Latest reviews by Heather

(2015)
"Fun Monday Night Summer Race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my second year running Burgers & Beer 5k. It was held on Monday, July 13 at Soldier Field. It was quite a hot and humid night. I had heard over the loudspeaker that the race might be delayed due to people registering day of - they wouldn't start until they got everyone through that line. I also heard that they ran out of shirts for those registering day of, but that those that didn't receive a shirt should give them their contact info and shirt size because they would be ordering more so everyone would get one. I think that's really great - most races would just say that once the shirts are gone they are gone.

Things I enjoyed:
+ Nuun on course and water at the turnaround.
+ Packet pickup on multiple days, including at race site prior to the event.
+ Soft, technical t-shirts
+ Billy Goat Burger, potato chips, Clif Bars (I think it was the mini trail mix bars... ?)
+ Samples of Nuun at the party site
+ Goose Island 312
+ Great organization - the race director/Universal Sole do a great job with this race
+ Easy access via public transit, or $20 parking at Soldier Field Waldron Deck

Things I didn't like
- There was no water at the end of the race. Let me explain - I am slow, so I was towards the back. Also, I think that with so many race day registrants, they weren't quite prepared for the amount of people needing water on that hot, humid evening post-race. Luckily, Nuun had a tent and were giving out samples, so while my mom waited in line for the food, I grabbed up some cups. I really could have gone for an entire bottle with how hot it was, but I was happy to have something. That was the only thing I felt wasn't great about the race, but I also feel like it wasn't quite their fault. Who knew they'd have so many race day registrants? It wasn't that nice of a night haha.

I'll definitely be looking into doing this race again next year. It's a fun, relaxing weekday event :)

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(2015)
"Spectacular Race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my second year running this race, and in 2015 it was held on Saturday, May 23. It was really great weather - it started in the mid-50s, and was in the low 70s when we were getting kicked out of the tailgate party (when I say kicked out, it's because we stayed until the end).

There isn't an actual expo for this race, but I rated them a 5 because of their packet pickup system. They had multiple days for pickup, including new (this year) suburban locations. I went on a Thursday afternoon and it was easy breezy. They had the bibs in the lobby-type area of Piper's Alley, and then shirt pickup was through the back of Fleet Feet. I think having the 2 sections separate would be quite helpful when it got crowded.

PROS:
+ Some of the best race SWAG: tech shirt and medal
+ SWAG Post-race included a reusable handled SF10 bag with LOTS of snacks: banana, fruit snacks, Skinny Pop popcorn, pretzels, Lemonheads, Oreos, & a Clif Organic Trail Nut Bar.
+ Bottled water at the finish line.
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup.
+ Race Day Will-Call Packet Pick-Up. For only $15 per packet, participants can sign up for this service when they register for the race.
+ Friends/family were able to pick up packets - needed the bib confirmation email and a 'note' from the runner that you were given permission to pick up their packet.
+ Parking Validation at packet pickup.
+ Energetic volunteers.
+ Plenty of Aid Stations, manned well, with Gatorade first and water second.
+ The course takes you onto Lake Shore Drive, which helps with the congestion.
+ 4 Corral colors, with each corral having separate waves - again, helped with congestion.
+ Cups of Gatorade being handed out as you walk off the field.
+ One of the best race finishes - running onto Soldier Field and finishing on the 50 year line.
+ Military men and women handing out medals - having the opportunity to thank them for their service was wonderful.
+ Perfect weather. No... the race directors can't help this whether it's good or bad, but it certainly helps with a great race day!
+ Other goodies after the race included Muscle Milk, Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee Samples
+ GOOD BEER at the tailgate party - Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat or Pale Ale
+ Tailgate party lasts long enough that even the final runner has time to enjoy the music & drinks.
+ FREE PARKING.
+ Plenty of race communication/emails to keep the runners updated.
+ Icing station post-race outside - I got my leg iced and saran wrapped on afterwards and the guy was super nice and wrapped it on super well.
+ INSIDE bathrooms! I didn't even have to wait, plus using actual running water (and no ports-potties) makes me happy.

CONS:
... honeslty, I thought this was a great race, and there isn't much to complain about. I guess my only 'problem' was that I wanted to park in the South Lot or at Waldren Deck, but they had the exit ramp blocked off so I had to go to the North lot. This took me maybe 15 more minutes that I had planned, so I missed the group photo I was trying to get to (one girl had to get to her corral), but it was fine. I still had plenty of time until I started. And I don't think it's worth complaining about because the parking was FREE - and is normally $20 for other races, just thought I'd mention as I want to post all details of my race experience. That's where the only rating less than 5 stars came from and why. But again, that's being SUPER nit picky... I was just happy it was free!

