Latest reviews by John Niedzwiecki

(2016)
"Tropicolored Fun"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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The Swag

The Color Run offers several levels of registration. This is a nice way to do it. If you just want to enjoy the race, they have the Classic Color Runner, which includes your bib, a sweatband, some tattoos, a t-shirt, and your finishers medal. Don't want to bother with race morning pickup? You can select the Classic+, which gets you the Classic Kit delievered right to your door ahead of the race. I did not get this with my registration, but for things I will mention later in the post, would have really appreciated it. The third option is the Deluxe Color Runner Kit, which includes the Classic Kit, the shipping, and some additional swag. In the Deluxe kit, you also receive a hat, a lei, and some TCR sunglasses.

I received a swag pack, the same as the one I gave away, which was also very similar to the Deluxe kit. The swag was all pretty nice. The shirts were very soft and comfy, something I love from a race shirt. The sunglasses were alright, better than your standard cheap type you see in that style, where anyone slaps their logo on. They've held up to my 4 and 2 year olds wanting to wear them, so that says something for them. The finisher's medal is good as well, a nice addition from the last time I ran the Color Run (which had no medal).

I did not have my packet mailed to me, so had to do race day pickup. Pickup was very easy, one set of lines for your bib then onto the next tables for your swag. There was one hiccup. Parking was a little at a premium at the park, so I was parked a little further away. This meant no time to take everything back to my car. The race only allowed for clear bags to be brought into the complex. All communications leading up to the race mentioned that you could buy a clear drawstring bag for a small fee that would go to the children's charity. Unfortunately, there were no bags. They did the best the could by offering simple shopping bags for free to hold your stuff, but it made for a slightly awkward running experience. Had we known, we would have brought our own, however planned to buy one to support the charity. I guess next time, bring one to be prepared.

The Race

The race course wound around the grounds of the Camden Yards Sports Complex. The course looped around Oriole Park at Camden Yards as well as M&T Bank Stadium. The route was all paved parking lots and sidewalks. This made for some hot running. The day would top out at 98 °F with 97% humidity. We had some shade, depending on the side of the stadium we were on, but the heat was rough. We carried water with us, plus there were several water stops on the course. After running the initial bit, we decided to walk the rest and play it safe in the heat. The number of color stops on the course was really great. Each station had a different color, followed by the last having several. The amount of color you'd get in each stop really would depend on the volunteer at that time, though if you didn't get enough for your liking, you could simply ask for a little more (which I did on one occassion. They were good about not being overzealous, for those that may not have wanted to get quite as colorful. Despite the heavy heat, we had a fun time. For a race like this, it is what you make of it. The one improvement I would suggest to the course would be some more music. The start line and finish line had music, which at times you could hear when the course wound close enough. Simply running some speaker lines out to the course and pumping the same music would be enough to keep it fun and lift some spirits, in conditions like these. The "party-like" atmosphere they keep would be a good fit for this as well.

The After Party

While other races have a great pre-race experience in expos, one of the things they do well at the Color Run is the post-race party. They usually team up with some companies, so there are plenty of snacks (like KIND bars) and water. They always have a stage with a DJ set up for a colorful party. They throw out Color Run swag into the crowd as well as color packets. Then they'd build to a countdown to throw the color into the air. It can be a lot of messy fun.

In addition they have photo spots set up where you can get your picture taken with various backdrops and props, themed to the race theme, such as a giant Color Run Pineapple. These were obviously available for before or after, as well as some well received water balloons. If the free snack items weren't enough, there were several food stands available, everything from pulled beef and sausages, to orange aide, lime aide, and the favorite of the day, Hawaiian Shaved Ice.

Race Review (TL;DR)

Easy flat course for a fun 5K. Room for improvement, but a good all around experience.

Race grade: B

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(2015)
"Historic View 10K"
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This race was the second of three for me as part of the Hat Trick challenge. The 10K course takes you on a tour of some historic areas of Bethlehem. It started the same as the 5K, crossing the Fahy Memorial Bridge, which included a DJ posted at the end. The bridge offers a good view of the steel stacks. The course takes you past the Historic Moravian settlement, the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, and through the historic residential district. That’s a lot of “historic”. The course offered some elevation change, but nothing too drastic. The finish wrapped passed the Sands Casino and back through some chutes for a great finish line experience, complete with Runner’s World editors calling you across the finish. The course included 4 water stops (3 with one that you passed twice) which was a good number for a 10K, but welcomed.

The parking for the Runner's World events was interesting. Parking was spread throughout a couple of different lots. A lot of the lead up made it sounds like there was hardly any near the start, but they seemed easy to get a spot by word of mouth. I parked at an outer lot, which provided a free shuttle that was easy enough to get in and out from.

The expo was smaller than some I had been to, but had quality. KT Tape was there, offering free tapings, and I received a pair of compression arm sleeves for free. There was even a brewery offering samples, which may be unusual at most expos, but welcomed by me. Saucony Creek Craft Brewery was the brewery for the beer tent after the half, so that was the reason.

