Latest reviews by Heather

(2016)
"Changes made to month/day, but still great event!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Rock the Night 5k used to be held on a Thursday evening in July. This year it moved to a Friday night in August. It was held with a 7pm start on Friday, August 26. Weather was fairly mild - in the 70s with some humidity, but definitely not too miserable.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup at Fleet Feet Old Town on Thursday from 10am–8pm. Mailing option for $15. OR big bonus in my opinion: race day pickup on site from 3–6pm. I did race day and it was easy peasy.
+ Race goody bag included: a black tech shirt (gender specific) with a small reflective logo on the front and some mesh-like panels on the side. I do sort of wish the back had a reflective logo too, or something a bit more 'flashy', but it's classic. I do appreciate that the logo is reflective. Also received a drawstring RAM Racing backpack and a frisbee.
+ There were 2 corrals (my bib was C, but they released B & C together). So about 3 minutes between A and B being released, which helps with keeping congestion low.
+ Aid station about 1.5 miles - included Nuun first then water.
+ USATF-certified course / chip timing device on your bib
+ Runner tracking available.
+ Free race photos (available about a week after the race).
+ Timing clocks at each mile marker.
+ Results posted within 24 hours after the race.
+ Great post-race party with Amylu sausage and Bell's Brewery (two beer options available) - you gave a tag off your bib to get your food/beer.
+ Live music (this year was Maggie Speaks).
+ Gear check until 9pm.
+ Bottled water at the finish line.

CONS / OTHER:
- The race course took you under the dreaded McCormick Place tunnel. I personally don't hate it too much, I felt like running through at night when the sun was setting made it seem brighter in the tunnel, so despite some uneven surfaces, it was easy to run through for me because I could see better than during those bright sunny days. Also, it's the only way to run so that it isn't a complete out and back on the path, which would be way too congested that way. So I get it, but something to keep in mind.
- In previous years there were cheeseburgers and ears of corn post-race. This year there were sausages, which some people loved. I'm not a big sausage person, and love cheeseburgers, so for me it was disappointing. This is just a personal preference.

Parking was available at Waldron Deck for $20. Easy to access via public transit. Plenty of emails from the race about the course, any updates, etc.

I had a great time running with my mom and hanging out with fellow BibRave Pros Eric and Frank - who both run much faster than me - but we had lots of time to chat before and after the race. I love running at night, so this race is definitely up my alley. Plus, food and craft beer equals two thumbs up. RAM Racing organizes fun races with awesome swag and I'd say look into it for 2017 :)

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(2016)
"Great swag, fun, low-key race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

