Latest reviews by Meridith Daniel

(2017)
"A1A Half Marathon (with an extra .2 for good luck!)"
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My parents live in Pompano Beach, Florida and have been pushing this race for a few years (since the full marathon goes past their house). The timing coincided with a last minute trip I had planned to visit them and I was able to register 2 weeks before the race. Having a place to stay and a mom to chauffeur me around during race weekend was an added bonus and kept costs down.

We visited the expo on Friday afternoon, right as it opened. My expo experience was quick and easy. It had great embellishments like a wrapped Lexus with all of the runner's names, as well as a wall from Dick's Sporting Goods that had the names of the runners. I grabbed my bib, bag, and shirt (a little off with the sizing of the women's cut) and I was set!

There was a heat advisory for the day of the race. Race organizers did a great job of keeping everyone informed through email and posts to Facebook. I was surprised that they don't have more of a presence on Twitter, since that's something I'm used to with big races. Given that it was going to be so warm, I made sure to hydrate the day before the race and planned to stop at every water station.

The race was schedule to begin at 6am, which meant that I set my alarm for 4am. The early start made sense in Florida, as the day goes on the hotter it gets. Super mom was able to drop me about a block from the start line (because she's awesome). I assumed that she would drive home and then come get me later, after the race. Instead she parked her car nearby and stayed for the entire race. (Again, because she's awesome!)

Going into the race, I had two goals. Have fun and get it done! I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be setting any records, so originally I placed myself near the 2:45 half pacer and figured I would see if I could hang with him for awhile.

We started the race just after 6am and I had a smile on my face as we took off down Las Olas Blvd.

But we came to a screeching halt .2 miles in when we watched in disbelief as the arms at the railroad crossing came down and we heard the low horn of what can only be described as the longest train in the history of trains.

Thankfully the race organizers decided to bring everyone that was stopped by the train back to the start and we were able to begin the race again. There was an audible collective sigh of relief when they walked through the crowd to reel us back in.

We started once again and the false start just reaffirmed my plan to take it easy and enjoy. Since we wound up starting a half hour later than planned the sun was coming up and it was warming considerably.

The first water stop was short on volunteers I wonder if they thought that the runners had all passed through with the first wave of people that made it before the train. The volunteers that were there hustled to make sure that everyone got cups of water. I was very grateful for them!

Just before mile 3, my mom was cheering and I was so happy to see her along the course! I got a little teary-eyed as I continued along on my way but then reminded myself that I needed to stop so I didn't dehydrate myself, especially as we turned onto A1A, right along the beach.

The sun was strong and I was looking for some sort of respite. Thankfully, right past mile 4, we turned into Hugh Taylor Birch Street Park and its beautiful canopy of trees. We looped through the park for miles 5 and 6 and eventually came out around the area we entered.

I was very impressed with throughout the entire race was the flow of things. Even though the runners were on the road, they had some lanes open to cars. There were police and other volunteers stationed at each intersection and I felt safe the entire race.

Around mile 7 I was getting a bit more sluggish and decided to switch from 2:1 intervals to 1:1 intervals. That was the right call for me and I continued on along the route, smiling all the way.

I bopped to my music, thanked every volunteer I saw, pressed on multiple signs for a power boost, pet dogs, and oh, stopped at the unofficial beer station!

There were a multitude of photographers on the course and they snagged nearly 20 pictures of me through the race. Even though it wasn't a fast race for me, I actually purchased the pictures because I look like I'm having a blast in nearly every single one of them. And I was!

I saw my mom once more, around mile 12, and then headed to the finish. The finish line was a little confusing because there was a Publix inflatable we ran under and then a bit further up the actual finish line. I just kept running until I saw the timing mats and medal racks!

The medals are gorgeous and open in a locket style to reveal more beauty. From what I understand, they are different every year and I can see the draw to return for the medals alone (although the course and support were pretty fantastic too).

The finish line party was impressive! Tons of vendors giving away lots of drinks and food. There was a picture opportunity with a sand sculpture but there was a long line so I continued on my way and met up with my mom.

I'm so grateful I had the chance to run this race! Even though it was hot and I thought I was melting, it reminded me how much fun I can have while running. It was a bucket filler race and I'm so glad that I did it!

For more pictures and wordiness from me (is that possible?), feel free to swing by: http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/02/22/fort-lauderdale-a1a-half-marathon-2017/

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(2017)
"Runners+Chili+Beer"
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What exactly is The Chili Run? It’s an out and back, 2 mile race in Pitman, New Jersey hosted by Good Day for a Run. It starts and finishes at a favorite restaurant of my family’s, Carolina Blue. After the run, that’s where the chili and beer comes in!

Registration was $35 after a group discount, plus a processing fee.

