@thestudadamRaving since 2019 50 States hopeful/finisher, World Marathon Majors Six Star hopeful/finisher Active 23 hours, 41 minutes ago
- Running club(s):
New York City Marathon, Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon, Missoula Marathon
Race that's calling my name:
The final 3 world Marathon Majors (London, Boston, Tokyo) & Comrades
I run because:
It keeps me healthy and I enjoy doing something that other people think is so hard. The fact that running allows me to eat nearly anything I want while maintaining my weight is also a huge plus.
Organize, track & review your races and personal bests here.
50 States Map
(Marathon or Ultra) + Half
Marathon + Ultra
Personal Bests (3)
|Bank of America Chicago Marathon||Marathon||Chicago, IL||Oct 9, 2022||3:08:00|
|Utah Valley Marathon||Half Marathon||Orem, UT||Jun 9, 2018||1:29:54|
|All in For Autism||10K||Bellevue, WA||2012||44:10|
Future Races (26)
|Good Life Halfsy||Half Marathon||Lincoln, NE||Nov 5, 2023||✓|
|Boston Marathon||Marathon||Hopkinton, MA||Apr 15, 2024|
|Bataan Memorial Death March||14 Miler||White Sands, NM||TBD|
|Bird in Hand Half Marathon & 5K||Half Marathon||Bird In Hand, PA||TBD|
|Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon||Half Marathon||Cincinnati, OH||TBD|
|Clarence DeMar Marathon & Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Gilsum, NH||TBD|
|Coast Guard Marathon||Half Marathon||Elizabeth City, NC||TBD|
|Comrades Marathon||89.9K||Pietermaritzburg, South Africa||TBD|
|Covered Bridges Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Quechee, VT||TBD|
|Des Moines Marathon||Half Marathon||Des Moines, IA||TBD|
|Detroit Free Press Marathon||Half Marathon||Detroit, MI||TBD|
|Fargo Marathon||Half Marathon||Fargo, ND||TBD|
|Grandma’s Marathon & Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Two Harbors, MN||TBD|
|Hatfield McCoy Marathon||River Road Half Marathon||South Williamson, KY||TBD|
|Kansas City Marathon||Half Marathon||Kansas City, MO||TBD|
|Little Rock Marathon||Half Marathon||Little Rock, AR||TBD|
|London Marathon||Marathon||London, United Kingdom||TBD|
|Louisiana Marathon||Half Marathon||Baton Rouge, LA||TBD|
|OCNJ Half Marathon & 5K||Half Marathon||Ocean City, NJ||TBD|
|Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon & Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Oklahoma City, OK||TBD|
|OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (Indy Mini)||Half Marathon||Indianapolis, IN||TBD|
|Allianz Partners Richmond Marathon||Half Marathon||Richmond, VA||TBD|
|Run Crazy Horse||Half Marathon||Crazy Horse, SD||TBD|
|Running with the Cows||Half Marathon||Bucyrus, KS||TBD|
|Tokyo Marathon||Marathon||Tokyo, Japan||TBD|
|Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend||Dopey Challenge (48.6 Miles)||Lake Buena Vista, FL||TBD|
Past Races (26)
|Race||Distance||Location||Date||Result||My Raves||My Performance|
|Mesa Marathon||Half Marathon||Mesa, AZ||Feb 4, 2023||1:31:01||
|Bank of America Chicago Marathon||Marathon||Chicago, IL||Oct 9, 2022||3:08:00||
|Star Valley Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Thayne, WY||Jul 9, 2022||1:36:09||
|Bristol Independence Rhode Race||Half Marathon||Bristol, RI||Jun 25, 2022||1:37:43||
|Berlin Marathon||Marathon||Berlin, Germany||Sep 26, 2021||3:16:16||
|Anchorage RunFest (Humpy’s Marathon & Skinny Raven Half)||Half Marathon||Anchorage, AK||Aug 22, 2021||1:31:11||
|BMW Dallas Marathon Festival||Half Marathon||Dallas, TX||Dec 15, 2019||1:36:55||
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Denver, CO||Oct 20, 2019||1:35:21||
|Brew City Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K||Half Marathon||Milwaukee, WI||Apr 13, 2019||1:33:07||
|Missoula Marathon||Half Marathon||Frenchtown, MT||Jul 15, 2018||1:32:25||
|Utah Valley Marathon||Half Marathon||Orem, UT||Jun 9, 2018||1:29:54||
|Famous Idaho Potato Marathon||Half Marathon||Boise, ID||May 19, 2018||1:33:18||
|New York City Marathon||Marathon||Staten Island, NY||Nov 5, 2017||3:18:15||
|Labor Day Half Marathon & 5K||Half Marathon||Redmond, WA||Sep 4, 2017||1:36:34||
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle||Half Marathon||Seattle, WA||Jun 18, 2017||1:35:37|
|Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego||Half Marathon||San Diego, CA||Jun 4, 2017||1:35:35||
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas||Half Marathon||Las Vegas, NV||Nov 15, 2015||1:33:07||
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver 1/2 Marathon||Half Marathon||Vancouver, Canada||Oct 25, 2015||1:33:54|
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle||Half Marathon||Seattle, WA||Jun 13, 2015||1:39:21|
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland 1/2 Marathon||Half Marathon||Portland, OR||May 18, 2014||1:31:43||
|Mercer Island Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Mercer Island, WA||Mar 23, 2014||1:38:46||
|Mercer Island Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Mercer Island, WA||Mar 24, 2013||1:36:01|
|Mercer Island Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Mercer Island, WA||Mar 25, 2012||1:36:50|
|All in For Autism||10K||Bellevue, WA||2012||44:10|
|Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle||Marathon||Seattle, WA||Jun 25, 2011||3:22:14||
|Mercer Island Half Marathon||Half Marathon||Mercer Island, WA||Mar 20, 2011||1:42:58|
Fast Flat, Sunrise Race, Good Production
I chose this race based on both the good reviews found here and the large # of people that I follow on social media posting about running this race and … MORE
I chose this race based on both the good reviews found here and the large # of people that I follow on social media posting about running this race and raving about the merits of the race. Having now run the race myself I think I made a great choice choosing the Mesa Marathon for state #16. An interesting thing about this race is how large the Marathon field is compared to the half marathon field. 2200 Marathon runners, 3200 half runners, 1200 10k runners. I think the fast flat course appeals to BQ chasers but I was still surprised that the # of participants at each distance was so similar.
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
I was quite impressed with the EXPO for this race. I have run quite a few races of similar sizes and this was one of the more complete and impressive EXPOS. It was held in a baseball stadium, I was told that this was the first year for this. The stadium was Sloan park which is the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs and also serves as the home stadium for their Rookie league affiliate. The expo was held the day before the race with a 9hr pickup window. Parking at the stadium was more than plentiful and we parked close and walked straight inside. The first thing you did was pick up your bib, the volunteers appeared to High School Army Jr. ROTC cadets who while slightly slow were extremely polite and helpful. After my friend and I picked up our bibs we were directed around the concourse towards the expo proper. The first thing you did was cross over a timing matt which let you verify that your bib timer was working properly because it displayed your name, race distance, and home town on a monitor. Next you were greeted by several big signature boards (something I have usually only seen at major marathons). They had 8 boards to sign concerning where you came from, who you are running for, what music you listen to while running etc. Next there was a giant wall with every runners name printed on it where people were coloring their name or doing something similar. There was then a large Mesa Marathon gear sale area followed by at least 30-40 different vendors which lined the concourse from home plate to center field. At the end of the expo they had a large wooden 13.1 and 26.2 that people were using to take pictures. Just a well done expo all around.
Parking/Access: Parking at the same baseball stadium that held the expo was more than plentiful…once you got into the lot. The buses to the start run from 4-5:15 am. They specifically state on their website to get to the parking lot no later than 4:30. We got there at 4:30 and the lines to get in were very long and had me stressing that we would miss the bus. In the end we got parked about 4:50 and made it to the line to get onto one of the plentiful buses minutes later. I strongly advise you to use their advised route to get to the start area and then get to the parking lot early. You can always stay in your car a while instead of getting in line for the start area, save yourself the stress of not getting there last minute. Point to Point races where you have to take a bus always add some stress to a start.
T-Shirts/SWAG: The medal for this race was really nice, it is well made and sturdy and has the race logo surrounded by cacti and Arizona’s state bird. The color of the medal changed depending on the race, Gold for marathon, Silver for half, Bronze for 10k. The medal had what I always hope for in a race medal, it looked good and it had elements to it that were unique and represent the state I ran the race in, I was happy all around in that regard. The ribbon for the medal this year also gets high marks from me. (See attached Photo). The shirt this year was a tech shirt that was very well made and soft. The color this year, I guess has a southwest brown and red type theme but I’d say it is the only thing keeping me from giving the SWAG 5/5 shoes. (See attached photo). I generally wear the race shirt during the race and I did so during this race as well and found it quite comfortable. I also need to make a quick comment on the race bib, it was a bit oddly sized, more a square than a rectangle but I really liked how every bib was personalized with the name of your choice but it also included a blurb at the top that said “4th Mesa Marathon” or equivalent to denote how many times a person had run the race. A nice personal touch.
Aid Stations: The aid stations were well stocked and plentiful. There were 8 aid stations on the half course and 14 on the full. That might be the most aid stations I have had during a half marathon. Every single aid station had water and Gatorade. 3 aid stations had Gu for the half, every aid station had bathrooms and medical attendants. There were also a few aid stations with Bio-Freeze, Fruit and frozen treats. I didn’t hear anything about supplies running out at any time during the race. I was near the front so I was never really in a group, but the number of volunteers was more than enough. My friend who finished in 2:10 around the highest volume times said there there were some real slow downs at aid station as volunteers were filling and handing out cups as fast as they could pour them but I think that was just some bad luck/timing at early aid stations for him and I really have a hard time criticizing volunteers. The volunteers were really clear about who had water or Gatorade. If I could make one critique it would be to have a few more garbage cans 100 yards after the stations so you could have time to finish your drink before trying to toss your cup.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: The course for the half starts in and around some industrial office park area on the outskirts of town. Not very scenic but very spacious. But it really wouldn’t matter if it was pretty because the race starts at 6:30am and it is completely black outside so you couldn’t see anything anyways. I found plenty of room to warm up. They had a very long start chute with large spacing between pace groups. The course is basically flat. It drops about 100 ft over the course of 13 miles so you don’t really notice it one way or another. The half marathon course isn’t very scenic, although for the first hour it will be too dark to notice. You mostly run through light commercial and residential areas. They have lots of cones protecting the course with lots of police helping to direct traffic so I never felt as though I was running near traffic. Once the sun was up I got a brief sunrise view of the mountains around mile 9. My understanding is that the marathon course starts higher up into the valley and is more a downhill during the first half with some really great sunrise views of the area.
Weather: 48 degrees at the start area which is pretty standard for February.
I’m from up north so I found this to be perfect start weather that wasn’t really cold. If you were cold at the start every expo bag provided a pair of throw away gloves and a foil blanket. They also had a ton of tall propane heater towers that people were standing around. The one time I went up to them I had several rows of people in front of me and I was plenty warm. I’m not sure how the people in front of me didn’t cook. If you are a slow marathoner you might find some issues with the heat around the 5+ hour mark as temperatures by then were approaching 70 but you can’t really do much better than those temperatures in a state this far south in the desert.
Race Management: This Race was very well run, especially so for a medium to large-ish race. I found their website to be the best source of info, they also email you a few bits of advice. Other things to compliment this race on: They had age group awards as well as prize money for top performers. This race attracts elite athletes and has an elite start. I was able to say a passing hello to Molly Seidel, aka the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Marathon Bronze Medalist. Distance running and track and field fans would notice that there were 4 2021 Olympians in the field, very cool to share a course with. They had plenty of busses to take people to the start areas, there was a line to get on but I found it to move very quickly. They had port-o-potties at the finish to use before the bus and at the start, the lines seemed a bit long but moved quickly so I think they had the numbers correct especially if you moved past where they dropped people off from the bus I would say that had at least 100 bathrooms at the start. The start area had a bag check truck by the start line that was open until nearly the starting gun (the website said 6:00am it would close but it was definitely open later).
I know some people complained about it being cold at the start but it was perfect PR weather and they had tons of heat lamps that people to stand around. They had pace setters from 1:30-2:20 in ten minute intervals. For the full because this is very much advertised as a BQ course they had a pace group for every single male and female BQ age group then 3-4 other pace groups for the back of the pack people (Yes, they had 14 different pace groups). They also gave a special BQ luggage bag tag to anyone who got a BQ. The finish had plenty of the usual finish line fare (bagels, water, electrolytes, oranges, granola bars, chips, fruit cups and ice cream). Your race bib also included a ticket for the beer garden at the finish. The finish area also included several vendors, lots of photo ops, a PR bell, a place where instead of just entering your race bib # to see your finish time they gave you a print out of your finish time and place on a nice race logo card stock. There was also a concert happening on the large stage they had set up. They have 6 timing mats set up along the half marathon course which is a lot for a race of that distance but meant lots of stats for looking at your results page in terms of pace and time. They also have free race Photos which they post on their website which I always love. My only critiques: their race app for tracking people is utter trash, don’t even bother with it, eventually I gave up and signed up for text message tracking for my friend but by that time he was 4 minutes from finishing. They could use a little more traffic and parking help before the race but if I had shown up when they told me to it would have been zero stress. Finally they could help themselves at aid stations with garbage cans further from the aid stations and some more pre staged water cups especially during peak runner waves.