RAM Racing organized Humboldt Park 5k, which took place on Sunday, August 14 at Humbdolt Park (near California & Division, Chicago). There was a 1 mile kids race at 8am and the 5k at 8:30am. Weather was pretty reasonable for being summer, I think maybe in the mid- to upper 70s with high humidity, minimal clouds.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup at Fleet Feet Old Town Saturday Aug 13 10am – 6pm, or at the race from 6:30–8. I didn't know packet pickup info when registering, and knowing I had a busy weekend, I signed up for mailing. If I knew there'd be race-day pickup I would have done that, but mailing was maybe $10–15, came about 4 days before the race, and was very convenient. I also like that you can add mailing packet AFTER registering. Just log into your account and add it to your registration. I think you can do this until about 2 weeks prior to race day.
+ The Goodie Bag for this race was an awesome 17-ounce water bottle valued at $35. Stainless steel, non-toxic, BPA free, no condensation, wide mouth for ice cubes, keeps drinks cold for 24 hours, hot for 12, and were a medium brown color that looked a bit like wood with a cute tree design on the bottle. Says Humboldt Park 5k in white lettering.
+ Humboldt Park is very pretty and is a nice change of pace to the LFP. The course was the shape of an M, So you Start and go to the far west of the park and down, then turn around and go half way back, take another trip south, then turnaround north, then finish the M to the east. Start and Finish were the same location.
+ Course was clearly marked, had mile marker signs and clocks, as well as volunteers waving you on the correct way.
+ Parking was pretty easy - street parking seemed ample. I got there early as I didn't know the area, and got a nice spot close to the start (of course even though signs said ok to park, I waited to make sure other runners were parking in the same spot before feeling calm about my decision haha).
+ 11 portapotties. Normally I'd say that were't enough, but the race was smaller and I never noticed any long lines. No lines when I got there, actually, which when I decided to exit my car, was around 7:50.
+ Corrals A & B with about 3 minutes between the two starting. Wave starts help with congestion. (I was wondering how I ended up in B, and then realized when I got there it was the last corral haha).
+ Wide course helped keep things from feeling too crowded.
+ 15 minute/mile pace requirement, so walker-friendly.
+ Pre- and post-race yoga; Sunrise Yoga, 7:30am-8:00am, Power Stretch, 9:30am-10:00am, Hatha, 10:15am-10:45am.
+ One aid station with water and Nuun.
+ Finish line = bottled water and then a shopping type plastic bag with Clif Trail Mix Bar, mini pretzels, creme de pirouline, Nature Valley Chewy bar, Rce Krispy Treat. I'm guessing they gave it all in a bag like that so then you could continue on to the Community Fair.
+ Grab cups of Nuun over at the Nuun tent (near gear check).
+ Free race photos.
+ Runner tracking.
+ Plenty of race communication from RAM - emails were frequent enough (and not too frequent - just the right amount haha) - and the website was kept up to date. Participant Guide was available on the website about 2 weeks prior to race.

CONS:
- My one minor complaint about this race is there was no real information regarding parking. From someone that doesn't know the area at all (the last and only time I was in the area was for Riot Fest back in 2014, and even then I parked at a friends place a mile or two away and walked over), it would have been nice to have some information on where to look for parking. The only info online was they encourage walking, biking, or public transit. This isn't an option for all, so some tips on where to park (garages, metered parking, whether street parking is free / available / available near race site, or even street names) would have been helpful for this anxious runner. Now that I know, however, i'll be ok for next year.

This was a nice run, and being a smaller participant group, made it more laid-back and fun. Granted, still plenty of elites and other fast folks out there, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel any pressure but to have some fun, which I did. I'd definitely recommend this race to anyone in the Chicago area. I generally don't go for 5ks anymore unless it's awesome swag and a convenient location, which this is :)

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(2016)
"I-L-L-I-N-I!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The 2016 BTN Big 10k was held on Saturday, August 6. There was both a 5k and 10k option; 10k start at 7am and 5k at 8am. This was my first year doing this race. I'll be honest with you... I'm not very knowledgable about college sports, but that's ok, because the event is still fun if you know practically nothing like me ;) Here are the Pros and Cons in my opinion:

PROS:
+ Option to pay for packet mailing, or packet pickup was from Tuesday–Friday from 8am–10pm at Fleet Feet Old Town. Plenty of days and long hours.
+ Ability to have someone else pick up your packet, they just needed your confirmation email with the QR code. Could be scanned on mobile or print out. I picked up two other people's without a problem. Quick service.
+ Pick your favorite school at registration. Can't pick? You could go for a general BTN Big 10 shirt.
+ Corrals were A–H for the 10k with about 3 minutes between corrals.
+ I hear it was a new course, and I thought it was nice. Went from Columbus to Randolph to Lower Wacker back down Columbus, to Congress Parkway, to Michigan, up Roosevelt, down the LFP lower portion, turn around on the upper LFP portion, finish on Columbus (farther south than the start). Starting out on the street is nice because it gives more room for runners, meaning less crowded.
+ At the finish you got water, towels you could dip into ice water, bottled water, and go to your school area for your medal (the ribbons were specific to school). You gave them the tag off your bib for medal redemption.
+ Goose Island 312 (not my favorite, but drinkable and better than a certain other beer that's normally the option). Amylou Sausage (savory or spicy options). Again, a tag on your bib for redemption.
+ Sunglasses from your school of choice (each school had it's own tent and backdrop for photos). Tag on bib for redemption. Loved this, since I was afraid they'd be all out when I finished, but having to give a tag meant that people who didn't race weren't grabbing them, and that it was only one per person.
+ Great post-race party. Music, bags, cheerleaders, mascots, lots of photo ops.
+ Free photo downloads.
+ Race results were up quick.
+ Live runner tracking.
+ Easy access via driving or public transit.
+ Great atmosphere - super fun and mostly friendly rivalries happening.
+ Loved how long most people stayed at the after party. We stayed till the end (11), and it was pretty packed until about 10:30.
+ Communication from RAM was great. Plenty of emails with updates on packet pickup, race times, course, etc. About a week or two before event they put a participant guide up on the website which has most of the info you could need (course, corrals, parking, aid stations, etc)
+ On course amenities included 3 water/Nuun stops with portapotties.
+ 2 slip and slide opportunities.

