Latest reviews by Heather C

(2017)
"New Thanksgiving Day Tradition!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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I normally do a local turkey trot not too far from my house on Thanksgiving Day... probably for the past seven years or so. Unfortunately, this year they had trouble getting the permits from the city, and had to cancel. This left me in a predicament. I really wanted to trot, but wanted something longer than a 5k, which is the majority of races on Thanksgiving morning. If I had to wake up at 6am, I wanted to run longer and make it worth my time, energy, and money. I decided on the RAM Racing North Shore Turkey Trot because they had a 10k, and it was in the same area as the North Shore Classic Half Marathon in June, so I knew what the parking situation was (this is a cause of anxiety for me when doing a new race in a new to me location). Despite nearly an hour drive, it was worth the early wake up. This was a very organized event with plenty of volunteers and police officers on course. The weather at the start was sunny and 33 feels like 24 degrees with 10mph winds.

PROS:
+ The option to mail your packet for $15. I knew I wouldn't be able to get to packet pickup on Tuesday or Wednesday up in Deerfield (it ended up moving from Fleet Feet Deerfield to a different location due to renovations at FF I think). Anyway, thankful for packet mailing or I wouldn't have been able to run.
+ Goodie bag was a blue long sleeve tech shirt, gender specific.
+ 5k 7:30am start, 10k 8:10am start.
+ Plenty of parking in the area (and free!).
+ Lots of portapotties near the start and on course – actually didn't even have to wait in any lines before the start!
+ I believe the corrals were A–F for the 5k and G–I for the 10k, but could be wrong. They started pretty quickly after one another.
+ Though the course was open to traffic, it wasn't too busy and most drivers were respectful and drove slow. Cones divided some of the streets, and there were a lot of officers and volunteers out on course to make sure runners went in the correct direction and kept cars stopped until they had proper breaks to get through.
+ Plenty of aid stations with portapotties. Nuun first, water second.
+ The course is challenging in there are some hills, but it's not too bad.
+ Since we were running on streets and there weren't a ton of runners, there wasn't any issue with congestion (in the back of the pack, at least).
+ Pretty scenery along the way.
+ Mile markers and clocks.
+ Finish line: bottled water, Nuun in cups, individual Apple Pie (2 mini pies in a package), Clif Bar (the protein kind, but they were Chocolate Almond Coconut, or something like that, and I don't like coconut, so I passed), and mini candy canes.
+ Podium and backdrop for photos.

CONS:
- I guess the only con for this one would be there isn't any weekend packet pickup, which would be easier for anyone that isn't super local to grab their packets. I wouldn't have been able to make packet pickup on a weekday by 6pm because of work.

Other than that, it's a great race and if my local race doesn't come back, I'll be doing this one again.

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(2017)
"Fun Run for Chocolate!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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The Chicago Hot Chocolate 5k and 15k was held on Sunday, October 29. There were 2 waves for the both the 15k and 5k, which began together – 7:30am for wave 1 and 8:15am for wave 2. 2 mile walk started at 9am.

PROS:
+ Great goodie bag – they allow everyone a chance to vote for two options, this year it was between the same jacket, but different colors. It was a nice, long sleeve jacket and the options to vote on were different colors.
+ McCormick Place packet pickup, and they validated parking for $10. The hall wasn't as far from parking as most expos, so it was nice not to have to walk 2 miles to get there haha.
+ Expo had some great vendors and expo deals on gear. Lots of Hot Chocolate gear, Fleet Feet, The BFF, Raw Threads, hot chocolate, chocolate fondu with dipping treats, etc. Grab your bib on the west side of the hall, jackets were on the east side with a tent area to try on the jacket/exchange if needed.
+ Race start/finish in Grant Park, so plenty of parking options (though if you are parking anywhere near the race site, you have to be aware of street closures and get to parking early). I parked at Soldier Field.
+ Plenty of aid stations (Nuun in the Nuun cups, water in plain cups) and bathrooms on course with treats at most of the stations (marshmallows, M&Ms, candy corn).
+ Once the 5k veers off at Roosevelt, the course widened and opened up with less people, making it easier to navigate.
+ Mile markers and clocks.
+ Cool medal at the finish.
+ Post-race chocolate! You get everything in a giant plastic mug: hot chocolate, chocolate fondu, Rice Krispy Treats, pretzels, marshmallow, banana, wet wipe.
+ They had bag stations where you could grab a bag to put your mug into before leaving, so you didn't make a mess of your car.

