Latest reviews by Heather
The Chicago Marathon was held on Sunday, October 9. Weather on race day was practically perfect (IMO) - in the mid-50s to lower 60s depending on when/how long you were out there. Mostly sunny. This was my second consecutive year running this event, and personally it went much better than the previous year.
+ An expo like no other. So many great vendors, products, and Chicago Marathon clothing.
+ Expo was two days, practically all day. Friday 9a–8p and Saturday 9a–6p at McCormick Place.
+ Validation for parking - $10.
+ Getting your packet is so easy. You go to the first table to get your QR code scanned and show ID, they direct you to a table number in which they give you your bib in an envelope, then you head inside to grab your shirt from the back. You could also exchange if needed. Loved the neon yellow shirts this year.
+ Some of the best spectators around! A few dead patches for me (slower runners get a little less as people move on from their spots to see their runner and whatnot), but for a lot of it, the crowd support was amazing. Really helped push me when I was starting to feel tired and sluggish.
+ 20 aid stations along the course ALWAYS (lemon-lime) Gatorade first and water second. Never confusion. I was even able to fill up my own bottle with water around mile 18 as most of the aid stations had volunteers with jugs of water for this purpose.
+ Plenty of Toilet facilities with the aid stations as well as medical support.
+ Aid stations 15–18 had bananas (though they were all out except for at 18 when I passed through).
+ Volunteers were amazing.
+ Great course running through 29 Chicago neighborhoods.
+ At the finishers chute you receive your medal, a mylar blanket, bottled water, a plastic bag filled with: Boom Chika Pop Sweet Kettle Popcorn, Nature Valley Oats N Honey bar, Sun Chips Harvest Cheddar, Snyders pretzels, Brookside dark chocolate covered goji and raspberry flavors, PowerBar Protein Plus, and a teriyaki stick, and you could take photo with a MarathonFoto photographer with the Chicago Marathon backdrop, and grab your 312 beer before heading to the finisher party (or grab your gear check).
+ Protein drinks.
- No electrolytes at the finish other than a small cup of Gatorade. A bottle would have been appreciated to chug at the finish haha.
- One minor 'complaint' is having to walk another mile to get from the finish to the after party. After running 26.2 miles, runners are pretty tired. I get why that's how it's set up, but boy did that walk seem loooong haha.
• Since it's a World Major Marathon, and participants numbers are so high, they went to an application process maybe three years ago? So you submit your application (this year in April I think it was), and then you find out in May if you were accepted. It's an anxious month waiting to hear whether you are in or not.
• Security check going into the runner area (before the start - blocked off to spectators) - wand check and then bag check. I'm totally ok with these procedures as I believe in the safety of everyone participating.
• Since it is such a large race (50,000 participants about), you have to leave plenty of time to get there and use the bathrooms, gear check, and then you're stuck in your corral for about an hour if you are towards the back. I was in the last corral, so it was an hour wait (though we were moving up towards the start line for 30 minutes) till the start. Just something to be aware of.
• The areas where bananas were passed out was rough - I slipped on a few banana peels - not cool. I know volunteers can't get that cleared up because of the amount of runners, but I ask if you are a banana eater, then please throw your peel to the sides of the course if you can. Someone I know said it was like Mario Kart out there, and I totally agree.
• After party ends at 3:30, so if you start in the last coral and are on the slower end, you won't have much time to enjoy this part of the race, but plenty of fun to be had in the city celebrating your achievement!
For me it was a much better experience than 2015. Weather was great, I was faster and so got to experience better crowd support and the finisher chute and after party. I'll be submitting an application for 2017 so fingers crossed!
I believe this was my 5th year running this race. I love the change of pace with the course (not just a LFP and doesn't start downtown). The 2015 race was the first giant medal, and they repeated that again in 2016 for the 20th anniversary. It's honestly the size of my head. Race day temps started out nice, in the 60s, but rose quickly to upper 70s, sunny, and high humidity. Generally this might not have been too bad, but I was dealing with an upset stomach and the heat didn't help. Lake Shore Drive is awesome to run on, but there's a lack of shade, so no reprieve from the sun rays. Anyway, weather can't be helped, but I like to take note of race-day conditions.