CONS:
- Though photos were free, I only had a few at the finish line. Didn't seem like there were any photographers on course, which would have been nice, since it was a nice day and had some great scenery.
- The lower part of the LFP by the lake is very torn up with lots of pot holes. Wish the city would fix it! I know this isn't the races fault, as it was definitely a good idea to utilize both the lower and upper parts of the path, but something to watch out for if you run down there.

I had an AWESOME time with my friends. Two of them ran with me, which was a nice change of pace. It meant we took a ton of photos, and not all selfies, which was nice to have for once haha. Also, it was cool to have so many people stay post-race to enjoy the day. Fun times had by all :)

Link to my blog post (a bit longer and more personal): http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2016/08/btn-big-10k-recap.html

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(2016)
"New, better course"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Rock n Roll Chicago took place over July 15–17 weekend. Expo was on Friday from 12–7pm, Saturday 9am–5pm at McCormick Place Expo Hall D1. 5k Race Start at 7:30, with maybe 12? waves (I saw at least 11), each going about 1–2 minutes apart. 5k race weather was mostly sunny, about 65 degrees at the start with 80% humidity (forgot to check what it was when I finished) - pretty nice, though.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup was easy. You needed your ID and a printed out form (easy to grab off the internet, or you could print onsite). If you were doing two races, just had to find your bib numbers and make two stops. First you got your bib from the bib area, then moved on to grab your shirts along with your drawstring backpack and pins.
+ Ability to register onsite for 2016 (I think prices were: $150 half, $65 10k, $50 5k, but don't quote me on that. I only really paid attention to the half, for reasons stated below).
+ Register for 2017 onsite and get huge discounts along with a free tank or t-shirt ($50 half, $35 5k).
+ So much awesome gear from Brooks - it's hard not to buy it all (for me at least), all Chicago specific, which makes it unique and fun.
+ Lots of official RnR gear.
+ Tons of vendors giving out samples, expo discounts, etc. You could spend a long time there if you wanted to.
+ New Course! It started on Jackson between LSD and Columbus, and went north on Columbus, east on Randolph, went onto the LFP, through the underpass by the museum, slightly up and then around to the east side of Arvey Field, and finish on Columbus. Starting out on the street helped with the congestion early on, but the path still was pretty crowded - squeezing 12,000 people or whatever on there is rough.
+ 1 Aid Station with water.
+ 1 band and 1 DJ on course, plus announcer/music at the start and finish, band playing post-race party.
+ Post race goodies included awesome medal, Propel Water (with added electrolytes), bananas, and chips.
+ Plenty of communication from the race management about expo, races, etc. Always very organized. Warned about heat levels (which is every year, since it's a race in Chicago in July... usually pretty hot and humid).
+ Race start is easy to get to.
+ Pretty flat course, maybe one minor uphill?

CONS:
- If you don't register early, the prices are very high. Granted you get a lot of bang for your buck, IMO, but it can be tough to justify. I was thinking of switching from the 10k to the half, but the half price at packet pickup was $150, so I'd have to pay the difference from the 10k + a $10 fee. Needless to say, I stuck with the 10k.
- McCormick place is a great venue for expos, however, for this race, there was no parking discount. For Shamrock Shuffle and Chicago Marathon it was validated for $10, but for RnR we had to pay $23. Woof. I personally don't find McCormick Place easy to get to via public transportation, especially if you aren't coming from within the city already.
- While you get a free beer after the race... it's Michelob Ultra. You know my feelings on this.

