Latest reviews by Heather

(2015)
"A holiday staple (race)"
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This was my third year running the Santa Hustle 5k in Chicago. I love the atmosphere of this race - laid back, Christmas-themed, fun. Also, I enjoy winter racing. The weather was bearable, considering what it could be in Chicago this time of year. There were a couple thousand 'santas' for this event.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup at multiple locations (city and suburbs) on multiple days
+ Friends/family could pick up your packet - just needed your registration confirmation email (QR code)
+ All runners received a santa hat, santa beard, and uni-sex do-fit half-zip with thumb holes. I felt the fit was good, even though it wasn't gender specific and it's a nice material. Plus, not just a a t-shirt, something a little more unique.
+ Parking, though backed up and crowded, was easy enough/easy to get to. $20 (Waldron Deck)
+ Easy access via public transit
+ Soldier Field race start/finish with a 9am start (sleep in a little later!)
+ Though I didn't attend, a post race party at Navy Pier with deals at bars/restaurants starting at 10am (just need your race bib to receive discounts)
+ Awards for top 3 Male and Female in each age group. Awards mailed, so no ceremony to stick around for if you're in a hurry.
+ cookies and candy on course (around mile 1 and 2.5)
+ Bottled water, Clif Bars at finish
+ Course wasn't too congested, despite the amount of people
+ Corrals based on pace, though you weren't specifically put in one, you line up accordingly.
+ Corrals released every 4ish minutes to help with congestion
+ Though it went under McCormick Place, which I usually hate, it seemed better lighted than usual. Plus, having the course this way means it isn't an up and back all on the LFP, which would be pretty miserable with that kind of crowd.
+ LFP was clear of any snow/ice
+ Energetic, friendly volunteers
+ Communication was great - plenty of email reminders, updates, etc from race management
+ Most people 'complied' with the wearing of the Santa Hustle swag/beard/hat - so it's a sea of santas - fun!

CONS:
Other than having a bit of a traffic jam to get into parking and the pre-post race area being very muddy/wet (can't be helped), I can't think of anything I disliked.

If my calendar is open, I'll be back for 2016. Maybe there'll be a half option for Chicago, too? Pretty please?

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(2015)
"Fun, Christmas themed race"
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This was my first race in Indianapolis, and I'm glad I made the trip. The race was held on Sunday, December 13, 2015. Half Marathon started at 9, 5k at 9:30. The race start was in the parking lot of Lucas Oil Stadium, which was maybe a half mile walk from the hotel. Super easy to get to from the host hotel (JW Marriot). The weather was unseasonably warm - 60 degrees with 85% humidity at the start.

PROS:
+ easy packet pickup (and paperless - they scanned the QR code from confirmation email) held in the hotel on Saturday from 12–7
+ great communication from race management; plenty of emails with all the information needed
+ long sleeve 1/4 zip tech pullover (unisex sizes, but that was ok with me)
+ 5 water stations
+ min/mile 'corrals' - runners lined themselves up according to their estimated pace
+ it wasn't super crowded, all corrals started together - I had no problems with congestion on the course
+ 1 cookie stop at about mile 1, mini m&ms mile 5.5
+ large, spinner medal for finishers
+ host hotel allowed for late check-out for runners
+ LOTS of police officers working busy intersections to ensure safety of runners - they did a great job with traffic
+ friendly and energetic volunteers
+ pretty flat course, I only remember 3 hills
+ it was nice to have a course that wasn't on the Chicago LFP
+ 15 minute/mile pace requirement
+ finish line snacks = cookies, Clif bars, Clif trail mix bars, and bottled water

CONS:
- only water on the course. This didn't bother me, since I had my own with me, but maybe for some it's a big deal (especially since it was warmer out?). They had flags set up that said sports drink, but as far as I could tell, it was only water. Again, no big deal to me, but that it was worth mentioning.
- after running a half marathon, I like it when there are bananas and/or bagels at the finish line. Not a deal breaker, just a preference for me.

This was about a 3 hour drive for me, but it was a lot of fun, so I'd say worth it. I think this is a very-well organized race series (I've done the Chicago 5k the past 3 years), and have always had a good time. I would definitely consider making the drive again next year, and would recommend others to make the trip as well if they are interested in a relaxed, fun atmosphere (though I'll say I almost PR'd this race without thinking much about it - I was there to have fun! - so it can definitely be a goal race if you want it to be).

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(2015)
"Jingle Jungle FUN"
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Mickey's Jingle Jungle start and finish were in the Animal Kingdom parking lot. Since you're required by runDisney to board the buses so early, it's great to have the DJs and announcers entertain the masses. There's even snow!

PROS:
+ A–D (or E?) Corrals which are released every few minutes to help cut back on congestion
+ 2 water stops
+ About 1 mile through Animal Kingdom itself; the another mile outside in the parking lot and about a mile in the backlot area.
+ Tons of photo ops with characters
+ 7am start (had to board buses by 5:30; into corrals by 6:15)
+ Even though you don't have a TON of park time, runDisney does a great job breaking up the more boring areas with characters or entertainment
+ All finishers receive a medallion (note, it's not a medal)
+ No chip time - they are very lenient with pace, though they do eventually stop allowing people into the lines for character photos
+ All finishers receive banana, bottled Powerade, bottled Water, and the runDisney snack box
+ Transportation to and from race back to your hotel
+ Cotton, unisex t-shirts. Cute design, I'm just not a huge fan of the material (now, if it were tech or that super soft cotton, then I'd be giving 5 stars)

CONS:
- Other than the start being pretty congested and some of the lines for characters taking a long time, I don't have any cons per say. I had a fun time and I think most others did too.