I definitely recommend this race and plan on coming back next year. You can read my longer, more personal version here: http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2015/05/soldier-field-10-mile-recap.html.

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(2015)
"LFP Half Marathon With Enthusiastic Volunteers"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Chicago Spring Half Marathon was held on Sunday, May 17, 2015. This year, it was combined with what used to be the Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon that is held in June each year (Start/Finish line for that race was the South Shore Cultural Center). I personally was a bit unhappy that they combined the two, since I enjoyed running those two along with the Chicago Half Marathon in September for the challenge, plus the different race course was enjoyable. I also was unhappy that it meant Chicago Spring Half was joining forces with Michelob Ultra. I'm not a fan of the beer, and I prefer my race swag not be covered in their logo. But that's just me.

Also, I felt the communication on the website was a bit lacking. I think it would have been nice for them to mention that you needed to know your bib number in order to pick up your bib. Luckily, I had the email on my phone so I didn't have to use their computer system to look it up. My mom however, never received an email, and when she looked up her name, it gave her the wrong bib number, which unfortunately wasn't realized until we got home. When she typed in her name, a bib number popped up, which didn't show any name affiliation with it (doesn't seem like a great system... should show the name and bib number to confirm it's correct). We didn't check the teeny tiny name printed on the tear off section, and since it was the same first name (printed larger on the bib itself), neither we or the person checking the ID vs the bib noticed. How the system gave her the wrong number, I still don't know. At the race, they guy said that the system was old... ?? Anyway, she called to get it straightened out, and they re-issued both parties a new bib number, which we picked up at will call the morning of the race. Obviously, it was a little bit of everyone's fault, and I don't blame them completely, but it would have been nice to know previous to going there that we needed the bib number - - a little message in one of the emails they sent, or even a bib number look-up link on the website where it talks about packet pickup.

The morning of the race was breezy, about 65 degrees, and very misty/drizzly. That rain didn't last too long, and the clouds parted eventually for some sun. I actually ended up pretty burnt (clouds or not, I've got Irish skin). It was pretty warm and humid the whole race, so I was thankful that the breeze stayed pretty consistent the whole time.

PROS:
+ The course starts a bit farther north than most other LFP races, so it was nice to have some variety in the scenery.
+ The course markings were fantastic. They used cones, arrows on the ground, and had volunteers at most of the locations that might be confusing on which way to go.
+ Volunteers were all very enthusiastic and friendly, through the end.
+ I had a leg injury that sprouted back up at mile 3, so I was at the back of the pack for the remainder of the race. All of the aid stations were still well-manned and well-stocked, which doesn't happen at all races.
+ Still food left over at the end for back-of-pack runners/walkers to eat.
+ Goose Island brunch buffet (egg scramble = eggs, ham, peppers and onions; pancakes; potatoes = diced potatoes with peppers and onions, turkey sausage, and dole fruit cups).
+ Multiple days for packet-pick up and a few different locations.
+ Post-race party included a live band, free Michelob Ultra (I did not partake), and a place to plant your own flower cup to bring home.
+ Bottle opener medal.
+ At the finish line were towels, bottles of Gatorade and water - plenty left over even when the final finisher came through (always great when they don't run out).
+ So many volunteers at the finish line cheering on the final runners/walkers.
+ I had to stop at the Medical tent for an bandage (the wrap kind). Luckily, I stopped at the one that had it. At the finish line, some lovely volunteers saran wrapped a new bag of ice to my leg.

CONS:
- The communication about packet pick-up and what was needed was lacking.
- The shirt sizes ran VERY small. I had ordered a WM, and I swear, it was like an WXS. I ended up with a WXL, which had a fit like a WM. It's too bad that we didn't know the make of the shirt prior to registering... or have the option to switch when they figured out who it would be from. I based my size off of the 2014 shirt I had, assuming it would be the same. I don't get why all the makers have different measurements for the same sizes, it's a bit frustrating when choosing a size. They did, however, allow exchanges at the race. I'd also say the shirts weren't very exciting. They were navy blue with the Michelob Ultra logo on the front - - would have been nicer if they kept all logos on the back, but I know since they were running the race it had to be on front. And... as much as I love blue, I really liked how last year was a limey-green - very different from most other races, which is nice.
- All other medical tents, except the one I stopped at (about mile 5 or 6 I think), didn't have any bandages. I stopped at the final Medical Tent for ice to wrap on my leg, and there were a bunch of people in the medical shirts sitting on the ground eating, and directed me to go to the other side, where there was no one to help me. Luckily, a guy from the other side (not in a medical shirt), grabbed a ziplock bag and filled it with ice for me. I had to use the wrap I already had on to secure it to my leg, since they didn't have any there. It was fine, but I would have liked to keep the one wrap supporting my leg, and the other to keep the ice on.

