This review is of both the 10k running race and the "Ride" option, which allows participants to ride a 5k worth of distance on roller coasters for an additional medal.
Registration costs (starting at $55 for early bird and going up to $70) were well worth the price, considering that registration for the event gets you free parking (usually $20 per day) and an admission ticket to the park (usually $50 and up per day). Parking was very easy, and only a short distance from the start line. I took advantage of race-day packet pick up because I drove down from Vermont to avoid paying for a hotel stay. Things were well-organized at the start, although there were only 6 porta-potties for 300ish runners, which meant that a lot of runners were still in line to go when the starting horn went off.
The course was surprisingly well-shaded, which was great considering that the sun was out and humidity was at 90% at the start. It's a decent split between running on hard-packed dirt access roads on the perimeter of the park, and running on asphalt through the park. I ran the 10k option, which was 2 loops. There were a couple of small hills, and one larger one, but on the whole, elevation wasn't really a challenge. Two water stops on the course, so 10k runners had four hydration opportunities. VERY supportive volunteers, and the course was well marked with chalk arrows and volunteer flaggers.
I was disappointed with the food options at the finish. It was a hot, humid day, and all of the beverages were warm-to-hot in temperature. There were the usual apples and bananas, some cookies, and bagels, but I didn't see any cream cheese or peanut butter to put on them. The lack of food turned out to be a big problem for me. Since the bagels didn't look appealing, I decided I'd just buy food inside the park. But aside from cotton candy and funnel cakes, food vendors in the park didn't open until 11, which was almost 2 hours after I finished, and I was RAVENOUS by the time I managed to get my hands on an $8 slice of pizza.
As part of the roller coaster race, participants were to "Enjoy early access to The Great Escape and select rides, before the park opens to the public." Perhaps it was wrong of me to assume, but I figured that this would be an opportunity for those of us "racing" to get a head start on coaster riding before the park opened and lines got long. What this actually meant is that all 300ish of us were corralled into a very small fraction of the park (cordoned off with ropes and security guards) with only 1 restroom per gender, no food options, and 3 operational rides, only one of which was a roller coaster. Again, I shouldn't have assumed anything, but I felt sort of misled.
Add to that the fact that within an hour of opening, wait times for roller coasters extended beyond 30 minutes, food vendors didn't open until 11 am, and my favorite coaster (and the longest one in the park, and therefore the most advantageous for those doing the coaster race) was not open, and no one knew whether or not it actually would be open that day, and I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. Still, I stuck it out, and by 1, my favorite coaster was operational, and I'd racked up enough distance to earn my coaster medal.
The final blow for me was that in order to check in with the race officials to receive my coaster medal, I had to leave the park. This didn't seem like a problem since I was planning to head home right after anyway, but as I exited the park and attempted to walk over to the race table, I was stopped by a security guard telling me I couldn't go that way, and would have to go through security again. I'm sorry, but asking people to wait in line and go through a metal detector a second time is just dumb. I was so dumbfounded, and quite frankly, angry, that I left without getting my coaster medal. In the future, the race table should be somewhere more accessible.
- Could use more potties at the start/finish line
- There needs to be more food at the finish, or food vendors need to be open earlier so that hungry runners can refuel
- Cold beverages after a hot race would be nice
- Early access to the park didn't really mean much for those doing the coaster race
- The race table should either be inside the park proper or outside the security checkpoint so that it's easier to access
I would definitely do this race again, especially the run portion, simply because now I know what to expect, and won't be disappointed by unmet expectations.