuggers at the end like me. Plan to do it … MORE

Great flat beautiful course. A great way to see the City with great fan support throughout the race…even for the chuggers at the end like me. Plan to do it again this year if we ever get through this COVID crap.

DIFFICULTY
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mtlapus REPEAT RUNNER '13

Participated in the 1st Half Marathon course in 2012, and the 2nd Half Marathon course in 2013 to achieve the Half-It-All challenge, and get the special medal for doing so … MORE

Participated in the 1st Half Marathon course in 2012, and the 2nd Half Marathon course in 2013 to achieve the Half-It-All challenge, and get the special medal for doing so (consecutive years, both halves in either order). If you also did the full marathon the following year then you join the 52 mile club. There are other challenges involving SF and LA, Berkeley, or other races. This course (both halves) are great, the first of course being able to run across/on the Golden Gate Bridge. For Second half starters, park at the finish and there are buses to take you to the first half finish; likewise, buses take first half finishers to the Full marathon finish. UPS trucks for sweat check is super efficient. Long-sleeve tech shirts were very good. Medals awesome.

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1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

troll2069 FIRST-TIMER '15

The run sounds crazy – a half marathon along Lake Michigan in mid-January, especially for someone who lives in warm Phoenix. I researched the run and the promoters have a … MORE

The run sounds crazy – a half marathon along Lake Michigan in mid-January, especially for someone who lives in warm Phoenix. I researched the run and the promoters have a good web site. 2015 was the sixth running of the race and the reviews from past years were positive. The images from last year’s cold and snowy run were a little scary, but I set off to earn the really cool medal. There are no t-shirts for the run, but instead a toboggan and gloves. That worked for me because I have too many shirts as it is. Race packet pick up extended nearly the whole week prior across multiple locations around Chicago.

Arriving to Chicago a few days before it was windy and very chilly, but on race morning the temperature was warmer, less wind, and for the first time during my visit I saw the sun. The start and finish was Soldier Field. The run was along the lake trail (sidewalk). The lake was beautiful and the course was fairly level. There was no ice on the trail and the large sell-out crowd seemed to have enough room coming and going. The challenge was bicyclist and other runners who were no part of the race also were using the same trail. It wasn’t too big of a deal with the runners, but the bikes meant runners needed to be alert. The run cut-off time was 3:30, which was 30 minutes more than I expected. Trying to get back into my running shape meant I had to push it toward the end when I thought I would not make it…but I did. The view around mile 2-3 and back at 10 (I think) gave a nice view of the city.

I am still not a fan of winter, but I would do this run again. It is a great crowd, well organized, and nice swag.

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1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

dansolera FIRST-TIMER '16

This is not a fast 50-miler, as it provides a relentless series of hills. But the woods of the Kettle Moraine State Forest will provide enough variety of terrain and … MORE

This is not a fast 50-miler, as it provides a relentless series of hills. But the woods of the Kettle Moraine State Forest will provide enough variety of terrain and scenery to keep any runner entertained and inspired. The organization is top notch, with plenty of aid stations and volunteers to deliver a world-class trail event. The race is divided into three sections: the Nordic Loop (9.5 miles), which starts and ends at the finish; an out-and-back to Rice Lake (about 20.5 miles); and an out-and-back to the Emma Carlin aid station (about 20 miles). The first and last sections have the most elevation change, with plenty of runnable stretches to keep an honest pace. Held in mid-May in Wisconsin, the weather can be cool or warm, so be prepared for anything. If you’re interested in running any of the distances (which include a 50k and a half marathon), be ready to sign up the minute registration opens, as this race routinely sells out in hours. As a 50k and 50-mile finisher, I can’t recommend this event enough.

DIFFICULTY
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My Report
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My Media

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dansolera FIRST-TIMER '19

I had wanted to run this marathon since before I became a diehard. Thanks to annual family trips to Colorado, the state had a special pull, and the thought of … MORE

I had wanted to run this marathon since before I became a diehard. Thanks to annual family trips to Colorado, the state had a special pull, and the thought of running a picturesque marathon always called to me. The fact that it was downhill served to mitigate any worries I had about running at altitude.

The race starts around 6,000 feet and descends along the Poudre River to Fort Collins. It flattens out right at mile 17, gives you one big hill at mile 19, and then coasts until the finish line. Those first 17 miles are gorgeous, surrounded by green peaks, a steady river, and plenty of shade. In fact, on a sunny day, you won’t see much of the sun until after the halfway mark.

The aid stations were well placed, the buses to the start were part of a swanky, comfortable luxury fleet, and the post-race area was fun and well-attended. I definitely ran a positive split thanks to those opening downhill miles, but I had fun the entire way.

If I were a local, I’d run this again. The price was a bit steep (in the neighborhood of $150), but that’s to be expected for eponymous state marathons these days. All in all, I loved my experience both at the race and in the lovely town of Fort Collins. Bring your beer gut, because this town delivers!

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