Overall I would say this race is a fantastic way to check Arizona off your 50 state list. You won’t find many races that are run better with so many amenities. Also if you are going to run in Arizona this is 100% the time of year to do it and with Mesa being right by the Phoenix airport hotels so getting there was really easy. I highly recommend this race.
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
A+ Production, Fast, Flat Marathon Major
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
This was my 3rd World Marathon Major having already completed New York City and Berlin. I'm going to give my own thoughts and perspectives on this race but I highly … MORE
This was my 3rd World Marathon Major having already completed New York City and Berlin. I’m going to give my own thoughts and perspectives on this race but I highly highly recommend the article on this site “Racing and Spectating the Chicago Marathon” https://raceraves.com/chicago-marathon-course-tips/. It gave lots of great insight on the course and also gave very good tips to help my family maximize their ability to see me on the course. The only thing I would add to their advice is it is easy to see your runner at mile 1 as well then just walk a few blocks east. My family utilized the L train to see me 6-7 times on the course.
I’m sure I see this race through a bit of rose colored glasses due to a hugely improved PR and getting my first Boston Qualifying time, but I feel confident that this race would have stood out regardless of how well my personal race day turned out.
Rather than comparing this race to other smaller local races which this of course blows out of the water, I’m going to compare it to the other Marathon Majors which is more apt comparison.
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
Getting to the Expo was very easy. It was held at the McCormick event center south of Grant Park/The Loop. The bus system can drop you off at the door of the building but most of the “L” Trains will get you about 2-3 blocks away and it is a very short walk to get there. There was a long but fast moving line to get into the expo for participants when I got there right when it opened Friday morning but 75 minutes later when I was leaving that line was completely gone. When you get past security/bag check runners have to go to one of the abundant ipad/tablet check in stations and type in your info, you are then sent to your race bib/bag pick up area. This whole process took less than 5 minutes. You can then enter the expo proper. This was in one of several gigantic airplane hanger size rooms at the event center. It had your standard expo fare just in a much more scaled up capacity. I would say it was only slightly smaller than NYC but much bigger than Berlin. Every running vendor you could imagine was selling gear, food and gadgets and giving out freebees. At the very back was the 2nd runners booth where you could pick up your participant shirt, again, this took mere moments, all you had to do was show them your bib. I don’t usually spend much money at expo’s but I always go big on gear at Majors. This year I still did but almost none of my gear says “Chicago Marathon”, that phrase was owned by the official gear sponser, Nike. Nike makes good products (although way overpriced), their apparel selection this year however was terrible, truly terrible. I always like to get a hoodie for the race, they didn’t make any. Lots of people like to get a marathon windbreaker type jacket, they were sold out before the event. I like to get several T-shirts that promote the race, especially one with the course map on the back. They didn’t even make a normal T-shirt. Only Tech shirts and race singlets (all about $60). I’m not sure I have ever seen a worse apparel selection at any race I have been to. Thankfully, Nike was not the only gear vendor there though, sadly nobody else can use the phrase “Chicago Marathon” so all the gear says “Run Chicago” or “Run 26.2 Chicago”, this came from both Aesics and Under Armor. These guys were doing business like crazy, their prices were half that of Nike and they actually made hoodies, and normal cotton T-shirts, and my personal favorite shirt with a course map on the back. I had literally dozens of people ask me where I got those items while I was carrying them around. If you look online before the race and don’t like the official gear then make sure you get to the expo as early as possible before your size is picked over at the smaller gear vendors. The expo vibe though at any major is electric and full of worldwide excitement, sign your name on the giant banners, take pictures in front of course maps, enjoy.
Parking/Access: Either get a hotel near the start/finish (Grant Park-very expensive) or take the L-Train(Subway). Don’t drive there. Getting into the start area was a breeze with your bib, zero line and very easy. The start area is Grant Park (Really big park). This meant tons and tons of room to warm up and stretch with nobody around. My personal advice is to get an air b&b along the blue line. Most people stay along the red line, however the blue line has the advantage of still taking you straight to downtown and it is the only train line that goes to O’hare airport so you will save lots of transport time.
T-Shirts/SWAG: Continuing my bashing on Nike I was really displeased with the material of the participant shirt, it honestly reminded me of an old 80s/90s football jersey, rough material with the large holes in it. I like to race in the participant shirt and I had to wear another softer shirt underneath to prevent chaffing. The shirt design was fine, black with a green Chicago Marathon logo on the front (see picture). The medal seems to follow a similar look each year, silver with city scenery on it (see photo). I really liked the medal this year and I think the ribbon on it looks sharp as well. Looking at past years the medal can be a bit hit and miss in my opinion but this year they got it right, although not sure how you can cover a medal in Chicago landmarks and not put the bean/cloud gate on it.
Now that I am done talking about gear it is time to start covering how the Chicago Marathon race day experience and logistics knocks it out of the park it every single aspect.
Aid Stations: Aid Stations in this race were the best and longest that I have experienced. There were 20, yes 20 aid stations on the course, every one of them well stocked with Gatorade and water, some with Bananas or energy gels. This meant you had an aid station around every 1-1.5 miles. The next thing to know about the aid stations is that they are long, really long. I estimate 30 people spaced 5 feet apart on each side of the road giving out Gatorade, then another 30 people on each side giving out water. Aid stations are something like 300 feet long. It is normally a good idea to skip the first person at an aid station to avoid congestion, in Chicago you can skip the first 20 and still be fine. I also applaud them for trying to reduce waste.
In Berlin they use plastic cups that can be recycled to reduce trash, but plastic cups cant be squeezed to create a smaller opening that is easier to drink from. Chicago uses paper cups which are easy to use and apparently are all made from some 100% easily biodegradable material that fully dissolves in less than 2 years.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: There is a reason the Women’s World record was set on this course. It is really really flat. The scenery is pretty bland though. Lake Michigan is on on your right for part of the first quarter of the race and it was cool to run through Chinatown but you are mostly just running through a city, not past the sites. The start and finish area are pretty but other than that this course was made for speed not sightseeing.
That being said the support on the course is constant and incredible. You won’t really notice the lack of a view because you will be too busy looking at the hundereds of thousands of people cheering you on. The shortest route blue line was well marked and easy to follow and most of the course was kept clear of spectators crowding the runners. The streets were very wide and I never felt crowded, except for the first half when I was tucked behind the pacers I was following, once I eased in front of them the course felt full but never crowded. In several areas people would cross when there were no barriers but I didn’t see any collisions.
Weather: This race is held in early to mid October so the weather could be anything from 35-85 during the race. In my case we got upper 40’s changing into high 50s to low 60’s during the race. This was perfect running weather. This even led to a new American Women’s record being set. This perfect weather helped me to a new 8 minute PR. But of course the weather is luck, 3 of the 4 years before my race the temperatures were in the upper 70’s to mid 80’s and was getting dangerous for people.
Race Management: I’m not sure I can find much to really criticize about the race. Communication was frequent but not overwhelming from the race and really every single thing about the race day experience felt well thought out. The Chicago Marathon App was really easy to use and my family used it extensively to track me and another family friend. I always had plenty of room to do everything I needed or wanted to do on race day, before, after, and during the race.
The bathroom situation was actually quite reasonable. There were maps everywhere showing you where they were (also easy to pull up on your phone). The shortest lines are at the bathrooms right after you get through the initial bag search security, make use of them. There are more bathrooms past the 2nd layer of security where you have to show your bib but these were getting more crowded as people funneled there. Unlike NYC and Berlin gear check was free and easy. Look for the banners with your bib color and find your #. Tie your gear tag to your bag (you can only use the clear plastic one they give you at the expo) and turn it in. Tons of volunteers and easy to drop off and pick up.
The start corrals were guarded to make sure you were in your proper area. These close 10 minutes before your wave starts, zero exceptions or you start at the very back of your wave which could be 15 minutes later and behind much slower people. There were not exceptions to this. They had tons of security and 6 foot fences making sure people did not get through. When they closed the corrals I saw lots of people sprinting up to the entrances and they were all turned away. Finish your bathroom breaks early and get to your corral on time, they don’t mess around in Chicago. They had fun pump up music and an MC getting people pumped up before introducing the elites on video boards they had throughout the start area. They did a good job making it feel like an epic event in the start area. Each group starts in a 2 minute gap, with roughly 5-6 groups per wave. This means that the metered start takes well over 30 minutes.
The finish area was easy to navigate, was extremely spacious and just a straight shot back to the start area where you can pick up your gear. The family meet up area is near the start line and bean/cloud gate where you will of course want to snap a picture. Very well organized and it wasn’t overly long. Once you got out of the immediate finish area and back into the start village you had all the room in the world to relax or lay down. They also were giving out free beer at the finish from a local brewery if you can manage alcohol on a dehydrated empty stomach.
Pictures for the event if you pre-order are reasonable $40 for a full digital download of all of your pictures. I ended up with 126 pictures with me in them (some very similar). There was an official photographer after the finish where you could take your picture with your medal as well. Once you finish I would also grab your own camera/cell phone from your gear check and snap a few pictures around the start area of the fountain and the city skyline in general behind you.
Overall this race isn’t the biggest, run through the most amazing scenery or the most elite compared to other majors but it is still epic and the actual race day experience and logistics might be the best. I would highly recommend it as part of both your 6 star journey and just a race that you do as you travel the country/world.
Star Valley Half Marathon
Beautiful downhill Wyoming Country Run
Star Valley Half Marathon
Before I jump into the nuts and bolts of the review I need to talk about why this race exists and who puts the race on. Jeremy Kunz was a … MORE
Before I jump into the nuts and bolts of the review I need to talk about why this race exists and who puts the race on. Jeremy Kunz was a pillar of the local star valley running community. In 2009 while handing out water on the side of a relay race he was a part of in Utah he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. He left behind a wife and 3 children under the age of 5. In 2011 his family decided to hold a half marathon race in his hometown on the closest Saturday to his birthday each year (the 2nd Saturday in July). During the pre race ceremony they talked about how much he would have loved that a running party was being held in his hometown. This race is entirely put on by his family and friends. His brother gave me my bib #. A friend of his gave us my SWAG bag. His now 16 year old daughter was the master of ceremonies at the start of the race and gave a short speech about why the race is run. The whole town turns out to cheer people or volunteer in some way. The night before at dinner our waitress thanked me for coming and for running. When I wore my race shirt after the race around town people around town were also wearing race shirts and thanked me for participating. Normally when you finish a race the volunteers say congratulations, in this race they all said thank you. All of the proceeds from the race goes to help local families in need.
Another less serious note about this race that I found interesting was the age of the participants. It was an extremely young race, over 50 of the 250 finishers were teenagers. Jeremy Kunz was involved with coaching the local cross country team and pretty much the entire local teams show up and runs along with former members returning from college on their summer break. By coincidence I rode the bus to the start and chatted with the defending champion, who won it last year at 18 and defended his title this year by running a stunning 1:09 half marathon. On a related note he will participating in the U20 world championships later this year.
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
I did go to the early packet pick up for this race (there is no expo to speak of), they offered packet pick up from 6-8pm at the elementry school in town that also serves as the finish line for the race. We drove into town just a little before packet pick up and first ate dinner at the only Italian restraunt within like 30 miles. Tootsies was a good meal and allowed me to say hi to lots of other out of town runners who were clearly carb loading before the race. I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. Parking was plentiful and the school was easy to find. Bib pick up was extremely smooth, you don’t have an assigned # until you pick up your bib and shirt, then they just search your name on their list, hand you a bib from their pile and assign it to you electronically on the spot, very smooth and fast. They did also offer bib pick up between 5:15 and 5:45 the morning of the race at the school. The race starts at 7am, and the last bus leaves at 5:45.
Parking/Access: Parking at the school was not allowed on the day of the race because the race finishes in the parking lot. There was plenty of parking at the adjacent church and park both of which were listed on the packet pick up information sheet.
T-Shirts/SWAG: The medal for this race was decent, it is well made and sturdy and has the race logo on it which seems to be used by a lot of the businesses in the valley. It looks like but I wish it had something a little more unique to Wyoming. The ribbon for the medal however gets an A+ this year.
It is one of the best looking that I have recieved. While the race is in the tiny town of Thayne it is one of several small cities in the Star Valley, almost all of the businesses and other things in the area have Star Valley in their name despite being in different towns. It isn’t the prettiest one on my medal rack but for a small race that is very inexpensive to enter they did a good job (see attached photo). The shirt this year was not a tech shirt (although I saw some people wearing some tech shirts from past years), it was a T-shirt (See attached). I generally prefer a tech shirt that I wear during the race but in the end I will probably get more use out of a T-shirt in the long run.