CONS:
- The first few miles are really crowded, especially the first 1.5 miles where you are on Lower Wacker and you are crammed into a two lane area. Lots of shoving and people pushing through to try and bypass the crowd, which was impossible anyway.

Turns out my medal was missing the chocolate piece, so I went back after walking almost to the end of the finish chute to exchange for a different one – they were very helpful and quick to help. The weather was really nice (at the start it was chilly, standing in the shade). Once we started running I warmed up and didn't need a hat or gloves long after the start. This is a fun race, and maybe if you're faster you don't have to worry about the crowds at the start/first few miles, but that was my only complaint about the race. Otherwise, very well executed, plenty of volunteers, race communication is clear and often, easy area to get to/from. Definitely a good race to add to your calendar. I was still tired from the marathon, so my legs weren't in any hurry to finish haha, but I had a good time with my mom and a friend. And of course, the best part is after you finish with all the treats ;)

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(2017)
"Fun Run for Chocolate!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 5113

The Chicago Hot Chocolate 5k and 15k was held on Sunday, October 29. There were 2 waves for the both the 15k and 5k, which began together – 7:30am for wave 1 and 8:15am for wave 2. 2 mile walk started at 9am.

PROS:
+ Great goodie bag – they allow everyone a chance to vote for two options, this year it was between the same jacket, but different colors. It was a nice, long sleeve jacket and the options to vote on were different colors.
+ McCormick Place packet pickup, and they validated parking for $10. The hall wasn't as far from parking as most expos, so it was nice not to have to walk 2 miles to get there haha.
+ Expo had some great vendors and expo deals on gear. Lots of Hot Chocolate gear, Fleet Feet, The BFF, Raw Threads, hot chocolate, chocolate fondu with dipping treats, etc. Grab your bib on the west side of the hall, jackets were on the east side with a tent area to try on the jacket/exchange if needed.
+ Race start/finish in Grant Park, so plenty of parking options (though if you are parking anywhere near the race site, you have to be aware of street closures and get to parking early). I parked at Soldier Field.
+ Plenty of aid stations (Nuun in the Nuun cups, water in plain cups) and bathrooms on course with treats at most of the stations (marshmallows, M&Ms, candy corn).
+ Once the 5k veers off at Roosevelt, the course widened and opened up with less people, making it easier to navigate.
+ Mile markers and clocks.
+ Cool medal at the finish.
+ Post-race chocolate! You get everything in a giant plastic mug: hot chocolate, chocolate fondu, Rice Krispy Treats, pretzels, marshmallow, banana, wet wipe.
+ They had bag stations where you could grab a bag to put your mug into before leaving, so you didn't make a mess of your car.

CONS:
- The first few miles are really crowded, especially the first 1.5 miles where you are on Lower Wacker and you are crammed into a two lane area. Lots of shoving and people pushing through to try and bypass the crowd, which was impossible anyway.

Turns out my medal was missing the chocolate piece, so I went back after walking almost to the end of the finish chute to exchange for a different one – they were very helpful and quick to help. The weather was really nice (at the start it was chilly, standing in the shade). Once we started running I warmed up and didn't need a hat or gloves long after the start. This is a fun race, and maybe if you're faster you don't have to worry about the crowds at the start/first few miles, but that was my only complaint about the race. Otherwise, very well executed, plenty of volunteers, race communication is clear and often, easy area to get to/from. Definitely a good race to add to your calendar. I was still tired from the marathon, so my legs weren't in any hurry to finish haha, but I had a good time with my mom and a friend. And of course, the best part is after you finish with all the treats ;)

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(2017)
"Fun way to celebrate Halloween "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This was my second year running RAM Racing Pumpkins in the Park 5k. I found it last year when looking for a birthday weekend race and had a lot of fun, so decided to run again in 2017. Weather was pretty warm for mid/late-October, with temps in the 70s. I had a tank top and shorts on, and I was pretty sweaty from the get go.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup at Fleet Feet Old Town, $15 mailed
+ RACE DAY PICKUP! This is a big deal for me. I have a really hard time getting into the city for packet pickup, and it gets expensive having to get packets mailed all the time.
+ Gender specific, long sleeve tech shirt (super soft and comfy!)
+ Kids race before the 5k
+ Post-race treats include individually wrapped mini pies (two came in the pack), taffy apple, Clif Bars, Popcorn, Revolution Brewing
+ Costume contest
+ Lots of event communication from RAM Racing
+ One aid station with Nuun and water
+ Backdrop for photos
+ Free race photos available about a day after (some even quicker, but there’s always a few more added later on once they finish sorting/tagging)
+ 4pm start! Thank you.
+ The kids dash had a cute little cat medal. Not gonna lie, I really wanted one for myself haha.
+ Parking is easy, but expensive.

