Latest reviews by Heather
Soldier Field 10 Mile was held on Saturday, May 27 with a 7am start for the first wave/corrals. I forgot to do my usual screenshot of the weather because race morning was a bit hectic, but it was sunny and I think around 70 when we started, and maybe 70% humidity? I know it was humid because my sunglasses that never fog got a little foggy from humidity/sweat, which I was pouring. My entire tank was basically soaked by the finish.
This was my fourth year running this race, and I was very disappointed in it this year. There was a lack of communication overall which is unusual for a RAM Racing event. You guys know I rarely have negative things to say about a race, so something really has to be up for me to say I’m disappointed, because I’m generally very easy to please. I hate to be such a Debbie Downer, but I need to be honest about my experience.
+ Registration is easy; race uses enmotive and super easy if you have an account. Log in, register, most of your info is already saved and you pick your estimated pace and swag size and enter emergency contact. After the fact, you can add packet mailing to your account up to 3 weeks prior for $15.
+ Multiple days and locations for packet pickup (Fleet Feet Deerfield on Thursday, May 18 from 3–6pm; FITT-RX on Saturday, May 20 from 10am–3pm; Fleet Feet Old Town Wednesday 3–8, Thursday and Friday 10am–8pm. Due to the size of the event, no race day is available. You can pay $15 up to three weeks our for packet mailing. Friends or family can pick up for you - I had to send my mom on her own to grab mine because I was too busy with work to go and she said she was in and out (on Thursday) with no trouble.s
+ Free parking at SF North Garage (usually at least $19–22). You could only enter it coming from the north, since a lot of the streets were blocked off for the race - you turn east onto McFetridge Drive then south on Museum Campus Drive and then west into the parking garage entrance… there is also an entrance on McFetridge Drive, and I’m not sure why that wasn’t open, as it had been in previous years, but you had to enter on Museum Campus.
+ Considering the amount of runners, parking didn’t take too long. It was a little backed up on LSD, on McFetridge Drive, Museum Campus Drive, but they didn’t have the parking gates down, so the cars could more quickly move through. It took us maybe 10–15 minutes from the back up on LSD to get into the garage. I did hear others had some problems with the parking situation, but when I got there around 6:30 it wasn’t too awful.
+ I love the 10 mile distance – it’s unique and there aren’t a ton of races in the area throughout the year, so it’s nice to have something other than a half marathon.
+ Finishing on the field is always cool. No concert this year to mess that up, you actually ran on the field haha.
+ Aid stations were well stocked with water and Nuun and plenty of upbeat volunteers.
+ I think there were about 4 or 5 aid stations, which I think is good for 10 miles. It was really hot out, and since I didn’t have my own pack to drink when I needed, I did find myself running and dreaming of the next aid station.
+ Course was well marked, DJ at the turn around point and a little ramp to get up the curb, run over some grass, to get from what I call inner LSD to LFP.
+ The medal design had meaning and was pretty cool.
+ Awesome getting your medal from a member of the military. I made sure to thank everyone I saw in uniform.
+ From what I hear there was a cool pre-race ceremony with Folds of Honor, one of the charities for the race (the other was SALUTE, INC). I missed it because I had to run back to the car to drop off my pack and then run back to get into my corral.
+ Receive bottled water at finish on the field, can grab cups of Nuun on your way out to the party.
+ Post-race snacks included a small Rice Krispy treat, mini pretzels, Dole fruit cup with a plastic spoon, CLIF Whey Protein Bar, and Piroucrisp all in a plastic bag (I miss the re-usable bags we got three years ago!), though I appreciate getting it all in a bag and not in pieces and having to juggle it all.
- Post-race party is held on the green outside the stadium and is always fun. Runners hang around to listen to the band and drink their beer. I think you could buy more beer if you wanted, and there was a food stand where you could purchase some grub. It was a beautiful, albeit hot, day, so it's nice to see so many runners hanging out and enjoying the day.