Aid Stations: The aid stations were well stocked and spaced at 3, 6, 8.5 and 11 miles they all had Gatorade and water. They did not hand out any energy gels so bring your own but they did have Bananas at the last two aid stations. I didn’t hear anything about supplies running out at any time during the race. I was near the front so I was never really in a group, and most stations only had 3-5 people which was sufficient. The volunteers were really clear about who had water or Gatorade, and were happy cheerleaders for each runner who came through most of them saying thank you for running. If I could make one critique it would be to have a few more garbage cans 100 yards after the stations, as well as adding a station or two. This course is set up for a PR but I took it easy due to getting over an illness and a worry that the quickly elevating temperatures (highs in the 90s) and high elevation (8000->7000ft) would cause me to have hydration issues if I went too hard with so few stations.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: The course starts at a campground up along the side of the Star Valley in the woods. The course is a pure downhill. The first 2 miles extremely so with some small rises. The first two miles are however on a dirt road which was not perfectly smooth and had some holes and ruts. A brave runner could make amazing time during the first two miles with minimal energy exertion but they would however risk rolling an ankle. I went fast but responsible, if I was more daring I could have saved a minute or two on my time. After about 2 miles you hit the paved roads and exit the trees and spend the next 11 miles slowly making long straights then 90 degree turns around Wyoming ranches. You could easily find yourself alone but certainly not bored because the views of the area were amazing. You are definitely exposed completely to the sun over the last 11 miles so be prepared with sunscreen depending on your pace. The race is run on an open course so the roads are not closed but traffic was absolutely minimal and caused zero issues, the few ranchers who lived in the area were driving slow and waving and yelling encouragement as they drove by. The open course also allowed my wife to park and then leapfrog me every other mile on the course to take pictures and videos, this could also be used to provide race aid to a friend/partner if desired. The race drops nearly 1000 ft over the course, over half of it during the first 3 miles so the last 10 miles feel pretty flat. The race is also at a very high elevation 7-8000 ft so you might want to make sure you handle elevation ok before you go out as hard as you can. Another thing that must be mentioned about the course was the mile markers, every marker along the road had a picture of Jeremy with friends, or mostly his family. There were pictures with his wife or his at the time very young children. It was hard to keep focused 100% on your running when each mile you saw a dad holding his 3 year old daughter or another similar photo. This again helped remind you each mile why you were running.
Weather: 50 degrees at the start up on the mountain 70-80 degrees by the finish only 1.5 hours later. For finishers at the 3-3.5 hr mark temperatures were well into the mid 80s by late morning. Honestly pretty decent running weather with so little humidity when I finished but even while I milled around the finish area I could feel the temperature rising.
Race Management: This Race was very well run overall for such a small race. I found their Facebook page to be the best source of info, their website has some info but isn’t extensive. Also FYI registration doesn’t open until like February on the race year. If you have any questions I found that sending the race a Facebook message was by far the best way to get information.
They always responded to me quickly. Other things to compliment this race on despite only 250ish finishers (their biggest race to date), they had age group awards for every 5 year age group (carved wooden stars for first place and ribbons for 2nd and 3rd). I placed 2nd in my age group but didn’t realize they had awards so I left and missed my first chance to get to stand on a podium and have my picture taken. They had plenty of busses (Four) to take people to the start which meant no lines. They had port-o-potties at the finish to use before the bus and at the start, the lines seemed a bit long but moved quickly so I think they had the numbers correct (also it was in the woods so many male runners made use of the environment to shorten the lines). They had pace setters from 1:40/1:50/2:00 then every 15 minutes to the 2:45 hour time from a volunteer pace group that drove up from Utah. The time limit for the race is 3.5 hours but they offered an early start option for people who may have needed a little more time. They also hold a kids dash at the finish early in the day. The finish had plenty of the usual finish line fare (bagels, water, electrolytes, oranges). They also have free race Photos which they post on Facebook. Most years they hold a pasta dinner the night before the race, it hasn’t happened yet post Covid but they told me that plan to start it again in 2023.
Overall I would say this race is a fantastic way to check Wyoming off your 50 state list. It is a well run race put on by an amazing family and volunteers. Wyoming doesn’t have very many large races and almost none of them are really easy to access by any direct flight. We picked this race due to its summer timing and proximity to Grand Teton National Park which we visited for several days after the race and then on to Yellowstone. I would recommend visiting those parks before or after the race. Independent of why this race was created and held I would still give this race 5 stars but knowing why they run made it an emotional as well as athletic experience for me that I won’t forget.
Bristol Independence Rhode Race
Pretty/Hilly/Humid Tour of a NE Town
Bristol Independence Rhode Race
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP: I did not go to the early packet pick up for this race (there is no expo to speak of), I was supposed to fly from Seattle … MORE
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
I did not go to the early packet pick up for this race (there is no expo to speak of), I was supposed to fly from Seattle to Boston and arrive the afternoon before the race (Wife is a teacher, last day of school was Thursday), then rent a car for a quick 45 minute drive to Providence/Bristol. However as many people are experiencing in 2022 flights can be dicey. We got an email at 1am Friday that our flight was cancelled, woke up and spent an hour on the phone with Alaska and the best we could do was a flight to Newark 3 hours later than scheduled. By the time we flew in, got our car and made the 4 hour drive we got in bed at 1am, 5.5 hours before the 6:30 am start. Combine that with getting over being sick during the week, the humidity, and the hilly course and it was clear that a PR attempt was never meant to be. You had the option to do packet pick up on Thursday, Friday or Saturday up to 15 minutes before the race. They even allow registration up to 15 minutes before the start. Bib pick up was extremely smooth, you don’t have an assigned # until you pick up your bib & shirt, then they just search your name in their registration app, hand you a bib from their pile and assign it to you electronically on the spot. A first for me, but very smooth and fast. They were out of at least 1 shirt size by the time I picked up 20 minutes before which might be related.
Parking/Access: Downtown Providence is a 20 minute drive away with tons of hotel options. They had several advised parking lots (which were full when I arrived 45 minutes before the start) but street parking was free and easy to find within a few blocks and due to my late arrival I don’t imagine that many people were parking after me or had any trouble.
T-Shirts/SWAG: The medal for this race was one that I liked. It isn’t the prettiest one on my medal rack but it does accomplish what I find most important about a race, it was sturdily made and depicts something unique about the state or area. The medal had some translucent blue water with the Mt Hope Bridge (the thing most dominating the surrounding skyline) on it. During the race you run right up to the bottom of the bridge and while they missed me the photographer got many iconic shots of runners with the bridge behind them.(See Attached Picture). The medal is also part of a series of races in Rhode Island that can magnetically attach to a larger medal with 5 slots. The shirt this year was fairly plain red tech shirt (See Attached Picture), it did have a nice 4th of July themed logo on it which makes sense because the race is part of the towns celebration of it but nothing really special about this shirt.
Aid Stations: The aid stations were well stocked and spaced every 2 miles they all had Gatorade and water except for the 2 mile station which only had water. I did notice energy gels or chews being handed out at like mile 10, a bit late, but I carry my own so this was a non issue. I didn’t hear anything about supplies running out at any time during the race. I was near the front so I was never really in a group, and most stations only had 3-5 people which is sufficient but may have caused an issue or two when the big pace groups came through but the race said ahead of time that volunteers were really tough to come by this year so I give the volunteers who were there an A+ for doing the job, being really clear about who had water or Gatorade, and being happy cheerleaders for each runner who came through. If I could make one critique it would be to have a few more garbage cans 100 yards after the stations, and maybe add a station or 2 in the 2nd half especially if this humidity is normal (which I think it is).
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: The course is hilly over 90% of the course, however you do finish where you start so the net gain is zero. That being said while the hills are rarely extremely steep you are always on a hill which can be draining and really difficult to pace yourself. Overall though as difficult as constant elevation change can be the real difficulty in this course is the New England weather in the summer. If you are/were like me and planning a trip to the New England in the summer and thought with like 8 states within easy driving distance I should have a real pick of races if my dates are flexible, you would be wrong. People don’t have races on the east coast in the middle of summer for the most part because the heat/humidity combo can be extremely difficult and possibly dangerous. This was nearly my only option. Thankfully having struggled in a humid race in the past I backed off my normal goal pace by 20-30 seconds/mile to ensure I wouldn’t have a medical issue. I finished in the top 30 and I still saw people in front of me walking or stopping and even saw 2 people go down and have race staff radio for one of the emergency vehicles which were prowling the course on the roads while we ran on the shoulder. During my walk back to my car I even saw one back of the pack runner just throw up his arms, curse then turn and walk off the course towards his car. From what I could see when comparing the start #s to the finisher #s there were a whole lot of people who either had a DNF or DNS and the race time weather was 70-80 during the race on the way to an afternoon high in the high 80s. The weather was bad but can certainly be even worse. I think the race did a great job with medical/emergency response but the real point here is unless you get a magical perfect cold New England Day during the summer be careful during the race and slow your pace accordingly. As for the scenery it was quite interesting. Probably 3 miles felt like part of my high school cross country days, a combo of dirt roads, crushed shells, across a grass field and even a muddy puddle or two to jump. The other 10 miles were on the road. They apparently changed the course this year so we lost 3 miles through a city park directly along the coast so that they could better feature a typical New England town with older houses. There were the occasional great water views (see attached picture) but otherwise it was mostly in neighborhoods. Being from the Northwest I found it interesting and unique, if you live in New England I think you would have a hard time differentiating the scenery from many other states/towns.
Weather: 70-80 degrees for me with pretty high humidity. This seems pretty typical, I went into pretty good detail about the weather affects in the previous section. That being said if you live on the east coast and run and race in this humid summer weather frequently, I tip my cap to you. I’m just not sure if you are a Bad***, Crazy, or some combination of both.
Race Management: This Race was very well run overall for such a small race. I found their emails and website to be the best source of information. They didn’t have a ton of bathrooms but the lines were never very long, I think they had it just right. As described earlier packet pick up was a breeze and the course was very well marked with people stopping traffic when needed. The race only had 591 finishers (a bit down from a normal year). They had pace setters from 1:40/1:50/2:00 then every 15 minutes to the 2:45 hour time. The time limit for the race is 3.5 hours but they offered an early start option for people who may have needed a little more time. They had age group awards in 10 year increments (a nice touch for a small race) and plenty of the usual finish line fare (bagels, water, electrolytes, oranges). They also have free race Photos.
Overall I would say this race is a pretty good way to check Rhode Island off your 50 state list. It is a well run race put on by “Rhode Races” who do several other non summer races in the state including at least one full marathon. In states this small your options are pretty limited, but I still think this was a fine way to check off Rhode Island.
Fast & Flat a Solid World Marathon Major
This was my first international marathon & my 2nd World Marathon Major. Berlin is a very unique city with a lot of history and it really behooves you to spend … MORE
This was my first international marathon & my 2nd World Marathon Major. Berlin is a very unique city with a lot of history and it really behooves you to spend some time after the race seeing the city and it’s history. From it’s government buildings to the Berlin Wall to the Cold War History and of course the WWII history there really is a ton to see. A nice walking tour in the days after the race will help you get your mobility back and something I would recommend.
Rather than comparing this race to other smaller local races which this of course blows out of the water, I’m going to compare it to the other Marathon Majors which is more apt comparison. This was also the first Major Marathon to take place in the Covid world so some of my observations may only be truly applicable to 2021.
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
Getting to the Expo was very easy. It was held at the old Berlin Airport so public transit by bus or the U-Bahn (Subway) were both easy options. There was a long but fast moving line to get into the expo for participants. Considering they were checking for ID proof and Vaccination proof the line went smoothly. Sadly we didn’t notice a seperate line for visitors until we were near the front so that cost us some time. They used this ID check to give you a fabric ribbon that they tightly put around your wrist that you then have to wear until the race was over. We went on Friday and wearing it for 3 days was only mildly annoying. The old airport was a unique place to have any event. The baggage claim area serves as a lobby after the wrist band area and from there you walked out onto the old runway/gate area to walk to some maintenance hanger where the expo proper was. You first had to enter a racers only area to pick up your bib and bag. They print the bib when you arrive at the front of the line and this part was pretty easy. It being a piece of paper meant that it tore more easily than a normal bib and I had to re-pin a torn corner mid race. I run mostly half marathons so although they say you can use a full or half time to prove you pace my bib said I was in the very last corral because i didn’t have a marathon time recently, not accurate at all. There was another line to get this fixed, I was able to move through this line in 20 minutes but I heard many people say it took them well over an hour. When I reached the front the volunteer took a swag at what my full pace would be based on my half marathon time (His opinion a 1:31 half last month => 3:25 full) I disagreed but he didn’t care and put me in the slow corral, I was pretty disappointed by his attitude. Another 30 minute line in the regular customer service/question line got me in the proper corral. My advice, print and bring with you a proven Full marathon proof time recently if at all possible, worst case a half marathon time. I heard many many people say they had registered with a proof time that didn’t process so they had to stand in line to fix their start corral as well. If you didn’t have proof of a recent race time for your desired corral then you were out of luck. Lastly in the runners only area you could pick up any merchandise that you pre purchased.
The rest of the expo had a large gear purchase area (I spent my fair share as I do at majors but rarely at small races), get there early so everything isn’t picked over in your size. Also heads up several items are only in the women’s section or vice versa. I found my favorite T-shirt over there and another shirt that I couldn’t find in my size in the Mens area. None of them were Women’s cut so it is worth your time if you can’t find what you want in your area. The rest of the area was large with quite a few vendors but in comparison to an expo like NYC this was a tiny expo.