I personally think the key to runDisney races, if you aren't an elite type runner, is to go in expecting FUN rather than speed. Remember to be courteous to your other runners, even if they aren't following proper running etiquette. Lots of the people at runDisney events, especially the 5k, are there for their first race, so they might know about etiquette yet - they are just trying to finish their race. Shoving wasn't nice on the playground, and it isn't nice on the race course. A simple excuse me or an I'm sorry if you accidentally push someone goes a long way :)

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(2015)
"Feel good about burning some calories before scarfing down dinner!"
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Thursday, November 26, 2015 - 14th Annual

This Palos Park Thanksgiving Day Tradition is 4 miles long with 13 hills. In 13 years this race has donated over 120,000 cans of food and $3,000.00. Parking at the Palos Park Metra station with shuttle bus service to the start line.

PROS:
+ Parking is limited at the race start, so you can park at a nearby Metra lot (you don't have to pay for parking), and the race has school busses to take you to the start and back again when you were finished.
+ Packet pickup is at the store (Running for Kicks) Monday–Wednesday.
+ Packet pickup on race day beginning at 6:30am
+ Goody bag included a yellow hooded sweatshirt and a pair of Features running socks
+ Instead of having the indoors open this year, there was a large heated tent that you could hang out in before the race began
+ 5 year age group awards going 3 deep
+ Post race bottled water, bagels, and bananas
+ Post race includes awards with raffles scatted throughout the awards - I think there were three or four certificates for free shoes. Bonus - I won one! Also, mom won her age group.
+ Family friendly - love seeing so many people being active
+ Smaller race - about 600 participants

CONS:
- I think the only con is that there were no aid stations... however, for a 4 mile race, I don't deem them necessary, so really didn't matter to me. I suppose it does to some, though, so figured I'd mention it. I gave it 3 stars because it didn't have any, but also felt they weren't needed, so just went in the middle with it.

I really enjoy doing this race every year. I've been doing it for maybe 5 years now? It raises money and donates food to the hungry and it's a great way to feel good about yourself before splurging on your Thanksgiving feast.

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(2015)
"Shortened course due to lightning; still a lot of fun!"
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Wine & Dine weekend has a special place in my heart. In 2012, it was my first runDisney race that got me hooked on all things Disney and runDisney. I'm a big fan of running at night, which is why this race intrigued me in the first place. I've ran it every year since, and hope to continue the tradition for as long as possible.

This year was another rainy weather day, and unfortunately, due to lightning, the race was delayed. I think runDisney handled the situation very well - getting the runners inside was no small task, but it went smoothly from what I could tell. Due to the delay, and from what I was hearing possible damage at Animal Kingdom, the race course was shortened to about 6.5/7 miles (I never did find out the accurate length, just go by my Garmin, which we all know isn't 100%). Though disappointed not being able to run through AK, I understood the reasoning and that was fine. It ended up being extremely humid, so in that regard I was quite happy not to have to run 13 miles haha. I know there were plenty of complaints about the delay and the short course, but I personally think everything was handled well and organized, so I don't have anything bad to say about it. Honestly, my mom and I finished earlier than we would have if we had done the whole 13.1, and had more time to enjoy the after party, which was awesome. The course went from ESPN WWoS to Hollywood Studios (through the Osborne Lights for the final year) to Epcot.

I applaud runDisney for taking the runners safety into account and making it their number one priority.

PROS:
+ Gender Specific race shirts - long sleeve (Champion brand)
+ Expo is always fantastic, though quite crowded
+ Packet pickup was easy
+ Amazing volunteers, race staff, Cast Members
+ Quality medals
+ After party at Epcot is fantastic - entertainment, character photo ops, and the Food & Wine Festival kiosks = fun & yum
+ Aid stations are well staffed; Powerade first and water second - plenty for all
+ I think all the Disney hotels on property were host hotels, which meant they provided transportation to the expo and to the race start/finish. The buses were timely and we never waited long to get to one place to another.
+ Post-race: finishers received their medals, bottle of water, bottle of Powerade, bananas, and the usual runDisney box of goodies.

CONS:
- My only complaint for this, is something that couldn't be helped by runDisney itself. Due to the shortened course, there was less time for the racers to thin/spread out. We lost a lot of highway time in which we have wide roadways and makes it easy for runners to get situated in their proper paces. Short course meant everyone was in a hurry and I noticed a lot of rude people pushing others around. Race etiquette was hard to follow. As I do a run/walk interval, I did my best to run center and then move to the right when it was time to walk (I also always raise my arm/hand to indicate I'm coming to a stop) - due to the congestion, I couldn't always get to the right. I was shoved a time or two myself. I heard a lot of people yelling at the slower runners, which I was taken aback by, as usually the Disney races are filled with happy people. This was disappointing, but again, other than people calming down and understanding that the course was jam packed due to it's length, runDisney can't do anything about that. I just wish people would have been more respectful as a whole.

I love runDisney events, even though registration is quite stressful and prices keep rising. I think runDisney does a great job with communication and getting runners ready for their events.

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