+ Packet pickup was at Soldier Field this year! Very convenient (in my opinion). Parking for $5 at Waldron Deck, which if you know Chicago, is a steal (it's normally $20 at the lowest there). PP held on Friday from 12–7 and Saturday 10a–5p. Race day pickup was an option during registration for extra $.
+ The expo had a lot of vendors and always great official merchandise.
+ Pickup was easy. They sent an email about a week prior with your bib number and corral assignment. Bib pickup was in number order, show your ID and receive your bib. Then head on over to a separate location to grab your shirt. No exchange at pickup, but you could bring your shirt to the race if you needed to exchange for a different size (from what I heard a volunteer tell someone else).
+ Plenty of communication from race management to keep everyone updated on the race.
+If you were coming from the city, they offered shuttles to bring you to the race. You must sign up in advance for a shuttle, and they print what shuttle you are on a tear off piece of the bib.
+ Parking available at Museum of Science and Industry for $20 - pay before leaving. Race start is about a mile walk from parking.
+ Plenty of portapotties around the starting line stretching down through the N corral.
+ Half marathon start at 7am with corrals from A–N at Jackson Park. Rolling wave start (no official wait times between each, when one finished the next one went right on through). 5k started at 7:45.
+ Great course – nice and wide at most places so the usual congestion you see on the lake front path doesn't happen. Everyone is able to spread out pretty quickly which is great.
+ Course goes around Jackson Park on local streets until it pops onto Lake Shore Drive where you head north until about 8 miles, head up the 'off' ramp, head west at the street, then down the 'on' ramp. These were slow incline/decline, nothing too steep, then you headed south on LSD until just before mile 13, where you turn down Hayes Dr towards the finish. The participant guide had an excellent running tour of the course and what you'd see - pretty awesome.
+ 10 Aid Stations on course with water, Skratch Labs (Lemonade), and bathrooms. The Skratch was a great flavor - enough water to dilute it from being super sweet like sports drinks often are on courses. Always Skratch then water.
+ Pretty flat course; a few minor inclines or declines here and there, but not significant.
+ Lots of volunteers on course cheering on runners.
+ Race Guards running the course making sure all runners were doing ok.
+ You'll see more spectators at this race than most other Chicago races.
+ Announcer names runners as they cross the finish.
+ GIANT medal at the finish line. Cold, wet towels, bottled water, and sports drinks. Go through the finishers chute on your way to the party. In the chute you'd get potato chips and bananas.
+ Post-race photos with backdrop. Lots of different photographers set up.
+ Free race photos. And I saw a good amount of photographers before the race, start line, on course, finish line.
+ This race is the second in the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series. Complete it along with the first (Chicago Spring HM) and receive an awesome challenge medal. Great quality and a cool design. Much better than the first year that I did 3 races for the series and the medal seemed a bit cheap. They cut it down to only 2 races for the challenge starting last year.
+ Big post-race party. Band, DJ, vendors offering free snacks/drinks (Smart Pop popcorn, Naked Juice). It was still crowded when I finished, which meant people were hanging around. Normally most races are pretty empty by the time I'm done.
+ Free pizza for runners (received 2 slices in individual boxes from Home Run Inn - choice of cheese or sausage).
- Free beer was Michelob Ultra. To me that's a bummer (if you know me you know I prefer a craft beer, and Chicago has such a great craft beer scene that I'd love it if a large race could somehow partner with one of the breweries. However I am realistic and understand with such a large race that probably couldn't happen).
- By the 7th aid station, there was only water. It was a pretty warm day, and according to the participant guide there should have been Skratch available at all of them, so disappointing that it was only water (especially at the part of the race, when it's getting warm and participants could use the electrolytes).