OTHER
• The 10k and half marathoners received the same tech shirt. I think the 10k and half were different colors and designs last year, but I don't mind they were the same.
• The sidewalk over by Arvey Field (next to LSD) is pretty beat up. Watch your footing.

I always have a good time at these races. They are well organized, and though very large field of participants, it's a lot of fun.

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(2016)
"Challenging course, beautiful scenery, and great support!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The 6th Annual Mad Marathon (or the Mad Half, which is what I ran), was held on Sunday, July 10, 2016. This race is truly a wonderful experience. The weather was in the mid-50s to low-60s, overcast (loved) with 95% humidity, and some sprinkles early on in the race, and depending on how long you were out there, some downpours too. At mile 12 we hit the downpour, but I was so sweaty anyway, it actually felt really good to run in it (another thing to stand around listening to awards and grabbing our beer post-race in wet clothes... a little chilly). These are my opinions of Pros, Cons, and Other from the race. 7am race start for half, full, and relay.

PROS:
+ Registration was pretty straight forward, and they have almost of all the information you would need for the race online.
+ It was strange coming from big city running to a smaller race community - I was anxious about parking, what time to get there in order to find parking, but when I asked at packet pickup, they looked at me like I was crazy (I might have wondered aloud if they would have someone directing traffic to open spots). I put this in the Pros because it was so laid back, and you could just about park anywhere except for on grass. At home, we are so worried about parking and getting a ticket or towed - you really need to watch for any signage regarding permits, store parking only, etc. Smaller towns aren't like that and it was refreshing.
+ Packet pickup was also so laid back. They had a board up with half marathon names alphabetical on one side and marathon names on the other so you can find your bib number, then go to the proper number side (half or full), go in your number line, and tell them your name. They then gave you you bib, you can grab safety pins, a race booklet with information, and a blue drawstring backpack with white Mad Marathon logo on it.
+ For shirts, you just went and grabbed your size. The size I had requested fit well, so I grabbed that. Loved that the women's were a minty green and men's a forest green. They had last year shirts for sale for $5, so I grabbed one (I wear race shirts to train in, and at $5 (and it was blue) I had to get it, right?).
+ I wouldn't really call it an expo at all, there were only 2 companies with tents there, but I give it 5 stars because on Saturday when we went, there was also a Farmer's Market in the green across the street (where the race finish line is on Sunday, and why the race can't be held on Saturday). There were vendors with honey, maple syrup, cheese, etc. It was great to wander around and pick up a few things. Packet pickup was held on Friday 4–7pm, Saturday 9am–6pm, and on race morning (5:30–6:30am).
+ They schedule something fun the entire weekend. Friday there was a band that played, Saturday you could enjoy the farmers market, a bunch of restaurants and B&Bs in the area were hosting MAD CARBO pasta dinners on Saturday night, and there was supposed to be music Saturday night along with a kids race but due to weather those were cancelled. I believe there was ice cream Saturday night too, but we just stayed in so I can't be sure.
+ Race morning is very laid back. They have portapotties set up, one line for all bathrooms (maybe 10?). The DJ was calming and not in your face, the National Anthem was sung, and we were off. No corrals or waves, but with having a smaller race and running on the streets, after the first .5 mile crowding wasn't an issue at all.
+ The scenery is just gorgeous. Be prepared for hills - my watch for the half said elevation gain of about 1200 feet. Coming from mostly flatlands, this could have been a rude awakening, but lucky for me I had heard it was tough beforehand and imagined the worst, so it wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated (coming from the girl who thought the race with 300 feet elevation gain was tough... because I didn't know about any hills prior! haha).
+ There are some out and backs, which is a great chance to cheer on other runners. A lot of the people staying at our B&B were also racing, so it was fun to look out for them and cheer, as well as some friends that were out there from Chicago.
+ Volunteers were great. Plenty of aid stations (though I'm not sure how many for the half... the race booklet had the marathon course and where aid stations were on that, but I couldn't figure out the half course and where the aid stations were... and with runner brain I lost count during the race). Aid stations had both water and Gatorade and a portapotty.
+ Around mile 11 for the half and 25 for the full, there was a sign for aid stations - - water on the left and beer on the right. We had to stop for some beer! It was 14th Star Brewing Co. wheat ale (I don't know the name exactly), and two dudes were giving out pretty full cups. Only stipulation was you had to remain in the sectioned off area until finishing. I had a few sips, gave it to my husband to finish and told him to catch up with me (which is no problem for him).
+ There were cyclists for the front-runners of all the different relays along with the front runner of the half and the full.
+ Some of the community came out to cheer, which was so cute (lots of kids). I got a lot of compliments on my skirt :)
+ The RD is a wonderful woman - she cheers for all finishers and makes sure she hugs every single one. Who else does that?! I've never heard of such a thing until this race.
+ Post-race goodies included medal (different colored ribbons for half (orange) and full (maroon)), cups of water, cups of cider, cider doughnuts, potato chips, orange slices, banana slices, variety of bagel flavors.
+ They had a blow up pool for runners to stick their feet in filled with rubber duckies - fun and cute idea, especially if it's a super hot day.
+ DJ at the finish line announcing finishers.
+ Heat sheets to help keep you warm - it was chilly hanging around in the rain and wet clothes.
+ Across the street by Waitsfield B&B where packet pickup was they had the beer tent. You could get a can of 14th Star Valor with your race bib, or they had 3 other options for $5. Also pretzels, chips, and salsa.

