Latest reviews by Heather
The 2015 Chicago Marathon was held on Sunday, October 11. The Expo, held at McCormick Place, was on Friday 9am - 8pm and Saturday 9am - 6pm. Weather on race day started in the upper 50s, but ended at 80 - and all sun, all day. It was hot and unpleasant for some (ME). This was my second marathon, and I had high hopes, since training went fairly well, and I was going into the race feeling pretty good both mentally and physically. The day didn't go how I wanted, but that's life. No one can tell mother nature what to do ;)
Things I liked:
+ The lottery was open for about a month, and then when you heard if you were selected, I think you had a week or two to register.
+ Packet pick-up was easy breezy. You got in one of the many lines to give a volunteer your code (from email, printout, or the info guide they sent in the mail) and showed them your ID, then they told you which number booth to go to, and when you got there, they already had your envelope waiting for you.
+ So many great exhibitors! I was glad that I went Friday, because I used up a lot of energy looking around/purchasing goodies.
+ They validated parking so it was $10 instead of $20
+ Virtual goody bag, so I didn't have to go through and recycle all the coupons in my bag.
+ The shirts were red and true to size (gender specific) - more designed than last year. They had a shirt exchange station if you needed a different size.
+ Great communication from the race. We got emails updating us on weather, expo info, etc.
+ It was very clear where you needed to go depending on what wave and corral you were in - I found it easy to find where I should be.
+ Plenty of aid stations that were well-manned with volunteers, and each were about 2 city blocks long. Always gatorade first and then water, in different colored cups.
+ Running through the different neighborhoods of the city is a great way to tour it.
+ Amazing crowd support.
+ I found that I had little problems with congestion, though that might have been because I was back of the pack. I heard there were more issues with the faster groups.
+ I fell behind the pacing requirement, and even though mile markers, timing mat, and clocks were taken down, there were still volunteers to give out water, gatorade, bananas (at certain miles) - and they still let plenty of people finish that weren't within the timing requirement. I don't know at what point they picked people up, but I was thankful for the opportunity to finish, even if it wasn't official, and it wasn't through the actual finish line. I also received a medal, which I fought hard to earn.
Things I disliked:
- The weather, but again, that can't be controlled.
- It can be difficult to always run on a flat surface, since the roads are rounded a bit and you may not always be able to run down the center (I personally was trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible, since I was feeling sick, which in turn meant I was running on a weird angle, which turned into major hip pains about half way through the race).
- Even when I was still within the proper timing for running, I noticed the crowds had thinned out significantly. I know a lot of people go around following their friends and family, but it would be nice for the slower folks to get some cheering as well - they're working hard too and could use it. Some spots were fantastic, others, not so much. Not sure if it bothered anyone else, but I was glad to have made some friends on the course to help distract me from my pain and feeling sick, since most places didn't have the crowds to feed off.
This race is so well-organized. After all these years, I'd say they've figured it out (I would guess being a World Major has something to do with it, too. After all, it has about 45,000 runners, and you can't be disorganized with that kind of crowd). I'd definitely consider putting my name in for the lottery again next year. Whether you are a resident of Chicago, or come in from out of town, I think it's a race any marathoner would be excited to be a part of.
The 10k was held on Sunday, October 4, 2015 along with the half marathon and 5k. The race was at 9am, which I loved. I was also there Friday for packet pickup (shirt & bib), as well as to hear the speaker panel, and then at the race all day Saturday to cheer on friends. SO glad I went for the whole weekend, as I got to experience the entirety of the ECSWI awesomeness. It was quite cold to stand around cheering Saturday, and seemed cold Sunday until I started running - perfect running weather! I think it was mid-50s with overcast (my favorite running weather).
Things I loved:
+ Every single person involved with this race (workers, volunteers, race director, runners) were just some of the nicest and most enthusiastic people I've ever met
+ The shirts were made from recyclable materials, and is also super comfy. I really like the design.
+ Medals for all race finishers.
+ Gorgeous scenery.
+ Challenging course. Yes, I put this in the + column. (PS A lot of people will say rolling hills. I personally thought there were some really tough, steep ones on the course. I come from mostly flat running, so this is just my opinion, and want to warn others that run mostly flat terrain, that the hills might come as a surprise if you aren't ready for them. That being said, I trained on hills and trails, so it was ok, but others kept telling me they weren't too tough, and I would disagree haha).
+ Sierra Nevada beer options at the finish line party.
+ Fire pits to keep everyone warm (we camped out a bit at one of them on Saturday).
+ Virtual race bag (environmentally friendly).
+ Awesome speaker panel - super interesting and inspirational to listen to other ultra runners talk about their experiences.
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup.
+ 2 hour time limit for the 10k
+ Clear course markings and they were plentiful. Anytime I thought maybe I turned the wrong way, I saw my red ribbon (color of the ribbons corresponded to races/your bib color). They had about 40 markings for every mile, so we were told at the speaker panel, and I believe it. I was a little nervous I might get lost, because I certainly wasn't running with a big crowd to follow (and you want to be careful you aren't following the wrong runner doing a different race/course than you!), but it was easy to find your way. At forks, there was even a sign with an arrow pointing you the correct way. Very well done.