Parking/Access: Either get a hotel near the finish or take the U-Bahn(Subway). Don’t drive there. Getting into the start area was a breeze with the wristband and bib, zero line very easy. The start area is the Tiergarten (Really big park). This meant tons and tons of room to warm up and stretch with nobody around.
T-Shirts/SWAG: Oddly the default race shirt is NOT provided for free. I suppose it is nice to not be forced to buy it but it is the only race I have ever run that has done this. The shirt was nice with some track suit stripes on the shoulder which felt pretty European (See picture). The medal seems to follow a similar look each year. German flag ribbon which is very cool and distinct but made out of a cheap fabric. The medal is a silver color and come with quite a few chips and dings which happens when you have medals in a stack but felt like more than usual. One side of the medal was a unique Berlin highlights collage, the other side is apparently always a person. I lucked out that this year it was Kipchoge setting the world record. A few years ago they had the face of the retiring race director, I can’t really imagine anybody wanting that on their medal. I would have been really disappointed with that, but this year was ok.
Aid Stations: Aid Stations in Europe are different than in the US. Until about the 30k mark they were spread out closer to every 2.5-3 miles rather than every 1.5-2 like you would find in the US. They all had water and some kind of “energy” drink that I had not heard of so I didn’t trust it. They also had tea which was odd but I guess common over there. The other unusual and a little frustrating thing is the cups they use. You are likely used to paper cups that you can crush/crimp to make it easier to pour the water in your mouth. These were more like small clear Solo cups so they didn’t really crush well without breaking. Getting water down your throat without soaking yourself was extremely hard. Also those cups being tossed all over the ground make incessant noise of clacking that you will take weeks to get out of your brain. The aid stations were long and well stocked through and also had food at a ton of them. Aid station frequency did increase near the end, like every 2 miles instead of 3. Also of note each aid station had a hydro pack filling station.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: There is a reason the World record was set on this course. It is really really flat. The scenery is a real mixed bag. The start area is pretty and has you run past the victory column like .5k into the race and the finish at the Brandonburg gate is one of the most iconic in the world. That said the rest of the course is really blah, I do tend to laser focus during a race and not notice much but it was mostly just running down residential streets in a major city. The shortest route blue line was well marked and easy to follow and most of the course was kept clear of spectators crowding the runners. In several areas people would cross when there were no barriers but I didn’t see any collisions. I heard the crowds were maybe 50% of normal so it could be a bigger issue in normal years. The course is overall also quite narrow and has some bottlenecks. Again not a huge issue in a year with “only” 25k instead of 43k but certainly something to be aware of in a normal year.
Weather: This race is held at the very end of September so the weather could be anything from 35-80 during the race. In my case we got upper sixties changing into mid to low 70s during the race. This of course slowed down everybody’s pace. Even the race winner was nearly 5 minutes slower than 2 years ago. If those guys lose 5 minutes I feel great about only losing 6 minutes from my goal time.
Race Management: Overall pretty good but also a bit of a mixed bag, of course some grace has to be afforded to the organizers for actually pulling off the first major since Covid happened. Communications in the months leading up to the race was really lacking in my opinion. I found the event Facebook page comments from other runners to have better info than the emails from the event during planning. Eventually the race would send info or respond to emails but it took forever.
The unique fabric wristband/ribbon system for the event to get into the start area worked well. At first I thought it was odd and useless to make people wear the wristbands but it ensures there is zero bib swapping because only a person with a wristband and a bib was allowed in the start area and on race day it meant the lines to get in the start area were non existent since you just walked up flashed a bib and a bracelet and they waved you through.
The bathroom situation was however less than ideal and lines were LONG. Men everywhere (and a few women) were making use of the bushes and trees to make their own bathrooms. This race only had 25,000 people instead of the 43,000 they had pre covid, did they have fewer bathrooms? The same? If it was the same then it would have been truly crazy in a normal year. FYI there are additional bathrooms near the start corrals which are a bit of a walk from the warm up area. They also had standing 4 person urinals near the start area, very fast and convenient but probably not the favorite visual for most ladies.
The start corrals were guarded to make sure you were in your proper area which was nice but of course a few people made it into other areas. They had fun pump up music and a clapping “Skol” chant before introducing the elites on video boards they had throughout the start area. They did a good job making it feel like an epic event in the start area.
The finish area was a little confusing to navigate and shaped like a cross where you had to go down different arms to get things like a free beer, finisher poncho, bag pick up, or food. Eventually you spill out into the park again with plenty of room to recover before leaving for the family meet up area.
Pictures for the event are reasonable $35, and I ended up with 266 pictures with me in them (lots of them very similar). I heard that there was an official photographer after the finish where you could take your picture with your medal but I never saw it and nobody I talked to seemed to have done it either. So either be aware to look for it immediately after finishing or use your own camera to take a picture on the podium they had set up in the park after you exited the finish area.
Overall this race has quite a bit to nit pick about compared to other majors but when compared to other non Majors events it is still epic and very well done. I would highly recommend it as part of both your 6 star journey and just a race that you do as you travel the world.
Anchorage RunFest (Humpy’s Marathon & Skinny Raven Half)
Great Organization/Race, Beautiful State
Anchorage RunFest (Humpy’s Marathon & Skinny Raven Half)
This was my first time visiting the amazing state of Alaska, and wow what an experience. Do not be the person who flies in checks off this state and leaves, … MORE
This was my first time visiting the amazing state of Alaska, and wow what an experience. Do not be the person who flies in checks off this state and leaves, the opportunity to get out and explore this state before or after the race should not be wasted. Waiting in line for the bathrooms I was chatting with a guy running the marathon in his 48th state, he flies in does his job and leaves. He treated it like a job and even described it as something he just wanted to get over with. I can’t imagine flying all the way to such an amazing state and leaving before I saw a thing. My wife and I flew in 10 days before the race and visited 3 National Parks and Drove all over the state doing hiking and sightseeing. I didn’t run at all in the 10 days leading up to the race (no chance to do laundry and who wants to stuff sweaty running clothes in their bag repeatedly for a week plus). Zero running and tons of strenuous hiking is hardly the ideal way to prepare for a race but traveling the country doing races can’t only be about the races, the travel experience should mean just as much. My advice if you can is to fly in, run the race then go see the state. I’m married to a teacher though so we had to hurry back for the start of the school year. On to the review…
EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
I did not go to the expo for this race, I was too busy exploring the rest of the state. That said, I have never in all the races that I have run seen a race that provided more opportunities for your shirt/bib pickup than this race. The race was on Sunday and you could pick up your packet on Thursday, Friday or Saturday during windows of 4-7 hours. I was out traveling the state during this time and couldn’t make it so I emailed the race team and they said they were happy to accommodate me on the morning of the race for my bib and shirt pickup (Insider Info, they are actually willing to do this for everybody the lady who gave me my bib told me, but it would not be practical to do so for several thousand people, but it is good to know in case your schedule requires it). They also give the option to have a friend pick up your packet for you.
Parking/Access: Anchorage is a very unique layout for a city with a pretty large population. Downtown doesn’t have many tall buildings and both street and parking lot parking were easily available just 2-3 blocks away. No real need to do public transit.
T-Shirts/SWAG: The medal for this race was one that I liked. It isn’t the prettiest one on my medal rack but it does accomplish what I find most important about a race, it was sturdily made and depicts something unique about the state. It seems like most years in the past had a similar medal which included a picture of Alaska, this year had a jumping salmon (See Attached Picture). The shirt this year was a nice blue tech shirt (See Attached Picture), it has a giant bear head as part of a painting looking over a lake/mountain, again just look at the picture. Each shirt also states the distance you ran instead of just an event logo that lists every distance which is a bit unique. Is it large, quirky, over the top and not exactly a wear everyday shirt? Yes, is it truly unique and in line with the spirit/essence of the state it represents? Also Yes. And in case you think it is still weird, do a quick google search of some past years, I would say this years shirt is pretty tame by comparison.
Aid Stations: The aid stations were well stocked and spaced every 1.5-2 miles (it is an out and back course on a park trail so you hit the same stations in each direction), they all had Gatorade and water. Nobody was handing out any energy gels or chews but I carry my own so this was a non issue. I didn’t hear anything about things running out at any time during the race. I was near the front so I was never really in a group, and most stations only had 3-5 people which is sufficient but may have caused an issue or two when the big pace groups came through but the race said ahead of time that volunteers were really tough to come by this year due to covid so I give the volunteers who were there an A+ for doing the job, being really clear about who had water or Gatorade, and being happy cheerleaders for each runner who came through.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: The course is pretty flat over 90% of the course, as a true out and back every hill you go up you will come down and vice versa. You mostly follow a river on a greenbelt path through a park with a decent hill right at the turnaround point and another between .5-.2 miles from the finish, it won’t seem like much of a hill at the start, but a 50ft climb over a quarter mile will feel like a mountain so close to the finish. Overall though minor difficulty with little bumps or bridges over streams along the way. As for the scenery you get some views of the ocean and surrounding mountains during the first 1.5 and last 1.5 miles before running through a park along a path the rest of the time. It is pretty, it is calm, it is green, tree covered and shaded but not exactly breathtaking (but you will get that everywhere else in the state during you travels so no big deal). You might see “scenery” of a different kind though, while I didn’t see them runners posted pictures of a black bear on the half marathon course around mile 4 and a mother moose with her calf on the 49k course so keep aware of your surroundings.
Weather: Since 2008 the race day weather has been between 53 and 63 degrees every year except one, when it was like 67. Top notch running weather, it is usually always dry and it was this year too. It did rain in the afternoon so If you were a really slow Marathoner or Ultra runner you maybe got a little wet but it doesn’t downpour in this state.
Race Management: This Race was very well run overall. I found their emails and Facebook Page to be the best source of information. Oddly the Skinnyraven page (the sponsor) had information that was outdated in terms of maps and time. Make sure you use the Anchorage Runfest site for everything and make sure your read their emails. They accomodated me needing to pick up my packet the day of and had a very fun announcer at the start talking to people and having fun. The half was the biggest race but only had 631 people (a down a bit from a normal year). They had all the pace setters get in the corral first (Half 10 minute Incriments 1:40-3:00) (Full 15 minute incriments 3:30-5:30). After the pace people were in place they had people enter the start area and everybody went to their correct area. I ended up running a 1:31 and I had tons of room up front with the other fast people and the elites. I have never been at a race where I didn’t feel crowded at the start. I think this has a lot to do with how many people travel for this race. Supposedly over half of all entrants each year are from out of state which means they know race etiquette. They line up correctly, they communicate when passing, and they know how to use aid stations. The most educated crowd I have run with. They also have a ton of events and options they include a “Military Mile” on Saturday, a 5k, Half Marathon, Marathon, Marathon Relay and 49k Ultra (a 49k you say, that is weird, why not 50k like normal, well Alaska is the 49th State). Tons of options for everybody. They even had a half marathon walking or just need extra time option. Races went off in 15 minute increments. Walkers @ 8:00am, Marathon & Ultra @ 8:30am, Half Marathon 8:45am, 5k 9:00am. We were all on the course at the same time and I was definitely running upstream on the way back to the finish but people kept to the side without me needing to say anything and the 5k runners were all done before I got back to the finish although the winners may have seen a tiny bit of traffic. Other things that were unique and very nice: shirt swap the morning of the race if the one you picked up at the EXPO didn’t fit, free showers at the Gym near the finish if you show your bib, especially nice if you are flying out the same day and already had to check out of your hotel before hand. Also free race Photos.
Overall I would say this race is a great way to check Alaska off your 50 state list. It is a well run race that feels similar in a lot of ways to races you would see in other states, it just happens to be run in a state that is unlike any other.
BMW Dallas Marathon Festival
Fantastic Organization, Great Race
BMW Dallas Marathon Festival
This was the first time that I had ever been to the state of Texas. Coming from the mountainous west coast the scenery was definitely different in Texas flying in. … MORE
This was the first time that I had ever been to the state of Texas. Coming from the mountainous west coast the scenery was definitely different in Texas flying in. I was expecting a very flat course when in actuality it had a pretty decent amount of hills. I will review the race itself next but my main takeaway from this race was a huge lesson learned in terms of knowing the conditions on a race day and adjusting your strategy accordingly. This race has a later than I am used to start of 8:30am probably so it is actually light out when people run but it was unusually warm in the morning, 70 degrees by 10am…in December. The start of the race was cool with overcast skies which led to me and many other runners taking off hard and fast and going for a PR. Texas is more humid than the northwest and the warmer temperatures meant that going out at PR pace for the first half especially during the long uphill middle section was a mistake. I bonked at mile 9 and slowly dropped from 7 minute pace to 7:15 pace by mile 11. Then I things went really south and my final mile was nearly 9 minutes and I wobbled to the finish and am still recovering from cramps and dehydration a day later. Essentially don’t make the rookie mistake of going out too hard in any race and then run a responsible pace in a race when the conditions are different than what you run in at home. As I continue to run races around the country, especially in the south I will take it much easier and only go for that PR when the course and conditions suit it. On to the review…
EXPO/Packet Pick Up: The expo was at a convention center only a few hundred yards from the start line. I went on Saturday afternoon and had zero issues easily getting inside and finding the expo. The convention center is huge and many other things were going on including a youth cheerleader/dance competition so among the hundreds of runners walking around were dozens and dozens of young girls in bright outfits and makeup. Parking is limited in the area, I had friends drop me off but the DART (commuter type train) drops off right at the convention center. Bib and event weekend shirt(not a tech T-shirt) were easy to pick up and seamless. The rest of the expo was pretty large and had some really nice BMW(event sponsor) cars inside that you could get in and check out.