There was race day pick-up, as well as multiple times/days at the South Jersey Running Co. Packets consisted of the race bib and the swag: a cute little chili bowl and matching spoon. I ran with my friend, Rachel. She did day of pick-up while I went to the Mullica Hill Running Co. the day before. Both were quick and easy.

Parking was a non-issue - everyone parked at either the restaurant or the overflow lot across the street at a local business (there was consent and the race director mentioned it in communication prior to the race).

Prior to the start, we hung out in the heated tent area of Carolina Blue. It was a runner’s reunion, seeing both new and old running pals.

The race started at 10am. Usually races start right around sunrise so this was appreciated. We headed to the start around 10 minutes before 10am; after announcements, safety information, and the National Anthem, we were off.

The weather was perfect and hills were, well, hills. It was only 2 miles so we prepared for the challenge.

The feeling of this race was one of camaraderie, which is always the best feeling, in my opinion! There was a lot of hooting and hollering and high fiving as we passed on the out and back. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time.

After crossing the finish line, it was beer and chili time. We grabbed seats at the bar and enjoyed catching up with friends.

There were other fun things like an ugly sweater contest, prizes for the fastest team, biggest team (yay Run 856/609!), and free photos.

Communication from Ken at Good Day for a Run was fantastic both leading up to the event and after, from the packet pick-up and race information to links with results and pictures.

Because of the venue size the race is limited on the amount of runners that they can have so there are actually two dates for this race. I participated in the January race (which was sold out). There is one in February as well.

For more pictures, please feel free to swing by my blog post: http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/02/01/race-recap-2017-chili-run/

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(2016)
"Course Changes = lots of hills!"
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This is the 3rd time I've participated in the Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon and after experiencing the new course, it might not be a standard go-to race for me anymore.

I attended the expo on Friday at noon, when the doors opened. The expo is held at the Philadelphia Convention Center and the place was teeming with folks there for another event. Add the swarms of runners that were there for the Health and Fitness expo and it was particularly challenging to get in and out of the area quickly.

The shirts are small. Very small. And ill-fitted. Knowing this from the previous year, I got an XL. It fits but honestly, it's not something that I plan to wear. The bottom is baseball shirt cut and overall it's short and I don't have a long torso. I'm guessing those who do would have issues.

There were many changes made to the Philly Marathon weekend. The first change that was made was that the half and full marathons, which were usually both held at the same day and time were split. Which makes sense from a business standpoint. They added the Rocky Challenge, which is for those people who wanted to run both the half and the full races. Good on you, running all the miles folks!

The race weekend, once run by the City of Philadelphia, has been taken on by Philadelphia Parks and Rec (they manage the Broad Street Run as well). Communication prior to the race was a bit on the light side. People asked questions via email and Facebook, many went unanswered. I know there is a learning curve that comes along with these things but I was surprised that there wasn’t better communication, as this isn’t their first race rodeo.

The change that impacted me the most though was… they changed the half marathon course. I take issue with this because I know the old course and I really loved the old course. The new course was less through the city and more through Fairmount Park. Which, while beautiful, is very hilly.

As I am a slower runner, I lined up with the last corral. The first runners began at 7:30. My race started at 8:03. The first mile was very congested but I was feeling great and happy to be running! I noticed there was a lot of construction within this mile, which didn’t help with the squeezed feeling.

I bobbed and weaved in the first two miles but after that I found a good spot and we all spread out. I loved miles 1-5 because they were through the city and there was lots of great crowd support, which isn't necessary but something I can certainly appreciate.

Miles 6 and 7 were along across the river from Boathouse Row. Running along the river was gorgeous. I continued with my 2:1 intervals and was exactly where I wanted to be pace-wise. There was one hill there but again, I expected it because we'd run that part of the course in previous years.

From mile 7 on, it was uncharted territory for me. There was a nice stretch of road and we all continued happily along our way.

Around mile 8 we turned to go up a hill and then it felt like we never stopped going uphill. It was hill.

After hill.

After hill.

Yikes.

Eventually the hills stopped but I was so off my planned pace that I knew my goal of a huge PR was over. I decided to just try to enjoy the rest of the race and go for a smaller PR (which I accomplished!).

Finish line is always fun, especially with the announcers calling out names and welcoming the runners back home. Right after we crossed that line it was kinda of chaotic. It seemed like there were people walking around in the chute everywhere (not just runners).

I found the volunteers giving out medals, which are GORGEOUS! After that I was able to tracked down the food tent by asking other runners. In the past it there were tables in the finish chute so again, it was different than expected. I wish they had bags for us to put items in as they have in past years. It always helps a lot instead of trying to juggle and I hope they decide to add that element back.

Overall, being a repeat runner of this race, I was disappointed. I might need to take a year off from the half to reassess my feelings.

For more pictures and opinions: http://www.scootadoot.org/2016/11/21/philadelphia-half-marathon-2016-recap/

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(2016)
"Tough but fun!"
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The Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10k is a local race (for me) and I was looking forward to returning, as I'd run the bridge in 2012.