Things I didn’t like:
- I don’t know if it was just us, but there were 3 of us trying to find the exact start location so we knew what to put into the GPS to get to the race, and none of us could find anything more specific than Kettle Moraine, Eagle WI. Turns out, it was in Dousman. Luckily, when we went into the wrong entrance (we were at the South Headquarters, which seemed right on the map), there was a crew looking for an aid station, and they told us it was at Ottawa Lake Recreation. Luckily, we left with plenty of time to spare, but it would have been nice if that location was written on the website as the start/finish line area. (We are partially to blame, as we were at the speaker panel the night before and failed to ask. But this might help others who are confused in the future – check beforehand on actual start location)
- For some, I would think the number of aid stations is lacking. I only did the 10k, so I was fine with the one stop at about 4.2 miles (I didn’t even sue it), but coming from Chicago races, which generally have about 8 for a half marathon, you might want to consider bringing your own hydration.
- This is something so trivial, and I’m a little embarrassed to say it disappointed me, but I am one of the slower runners, and when I finished, my medal ribbon only said ‘Endurance Challenge 10k’. Someone pointed out to me that there was no date, which I thought was weird because other medals from other distances had it on the ribbon. When I saw a friend of mine had a 10k medal WITH the date and wisconsin on it, I went to see if I could exchange, but unfortunately all of the medals left were generic ribbons like mine. So again, super lame, but I do wish I had a ribbon with the state and date on it.
I would DEFINITELY recommend this race series to anyone that wants to have a great time and challenge themselves. I would say to train on trails, if trails aren’t your thing, to prepare you, but it was one of the best race weekends ever. I had so much fun with my running friends from different states, and it was great to come together to support and celebrate one another. This was my first trail race, and I'm glad I eased myself in with a 10k, and am considering the half for next year.
RAM Racing Rock the Night 5k was held on Thursday, July 30. It was another warm, summer evening race, but the atmosphere was light. Most people were there to have some fun.
Things I liked:
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup
+ RACE DAY packet pickup - this is HUGE for me, as I couldn't get to any of the other days for pickup, and not working in the city can make it tough on the weekdays to go grab them
+ Craft beer - Bell's was there with Oberon and something else.
+ Post-race food: Burger + corn on the cob - delicious!
+ Different bands playing: I only heard two, but really enjoyed the one that was on stage towards the end while we were eating and drinking - they played a lot of rock music from the 90s that I like haha
+ Bottles of water at the finish
+ Cups of gatorade at the finish
+ I think water and gatorade options at the aid station
+ SWAG = drawstring RAM Racing backpack + a long sleeve purple (or blue for dudes) tech shirt with reflective logo (rock the night)
+ Easy parking at Soldier Field, or easy access via CTA
+ Samples of Nuun and Lara Bars
I honestly don't think there was anything about this race that I didn't like. I was glad I had registered for it again, and had a fun time with my mom. I think my only issue was that I drove in to the city, picked my mom up from the train station, and then had a really hard time getting TO the race, because Lollapalooza started on Friday and the roads were blocked off, so that was a bit of a nightmare - but not the races fault.
If you do a lot of races in Chicago, then you might be like me and get a bit tired of the LFP. It was so nice to get some new scenery - the miles flew by, even though I was in a bit of pain. This was actually a 10 Nautical Mile race, which meant 11.5 miles.
This was my first year running Fort2Base, and honestly, it was my first time hearing about it. I'm so glad I had the chance to race it! So much fun, and I was honored to see/meet so many great service men and women who were out there volunteering and cheering us all on (especially those helping us get up Hero Hill!).
I believe it was the fifth year, and it was held on Sunday, August 23 with a 7AM start time for the 10NM. The weather was just about perfect, minus the high humidity. It rained a bit while I was out there, but that didn't bother me at all. As long as there's no lightning to make the race end early, I'm good to go.
Things I liked:
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup.
+ When I had questions and I emailed, I got a timely response.
+ If you stayed at the host hotel (Marriott Courtyard), you could get your packet at check-in.
+ Also, if staying at the hotel, you could sign up for a shuttle to get you to the other shuttles, which then took you to the race start. By the time i got there, the good times were already taken, so we decided to just drive to the location ourselves so we could get a few more minutes of sleep. I think their shuttles ran every 15 minutes or so.
+ If at hotel, they had a runner's breakfast - muffins, bagels, coffee.
+ The hotel had a bunch of signs up supporting the runners - awesome touch.
+ The hotel also had late checkout for us runners.
+ Basically, staying at the hotel was the best thing and major bonus points for all of the perks.
+ The race started and ended in different locations. Though it might take some working out of logistics, it was a nice change of pace (ha).