Parking/Access: As with any downtown major city race parking is going to be a real issue. I took the DART (commuter train). This worked fantastically as I was staying with friends near Plano. Parking was free at the train station and the ticket was only $3, I was able to use it both ways because the ticket was good for the entire AM, if you run the full you will likely need to buy the $6 all day ticket. After getting off the train at the same convention center as the expo I spent quite a bit of time warming up and stretching in the event center along with many many others, plenty of room and warm with real bathrooms.
T-Shirts/SWAG: I really liked the medal for this race, it is something I had never seen before (see attached picture). It had picture of the Dallas skyline including the event center and the cattle drive statues that area near the start. The really unique part is that there is a hinge in the middle of the medal that folds back the sky above the skyline so that the top of the medal is a jagged skyline and the sky now becomes something that you can use to prop up your medal for display, it was also attached to a high quality ribbon. I like to wear event shirts for my races however I could not do that in this case as at the expo you get a Dallas Marathon weekend T-Shirt (not a tech Tee). The shirt had a great color and design and is definitely something that I would wear outside of a running event. You do still get a Tech Tee, but you get this in the finishers area after the race because it is a finishers shirt. This design was less interesting and a little plain but I have a hard time criticizing the swag in a race where they give you two shirts at no additional cost. Great SWAG.
Aid Stations: The aid stations were well stocked and spaced every 1.5 to 2 miles they all had Gatorade and water. There were even several aid stations from local community groups along the course. The aid station around 7 miles also had liquid energy packs that were given out. I didn’t hear anything about things running out at any time during the race.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: This was run mostly through downtown and surrounding neighborhoods in a large loop, no out and back repeats of scenery which is nice. Near the beginning of the race you run through the famous triple underpass and past the book depository and grassy knoll where JFK was killed (I also recommend the trolley tour around town that focuses on the assassination, it was really interesting as an out of state tourist). After a rather quick and slightly downhill first 3 miles the next 5 or so miles is filled almost entirely with uphills. I kept my pace up through those uphills when was just too much effort expended and I paid for that in the end. Around mile 7 we entered highland park which my friends who I was staying with tell me is a rather historic and very expensive part of town. I did find it very pretty. The last few miles of the course were a pretty non de-script trip through neighborhoods and downtown.
Weather: Surprisingly hot, at least surprising to me, I know its not unheard of to have highs of 75 in Texas in mid December but the cool start temperatures led to a lot of people going out too hard (i saw lots of walkers or people stopping to stretch on the course which I rarely see at my pace because most runners are quite experienced if you are running in the 1:30’s. I didn’t stick around to see many marathon finishers but I fear that the heat likely led to some carnage as people were trying to finish in the afternoon. It was humid, normal Texas humid which isn’t like the deep south but certainly more than I am used to in the northwest.
Race Management: This was very well run. Great EXPO, SWAG and organization. The corral control was very strict and something that I am not used to seeing outside of extremely large marathons, they had people checking to the gates to make sure you were in the right corral and the fences were 6 ft tall keeping people in so it would be hard to skip into the wrong corral. My only complaint would be there there were only 4 different corrals and they were long and narrow. I probably should have entered the corral sooner but even getting in 15 minutes early I wasn’t quite able to weave my way to the front where the quicker pacers were. The start of the race was quite an event, a very talented national anthem singer, and giant 40 foot tall arch over the start with a huge video board playing a get psyched video and fireworks being shot off the top of it that made it feel like I was at a football game. Very cool. The finish area was well stocked with tons of freebies that you would expect at a race including an area to get your finishers shirt and then gear check pickup was a breeze. They also had a well organized family reunion area. I also give this race credit for having so many types of events. They had a 50k Ultra, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, Kids Race, Friday Mile as well as 4 man Marathon relays and 2 man Half Marathon relays (I saw several people ran the first leg of relays and then continued to finish the race on their own as well. Races were held over 3 different days with only the Half or further on Sunday but they really did have an event or distance for everybody.
This was a great race, don’t try to PR here and just enjoy the organization and course. Also make sure to get some BBQ in the area after the race, food after any race always tastes amazing but BBQ in Texas was something else. The brisket that I had at Hutchinson’s was something that I probably could have eaten with a spoon because it was so tender, the knife was not needed.
I would definitely recommend this race, and it is one I would like to do again someday, pace myself better, and better enjoy the finish.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon
Great Race, very windy and cold in 2019
Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon
I really enjoyed the portions of this race that could actually be controlled by the organizers. I flew in from Seattle late Friday night and stayed with some friends in … MORE
I really enjoyed the portions of this race that could actually be controlled by the organizers. I flew in from Seattle late Friday night and stayed with some friends in the area. I attended the EXPO on Saturday during the late morning. This was my 10th state that I have run at least a half marathon in, and my 8th time doing a Rock & Roll Race. As always with a R&R race the management is top notch which is why you pay a little more for these races. I arrived at the race my normal 1 hour and 15 minutes before the start and other than the workers setting up the event, it was deserted. Likely due to the 40 degree temperature and the 20mph winds. I personally took refuge in a Port-o-Potty for 30 minutes just to stay warm.
EXPO/Packet Pick Up: The location was really easy to access right off the interstate and there was only a tiny line of cars trying to park. I had a friend drop me off while I did the expo for 30 minutes, he left so he didn’t have to pay to park. Packet pickup and shirt pickup took mere minutes and I was on to the expo (One minor complaint that I didn’t notice until race morning was that there were no safety pins in the pick up bag, i certainly might have missed them if they were in a supply box but I feel as though just having the 4 in the bag when you get your bib should just be standard). R&R expos always start with the R&R gear shop and they had some nice printed banners with all of the runners names on them. I made use of the free Brooks Gait analysis that they had set up. I always run in brooks shoes but this allowed me to confirm that I am using the correct Brooks shoes (Adrenaline). After you leave the R&R area you get to the vendor portion of the expo which was quite extensive, lots of people were trying things out and it seemed well attended.
Parking/Access: The race started and finished right next to the state capitol building. I would think that traffic could have gotten congested later but it seemed like everybody was on time. I was there so early that getting dropped off at the designated area was a non issue. When my friend came to pick me up at the end of the race he was still able to find pay parking 2 blocks from the start so I would think that nobody had an issue in that regard.
T-Shirts/SWAG: The shirt was a black long sleeve shirt(see picture), it was really nice soft running material and had the race logo on it. I did kind of like how the back of the shirt was blank instead of covered with the logos of tons of sponsors. The race medal like all R&R medals are really high quality and featured local Colorado things like the evil blue horse near the airport and the state flower. A nice improvement from the last 2 R&R’s that I did in 2017 was that the medal ribbons were really high quality and had things like the state flag ‘c’ and the city skyline rather than being an ad.
Aid Stations: The aid stations were well stocked and spaced every 1.5 to 2 miles they all had water and most also had sports drinks. There were even several aid stations from local community groups along the course. The aid station around 7 miles also had gel packets that were given out. I didn’t hear anything about things running out at any time during the race. My nitpicky complaints would be that one aid station just had cups on a table rather than people holding them up for runners and one of my cups had a leaf in it due to the high winds which I choked on. The race can’t really control these factors and being critical of volunteers is pretty hard to do without being a jerk so all in all they were just fine.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: The Course Scenery was quite varied and nice for a city race. We ran near or around the football and baseball stadiums during a very turn heavy first 5 miles. The last 8 miles were mostly an out and back to a large city park that we ran through for about 2 miles before heading back to the finish. I also liked running directly in from of the capitol building steps at the 13 mile mark. This is 20 feet from the medallion on the capitol steps that marks 1 mile above sea level which you should definitely take a picture at. I wavered between a 2 and a 3 in terms of difficulty and went with a 3 in the end for two reasons. First there were several bridges/overpasses which make things a little hard for brief moments but by itself i would only call that a 2 out of 5. The other part of the difficulty would be the elevation above sea level. I never really struggle with elevation during climb to the top of a mountain type hikes so it didn’t really affect me but I am sure that it affected several out of town people. I was 2 minutes slower than normal but I attribute that to the last 3 miles being straight into 20mph winds but the elevation could have affected me some.
Weather: The 40 degree temperature at the start nearing 45 when I finished with a beautiful sunny day would have made for some pretty decent to ideal running conditions. The wind however really made things much harder. Sustained 20mph with gusts of up to 28. During the first several miles you were protected by buildings but running into an intersection at times felt like somebody was pushing you hard from the side. The wind was at your back from mile 5-7 which helps times some but never as much as it hurts you when you run the final 3 miles straight into it. The locals told me the wind is never like this so it was probably just an unfortunate fluke.
Race Management: As always with R&R races this was very well run. Great EXPO, SWAG and organization. I really like the corral control that they exhibit keeping people with people who run the same pace. They had extremely friendly and helpful pacers running as fast as 1:30. Plentiful bathrooms as long as you didn’t just stop at the first one you came to and easy gear check in and pick up. I really enjoy the bands throughout the course which helps break up the race and keep your mind off of any discomfort. Special kudos to the bands playing in those cold windy temperatures, I’m sure that wasn’t easy. The finish corral really loaded you up with goodies. Water, Gatorade, Chocolate milk, Pringles chips, granola bars, crackers, and fruit. They also give you a foil blanket to help you stay warm. I was loaded up with so much stuff that my shorts were starting to fall down from the weight of it in my pockets and the rest in my full hands.
Overall I really enjoyed the race and would recommend it to people.
Brew City Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K
Fun, Flat Race, but Man was it COLD
Brew City Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K
I had a really good time at this race, it is still a pretty new race but they are doing a lot of things right so far and with a … MORE
I had a really good time at this race, it is still a pretty new race but they are doing a lot of things right so far and with a few tweaks they could make it great. This race seems to be getting more popular. For the half in the 4 years they have gone from 350->700->750->1000. There were also nearly 1000 people for each of the 5k and the 10k.
I flew in for this race from Seattle a few days early so that we could visit my wife’s family near Madison. Driving to the race the morning of was seamless and easy, we tried to arrive at the start area an hour before the race.
EXPO/Packet Pick Up: I can’t comment on the expo because I was staying so far away so I elected to pick up my packet the morning of the race at the start line. For this race there was no bag given away with goodies and advertisements. You just walked up to the gazebo with your bib number (which they provided on both a big pin up board and via email), and they gave you your bib with safety pins and your shirt. I was there an hour before the start and this process took me less than 1 minute. They made a point of saying picking up the day of is not recommended but with the size of the race still being ~1000 people it really wasn’t an issue. Maybe it would be harder if I was trying to pick up my packet 10 minutes before the start but personally I’d recommend picking your bib up at the course.
Parking/Access: Getting to the start line couldn’t have been easier, it was less than a mile from the interstate and parking was directly next to the start area. Again I was there early so parking was still available but the closest lot was probably full 45 minutes before the race, they had maps posted on their website with other free lots which were all pretty close and they supposedly provided shuttles.
T-Shirts/SWAG: I really liked the shirts and Medals for this race. The shirt was a half zip pullover which is really soft and would likely be great for colder training runs and races. It is very simple with just a small race logo in the top corner so it is easily something that you could wear around outside of a running event and not feel out of place. Looking at some of the past medals for this race I was not really a fan but I really liked the medal this year. It was in the shape of Wisconsin (as someone trying to run in as many states as possible I really appreciate this) and had the roof of the very unique Milwaukee Art Museum on it. There is also a picture of a beer and a bratwurst which were things they were giving away at the finish line. I was fortunate enough to place third in my age group which also earned me a much smaller version of the finishers medal with a description of what it was for on the back. The only minor critique I would make on the medal is that they all say 5k/10k/Half, the smaller the distance the smaller the medal they gave out and the medals for the half had some color on them that the 5k medal did not. I would prefer that my medal just said half marathon so it was easier to distinguish what it was for, but that is really nitpicking.
Aid Stations: The Aid stations were spaced at 1.5 miles and then about every 2 miles the rest of the way. I had no issues with the stations but I was up front with few people around. The volunteers all did a great job calling out who had Gatorade and who had water. The aid stations were a bit small though in terms of number of volunteers so (just assuming no first hand knowledge) things would have gotten a bit crowded and the volunteers would have trouble keeping up when the big part of the pack of runners was showing up. My other critique of the aid stations was that they need to put a big garbage can with a volunteer ~100 feet past the water stations so people would toss their cups there. With no obvious place to throw things cups were getting tossed everywhere which would be a pain for the volunteers to clean up and it just felt weird littering like that in a park.
Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: At this time of year the course is not especially pretty because there are no leaves on the trees. You start in a park on Lake Michigan then quickly run up an overpass and are then on a greenbelt along a river for ~12 of the 13 miles. The bike path is nice and so is the river but until the trees start to come alive this place isn’t anywhere near as pretty as it will be during the summer. The course itself is extremely flat which makes it pretty fast. It is an out and back with most of it along the exact same path which I assume led to some traffic issues near the turn around point which the larger pack of runners were going through. It is a slight uphill on the way out which pays you back with a downhill on the return, very gentle so nothing that really hurts your stride or pace too much.
Weather: The temperature and the wind did add a degree of difficulty. 15-20 mph gusts, probably expected so close to the lake. The temperature at the start was also a brisk 35. I had a running hat and running gloves which after getting warmed up a few miles in I tossed the hat to my family at mile 4 then tossed the gloves to them on the way back at mile 9. Very few spectators were on the course so that option wouldn’t be available to most people which probably made running in that temperature pretty tough due to either carrying gear back or being cold to start. I’m not from the area so I’m not sure if those temperatures are the norm for mid April, but the past 4 years the weather has been. 70 and sunny, 30 and snowing, 40 and raining, 35 and sunny so be prepared for anything.
Race Management: Lots of good things to like about this race, a few things to improve.
Things I liked: T-Shirts/Swag, Lots of Port-o-potties, they had everyone lined up by goal pace then called everyone who was <8 min mile pace (indicated by the color of the numbers on your bib) inside the start corral to start before everyone else I really appreciated the attempt to allow the faster people start more easily, Beer, Brats, and Cheese Curds at the finish, very tasty and very Wisconsin, top 3 by age group medals for all events
Things to improve: The trail was not closed for public use, this wasn’t an issue during this race because it was so cold but people riding their bikes into a 1000 runners in the opposite direction can be dangerous, the finish line was a bit of a mess after you got your medal-they tried to combine all 3 races towards the same finishers area to get food and freebies but it was very hard to figure out what was where. All of the races started at the same gate, the half marathon people returned to the same gate while the 5 and 10k people used a different nearby gate to finish, all of this is fine but at least according to my wife who missed me finishing it was not made clear who finished where (in all fairness she could have not been listening but either way it could have been clearer for spectators. They also need to add some garbage cans near the water stations which I mentioned earlier.
This was overall a very fun race that I would recommend, I feel like they are doing very well for a race that is only 4 years and with a few changes could be great.
Great Race with Great Local Support
This race is actually a medium to small size race which is actually pretty surprising for a state with a population the size of Montana. The only way to get … MORE
This race is actually a medium to small size race which is actually pretty surprising for a state with a population the size of Montana. The only way to get so many people to come from so far away is to flat out do a fantastic job in terms of race experience. This race delivers on that, it felt like the entire community came out to support this race. This was my 14th half marathon and my 8th different state that I have raced in.
EXPO: The expo was easy to get to and had plenty of parking and was held at the university of Montana. There were lots of freebies in the expo bag with your shirt and there were a decent number of booths.
T-Shirts/SWAG: I loved both my medal and the shirt for this race. My light blue shirt has a hard to describe plaid/checker pattern although the shirt is still all the same color. It is a unique look but nothing crazy so I enjoy wearing the shirt around. I also really enjoy the race logo itself. The race medal is traditionally rust colored and it was again this year. Some years they have had horse shoe shaped or more bizarre shapes, this year was a pretty standard circle but still had a cool design on it that I really enjoyed. Run for the bling people will be happy.
Parking/Access: We stayed less than a mile from the University of Montana parking lot where you need to catch a bus to the start line. This should have taken us mere minutes but instead took closer to 30-40 minutes because so many cars were crowding onto the bridge to access the parking lot, while I was never really in jeopardy of missing the start I like to be at the start line early which kind of got cramped by this traffic and people who were getting there after me probably felt much more pressed for time. The lines for the buses were long but moved fairly quickly and once you were on them getting to the start was pretty easy.
Aid Stations/Elevation/Course Scenery:
Aid stations throughout the course had water and electrolytes and had the normal spacing on the course, no issues there. The course has some hills and is not flat but none of the hills were particularly steep. I’d call it 50% flat at least with gradual to moderate hills on the rest. The scenery on the course is the kind of thing you hope to see when you are in the big sky state. You start but running through some winding wooded roads that are very pretty before you start to run by peoples houses on large acre properties around mile 3. During these first few miles the crowd support was very unique, I saw both a man playing the bagpipes while wearing a kilt and something I never expected to see ever while running a race, certainly not a rural race, a man had rolled his grand piano out into his yard on a tarp and was wearing a full tux while playing classical music, it was awesome.
The course continues over some old railroad looking bridges and passes things like a giant cow (like 20 ft tall). You slowly start to run through neighborhoods with good crowd support before finishing at a bridge in downtown. There is a hill at like 12.8 miles that leads you to a good quarter mile downhill to the finish that is lined with people. Overall crowd support on the course was great.
Race Management: These guys really shined, other than the difficultly with traffic getting to the start these guys have the organization of a major race. They had tons of different pace groups, even really fast past groups, I was running with the 1:30 pacers who were two former cross country runners from the University of Montana, they did a great job and were really funny guys. The finish area was well stocked with recovery food and drinks and lots more booths. When you wind all the way to the finish you can get free finishers photos printed on the spot and they even have a free pasta and other things lunch to eat. When you are all done with the finish party area you can walk a few blocks to a bus pick up location to get you back to your car. Other perks include that all race photos are also free. I am a person who is slowly trying to run a race in as many states as possible and in my opinion this marathon is the only choice to make when picking a race in Montana.
Utah Valley Marathon
Small Downhill Race, Get Your PR Here
Utah Valley Marathon
I really really enjoyed this race, it had a lot of unique things that I had not experienced in a race before and of course setting a new half marathon … MORE
I really really enjoyed this race, it had a lot of unique things that I had not experienced in a race before and of course setting a new half marathon PR after more than 4 years since I had set my previous PR leaves you with really good feelings in regards to a race.
I flew in to Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon, got picked up by my cousin at the airport and drove straight to Provo so I could pick up my packet at the EXPO. Plan on at least 45 minutes to an hour to Provo from the airport.
EXPO: The expo was quite small and so was the parking lot associated with it, although parking was free. Packet pick up was quick and easy and had several freebies in the bag. Overall nothing special about the expo other than a few booths but it is a small race so it is about what you would expect.
T-Shirts/SWAG: The T shirt for this race is a little unique, it had bright red sleeves and a black shirt. The Utah Valley logo on the front and giant “Pain You Enjoy” letters on the back. I actually like the shirt in the sense that it stands out from the rest of my race shirts but i definitely heard some complaints that people didn’t care for it. The race medal was really nice, it is a large spinner medal so the outside of the medal is a solid ring with a disc in the middle that can spin. Another unique addition to my collection, the only negative would be that it doesn’t have anywhere to have my name and PR time engraved but I still really like it. Another thing they do that I liked is that the race bib isn’t simply a rectangle. The top of the bib is jagged and has a mountainous design, I have done a few other races that did something unique like this but little touches like this are things that I love about a race.
PARKING/ACCESS: This is a point to point course so you park near the finish and take a bus up to the start in the mountains. Parking was at a shopping mall and more than abundant. The buses were easy to find and had plenty of room although I got there pretty early so there wasn’t much of a line yet. Once on the bus you drive up a highway into the mountains where they drop you off at the start area. There were plenty of outhouses at the start, especially if you kept walking towards the start line from the drop off area and didn’t just stop at the first one you found. One thing to know though is that even during the summer it gets very cold up there at 4:30 am, waiting for the 6am start time. They do however have camp fire barrels set up along the start area to keep warm which I really welcomed. They had a big truck right by the start line to check your bag which really just meant have your bag labeled and throw it in the back of a UPS truck but that did allow you to keep your warm up clothes on until only 10-15 minutes before the race. As for getting back to your car after the race the finish and the parking lot are over a mile apart and while you could walk it they do have buses to get you there which were easy to use.
Course/Aid Stations/Elevation: Aid stations were spaced every 2 miles or so throughout the course and were well stocked with water and electrolytes. Because you are running through a canyon there isn’t much crowd support during the majority of the course until you get near Provo/the finish but you don’t really mind it. The canyon portion of the course is very pretty, there are waterfalls and nice views and while you are running the sun is rising so it only adds to the beauty. As for the elevation I found this to be the easiest elevation race I have ever run. It was almost entirely a very very gentle downhill with only 2 minor uphills. The great part about the downhills was that the gradient was so slight that it helped you keep running fast while never feeling like you were pounding your knees trying to slow yourself down as you would if you were running down a steeper hill. The only reason I didn’t rate this as a 1 star elevation difficulty is that all downhill running can be very hard on your quads. I’m sure the people in the full marathon felt it, I didn’t have any issues during my race but during the next 1-3 days I thought it was weird that my quads were really sore until I realized that the elevation is what did it. I’m sure some people started to feel it during the race which could at least add a little difficulty. This race is made for you to PR and I managed to finish in 1:29:56 for a PR, finally breaking 1:30.
Race Management: I really enjoyed the execution of this race. Busing to the start was smooth, fires and plenty of bathrooms at the start was great. They have a beautiful downtown finish location by the courthouse after you pass by BYU (the edge of campus so unless you know its there you wouldn’t assume it was a university you were passing). They have several other nice touches like a PR gong which you can ring, you tube videos of the finish so that you can see how you finished, and FREE pictures. They had finish time printouts which you could get to show your results.They also had lots of free food at the finish including Popsicles and cinnabon. The bag pickup area is a little concerning because they just lay everyone’s bags out and you just grab yours with no real security but it didn’t seem to be an issue.
I do want so give one final shout out to the race management for going above and beyond for me. For the first time in my life I placed in my age group at a race but I didn’t realize that they gave awards out all the way to 5th in your age group instead of 3rd so after my wife finished we went home. I later realized that if I had waited around for 15 more minutes I would have received by age group award but by that time I had already flown home to Washington state, after several emails I was able to get a hold of the race director who I offered to send money to in order to ship me my plaque. They said they would figure something out and then shipped it to me for free. I know it only cost them a few dollars but it did take their time and it was just a really nice gesture on their part which I appreciate. I have my eye on this race for future years when I might try to get my full marathon BQ here.
Famous Idaho Potato Marathon
A Fun Filled Potato Celebration Race
Famous Idaho Potato Marathon
I finally got the chance to run a half marathon in my home state and I was very pleased that this was the race that I selected. EXPO: I was … MORE
I finally got the chance to run a half marathon in my home state and I was very pleased that this was the race that I selected.
EXPO: I was not able to go to the expo proper the because I didn’t fly in until Friday evening and the race was on Saturday. My parents picked up my race bib for me which they told me was easy and smooth with plenty of parking and easy access. The said the expo was pretty small but had a decent number of booths.
Parking/Access: There are two options in regards to getting to the start, you can get dropped off at Lucky Peak Park or you can park at the finish and take the bus to the start. I chose the option of getting dropped off since I had family in the area and I thought this worked out really well. We had no problems getting in and out although if you were running late it might have been hard since they stopped letting cars in and stopping along the highway would be problematic. The bus option seemed to work well for most people as they were steadily being dropped off. Apparently there were some traffic issues that caused the final bus to be late but they were kind enough to delay the start by 10 minutes so that everybody could start together, although jumping off a bus with no time to stretch and then quickly toss your gear bag was probably less than ideal I think that is more on the people for cutting things so close with which bus they chose than a negative reflection on the race. Parking at the finish was plentiful and pretty much 100 yards or less from the finish line. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
T-Shirts/SWAG: I am never a fan of shirts and medals celebrating the number of years of a race because they often look similar and are not very creative. The grey shirt is good quality and soft, a potato of course easily lends itself to act as the ‘0’ in writing and they used that here as well. I don’t hate it like some of the anniversary races I have done, but I didn’t love it either. The logo was repeated on the race medal. It is a small but sturdy gold medal with the race logo on it and a relatively small lanyard compared to most races. Again good but not great so a solid 3 stars.
Course/Aid Stations/Elevation: Aid stations throughout the course were at good intervals and had both water and electrolytes. They went pretty smooth although a few of the aid station volunteers were not doing enough vocalizing who had water vs. electrolytes so i missed getting anything at the final aid station but I find it hard to really be critical of people who volunteered their time early on a Saturday just to hand out water to sweaty runners for a couple hours. I chalk this up to just some bad luck and since I was towards the front they probably figured it out as things went along.
The elevation on the course was very easy. You pretty much follow a very slow gentle downhill along the river from Lucky Peak to downtown. I think the worse hill on the course was going over an overpass over the Boise river and even that isn’t much of a hill to speak of.
The course itself was a pretty diverse mix of scenery. You start by running out of Lucky Peak through the canyon along the highway with the river at your side. You then get to run along the base of the Boise Foothills before turning and running on the greenbelt for several miles. Towards the end when you are entering downtown you run through a few neighborhoods and over a couple bridges before reaching the finish. No major cool Boise landmarks on the course, but enjoyable and pretty just the same.
