Latest reviews by Janelle Johnson

(2016)
"A Blustery Day But A Fantastic Race!"
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I very fortunate to be a Social Runner for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run and received a free entry to the race. Coming from Philadelphia, I was also able to get a free hotel a couple of miles from the race, which was such an amazing gesture.

We arrived late on Friday evening so we waited until Saturday early afternoon to pick up our bibs at the Expo at the National Building Museum. The set-up was very organized and there was a large variety of vendors available for shopping and picking up race discounts. There was also several seminars on Friday and Saturday that were hosted by running professionals and elite runners including Meb!

In 2015, there was an accident the morning of the race in which the organizers had to scramble to shorten the course. This year, the weather forecast wind gusts of over 50 mph. Because of that several changes had to be made - no course signage (including the start/finish line), no awards ceremony, no kids run. Logistically, this made things challenging for the runners, but you can't control the weather! It was a COLD, blustery morning and they just wanted us to run, finish, and get the heck out of there for our personal safety!

The cold, windy weather stunk but it was still a very exciting day with lots of runners ready to brave the wind. This time, I found it much easier to run the first few miles since I (unintentionally) ended up starting in an earlier wave.

The course is beautiful and you get to see the various monuments of Washington, DC. There was great course support which was amazing considering the awful weather. There is a long stretch on Hains Point that can be mentally tough on its own, but it was also physically tough due to the headwinds. Still, I found it pretty enjoyable overall and was happy to have a very strong race!

The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is a lovely race and I will do my best to be back for 2017! The organizers are volunteers are fantastic.

My full recap of the race is on my blog: http://www.runwithnoregrets.com/2016/04/2016-cherry-blossom-10-miler-race-recap/

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(2016)
"An Amazing Race! "
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This was my first year running the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon, and I was extremely nervous about it! I've been training for the Cherry Blossom Run, so I didn't know how I'd be able to run a half marathon and not "race" it since this wasn't my goal race. Thankfully, my concerns were for naught.

The race started at 7:30 and I arrived around 7 pm - I was able to easily drop off my bag with the UPS trucks that would transport our gear. Then I went to the bathroom and saw the longest lines I've EVER seen. I had to have waited in line at least half an hour, and there were multiple lines just as long.

I was in Coral 22 so I had plenty of time before it was time to go. The emcee did a great job warming up the crowd. The weather was a little bit chilly, but I knew it would be perfect running weather once we got going. And before you know it we were off!

I really, really loved running this race. It was warm enough that the cherry blossoms were beginning to bloom, and the scenery of the monuments was stunning. I love visiting DC so it was great to enjoy the sights. I also love the homes that are so beautiful! And every few miles we were entertained by a decent mix of bands.

I was really happy with my running and was able to keep a consistent pace, up until the last 3 miles when I really started to push myself. There were several hills that were challenging, but the toughest was the "Blue Mile" that was in honor of veterans who gave their lives for our country. It was a great metaphor as it was a tough climb...it really put things in perspective. The support along the way was incredible.

The spectators were fun with great signs about Trump, Christopher Walken and of course, people offered beer, margaritas, you name it. It was just a fun atmosphere and I loved it!

I was able to finish strong and almost get into PR territory. What a great race! Everything was organized, and while the streets could use some new paving, I really loved running in DC. I'm so glad I decided to sign up for the race!

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(2016)
"My First Love Run - Relay Style!"
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I had been hearing about The Love Run Half Marathon in Philly the past few years but never had an opportunity to sign up until this year! Since I was already running a 10 Mile Race the weekend before, I thought it would be fun to sign up for the brand new Half Marathon Relay. The relay was split between 3 runners. The first leg was 3.9 miles, the second leg was 5.6 miles and the final leg was 3.7 miles. I ran the final leg.

The bib pickup party took place at XFinity Live on the Friday and Saturday before the race. There was TONS of great swag available to purchase with Love Run branding and all 21+ runners got free beer tickets. Our swag bag came with a gray T-shirt and mug that were really nice quality. As a relay runner, I also received a chip that we would wrap around our arm or leg that would be passed on to each runner to keep track of our time.

It was a REALLY COLD morning for race day. Logistics for the relay runners was pretty confusing. The first and second leg starting points were in similar locations, but the final leg had to take a bus to get to West River Drive where we would run our last few miles and finish the race across from the Art Museum. After being dropped off the buses, we had a long walk to the relay station where everyone had to line up by bib number. Communication could have been MUCH better because it wasn't very obvious what we were supposed to do. We ended up waiting outside in the cold for well over an hour, but at least there were porta potties, heat sheats and bottled water available!

Thankfully, it started to get to the point where the second leg runners were coming to meet their teammates. My boyfriend is much faster than me which in this case was a relief! He quickly handed me the chip and I awkwardly held it in one hand with my cell phone in the other hand, both covered in gloves. Because of his pace, I was with runners who ran the entire half marathon around an 8-8.5 minute pace which was really exciting! The course had a lot of energy and spectators and while I've run that route so many times, this time it wasn't so bad.