- We were a good distance ahead of the 16mm pacers, yet I heard at some of the aid stations that they had to pack up and runners could get their own water off the table if they wanted it. I didn't understand this, as it's not like we were behind the pace requirement. I appreciate the time and efforts of all volunteers, and I'm sure they had already been out there a long time, but to me the stations should be stocked until the pace cutoff. It makes me sad to know that some of the runners behind me weren't getting the same support as those at the front or middle of the pack.
Run Mag Mile is what used to be Magnificent Mile Women's Half & 5k (reviews here: http://www.bibrave.com/races/the-magnificent-mile-chicago-women-s-half-marathon-5k#.V9Xd5zu7ln4). RAM Racing took over this year and made some changes noted below. The race took place on Saturday, September 10 with a 7am start for both the half marathon and 5k.
+ Multiple locations and days for packet pickup. Fleet Feet Deerfield on Thursday from 3–6pm, Fleet Feet Elmhurst from 4-8pm, and Fleet Feet Old Town on Friday from 10a–8pm. Also an option for packet mailing (could add onto your registration I think 2 or 3 weeks prior to event) which cost $15.
+ Paclet pickup was easy breezy - just have them scan the QR code from your registration email (they also sent out an email a few days prior with the code as well).
+ Friends and family could pick up for you - just forward the email with the code,
+ Goodie bag included your bib, Lara Bar, long sleeve tech shirt (pink for women and blue for men), and a chocolate bar if you were within the first 1,000 registrants.
+ Great post-race snacks - a brown bag from Corner Bakery which included napkins, mayo packet, chops, and a deli turkey sandwich, Luna Bars, bottled water, and Eli's Cheesecake. Yum.
+ Plenty of communication about the race, and all the info needed was on the website.
+ Race corrals A–D with about 2 minutes between each.
+ Easy to access the race start. Parking available at the Grant Park / Millenium Garages or you can use Spot Hero or an app like that to find parking cheaper in the area. CTA also makes it easy to access the race start/finish.
+ Live runner tracking.
+ Plenty of on course aid stations with medical stops and bathrooms. Each stop had Water and Nuun,
+ Clearly marked course (at the 5k and half split there were volunteers and signs to point the way).
+ The course started on Columbus and Congress, north to Randolph, West to Michigan Ave, North on Michigan Ave with a turnaround near Superior, back to Randolph, which lead the half to the lakefront path, down to about the 8.5 miles and then a turnaround back to the finish line on Columbus.
+ Running down Michigan Avenue and the Mag Mile is pretty cool. Running on the street the first 2 miles helps with congestion and plenty of space for all runners. I wish we got to a run a bit longer down the Mag Mile, though, I'm sure it's tough to get permits to shut down the street that far north, though.
+ I heard someone say there were about 2700 runners (not sure if that was half only or combination of half and 5k). It was good that it was smaller, since the out and back was on the same path, which could have lead to some congestion, but it wasn't bad due to the not huge number of runners (no McCormick Tunnel - that's always nice).
+ Names being announced at the finish line is always exciting.
+ Medal was almost the size of my hand! Large and I liked the design.
+ Post-race party included tents from Brookfield Zoo (which had an adorable sloth and a snake), The North Face, Athletico, and a few others.
I really can't think of anything negative about the race. I had a good time.
• No race day packet pickup.
• Originally it was a race geared towards women and this year with new management they opened it to all and gave the name a revamp. While I'm happy to have a race for everyone, I sort of missed that camaraderie and women empowerment that came with the race, along with a woman running celebrity (the past two years it was Lauren Fleshman - super awesome).They did fun runs and speakers scheduled during the expo hours. There was just something really special about having thousands of women running together :) In the Other list because it was still an awesome race and I really, I just love an organized race with good food at the end haha.