CONS:
- Honeslty - no cons! Great race. A few notes in the Other section that I don't consider cons, just indifferent type of info.
+ Course was clearly marked and was easy to know which was to go if you were full or half. Plenty of signage, cones, and course marshals to help point you in the correct direction.

OTHER:
• There were approximately 350 marathon runners, 400 half marathoners, 4 teams in the 3-person relays, 15 teams in the 5-person relay, 11 walkers for the half marathon, and 16 teams in the relay half marathon relay. So the race was under 1,000 participants total. Small from what I'm used to, but I really liked that.
• Again, coming from big city races where I had just completed a 5k with 6,000 people, I felt like a fish out of water, looking for the smallest of details so I could prepare and not be anxious of the unknown (like parking) or how many aid stations for the half (I carried my own anyway, so then it didn't matter... but might not have brought it if I knew how many to expect), I can't think of any other cons. I was able to learn more about parking from the packet pickup volunteers as well as in the race booklet, so that was cool. Back home we are used to receiving race-week emails with info like what you need for packet pickup (oftentimes a print out or you have to look up your bib ahead of time), and getting details about parking and costs. A race like this doesn't need to send out this info, because it's easy peasy, I just didn't know it until arriving haha.
• Mile markers at every mile, and would say 'Mad Half' or 'Mad Marathon' depending what mile it was marking.

I don't think there are any cons to this race. All of the runners are friendly and encouraging, it was well organized, laid back atmosphere, great swag and post-race treats. I'd really love to go back again next year, and maybe even conquer the elevation of the marathon (can someone tell me what the elevation gain for that one is?!)! It would be a fun challenge. I had an amazing time, being relaxed and taking tons of photos. I was actually even able to eat a bagel pre-race, which is something I have trouble doing usually (eating). Also, such great food and beer in Vermont... I need to come back to experience more! I'm sure I'm missing some details, but I'll add in if I think of more awesomeness :)

Definitely do this race if you have the chance! For those looking to do 50 half or full marathons in 50 states, choose this one! I had some friends that also ran a race in Portland, Maine the day before (made all the easier by being able to pick up their bibs on race morning for the Mad Half), so if it's the same weekend again, you can knock two off in one weekend! And you know I'm happy when good craft beer is involved with a race - especially if it's local to the area.

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