At the end of the race I got my medal (which was really nice), got a free massage from Philamassages and forgot my ID so I didn't bother getting a beer. Unfortunately it was impossible for me to find my teammates as those logistics weren't explained to us. Thankfully I live nearby and was able to meet my boyfriend back at home!

The Love Run is a great addition to the Philadelphia racing scene. Despite a few hiccups, I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the relay, plus it didn't hurt that I was able to finish in a time MUCH FASTER than I am used to! I'd definitely recommend it!

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(2015)
"A Tough Race, But Still a Good Time"
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This was my first year running the Annapolis Classic Half Marathon. I ran the Zooma 10K earlier this year and had a great time, so I was really excited about coming back to Annapolis in the fall.

Since I live in Philly, getting my race bib was a bit of a hassle. There were various pick up locations for bibs - maybe too many - and when City Sports was announced to go out of business, the organizers changed all the locations to a different running store. My sister lives in MD and she was kind enough to pick up the bib for me, but it really was a hassle. Then I found out that morning that we could've picked up the bib on race day, so that wasn't communicated well...

The race was on a perfect Saturday morning. It was chilly, but I knew that it would warm up around 50 - great running weather! The race doesn't have corrals, which really threw me off because I wasn't sure how to line up and I didn't want to start too fast. Unfortunately, even though I was apparently behind the 2:20 pace group, everyone was flying and I got caught up.

The race is actually quite beautiful - downtown Annapolis is very scenic, so the first 6 miles of the race are awesome. Things start to change after you go up the Navy Memorial Bridge...which is a HUGE bridge! I have to admit by the time I got to the top, I was beat. But then once you were off the bridge you encountered hill after hill after hill...and none of them were easy.

I knew about the hills but knowing about them isn't the same as running them in real life! I really struggled. The fuel stations were adequate along the couse, but the mile markers were NOT. There were not markers for every mile, and the ones I did see where 0.4 miles behind my watching - this makes things even tougher mentally.

The other thing about the hills is that they are out and back....so you're going over these hills twice. It's just a boring part of the course and drags on way too long. I had nothing to look at to distract myself. Thankfully a friend found me and helped me push through the course.

Protip: When you get to the stadium, you're not done yet - you have to run all away around the parking lot to get to the finish. Torture!

After the race I made my way to the after party, which had delicious tomato soup, bananas, bagels, oysters, and beers. Half marathon finishers get a really nice long-sleeved 1/4 zip top. There was a live band and I really enjoyed my (alcoholic) cider and grilled oysters.

All in all, it was a good race - but it's not for the faint of heart! I thought that the organizers could have done a better job communicating how to line up with the pacers (somehow the 2:20 group finished before me even though I finished 2:15), bib pickup, and signage of mile markers. I'd give it 3.5 stars.

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(2015)
"My First Tough Mudder"
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This year, I participated in my first Tough Mudder race with 11 other coworkers. I've been running races for a few years now but wanted to see what all the fuss was about the Tough Mudder.

I carpooled with a few teammates to Coatesville on a VERY CHILLY Sunday morning. The signs were easy to follow and we made our way to the parking lot. Our start time was at 10 am so we were one of the last corrals.

Checking in was easy (I forgot my ticket, oops!) and it was cool to see all of the military support as we waited to warm up for the big event. Everyone was hyped up and in a great mood. Thankfully the sunshine made the chilly weather (low 40's) not so bad at times.

The course itself was pretty tough, with some obstacles a LOT harder than others...but the great thing about Tough Mudder is that it is a team effort. Our team was huge, so we always helped each other and stayed together the whole way. But we also helped other people climb over walls, and various mud pits, and vice-versa. It was refreshing to have a team spirit, which you don't really find when running a typical road race.

Long story short, the race was 10.1 miles long. If you didn't want to do an obstacle, you could skip it with no penalty. I skipped a few that involved water towards the end since it was so cold. But I did NOT skip Arctic Enema...phew! There were also buses along the course where you could warm up, which was much appreciated.

You only had to run a mile or two, tops between obstacles...the running wasn't bad at all. There were some VERY steep hills, and some pretty awesome trail running in the forest, but I think it wasn't too challenging for people who don't run all the time - you could always walk. Some people did get muscle cramps on the course, which was pretty scary.

The Electroshock Therapy is the last obstacle before the finish...and it's TOUGH! But just keep moving quickly and before you know it, you're a tough mudder! You get a headband for finishing (when you're a repeat mudder, you get different headbands), and a finisher T-shirt. This year the shirts were cotton, NOT UnderArmor, which definitely felt like a rip-off.

Everything was organized well, I got my free Shock Top Beer, but they nickel and dime you for everything! $10 bag drop, $15 (or more) for parking, $20 to spectate...and I paid $175 for registration in July for an event in October. Crazy.

I would definitely do a Tough Mudder again in the future because it was a lot of fun to just go for it and challenge yourself, but I'm in no hurry. I think I'd like to try the Spartan...that seems to be a lot more challenging. I'm just glad I didn't get hurt along the way!

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