- Lack of information in the participant guide. It had all waves beginning at 7:00am and needing to be in them at 6:45. Turned out, the third Wave, white, didn’t begin going through corrals until 7:30
- HUGE lack of communication between the race and security. Since it started in the stadium this year, they had security to get in. Every single security guard told my mom and I we couldn’t bring out hydration packs in with us, yet they didn’t seem to care about the runners with fanny packs or fuel belts filled to the brim (they had more stuff in theirs than I had in my pack). I’ll also add that they were very rude about it, too. I’m a nice person and I am as polite as can be, so to get rude responses back ruffled my feathers. Especially when they let in all of the stuffed belts and didn’t bat an eyelash. The race later said we could have used them if we entered at Gate 6. Well, no one seemed to know that, as no one would allow us in. I’m totally fine getting my bags searched, it happens at all of the runDisney races. The problem was the lack of communication. If they had added it to the participant guide, we would have known to enter at Gate 6, but instead, it said all runners must enter at Gate 0. I had read no where, emails or the website or the participant guide, that there would be any issue with having a hydration pack. So, we had to leave them in the car and I had to carry my dang phone the entire race. And go without any electrolytes on a hot, humid, sweaty run. Part of the reason I brought my pack was because I cannot stand the new Nuun formula and wanted my own electrolyte mix. Anyway, I would suggest adding signage that says runners with packs/belts enter at whatever gate spectators are going through (bag search and metal detectors) and runners without that go through gate 0. Add that info to an email, to the participant guide, and to make sure all of the workers and volunteers know it.
- Part of my issue with Nuun is that you can’t get a bottle of it at the finish line, just another small cup filled. And so after sweaty everything out during the run, I had no way to replenish my electrolytes lost. I know some people hate Gatorade, but at least the races that have it give you a bottle at the end. And I just add more water to it so it isn’t so sweet.
- I personally didn’t like starting in the stadium. It was too crowded and a bit of a mess. I heard complaints on this from many friends. I also felt it took away from the fun/excitement of finishing in the stadium. Outside waves were set up better with much more space. I also found that the course was too narrow for too long, which kept congestion high until McCormick Place. We were in a back corral and couldn’t even really run across the start line with the amount of people there.
- The mile markers were WAY off. Mile 4 was almost a half mile after we actually hit mile 4. I’m used to my watch being off by a little, but it was dead on for markers on mile 1, 2, and the 5k, so when I was at 4.5 when we hit the 4 flag I knew something was wrong. I read other reviews making comments that the mile markers were off as well, so I know it wasn’t just me.
- No clocks at any of the mile markers, which I feel is usually standard at a RAM Racing event.
- The shirt quality seems cheap and I personally wasn’t a fan of the design (or maybe I should say the fabric which was a blue camouflage - though I do understand why they chose it). It is tech material, but it feels heavy and uncomfortable to the touch. Last year was Under Armor and was way better.
- You know how I feel about post-race beer; I want it to be local and good. Not even 312 this year, but Budweiser. No thanks. I tired to give my ticket away and no one wanted it haha. It would be amazing if a big race like this would support a local brewery such as Revolution or Half Acre.
The race sent out a survey immediately after the race, which I filled out, so it gives me hope that they will listen to the complaints/concerns of the runners and adjust for next year. I know it was an adjustment period as RAM took over from Fleet Feet (I think they worked together last year, but FF was still in charge, as their name is on the race shirt). So, their first year in control, I’ll give them another chance next year and see how it goes. They are usually very receptive to what the runners have to say, so I have hope. I'm only recommending it because I have faith that these problems will be remedied in 2018. I'll let ya'll know ;)
The Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10k took place on Sunday, May 18 with the half starting at 7am and the 10k around 10:45. I believe it was the third year for this race. It used to be held at the South Shore Cultural Center and went by 13.1 series or something like that, but they moved it up north in 2015 and called it Chicago Spring Half. They changed things up a bit this year, including a new start/finish location ON Columbus Ave. This helped a ton with congestion, as the old start was near the harbor and on the LFP the whole time, so very crowded. Definitely an improvement. Race day weather started out cloudy, but got sunny pretty quickly, and was in the low- to mid-60s with 80% humidity.
+ Packet pickup was at Fleet Feet Old Town on Friday 4–8 and Saturday 10am–6pm. Friends/family could pick up your packet
+ Quality tech t-shirt and I really liked the simple design + color + fit
+ Gear check was quick and easy to use. When we finished the lines were REALLY long, but we went to grab our food and the line was gone when we went back. Unfortunately, my tag fell off the bag, but we were able to easily identify our bag in the 'missing tags' pile.