It's a fun September race and I'll continue to keep it on my calendar for upcoming years. I didn't have a great race personally, but still finished and enjoyed myself. It was great to meet up with runner friends, as always, and to run with my mom for the second half of the race. More personal details to come in a blog recap, which I'll post here when it's done :)
Volition America Half Marathon and 5k Chicago was held on Sunday, September 11. The half marathon began at 7:00am and the 5k at 7:15am. Weather on race day was in the upper 70s, about 55% humidity, and sunny. Not too shabby compared to the temps Chicago had been dealing the week leading up to it (back in the 90s, 70+ humidity).
+ Packet pickups at 2 locations, 2 days - Road Runner Sports in Chicago on Friday, September 9 from 3–7pm and Saturday the 10 at Road Runner Sports in Willamette from 10am–2pm.
+ Race day pickup available until 6:30am (not sure what time it started).
+ Packets consisted of a tech race shirt, Volition America blue drawstring bag, your bib, and safety pins.
+ For some unknown reason, my mom's name wasn't on the list for packet pickup (we went Friday around 3). Everyone was very helpful and quick in rectifying the problem and they created a new bib for her in the system. No hassles.
+ Race start was at Arvey Field in Grant Park (the southern part) - easy to access via public transit and plenty of parking options.
+ There were 12 portapotties available to use. 2 lines were formed, so it seemed like it would take long, but I think I only waited in line for maybe 5–10 minutes. Plus, they had the hand washing stations with soap and water, which I always appreciate.
+ Race started promptly at 7am after the National Anthem played.
+ The course went around Arvey Field on the sidewalks (that first part is always so cramped and makes it tough to start intervals right away even though I started near the back), but once you turn the first corner runners seem to spread out pretty quickly. You then went under the bridge and onto the lakefront path headed south around the aquarium, past Soldier Field, down to about mile 7.5 and then turnaround to head back north. Some parts of the trail had runners headed both out and back, but a lot of it separated the runners going out and back which is a nice way to keep things less congested. When you got back around the aquarium, you would take the lower part of the path near the lake (which is all messed up, I wish Chicago would re-surface that area) down to the end, and turn around on the upper path to head back, go back under the bridge, up and one final sharp right turn to get to the finish line.
+ Plenty of aid stations (maybe 8? My runner brain tries to keep count, but by the end I forget haha). Water at them all, and Gatorade at all but I think the first stop and the last two (and the last ones could have ran out, as I'm on the slower side - can't say for sure). Most of the time volunteers would have a cup of each, so if you wanted something specific I just look at someone and say water and they hand it to me. Sometimes I would just take both so I could mix them to dilute the gatorade even more. All volunteers were friendly and all tables ready for runners passing by.
+ Race Guards were running the race, and I saw multiple volunteers on bikes going up and down the course checking on runners.
+ Mile flags at every mile, and clocks at maybe 4 of them.
+ Mile 2 was the Blue mile. It was for Wear Blue: Run to Remember. It was lined up with photos of service men and women that died in the line of duty - all people associated with participants of the race. Then there were people lined up holding American flags wearing the blue shirts cheering on the runners. It was an emotional mile, and it helped me push myself harder. It was a fitting tribute, especially on this date.
+ The race benefits Folds of Honor, which is an organization that honors the sacrifice of our fallen and disabled service members by supporting their legacy with educational scholarships.
+ At the finish line you received your medal, bottled water, bananas, oranges, and pretzels.
+ Photographer taking photos with a Volition backdrop at the finish line.
+ If it's the same as Busse Woods, photographs will be available free to download in about a week. I didn't see too many photographers, but I know they were at the start and finish lines, and I might have missed the ones out on the course.
+ Post-race party had a DJ, Volition clothes for sale (shirts, pullovers, etc), Naked handing out samples of their juices and smoothies along with free sunglasses, stickers, cold compresses, and shoe laces.
+ Double Duty Challenge medal for those that completed: half marathon Busse + half marathon Chicago, or a combo of a half and 5k, or a 5k at both.