Race Management: This is a smaller race, ~900 people in the half but I still feel like they did a really good job with it. Everything was pretty easy to manage and navigate and I really didn’t have any complaints. The finish area was quite enjoyable and had the giant potato truck for some pictures as well as quite a few booths with chocolate milk and of course their signature baked potato bar. I have to admit that when I heard about the baked potato bar at the finish, I thought it was a cute local idea but not likely something I would enjoy at 8:30 am. When I finished however I decided to give it a try and to their credit they had all the toppings you could want on a baked potato. I also need to admit that while I originally thought that a baked potato would not sound good after a run, I was very very wrong. A carb rich baked potato right after a run was amazing! It was a uniquely Idaho way of finishing things and I loved it.
Another nice thing about running a race back home was seeing current students from my high school running and representing as well as running into several old high school cross country teammates and friends. I’m sure this type of thing is common for people who still live near where they grew up but for me coming from out of town it was a great bonus.
New York City Marathon
The Most Amazing Race Experience Ever
New York City Marathon
This was a truly amazing experience. I have run large races before but this race was on an entirely different scale. It is also a race that I will never … MORE
This was a truly amazing experience. I have run large races before but this race was on an entirely different scale. It is also a race that I will never forget.
I managed to get extremely lucky and get in via the lottery on my first attempt. This race also thankfully gives you a 9 month lead time to plan and prepare since you are notified of your acceptance pretty soon after you apply. This should be standard (WTF London Marathon). They do a good job of sending you lots of emails in the months leading up to the race, lots of them are ad type things but you can’t just ignore them all because important things like your registration confirmation email which you have to take to bib pick up is sent via email, the ferry/bus selection email and well as the email notifying you of your need to pick a post race poncho or check a bag are in there as well so it is not all spam.
I flew cross country from Seattle on Thursday and then went to our hotel on the upper west side. I highly recommend staying in the upper west side if you can afford it for two reasons: First the exit for people who got post race ponchos dumps out there so you can find hotels that are only a few blocks from the finish, also the #1 red subway line has various stops in the area and drops off at the Staten Island ferry which is also how I recommend that you get to the start line. You can take the #1 red line without having to make any transfers.
It is important to arrive a few days early to adjust to the time change, but unless you are from the area you will likely want to see some of the sights while also trying to stay off your feet. A few things I would recommend are taking in a Broadway or off Broadway show and then something I never would have though of on my own was the bus tour of the marathon route that my wife bought for me. This was nice for two reasons, it allowed me to see the city and familiarize myself with the course and hills. It also allowed me to have a much better picture of the course in my head in my memories, when I am racing I tend to get in a zone and don’t really notice the scenery around me, i tried to do a little more of this while I ran this race but there are many things I would not have seen without the bus tour.
We took the subway across town to get to the EXPO which was a thing to behold. A massive building with banners and decorations everywhere. If you really only want to get in and out to get your bib then you would have an easy time because it was very well organized and not crowded. The rest of the expo was actually quite crowded even on Friday afternoon/evening when I was there. There was tons of merchandise (something I never buy at expos but for a marathon major i made exceptions) and tons of vendors selling everything under the sun. An expo tip for NYC would be that if you find something you like but they only have the item available in giant sizes that won’t fit you, you can find it all online in the weeks after the race for the same price or cheaper. Just take pictures of the tags and item numbers and get it shipped to you, very easy. Do yourself a favor and buy a shirt or two for the memories then at least spend some time walking around. They also have a booth where you can find all of the pacers (I was able to meet the guy I would be running with 3:15) and they also have pace bands you can put on your wrist which would give you all your split times for your goal pace.
GETTING TO THE START:
I was scheduled to take the 6:15 Staten Island ferry since I was in Wave 1 (9:50 start time). I took the red #1 line from the upper west side and got to the terminal around 6 am. The terminal was packed and it quickly became apparent that I would not make the 6:15 ferry. My family and I were able to make the 6:30 ferry, barely. The ferry is nice because it allows you to sit down during the transit and it also allows you to go to the bathroom if needed which you can’t do if you take the bus. The ferry also goes close to the statue of liberty which means you can get some nice pictures. Once you get off the ferry things get much more crowded. My family took the free ferry back to Manhattan before heading to the course while I got in a giant line of people waiting for the bus. This probably took close to an hour slowly shuffling forward in a giant crowd of people before we made it to the bus. Then it was a 15 minute drive to the unloading area and another bit of a walk to the start area, security was very tight between the bus and the start area.
THE START AREA:
I found this area to be remarkably easy to navigate and really not overly crowded. I was able to find a place to sit down, I was able to walk around and get some free breakfast and the bathroom lines were very short. This all must be taken under the lens of me being there from 8:30-9:00am, i was leaving in wave 1 so not many people from later waves were there, I’m sure things got a little more crowded as the day went on and people who missed their start mixed with people who made it on time. I had warm throw away clothes from good will and was not checking a bag (they still give you a bag for the start area so you can carry a few things), which is what I highly recommend you do. When I entered my corral they had a little walled off area with bins for throw away clothes and plenty of bathrooms although finding a place to really stretch out was a little tight. We were in this area for a long time (probably 30 minutes) but it was completely fine. You then trudge to the start area in a big crowd and hear the national anthem and cannons.
The first two miles of the course are the bridge, it is both oddly quiet as there are no spectators but also exciting because you are so amped up to start the race. Do yourself a favor and make sure to take in the view while you are on the bridge. If you are on the lower deck stay near the center as people are famous for peeing off the upper deck and showering those below them. I really don’t understand why because I found bathrooms to be plentiful in the start village.
When you come off the bridge the spectators are there in full force, make sure to move to the side from time to time to get some high fives. Also if you can write your name on your shirt do it because people will cheer for you directly. Brooklyn is most peoples favorite part of the course due to both the fan support and I suspect that fact that you always feel your best during the early part of the race. You are on slow rolling hills that you need to be careful on to keep your pace. People were on their stoops cheering, church choirs were out front cheering, it was amazing. Queens had fewer fans and was pretty short before you head to Manhattan via the queens-borough bridge.
That bridge SUCKS, it feels like a 1.5 mile uphill that just wont ever end. The downhill into the wall of sound in Manhattan is great and gives you a lift but that bridge really takes something out of you. The early miles in Manhattan were well attended and fun and it where you finally really have room to spread out across the full breadth of the road. The long straight to the Bronx can really feel long since there is not much to break up the monotony. The Bronx was also quick but well attended and had good cheering sections but it is also at the 20 mile mark so you will probably start to feel it at this stage.
Coming back into Manhattan there is a very long slow uphill which really started to hurt my pace until you finally reach Central Park. It was a minor boost to make it there and know only 3 miles remained but I was getting tired so it felt super hilly and hard and I wasn’t able to enjoy the beauty because I just was ready to be done. You leave the park for a quick half mile then enter back in on the southern end of the park to “sprint” to the finish. I crossed the line with a 3:18:15 PR. My GPS watch showed I ran an extra half mile which of course is partly due to satellites but also due to not being able to cut tangents due to how crowded it was and due to the amount of weaving around people I was doing. The course doesn’t have steep hills other than the bridges but it is almost never flat, lots of slow uphills and downhills, I would call the elevation deceptively hard. Aid stations throughout the course were plentiful and well stocked, due to the number of racing amateurs you will likely encounter aid stations can be a bit frustrating with people who get a cup and just stop dead in their tracks nearly causing collisions, but that is not the fault of the race just inexperience.
The finish chute is long, very long. You get your medal and lots of pictures taken then have to walk a good .5-.7 miles even if you did the poncho option which is much shorter than the walk to the gear check line. You get a finishers bag with some food and then you get the wonderful fleece lined poncho. We had some drizzling rain through most of my race so this poncho felt fantastic. I can’t recommend the poncho option over the gear check option enough.
The free shirt is long sleeve and pretty nice. The design and things were not amazing but because of the race it represents I still really like it. The medal is all one color and if it were a normal race you would call it pretty bland but the medal has been similar for so long that I would call it more classic and understated and again is one I cherish.
First class all the way. It is crowded and you are on your feet for a long time before the race, but when you consider the logistics of organizing the largest marathon in the world and making it go as smoothly as it does it really is amazing. The app they have for the race is great because they have timers at every single mile so your family will have an easy time tracking where you are within less than 5 minutes. Make sure to set up places on the course where you know your family will be, the crowds can be 5-10 people deep in places so you need to know exactly where they will be and again where they will be after the finish so you can find them.
If you like to run, do this race, enter every year for years if you have to, but if you get the chance to run it you will never regret it.
Labor Day Half Marathon & 5K
Inexpensive Race, Huge Blunder in 2017
Labor Day Half Marathon & 5K
I would rate this race higher but during the 2017 race they committed the cardinal sin of race management. Their course was too short by between .5 and .6 miles … MORE
I would rate this race higher but during the 2017 race they committed the cardinal sin of race management. Their course was too short by between .5 and .6 miles
Expo Quality: I didn’t attend the Expo proper but the morning of there were a few booths set up around the start area which seemed appropriate for a race of this size.
Parking/Access: This race was run out of a mall parking lot which meant that parking was plentiful and easy to find very close to the start area. Probably the easiest access of any race I have ever run.
Shirts/SWAG: The shirt for this race was actually a pullover which was a nice change of pace from the many T-shirts you begin to accumulate over time while racing. The medal was also of nice quality and size. No real complaints although the designs were nothing special which is why only 4 stars.
Course/Elevation/Aid Stations: Aid stations were pretty spread out on this course which adds a little difficulty especially when this was such a hot day, but I didn’t find them to be lacking in water/electrolytes and the number of stations was decent for a race of this size. It really is a flat course for the most part, you essentially run a big loop/square, the first half along the shoulder of a road and the 2nd half along a green belt path. About the half was point in the course you find the only out an back, just a quick jut up the trail for what should be a half mile to add distance before rounding a cone and following the green belt back to the finish. This is where the error was made, likely just a miscommunication between a volunteer and an official who told them to put a cone at a half mile, someone thought it meant total distance added, the other thought it meant a half mile out and a half mile back, most people with GPS watches immediately noticed that the 6 and 7 mile markers were way to close but hoped that it was just a misplaced mile marker and not an error on the course, sadly it was the latter. The first half of the course is not very pretty and just along the road, the 2nd half if really quite nice along the green belt and is enjoyable.
Race Management: Aside from the already discussed short course I have a few other things that could be improved and some to really compliment. No real start corrals or division by expected pace meant quite a jumble at the start and some very slow people to dodge in the first few hundred yards, very frustrating. Also the green belt is still fully open to the public which means people running on the course or walking on it sometimes in the opposite direction. Some things to compliment, aside from the ease of access they had plenty of port-o-potties to use before the race although they were not immediately noticeable and instead people were waiting in huge lines for the public mall bathrooms. Also I’m a sucker for any event that has a free kids race/ kids dash which helps get the future generations of runners interested.
Overall if they didn’t mess up the course I would give this race a 3 star rating and am still willing to recommend it. If they could keep the course a little more closed and do a better job separating people by pace I would even consider giving it 4 stars.
Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego
Good fun well attended large race
Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego
This was a well organized fun half marathon. I would certainly do it again. Expo: This is a Rock & Roll series race so it is going to have a … MORE
This was a well organized fun half marathon. I would certainly do it again.
Expo: This is a Rock & Roll series race so it is going to have a large well attended expo. If you want to get in and out quick and just grab your bib it is pretty easy, the Events Center is big and well laid out for these kinds of things. If you want to walk around the expo you can find all sorts of things to fit your running needs. The only annoying part of this expo location is that there is virtually zero parking in the area unless you have someone drop you off you are going to have to pay
T-Shirts/SWAG: I was a bit disappointed in the medal and shirt for this year, it was the 20th year for the event and the shirt celebrated that with balloons but nothing on the front unique to San Diego. The finishers medal was similarly disappointing, it was meant to look like a silver colored vinyl record complete with a middle spinning disc but in the end just looks like a big silver circle with again nothing unique to San Diego about it. Other years have looked much better so hopefully this was just a one off problem. The shirt and medal are both of high quality the designs just felt like they were lacking.
Parking/Access: Parking was going to be difficult for this race since the start and finish were a decent ways apart and parking isn’t plentiful for a race this size. I was dropped off by a friend which made things pretty easy, they were doing a good job policing the drop off area and it was an short walk to the park where I could do my pre race routine and stretching.
Course/Elevation/Aid Stations: Aid stations during the course were well stocked and offered electrolytes and water. They were also well spaced throughout the course. The race started on the edge of Balboa park then headed to the northeast winding through neighborhoods. The elevation changes at this point were not much although the scenery of just running through neighborhoods was nothing very exciting compared to the overall beauty of what i normally think of in regards to San Diego. Eventually you head back towards the park and go up a decent sized hill entering the park, then a pretty significant downhill through the park before heading to downtown and finishing on a nice decline. The course is pretty flat overall but the few hills there are can be a bit steep both uphill and downhill which left my hip a bit sore by the finish.
Race Management: They did a good job with this race. The corrals are well managed and the finishers area was well organized and very large, it was pretty easy to meet up with family and friends near the waterfront when I was done. An unusual thing I will give the race credit for managing was when someone went through cones and drove onto the marathon course at some point there were quick notifications and the police were all over it (this didn’t affect me in the half thankfully). This race also started really early in the day, 6 am, which was a tough start but also made sense considering how hot the weather can get especially for those running the full at a slower pace. The bands along the course also offer a welcome break along the route. The combination of the bands, cheerleaders, and start corral organization are all things that I really enjoy about Rock and Roll races.