+ New race location – started and finished on Columbus Ave. This really helped with congestion, as the old start was very crowded and took a long time to thin out being that it was all on the LFP. Starting on a large street allowed for runners to spread out.
+ I was able to pre-pay for parking at Millennium Garage for $19 using Spot Hero (had to take the Randolph exit and enter from the North. The South entrance was closed due to race set up).
+ The start was in corrals for the half marathon based on your estimated finish time when registering. It was A–I. They were released every 4 minutes or so. My watch start time was 7:26 in H.
+ Plenty of aid stations on course
+ Clearly marked course with course marshals at turns and at the 10k/half split and the half turnaround.
+ Mile markers and clocks for each mile.
+ 10 aid stations with Gatorade and water + Gatorade Endurance energy gels at Aid Station D/G (approx. Mile 4 and Mile 8.3).
+ Pacers for: 1:30, 1:40, 1:45, 1:50, 2:00, 2:10, 2:20, 2:30, 2:45, 3:00
+ Finish line = awesome spinner medal, ice cold/wet towel, bottled water, bottle of Gatorade, Lays potato chips, bananas, and ginger teriyaki jerky.
+ Post-race party buffet (got in with a ticket on your bib) - you were able to make your own breakfast tacos with your choice of All Whites© scrambled eggs, veggies, bacon, sausage, potatoes and more. Also french toast sticks and some Dole fruit cups. More bottled water in the buffet area. The line was long, but moved quickly. Lots of stations set up inside.
+ Do it yourself flower station.
+ Lagunitas beer.
- To get your packet picked up by someone else, they needed a copy of your ID. I don't like having to give this to anyone other than my mom or husband, so I really wish a copy of race registration would suffice.
- The bathroom lines were LONG. I'd say with that crowd, there needed to be more portapotties. I think there were maybe 15?
- There was will call packet pickup for race day, but cost $25. A bit too much for me.
I really enjoy this race, and am happy to see they listen to feedback and improve each year. I'm looking forward to running Chicago Half in September and receiving my Challenge medal. I'll be back for 2018.
Illinois Marathon weekend for 2017 was April 20–22. The expo was held on April 20 and 21. Race weather for the 5k, which started at 7:30pm, was about 52 degrees dropping into the 40s during the race with about 15mph winds. The theme for the weekend this year was celebrating U of I's Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary)... so think balloons, birthday cakes, etc. The medals were super cute and they all had this cute 150 charm on them (minus the challenge medals).
+ Pre-race weekend, there was plenty of race communication. They had a PDF of the event guide online that you could download to get a lay of the land before going into the weekend. Parking maps made it easier to know what to expect and where to go for not just the expo, but for the race as well.
+ I received entry as a BibRave Pro, but I found the prices to be very reasonable (5k started at $25 and ended at $45 online & $50 at the expo if spots were still available).
+ Expo was held on two days (Thursday and Friday). I went on Friday around 3:30 or so. Traffic was a little heavy, but parking was plentiful and well marked.
+ Packet pickup was easy and volunteers were everywhere in case you had questions on where to go. Grab your pasta ticket party in the lobby before heading in to the Gym to grab your number (they could scan the QR code you received via email the week of the race). It was well marked where you had to go depending on which bib you needed (5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon relay, marathon, or any of the challenges). Next up you head to the other Gym to grab your shirts. Again, well marked. I was doing the Full I-Challenge and only had to go to one spot to pick up my bibs and one spot to pick up my shirts/swag.
+ I loved that they had so many race options for the weekend - youth run, 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, marathon relay + challenged (mini = 5k+10k, half = 5k+half, full = 5k + full).
+ Full I-Challenge participants received a shirt for both the 5k and full marathon + a drawstring bag for the 5k + a nicer drawstring bag for the marathon (it has a zippered front pocket and mesh back - worked perfect for after the marathon when I showered at the ARC & had a wet towel to transport home).
+ The expo had lots of local merchants, charities, other races, and the official merchandise/other running items you might need from Body N Sole. I grabbed a nice Brooks zip pull-over with the Marathon logo on it and a beer stein.