+ They had different shuttles depending on which race you were doing (they had different race start locations).
+ Shuttles ran from 5–6:15am.
+ The course was really interesting. It was quite special getting to run at Fort Sheridan, then on the North Shore Path, and then at the Great Lakes Naval Station.
+ Volunteers and everyone involved with the race were SO supportive and amazing.
+ Something you don't see much - pacers for times 13:00+ (I tried my best to stay with the 14:00, or at least keep her in my sights, which helped me keep on trucking even when my knee was hurting. I gave her a hug at the finish line. She rocked.)
+ Plenty of post-race treats: bottled water, towels, SoBe water, bananas, popcorn, clif bars, powerbars... and I'm sure I'm missing others.
+ Neat medal given to you by military personnel - what an honor.
+ Shuttles then took you back to Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science (where parking was available).
+ 16:10 pace cut off.
+ Neat shirt designs - gender specific tech material - pink for women and blue for men. LOVED the back: "Train. Race. Conquer."
Things I didn't like:
- I wasn't sure weather the mile markers were for Nautical Miles or regular miles. My watch is always a bit off (as they tend to be if you don't run the tangents exactly, which I most certainly don't/can't haha), so I was confused the whole race until I got to 10 and it wasn't the finish line haha. Not a big deal for me, as the miles ticked off pretty quickly, but I'm sure it could have been disheartening for some. Perhaps there was clarification or word about it somewhere, but I didn't see it, and one of the pacers wasn't sure either (or if I had looked at the map more closely, but I have a hard time remember where the mile markers are anyway unless I write it down haha).
- The shirt was a bit large, and I wasn't sure if I could exchange it at the race or not. I didn't want to have to do gear check just to exchange it at the end of the race, so I kept it. I don't think I'll be able to wear it for running unless I can shrink it a bit, but it'll be nice to wear around town.
I really don't have anything to complain about. That last one is just a bit of a note for future runners to be aware of. I had such a fun time, especially since I was there with friends. I ran alone, but found the support from other runners and all the workers/volunteers to be amazing. Having friends to hang out with on the shuttle and before the start is a nice bonus.
(Please note that I gave the expo 5 stars even though I didn't go to packet pickup, but received my packet (along with other roommates) at check-in at the hotel. It gets 5 stars for that awesome service.)
The final Terrapin 5k was held on Thursday, July 2 at 6:30pm. This was my first (and turns out only) year running this race, which makes me sad because I had a lot of fun. We ended up having AMAZING weather - possibly upper 60s or lower 70s, but it was lovely.
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup – Sunday in Deerfield and Elmhurst and Thursday at Fleet Feet Old Town.
+ Race day packet pickup - this is what I utilized. There was no line, and I got my bib/shirt/hat quickly and easily.
+ Easy location to get to, either driving, running, cycling, or using public transit (South end of Grant Park in Arvey Field).
+ The party area was fenced in (gear check, packet pickup, beer and food)
+ Corrals/Waves helped with congestion.
+ Water station around mile 2.
+ Cups of Gatorade at the finish.
+ Lou Malnati's pizza and Magic Hat beer were the post-race goodies (Electric Peel & #9) - great pizza and beer make a nice post-race party, in my opinion :)
+ Band (Old Shoe) playing until 10.
+ Our group looked like so much fun, other people leaving early gave us their leftover beer tickets.
+ Fun themed race - nice way to kickoff the start of the holiday weekend.
+ The course was clearly marked.
+ I purchased my parking using SpotHero and was able to find a place within a few blocks for only $10 for 8 hours (not that I was there that long, but for Chicago parking, it's a steal!).
+ Runner tracking.
+ Chip timed.
+ You could purchase additional beer tickets for $5 each (cash only if you were buying at the race).
+ You were able to pickup friends/family packets - just needed their confirmation email from the race.
- Getting into the city on the evening of a holiday weekend can be a pain, if you aren't already there.
- Thursday night races can be tough for some people to get to from work (I actually had to leave early in order to get there on time).
- No bottled water at the end of the race. I usually like to chug a bottle when I'm done, and I was pretty sweaty, so it would have been nice, but not a deal breaker for a 5k. Plus, they had craft beer, so I give them props for that... you know how most other races have gross beer (you know which one I'm referring to).
- I didn't use any of the packet pickups at the stores, but it seemed odd that the one on Wednesday in the city was only from 10–3. If it were only going to be a few hours, I feel maybe 2-7 would have been better for people that couldn't go until after work. However, I don't think its too much of an issue (my opinion) since they offered race day pickup.
I'm adding a photo of the course, since it's easier to see than to explain.
I was there with lots of time to spare before the race, so I got my beer wristband before the race, so I didn't have to worry about it afterwards. I think that as a good decision (not that it seemed like there were much of a line or anything, but one less thing to worry about). I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends after the race, I didn't leave until 9:30! If this race were to come back, I'd say register!!
You can read a more personal view of the day here: http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2015/07/ram-racing-terrapin-5k-recap.html