Not a pro or a con, but for reference, I parked at the Millenium Park Lakeside Garage, and it was $20 (1–12 hour rate). The Park at Lakeshore East was about a block away from there.

I do enjoy this springtime race, and will probably register again next year. I just need to finish Chicago Half Marathon to receive the Challenge medal :)

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(2015)
"Decent 6.55 mile on the LFP"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Chicago Quarter Marathon celebrated its second year, held on Saturday, April 4th with a 9:15am start at Soldier Field. The course went south on the lakefront path and then came back.

PROS:
+ 9:15am start (I enjoy a later morning start time when it's not summer).
+ Was able to receive free shipping of bib and long-sleeve embroidered quarter-zip tech shirt (royal blue, gender specific – see photo) with early bird registration.
+ There was a medal this year - Chicago themed and pretty decent.
+ Easy to get to via driving or public transit.
+ Unique race distance.
+ 2 days for packet pick-up if you didn't get free shipping or opt to pay $10 (at Road Runner Sports).
+ Marching bands on the course.
+ Post-race party included a band.
+ Post-race refreshments included a banana, bottled water, and two flavors of LARABAR UBER.
+ 4 Aid Stations (technically 2, but with an out and back, gave you 4 chances for water).
+ Beneficiary: Prevent Child Abuse America

CONS:
- I understand not having any gatorade or other sports drink on the course, since it's not that long of a distance, but I do wish there was bottled something (other than water) to replenish electrolytes post-race.
- It's nice being able to park at Soldier Field, but wish the cost wasn't $20. I know the race doesn't set the cost, but still something to consider.

I think it's a nice race to help transition you into racing season (though I feel racing season is all year long... at least for me it is!). With the beginning of April, you don't really know what kind of weather you'll get, but it was generally OK this year (mid-30s with 10MPH winds and partly cloudy).

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(2015)
"Love this race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Shamrock Shuffle 8k was held on Sunday, March 29. The expo was held at a new location this year–McCormick Place–and was on Friday and Saturday. Packet pickup was easy, and I feel this race is always well managed.

Things I enjoyed:
+ They validated parking at the expo, so instead of $21 it was $10
+ Expo is held on 2 days
+ Lots of vendors at the expo
+ Fleet Feet sells official Shamrock Shuffle merchandise, which is all Nike apparel, and I love what they have every year (especially the tech half-zips)
+ 2 wave starts; 8:30 for the first half of the corrals and 9:15 for the last half (with some time between each corral) – this really helps keep the congestion issues at bay
+ Great SWAG - a tech shirt (which was a lovely shade of green), a finisher medal (new this year, it wasn't anything too elaborate, but was a bottle opener which is appealing to some), and lots of goodies at the finish line: Special K Bars, Sun Chips (original or cheddar), Applesauce in a pouch, bottled water, banana, and Gatorade in cups (no bottles)
+ The course winds through the streets of Chicago – I think running down State Street is a highlight
+ 2 aid stations with LOTS of volunteers handing out Gatorade at the first section of tables and water and the second
+ Easy to get to via public transportation
+ Post-race party in Grant Park with food, beer, and a band
+ The course is fairly flat – the only issues for me were running across the bridge on Columbus (the grate can be hard to run on, and I'm clumsy, so a it's a bit dangerous), and then the hill on Roosevelt. Other than that I think it's wonderful (love that it's on the streets rather than the LFP – different scenery + wider area for all the runners, which means less weaving)

Things I didn't like:
- the post-race beer was Michelob Ultra. Such great Craft Beer in Chicago, I would have preferred something better, but I've come to expect Michelob Ultra at the larger races.

So the only negative I have about the race was the refreshments post-race haha, but that is of course personal preference. Other than some crazy wind at times (not that that can be helped), the weather was great during the race. Maybe 20–30 minutes after I finished the sleet began, so I didn't hang around long at the post-race party. This was my third year running this event, and I'll definitely be registering again for 2016.

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