+ Pasta party Friday night from 4–7pm (all in the same place - ARC for packet pickup, guest speakers, pasta party). Included House Salad, Bread, Choice of Meat Lasagna or Penne Marinara (could request gluten free beforehand), Iced Tea / Lemonade, White Chocolate Bread Pudding or Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Cost was $16 for adults, $7 for kids. My only issue with this was trying to time out the expo, eating, going back to the hotel, and getting ready for the race/racing. Since we didn't get back to the hotel till after 9, I was glad we had already eaten dinner. I just needed a light snack before bed + my protein shake.
+ You could purchase a day pass for ARC for Saturday for $5. This was awesome. I was not looking forward to driving home 2+ hours to get home while feeling gross from 6+ hours of running. My mom and I both brought our own towels (recommended to bring a lock for a locker) and showered before driving home. Felt way better + made it easy to change into clean clothes.
+Parking for the 5k was easy - no lines to get into the parking lot (we got there around 6:30 or so). Our parking lot had port-a-potties that we utilized before heading to the start.
+ Corrals for the 5k went from A–H I believe. Released every 2 or so minutes.
+ Running on the street meant it was pretty spacious. Though the start was pretty congested, I feel it cleared out pretty quickly.
+ Course was marked clearly and easy to follow.
+ I was a little nervous at first, realizing we'd be running at night and I didn't bring Knuckle Lights or anything, but I didn't have any trouble seeing where I was going. Some parts got a little dark, but not too bad.
+ 1 water stop on course - seemed well stocked with cups and volunteers. I don't remember taking anything.
+ Fun running through the streets of U of I on a Friday evening.
+ Finish on the 50yard line of Memorial Stadium - cool.
+ Awesome medal.
+ Plenty of post-race snacks - bottled water, bananas, Jimmy John's sandwiches, Nature Valley granola bars. Outside on the 4th mile party, you could grab your beer and a slice of birthday cake.
- Unisex shirts for the 5k. Unisex often fits so oddly, so I prefer gender specific. I'll give a + for being tech material. I definitely don't need another scratchy cotton shirt.
The Illinois Marathon took place on Saturday, April 22 with a 7am start. This was my first year running it and it was my fourth marathon. I had trained really hard for this race and wanted a PR badly. Not all of my long runs went super great, so I wasn't sure what was going to happen, and then the weather wasn't looking perfect either. Luckily, the rain never came, and I enjoyed the cooler temps. What I didn't love was the heavy winds - 15-25mph. Temps started in the mid-40s (feels like 35) and when I finished 6+ hours after the start I think it was in the high 50s and sunny. I was getting warm towards the finish. Once we started and my hands thawed out around mile 3, I was pretty comfortable in a rolled up long sleeve shirt and shorts. Anyway... My review of the expo and 5k can be found here: https://www.bibrave.com/races/christie-clinic-illinois-marathon/7308#.WQJeSbGZNdA
PROS of the MARATHON:
+ SWAG was on point. Gender specific tech t-shirts. Marathon color was cyan (light blue) + a sweet drawstring bag with a zippered pocket and mesh backing. Finish line you received a cool medal with a charm and if you did the Full I-Challenge, you also received that medal. I came across the finish line with only one other person in my vicinity, and so I got a lot of attention and basically didn't have to search out my medals or my finishers blanket (marathoners only) which was nice. I was also given a branded heatsheet.
+ PR bell you could ring! And I did!
+ Parking on race day was easy. They also had a good amount of port-a-potties spread throughout the race area - I never saw lines too long. Also - free! I appreciated the map in the event guide that pointed out all of the lots near the expo/race areas.
+ For the first 12.5ish miles marathoners ran with the half marathoners, and then the course split. I was running with a good crowd up until then, and then I was practically by myself the rest of the way. Every now and again I would come across another runner or two, we would chat, and then I'd move along.
+ The course was very well marked with cones, volunteers, signs, and police officers. Also bike EMTs checking on the runners.