Overall this race isn’t particularly pretty other than when you run through the park however the management and size of the event make it fun and worth it.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas
If you only run one Half, make this it
Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas
This was a very unique experience and one of the most fun races that I have ever done. The combination of the bands, running at night, the lights of the … MORE
This was a very unique experience and one of the most fun races that I have ever done. The combination of the bands, running at night, the lights of the strip, and just being in Vegas make this a destination race that every runner should do at least once. I often tell my friends who are not serious runners or who would like to do a half marathon once just to say they have done it that this is the race for them. Yes the entry fee is a little steep even with early entry and yes the combination of flying to Vegas/getting a hotel can be expensive but it is an extremely unique experience that you won’t forget. Can’t recommend it enough, now the details:
Expo: All R&R Races have good expos but since Vegas is their biggest event it also has the biggest expo. Plus Vegas is kind of made for conventions/events. You can find pretty much anything you would need/want at a running expo of this size. Its as close to a marathon major expo as you will find without actually being at a major. Getting in and out of this expo was a bit harder than most smaller races but taking the bus there was pretty easy, just crowded inside.
Parking/Access: Parking is actually decent at/around hotels in Vegas but some could be pretty far from the start/finish. The best advice I can give would be to stay at a hotel between the start and finish (you can see them on a course map). We stayed at the Luxor which is right by the start and was actually a lucky break that we didn’t stay near the finish because the finishers chute in Vegas is actually quite long so it takes you quite a ways back towards the start and backtracking up the course can be difficult due to the crowds cheering the finish and the ever growing pack of finishers milling around.
SWAG: There was a decent amount of freebies in the bag they give you at the expo, more than most races. The shirt was a bright neon yellow which can look a bit crazy if you just want to wear it around but it showed well in a night race and it is actually a good shirt to wear if you are running in the early morning or near dusk when visibility to cars can be hard. The event design was pretty blah on the shirt. The finishers medal was a unique slot machine design where the slot machine wheels were cards that could flip from symbols to a 13.1 or 26.2 depending on your distance, very cool.
Course/Aid Stations/Elevation: It doesn’t get much easier elevation wise than a pancake flat course, a complete non issues. Aid stations were also well stocked and well spaced, i heard there were a few issues with temporarily running out of things for the later runners. Also for aid stations it should be noted that this race has a TON of first time half marathoners and other people who may not be well versed in the etiquette of starting in your correct corral and how to go through an aid station. Many of my slower friends and family said they would be running behind someone when they got to an aid station then the person would take the cup of water and then stop dead in their tracks and then get run into. It’s one of those things that you don’t know until you run a few races but it certainly can be frustrating and a little dangerous for those used to drinking on the go or getting a cup and then moving to the side after they get their cup so they can drink. As for the course itself it was really cool, you started with a quick out and back around the welcome to Las Vegas sign then started a 5-6 mile straight run back past the start towards the heart of the strip, it is such a long straight stretch that it makes it hard to motivate yourself with the usual tactics of just run hard to that corner etc but the cheering and lights and scenery make up for it. Around the 8 mile mark you make a quick jut off the strip before coming back on Freemont street then heading back down the strip. Heads up for those who are unprepared like me and the pack I was running in were for Freemont street. There is a 30 foot tall metal praying mantis that every so often shoot explosions of flames out the top of its head. It sent a group of us cowering and ducking a few steps to the side when it scared the crap out of us, very cool if you are expecting it, heart attack if not.
Running back to the finish was a bit into the wind but it is not consistent because the casinos will shelter you off and on. The wind blows strong through the gap between the buildings then shoots up both directions of the course so you end up running with the wind in your face as you near an intersection then get it at your back for a little while as you continue past the intersection. The finishers chute is long, it can take a while to get through it, get your gear and then get back towards the finish if you are trying to watch family and friends. Also you want to make sure you have warm clothes in your gear check back as you will cool down quickly at night since you will be sweaty.
Race Management: They do a great job at this race, the corrals are well organized and so is the entire event. One thing that can be challenging for slower runners is that because there are so many corrals the slower people can be waiting a long time to start. They also enforce the time limit pretty strictly with a car picking up stragglers which can make for a tight window for people starting in the back to finish, they probably really need to work on starting that hard time limit when the final people start not when the first people do. Overall though I can’t recommend this race enough.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland 1/2 Marathon
Great Half Marathon, very fast course
Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland 1/2 Marathon
I set my Half Marathon PR on this course by several minutes. It is really well set up for running fast. EXPO: This was a well put together EXPO although … MORE
I set my Half Marathon PR on this course by several minutes. It is really well set up for running fast.
EXPO: This was a well put together EXPO although parking an access was a bit difficult which can be expected in most major cities when the EXPO is downtown. As with most Rock and Roll races the EXPO is really well done and large with numerous vendors and things to do.
Parking/Access: Parking in any major city especially near an event is going to be terrible. We took the MAX light rail system which made things a breeze. Plenty of parking at those locations and easy train access in and out of the event.
SWAG: I love my Portland Rock and Roll shirt, several of the shirts I have from the R&R series are a bit hit and miss but i loved the big block Portland letters with scenes from the city inside the letters and the little series name and city logo down around your hip on your back. Very unique. Most Rock and Roll series medals are nice but I especially love my Portland one, the Lanyard/Ribbon that goes around your neck is plaid (very Portland) then in the middle of the medal the shape of Oregon is punched out as a hole and the hole even has a bottle opener on it. I don’t even drink and I think that feature is amazing and unlike anything I have on any of my other medals in my collection.
Course/Elevation/Aid Stations: The course started with a quick out and back covering the first 3 miles on the west side of the river before going up an overpass then across a bridge to the east side of the river, and few quick turns and then a slow gentle up hill heading east for the next 3-4 miles. While a long uphill sounds terrible when it is gentle like this is doesn’t break up your stride where you are running on the balls of your feet. Also after a mile heading north at the top you turn back towards the river for 3-4 miles of gentle downhill. This was perfect for the 2nd half of a race and really helped you keep your pace as you began to tire. We crossed another bridge over the river then turned south for the final mile along the river. This course took my PR from a 1:35 to a 1:31, a large jump which i attribute to the course and the cool overcast conditions. The aid stations were well stocked and well spaced. They gave out GU at the halfway point.
Race Management: As with any R&R event the management is well done. They have pacing groups of all speeds and abilities and do a good job managing corrals so that people are spread out with people of similar abilities. The bands on the course are actually quite entertaining and really break up the monotony of a long run/race.
I highly recommend this race, sadly it has been discontinued though 🙁
Mercer Island Half Marathon
A Fun Inexpensive Local Race
Mercer Island Half Marathon
I have actually run this race 4 times, 2011-2014 but decided to combine my reviews all into one since my experience was similar during each of them. Full Disclosure I … MORE
I have actually run this race 4 times, 2011-2014 but decided to combine my reviews all into one since my experience was similar during each of them. Full Disclosure I am also writing this review several years after the race so the race experience may have changed over time however the course has still remained the same.
This was actually the first half marathon I ever ran, and ended up being the first 4 of the over 15 that I have now completed.
EXPO/PARKING: I have never gone to the proper expo for this race and have instead always used the morning of packet pick up option. The day of there isn’t much of an EXPO to speak of but a few things are set up. This has always been no problem and I have easily been able to get into the area and get my packet in mere minutes. Parking has also rarely been an issue although it is a bit of a walk to the race site and I tend to arrive pretty early for a race because I prefer to be relaxed and have lots of time before a race. Most of the parking is in various strip malls near the race site or in surrounding garages although parking was always free.
SWAG: If you run the half you always get a long sleeved tech shirt which is nice. Most of mine look pretty similar just in various colors although one of them is covered in footprints which makes it a unique addition to my collection. Not much else to speak of in the SWAG bag. If you run the 5 or 10k you get a short sleeve shirt. There was no finishers medal in 2011 or 2012, 2013 & 2014 did have ones but they were cheap and flimsy, I’m sure this has improved.
Course/Elevation/Aid Stations: The race starts and ends at the Mercer Island Community Events Center. The start lines up along a driveway that dumps out onto a main road. It can be a little crowded for the first mile or so before people start to spread out. The course essentially just runs around the entire perimeter of the island. You are not running directly on the water but you can see the water through the trees and houses as you run. The trees and crazy expensive houses make for a nice view while you run. After the first mile or so the course narrows down to the right hand lane (water always on your left) which it maintains for the duration of the race aside from a quick use of a greenbelt in the final mile or so to get you back towards the finish. The course is almost all gentle rolling hills and turns. If you have ever driven a mountain road along a river you get a feel for the bendy nature of this road. At the 11 mile mark or so there is a pretty significant hill. Aid Stations are about every 1.5-2 miles (7 total) and have both water and some form of electrolyte drinks, they also give you a Gu packet at around the 7 mile mark. I’m fairly speedy so there is always still liquid available but I haven’t heard friends complain about them running out.
Race Management: This a pretty well run race, especially for the price, (normally <$50 as late as Christmas time). Volunteers were nice and helpful. My only real gripe is as someone decently quick (~1:35 pace) the division of people by expected finish time/pace was not well managed. They have signs up which hopefully would get people sorted where they should be but it feels like many people ignore it and then crowd towards the front which can make the start a bit dangerous and frustrating as you dodge around people, a few of whom are even walking 100 yards into the course.
One other nice thing that I’ve never seen at another race is they have a walking half marathon option that starts 1.5 hours before the runners, dodging the walkers as early as mile 7-8 can be a minor annoyance but having a walking half option is a really nice touch for people who are not quite ready to run one. They also have a kids dash which while I didn’t have children at the time of the race I now really appreciate.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle
First Marathon, Big Fan of R&R Series
Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle
This was my first ever full marathon so it is also one I will never forget. At the time this was the largest race that I had run. Full disclosure … MORE
This was my first ever full marathon so it is also one I will never forget. At the time this was the largest race that I had run. Full disclosure I am writing this review several years later so the course is now much different but the race experience remains similar.
EXPO: No day of pick up which is to be expected for a race this size, they had the expo in the events center attached to the Seahawks Stadium. I went in the evening after work so parking and getting to the expo was not really an issue if you know where the free parking is (most who have been to Mariners games know). As with any other Rock and Roll series the EXPO is really large and filled with vendors of all kinds and you can get your running needs met. I bought a few shirts to commemorate the experience (again first marathon) while I now tend to buzz in and out and just get my bib.
SWAG: A few coupons and pieces of food from around town but nothing special. The finishers medals as with all the rock and roll races is solid and nicely made and shows off the scenery of the city. The short sleeve tech T shirt was nothing special although the design is mildy interesting.
Parking/Access: This was a point to point course from Boeing Field to the Mariners/Seahawks stadiums finish, this means that someone had to drop my off. The course has changed nearly every year some as a loop some as a point to point which means you either need to get dropped off or find parking in downtown, neither of which is easy/cheap.
Course/Aid Stations/Elevation: The course started near Boeing Field which isn’t a real pretty area and made its way towards lake Washington where we ran along the water which was really pretty. We reached I-90 and the half/full split happened at around the 9 mile mark. The half marathon people headed for the stadiums/finish, the full marathon people got on the I-90 express lanes and headed on an out and back along the freeway to Mercer island and back (this was safely guarded by barriers and was actually pretty cool, friends who are slower or ran in hotter years have told me this stretch can be hot/brutal due to the lack of shade). The course headed back towards downtown through the I-90 tunnel which was really cool and had a band inside. After running by the stadiums we ran on through some of the tunnels and roads all the way towards the Freemont bridge over lake union where we turned around and ran back on HW99 and then the viaduct (RIP) before finishing in front of Safeco field. Running on the top level of the viaduct made for some really pretty views.
It’s Seattle so of the course was hilly which can be difficult especially at the end of a race (did they really need to make us run back up to the top level of the viaduct at mile 24.5 just to run down the off ramp to the stadiums a half mile later?)
Aid Stations were plentiful throughout the course, I’m pretty quick (3:22) so there was plenty of liquid there when I ran through but I have not heard of friends telling me they ran out at any time. They also handed out Gu packs twice on the course.
Race Management: I love how the R&R series does starts and uses Corrals, they do a decent job of policing things and then they give a little gap between letting each group start which means that you are running almost entirely with people with the same goal pace as you (you can also change your corral at the expo if your expected time changes). Also this meant that it took only 2-3 minutes before I had room to run and stride out since they close the entire street that the race is on. The bands on the course are a really nice break every mile or two even though you only get to listen for a few minutes. Also something that I thought was really cheesy when I heard about it was how they ask the cheerleaders from local schools to come out and cheer for the runners (elementary through high school). For the first 20 miles or so I ignored them and ran by them, but towards the end of the race especially when crowd support was sparse I really really appreciated the encouragement and now always give a wave and say thank you when I run by similar groups in races.
I highly recommend R&R race series events due to their high level of management. The Seattle event continues to be one of their best and most attended.