+ There was also a PR challenge you could register for (at an extra cost you received an additional medal if you beat your PR).
+ I appreciated that this race happened to land on September 11. It was a very patriotic race, and I felt like I was honoring those that lost their lives on that horrific day in history. It certainly made me think about people's sacrifices, selflessness, and made me thankful for their bravery. And thankful that I was there and able to run.
As far as the race itself - no complaints here. Things that were bothersome are things that the race doesn't control - like the uneven footing on the lower path down by the lake.
I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for this race series in 2017 and hope I can run again. I love that it benefits a good cause, and it's a well-organized event. 100% recommend!
RAM Racing Bucktown 5k was held on Sunday, September 18 with an 8:30am race start. Weather was sunny, upper 60s, and 75% humidity. I really enjoyed some new scenery, running through this cute neighborhood with tree-lined streets.
+ Easy registration process and ability to add on packet mailing up until I think 3 or 4 weeks before the race for an additional $15.
+ Packet pickup was at multiple locations on multiple days. Thursday at Fleet Feet Deerfield 4–6pm, Fleet Feet Elmhurst 4–8, Friday at Fleet Feet Old Town 10–8 and Saturday FF Old Town 10a–6p (no race day pickup available).
+ The sizes for the sweatshirt ran small, and they had a true participant swap on race day (I guess they had added more sizes), so they ended up having participants bring their sweatshirts that didn't fit right and swapping if the size they wanted was available. They did mention it was a true participant swap, and that they couldn't guarantee any sizes.
+ The sweatshirt was a super cool design (plus a sweatshirt and not a t-shirt is unique and fun); it was the Chicago flag, so light blue, white stripe across the side and the red stars. Material was technical fleece-lined. I got my normal size and it fit ok, but I know others found their regular size to be too small.
+ Live runner updates.
+ Gear check.
+ Plenty of portopotties near start and finish areas.
+ Results posted online in real time.
+ Corrals A–K with about 2 minutes between each corral.
+ Running through the streets of Bucktown was nice because there were lots of trees to keep the runners shaded.
+ Water stop at the 1.5 mile marker.
+ Clocks and flags at all 3 mile marks.
+ Lots of neighborhood families were out cheering on the runners. One even had their own little aid station. Super cute/nice.
+ Post-race snacks was bottled water, banana, and then in a plastic bag were a small bag of mini pretzels, Silk chocolate soy milk, and a Nature Valley chocolate chunk bar.
+ Post race photos with a backdrop.
+ Free race photos will be available for download.
+ Post race party had DJ and a bunch of fun tents (I saw Fleet Feet rolling people out, there was a social running group with a giant jenga game, Nuun, and a few others) + a big crowd.
- No information on parking. Not everyone has the ability to take the CTA, and any information other than take public transit would have been helpful. We got there really early so had plenty of time to find parking, and there was a good amount of free parking nearby. but it filled up pretty quickly. I did notice after the race when we went to grab food that there was also some meter parking in the area as well.
- It wasn't unexpected, but the streets weren't in great shape the whole way, so runners should mind their step. I did a bit of ankle rolling (again, not unexpected haha).
- The streets were marked do not park/tow zones, but plenty of cars were still out there, which created some course congestion and weaving. I know parking in the city stinks, but it was pretty annoying to not only have to dodge potholes, but also cars that shouldn't have been there. Also, some of the course was an out and back, so runners going one direction only had half a street, so if there was a car, the congestion was even worse. It would have been fine if say on the streets that were just one direction of runners and all the cars were parked on one side of the street and the other side was clear. Just a thought... maybe it didn't even bother anyone else haha.
As usual my cons are just some minor points... some people might not have been bothered by them, but I do my best to point out all the good and not so good I notice or feel things went.
Overall, it was a well-organized race and it was exciting to not run the lakefront path yet again for a race (no offense LFP, I still love you, but need a break sometimes). I also loved getting some unique, Chicago themed swag.