+ The volunteers on course were fantastic. The second half of the race, as I said, I was by myself for the majority of it, which can feel lonely. This course had so many volunteers placed along it that I still saw someone every block or so. I made sure to thank them, or at least wave when I was too tired to speak, and they all clapped, cheered, thanked me, and/or gave encouraging words. It really lifted my spirits and kept me going. Though the course was not lined with spectators like Chicago is for most of its 26.2 miles, the volunteers and police made up for it. Not to mention that plenty of the community members would sit on their porch or be out by the street cheering us on. Some even had their own aid stations stocked with water, gatorade, candy, etc. It was so nice and filled my heart with so much joy. I might have been running and tired, but I knew they had all been out there themselves for the same amount of time as me, and even though I was slower than the majority of others and they were still out there being as enthusiastic as they were = true champions. I know how tiring being on the sidelines cheering is - so a huge THANKS to them (and all vounteers everywhere - a race cannot happen without you!).
+ Plenty of aid stations on course. I brought my own hydration, but they had plenty Lemon-Lime Gatorade (first) and water (second) and plenty of volunteers to hand it out. I did take a Gatorade later on course, maybe around mile 18 or so, and noticed it tasted a bit off (the water down there is different than Chicago). I was happy when at mile 20ish they had some bottled water, so I took one of those to wet my whistle. So anyway, if you are sensitive to this, I'd suggest carrying your own. My mom said for the 10k she didn't notice it tasting any different, so could just be the few of us that do haha. I always prefer to carry my own hydration of choice, knowing I can drink whenever I want and not to rely on aid stations (I've been to races where they run out, and that's not cool. Luckily - not an issue here - they had so much and I was grateful even though I didn't really need it). There are 16 hydration stations on the course (see course map on pages 16– 17). GU (at mile 6.7; mile 13; mile 17; and mile 21). Each GU station will have vanilla bean, strawberry banana, and chocolate outrage GU. All flavors of GU have caffeine except strawberry banana. Bonus: They had all of this information in the event guide, so you knew what was where.
+ There were a few hills on course, but generally it was flat. I think the biggest was during mile 24.
+ The course ran through suburban type settings, a fun paved path through a preserve type area, downtown Champaign, U of I campus (not necessarily in that order). I enjoyed the scenery.
+ Oranges at approximately mile 6; Oranges and bananas stop at mile 21.5.
+ Finish on the field of Memorial Stadium.
+ Post-race food = bananas, granola bars, big bag of pretzels, pasta, pizza. Beer and Cake at the 27th mile party (though this was all packed up when I finally made it out there).
+ Showered at ARC on a $5 day pass. Made the drive home way better.
+ Legit any question you might have about race weekend was on the website or in the event guide. They did a great job putting it all together.
+ Price was reasonable (starting at $85 and topped off at $110 online or $115 at expo if there were still spots available)
+ The race puts together an extremely helpful spreadsheet of the hotel partners. It gives the phone number, address, distance from start line, phone number, reservation code if needed, and if there was availability or if it was sold out (updated maybe once a week). Notes included whether there was a 2-night stay minimum. This made choosing a hotel much easier. I guess the only thing missing was price ;)
+ The partner hotel we were at was about 3 miles from the start and they had late check out (till 1 - still too early for this slower runner) along with breakfast in the morning starting an hour earlier than normal for the runners. Included was yogurt, fruits, bagels, muffins, breakfast bars, cereal, and I saw syrup so I think maybe waffles or pancakes?
+ Lots of signage from the race along the course. Fun tidbits about the school, health, fitness, etc made some of the miles go by quicker. There were also some great signs held by spectators that made me chuckle, but of course can't think of them now, and I didn't always have the energy to get out my phone for photos.
+ All intersections were monitored by volunteers, and police officers were placed at the most busy. I always felt safe on course, even when it was open to traffic in the neighborhood areas.
+ There were shelters in place in case of bad weather. I saw a bunch of signs pointing to them, and there were volunteers nearby as well (I'm sure they would help usher runners there if needed).
I can't think of any problems I had with this race. I think it was very well-organized, packet pickup went smoothly, lots of race communication from the RDs, plenty of aid stations, nice scenery, elevation wasn't too bad, and parking for the most part was easy (only slight hiccup was to the expo, but mainly it was a bit slow to get into the lot because of heavy pedestrian traffic).