CONS:
- This is a family event, which can mean lots of kids running, so you just have to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for the kids that sprint ahead and stop right in front of you and/or cut in front and almost trip you. I’m not complaining – I knew going in that the course was crowded for someone in the middle of the pack, but just something to be aware of (and if you do run with your kids, try to teach them the etiquette of not stopping to walk right in front of another runner). This could get very dangerous with collisions and falls, so I just like to point it out so others can be aware and hopefully prevent accidents from happening :)
- Long lines for the beer. We would have gotten some, as we enjoy Revolution, but didn’t feel like waiting in the line (which was long because they were checking IDs and doing wristbands, but I guess if they were giving out the wristbands pre-race, then you could have walked on in. Something to keep in mind for next year).
- The course varies a bit in surface and has some bumps, so just be aware of the surface.
- You can park at Lincoln Park Zoo for a generous fee ($30 or so), or use SpotHero or an app like that to reserve parking nearby, or try to find street parking, which can be a pain.

I thought the course was less crowded than last year, but maybe it was I knew how it was the previous year and so my expectations were more on level with what it would be like. I think it’s a really fun race, and love that it starts at 4pm (no early wake up - yay!). I love seeing all of the costumes and families being active. The course is walker friendly and 16m/m pace is the requirement. Definitely and enjoyable time and I’ll probably run it again next year.

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(2017)
"Race Prepared for Extreme Heat"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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The Chicago Half Marathon took place on Sunday, September 24 with a 7am race start for the half marathon and 7:45 for the 5k. Weather was calling for extremely hot temps, which meant the race was starting at EAS yellow (eventually going to red during the race). I think temps started in the 70s with humidity at mid-70s eventually hitting 80 something degrees (and quite sunny).

PROS:
+ The expo was held at Soldier Field on Friday and Saturday. They only charged $5 for parking. If you know Chicago parking prices, you know that's a steal. I really appreciated that.
+ The expo had plenty of vendors and the official merchandise is always stacked.
+ Even though the weather that time didn't suit them, I really liked the long sleeve shirt for the half marathon. HM shirts were gender-specific tech, orange and blue (mimicking Bears colors) and the 5k were gender specific tech, red (and honoring the Chicago Fire Department).
+ The race offers free shuttle service that you can select location for during registration or even leading up to the event if you missed it or need to change from your initial choice.
+ The race was great at updating runners about the weather, hydration tips, how to stay cool, and letting us know what precautions they were taking which included having more ice on course and misting stations, and fans.
+ The race also offered the option to drop to the 5k with very little hassle. They sent out an email and posted on social media that all you had to do was line up with the 5k and you'd still receive your medal (and challenge medal if you ran Chicago Spring Half). They took runner safety seriously and made it easy for runners to change distances if they felt weather would be too much for them.
+ Corrals A–N for the half marathon, and it looked like it was a rolling start, so even the last corral was going by 7:15 or so.
+ Plenty of portapotties around the race site.
+ Since the course is on the streets and the LSD, it means less congestion and allowed for this rolling start.
+ Plenty of aid stations and they were stocked with enough water, cups, and Gatorade.
+ Race Guards on the course helping runners when needed.
+ I really like the course (despite the lack of shade once on LSD) – it's different from any other race in Chicago.
+ At the finish line you received your half marathon medal, ice cold and wet towels, they were fans and misting stations, popsicles, pretzels, potato chips, bananas, bottled water and Gatorade
+ In order to get your challenge medal, you had to go to a tent and they would reference your finisher medal, your bib (different ones for those that were registered for the challenge), and then you'd get it.
+ The medals for both the half and the challenge were HUGE. The medals for the two races plus the challenge were designed to be a connecting set. Pretty neat.
+ Post-race party includes a free beer (Lagunitas this year - awesome!) and a free slice of pizza. Both were redeemed via a ticket from your bib.
+ Free photo downloads provided by Athlinks.

CONS:
Can't think of anything...

I've been running this race for I think six years now, and I'll keep coming back. Despite the weather, race management handled it very well and kept runner safety their top priority. Though I didn't do very well and the heat was awful, getting through that finish line made me feel accomplished. Plus, my feeling awful in the heat this year was a better finish time than when I felt awful in previous years, so that's silver lining, right? hah.

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