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(2015)
"Great Start to the Hat Trick"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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I ran this race as the first of three as a part of the Hat Trick challenge. The 5K was a great course. It was an out and back looping sort of course. There was a single water stop that came up twice. After the course went across the Fahy Memorial Bridge, there was a DJ with music that you would loop past when going by City Hall. The course had great views of the steel stacks. The course would then go pack to the finish with looping by the Sands Casino. The finish area had some great chutes with cheering spectators and members of the Runner's World staff on the mic to greet you as you crossed. It made for a great finish line experience for a 5K, where you don't often get one.

The parking for the Runner's World events was interesting. Parking was spread throughout a couple of different lots. A lot of the lead up made it sounds like there was hardly any near the start, but they seemed easy to get a spot by word of mouth. I parked at an outer lot, which provided a free shuttle that was easy enough to get in and out from.

The expo was smaller than some I had been to, but had quality. KT Tape was there, offering free tapings, and I received a pair of compression arm sleeves for free. There was even a brewery offering samples, which may be unusual at most expos, but welcomed by me. Saucony Creek Craft Brewery was the brewery for the beer tent after the half, so that was the reason.

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(2015)
"Fantastic Half to Finish the Hat Trick"
Overall
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The Runner’s World Half Marathon was the final race in the Hat Trick for me. I received entry to the hat trick to review as part of the BibRavePro program. The course was a really fun course traveling throughout Bethlehem. I had taken it easy during the 5K and 10K, saving my energy for the half. No part of the course was that boring. Portions of the course ran through many of the historic areas, including the Historic Moravian settlement, the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, and portions of the original 1741 settlement. The course had some early longer hills, but the back portion was largely downhill overall which made for a great race. Even the residential portions had a lot of spectators cheering you one. One of my favorite was a little old lady, who had one of those walkers with a chair in a large coat ringing a cowbell in 40 degree weather. THAT is some support. The course included plenty of water stops and med tents as well as some on course entertainment, including pep bands, bagpipes and DJs. The only on-course issue was at the very end, which mimic the 5K and 10K courses, there were so many people leaving via the course route, it was hard to know where to go. I knew from the past two races before, but I had to help direct a lady in front of me which way to go in the last half mile. The course had the same great finish by the steel stacks with the large shoots and Runner’s World staff on the mics with plenty of cheering. At the finish there was a band, Sunshine Symphony playing some great covers as well as a beer garden from Saucony Creek Craft Brewery. The post race food included bagels, bananas, Subway cookies, raisins, pretzels and mini muffins. That was a huge selection that was great to have.

The parking for the Runner's World events was interesting. Parking was spread throughout a couple of different lots. A lot of the lead up made it sounds like there was hardly any near the start, but they seemed easy to get a spot by word of mouth. I parked at an outer lot, which provided a free shuttle that was easy enough to get in and out from.

The expo was smaller than some I had been to, but had quality. KT Tape was there, offering free tapings, and I received a pair of compression arm sleeves for free. There was even a brewery offering samples, which may be unusual at most expos, but welcomed by me. Saucony Creek Craft Brewery was the brewery for the beer tent after the half, so that was the reason.

Overall, the whole weekend was amazing, capped off with a fantastic half marathon. I even finished with a PR after running two other races. I loved the event and plan to be back in the future.

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(2014)
"Running with the Decorations (and the parking lots)"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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I was really looking forward to this race. The race runs through Busch Gardens during their Christmas Town (hence the name + Dash) which is when they decorate their park for Christmas. Packet pickup was a breeze. There was no race day pickup, but we were in town for the weekend so we had no problem picking it up the day before. Pickup was located at a Dick's Sporting Good, which was easy, since it was the same as the year before. The swag was pretty good. You got a great long sleeve tech shirt (blue this year) as well as 50% off an admission ticket to Busch Gardens for 2014 and 2015. Oh, can't forget, a free Chic-fil-a sandwich as well. We also received a virtual grab bag, but it didn't include much in the way of deals.

Since the race was held at Busch Gardens, it was easy to get to and parking was plentiful. There were also a line of bathrooms at the parking and then again down at the start / finish line that was a short walk down from the parking.

The weather was a little chilly. It wouldn't have been as bad if it wasn't for the wind. As the race would go on, it warmed up but was pretty chilly pre-race and for the early portion. Luckily, my costume as Frosty included snowman looking mittens, which kept my hands warm. I was worried the course might be a little difficult, as I know Busch Gardens can be a little hilly. Overall, the elevation wasn't bad. There was a long hill at the beginning and some smaller ones elsewhere but most was just winding back and forth. The portion though the park was nice to see the decorations. While the race was during the day, I had still hoped that the lights would be on. Alas, they weren't. That was a little bit of a let down, but the non-light based decoration did not. I really enjoyed seeing the decorations. I was running the race with my sister, so we weren't running for time. We were running for enjoyment and paused to take a lot of pictures. The "worst" of the course were the parking lot sections. Not because they were overly bad, but because there were a lot of loop backs, which to me always feels like "Hey, I know you're running forward now, but you'll be back."

After finishing the race, there were Marines in dress uniforms to present our medals. The nice touch to the medal, being Christmas themed, it was also an ornament. This feels oddly appropriate to me as well, because for the longest time my daughter called my medals from the Disney Half ornaments.

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