I would HIGHLY recommend this race weekend. I had a great time meeting up with other BibRave Pros and hanging out. The marathon, though painful at times, was a wonderful experience and I smile thinking of how I pushed through some difficult times to hit my PR. I'm planning on making the trip in 2018.
Back on my Feet Mardi Gras Chaser 5/10k was held on Saturday, February 25 with a 10am start (both races at the same time). Weather was real feel of 9 degrees - very cold and windy! When the race started, it even began to snow fairly heavily. Nothing seemed to stick, and the path was generally clear of ice/puddles.
+ Cost is comparable to other races in Chicago (5k $35 until Jan 31/$40 after; 10k $45 until Jan 31/$50 after. Race Day registration: $45 for 5k and $55 for 10k and cash only) - - but ALL proceeds benefit BoMF Chicago, which is cool.
+ 10am start. I know some people don’t like starting that late, but I enjoy getting to ‘sleep in’ until 6:30 haha.
+ Packet pickup Friday at Fleet Feet Old Town 10am–8pm
+ Race day packet pickup for free starting at 8–9:30am. There was no expo, but I give them 5 stars for packet pickup for having a full day at Fleet Feet on Friday AND race day for free.
+ All participants received a 1/4 zip tech pullover (white... I sort of wish they were purple or green, but they were nice).
+ Bank of about 10 porta potties near the start. Not sure I ever saw much of a line. When I went around 9:15 or so, they were pretty open and no waiting. Also a hand washing station (water + soap), but honestly it was way to cold to use that haha. Hand sanitizer for the win that day.
+ 10k received fun bead medals
+ 4 aid stations (a LOT for a 10k, in my opinion)… I think 2 for the 5k, again, a lot. Gatorade and water at all of them I think…
+ Mile markers were shorter yard-type signs.
+ Course was well marked with cones and volunteers at sections that might be tricker, though it was a pretty straightforward course.
+ Volunteers on course were wonderful - whether handing out water/Gatorade, cheering, or helping with traffic.
+ Full sized Clif Bars at the turn around.
+ Plenty of treats at the finish line – cups of water and Gatorade, bananas, mini Clif Bars, Entenmann’s Mini Bagels (plain and cinnamon), Entenmann’s Little Bites, and a cracker type thing.
+ Free parking along the street (was told it was metered, but there were no meters set up, so yay!).
+ After Party at Fat Cat - $15 Buffet with LOTS of delicious foods. Yogurt bar: Greek yogurt, house made granola, fresh fruit, sliced almonds, sprinkles, and honey, Bananas Foster Brulee French Toast, Chicken Fried Chicken with gravy, Red Beans and Rice, House made Biscuits with Fat Cat home made jam and whipped butter, Scrambled eggs, Brunch potatoes, Bacon.
+ When you entered, there was a table set up where you can buy raffle tickets and cash in your beer ticket from your bib (there were a few selections).
• I’m not sure what happened, but when I went to grab my packet on race morning, my name wasn’t on the 10k list (or 5k, though I know I registered for the 10k). I had to go searching for my registration confirmation, and then fill out a form to get a bib number. It was pretty easy, but still a pain in the butt. Note to self: Have registration confirmation email flagged and at the ready when going to packet pickup haha.
• I know it was to avoid the potholes and cracks on the sidewalk, but the start was on a small blocked off portion of the street, which was a bit narrow. Made the start congested, but it cleared about around .75 miles.
I had a GREAT time running this year. Though VERY cold, I managed a PR. I did my run/walk intervals for the first 4 miles, and was near a friend the whole time, so at mile 4 I decided to run the rest of the way with her and see if I could do it. We stopped at mile 5 for water (which was a bit frozen, but a little squeeze broke up the ice that had formed on top and was then drinkable) and we finished strong. I really liked the out and back, because it gives me the chance to cheer on other runners and see my friends along the way. Helps the time go by quicker when looking for them vs focusing on my pace. Love the cause - All proceeds from the race will support Back on My Feet Chicago in providing programming to change lives one job, house, and mile at a time. BoMF uses the power of running to help change the lives of those experiencing homelessness in our city. Will definitely be back for 2018, if the schedule allows for it.
Here is my blog recap: http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2017/03/mardi-gras-chaser-10k-recap.html