Packet pickup was quick and easy - I live right near the South Jersey Running Company in Mullica Hill. When you register you are able to choose your packet pickup location of choice. I was in and out of the store in less than 3 minutes, although they did offer bridge runners 20% off (I refrained but it was a challenge!).

The shirt is a long sleeved cotton t-shirt. You also receive a finisher's medal at the end of the race.

The race emails from the management were informative and they kept good communication lines, which is always appreciated! They suggested getting to the parking lots early and I did just that. Roads apparently started closing around 7am so I arrived at 6:30. Plenty of time to tailgate in my car with water and a banana and play on social media - #runnertailgating.

The race starts on the bridge and ends at Campbell's Field - I'm not sure what they're doing with the stadium now that the Riversharks are no longer playing there but it was well kept and ready to host 4,000 runners and walkers. A plus of being at the stadium was that there are real bathrooms to use prior to the race! Prior to the race they were offering coffee which I saw plenty of people taking advantage of.

The walk from the stadium to the bridge provided a warm up and there were two lines of portapotties along the way.

The race benefits the LARC school, which is a local school that benefits students with disabilities at no cost to the family. It's a great cause and one that I feel really great about supporting while participating in the race.

As the name suggests, there is a bridge involved. The Ben Franklin Bridge, specifically. Once on the bridge, there were no official corrals but they did have pace markers for people to self-seed. I placed myself in between the 11-12 minute mile, which I knew was what I would be doing for this run.

We started exactly at 8:30. I feel like there are two parts of this race. The course begins on the bridge in New Jersey, you run into Philly for the briefest of moments around a loop, and back across the bridge. The second part is through the streets of Camden, along the waterfront, near the Battleship New Jersey, and then back to the stadium. There were 3 water stations and plenty of police and volunteers throughout the route. Not many spectators but the enthusiasm of the volunteers was fantastic!

You finish on the field and immediately after get your medal. I like finishing in the stadium because everything is right there! Plenty of water, chocolate milk, snack bags, bagels, etc. There were lines galore and I wasn't exactly sure what was what so I just found one and stood in it. You can probably imagine my happiness when I found out it was the beer line! SCORE! I think this was the first year that they offered a beer at the end of this race (Yards, for those interested.)

Easy getting to my car and back home before noon! The weather was perfect and it was a great day for a race!

ETA: There were no pictures offered for purchase but the race did post a video of the finish line on their Facebook page.

For more pictures, feel free to swing by my blog post: http://www.scootadoot.org/2016/11/08/2016-cooper-norcross-run-the-bridge-10k/

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(2016)
"Flat, Fast, Fun!"
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The Atlantic City Races are always draw for me! The 10k distance is a favorite distance of mine and I've taken part of this particular race 3 times now. Last weekend was the most recent time and although the weather was dark and stormy, I still loved getting out there and running.

I live close enough that I'm able to drive to the race the same day. In recent years they've added race day packet pick up for $15, which makes sense for me rather than going to the expo the day before and paying the tolls and parking. I've very grateful for that option! Parking is discounted to $5 for race participants, which is otherwise $25 (so make sure to get the coupon at packet pick up).

The 10k race takes place on the boardwalk - running along the casinos, into Ventor City and Margate before turning around at the halfway point and coming back. The start/finish line was near Bally's this year although I've found with past experiences it has floated up or down the boardwalk, depending on which casino/hotel is hosting the event.

Bag check is quick and easy and the race is small enough that there's never much of a wait. Additionally, if it's raining (like it was at my race) you'll find many runners loitering the stairwells and casinos until the last possible minute, waiting for the race to start. It's nice to have that option!

The race started right at 9am, right after the singing of the National Anthem. The 5k had 122 male finishers and 227 female finishers, the 10k had 168 male finishers and 255 female finishers. The races start at the same time with the 5k runners peeling off at their turning point.

There's not much crowd support (especially on a rainy course) but the volunteers at the water stations are absolutely incredible. I've always found running by the ocean to be cathartic. I was nervous the boards might be a little slippery with the rain but I was careful to plant my feet.

I'm a middle to back-of-the-pack run/walker and I'm always appreciative of the enthusiasm and support that I receive along the course and after from the volunteers! This race was especially sweet because I finally broke my old PR time with a finish time of 1:10.

There are medals for the 5k/10k distance and the race village after offered a plethora of snacks (everything from bagels to bananas to clam chowder). Oh, and the best part? A flight of beer with seasonal brews!

The free race photos (also the best part!) arrived a few days later via email, along with a finisher's coupon code for the spring April Fools race.

For more information and pictures, swing by my blog post: http://www.scootadoot.org/2016/10/24/2016-ac-marathon-race-series-10k-recap/

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