Latest reviews by Heather

(2016)
"Fifth Time Running, New PR Each Year!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was the 9th Annual Southwest Half Marathon held on May 1, 2016. Previously know as the First Midwest Half Marathon (see previous reviews here: http://www.bibrave.com/races/first-midwest-bank), it changed names in 2016 since it had new sponsors (no longer First Midwest Bank). The race director is Mel from Running For Kicks over on 127th and Harlem. Usually the race is the first Sunday of May each year.

This was my fifth year running, and every year I come back hoping to beat my time from the previous year. So far, I've been successful. This race also holds a special place in my running heart, as it was the first half marathon I ever attempted back in 2012. It didn't go so great, as I ended up being sick at the turn around point, but I come back every year in honor of that first time which started the running obsession ;)

Weather this year was in the mid-40s with mist most of the race + some wind + humidity + clouds. I personally enjoy 40s for running, so was good for me. Much prefer it over sunny and hot haha.

PROS:
+ Chronotrack registration this year.
+ Early bird pricing.
+ New packet pickup location at Shepard High School (part of the Business & Health Expo - nothing super exciting, in my opinion as it's mostly health care booths. We were in and out pretty quick). At pickup there's an alphabetical list of runners - find your name/number and then go over to your number line (i.e. 100-500). Shirts were a different line nearby. Was 9am–3pm and I believe race day pickup was available starting at 6am, though it was strongly encouraged for you to pickup at the expo. Friends/family were allowed to pickup for you.
+ Could register at packet pickup (not on race day).
+ Swag at pickup included a long sleeve tech shirt (those ones that feel like cotton but aren't - they're nice - I feel I have so many short sleeves so glad to add a long sleeve to the collection) and a pair of Feetures socks (size M for women and L for men - choice of 3 colors for women - not sure what it was for men).
+ Race parking is pretty easy - allowed to park in any of the lots of the local businesses. Volunteers helped direct you where to go. This was the closest we've ever been - only 1/2 a block away. Also, FREE. Yay!
Race location: City Hall in Palos Heights, IL (Rte. 83 & 76th Ave.)
+ Gear check opened a 5:30am.
+ Half start at 7:30 and 10k at 7:40.
+ Mile Markers and Clocks.
+ Bib Chip Timing.
+ Plenty of aid stations (8).
+ 4 hour time limit (approximately 18 min/mile pace).
+ Gatorade and water at all stops. Though the cups were the same, volunteers were very good about letting you know what they were holding.
+ Porta-potties at the start and at most aid stations.
+ Course is an out and back. Mostly flat, but a few small hills and one larger (the overpass). I think I counted 3 hills, so with it being an out and back, 6.
+ Pacers: 1:38, 1:40, 1:45, 1:50, 1:55, 2:00, 2:05, 2:10, 2:15, 2:20, 2:25, 2:30, 2:35, 2:40 and 2:44 (they held signs so you knew where to line up if you were using them).
+ Finish line included your medal, bottled water, cups of different flavors of Gatorade, and different flavor Gatorade (and G2) in bottles.
+ In the post-race party area there were apples and bananas.
+ Live band at the after party.

CONS:
- Again, the expo isn't anything exciting, but it is a local running store that puts on the race, along with sponsors, so honestly no biggie to me. If I want running gear I could just stop at the store. I think it works well for them that they have paired up with local towns for the Business and Health Expo.
- There isn't a ton of race communication - I don't think I received any emails regarding the race other than my race confirmation. However, you could just go to the website and find what you were looking for. They also gave you a parking map in your expo bag, so again, not a big negative in my mind, but I always like to mention anything I can think of that others might be interested in knowing.
- The scenery isn't super exciting. It's mostly just running down a road with forest on each side. In a way, I think that helps you run faster because you aren't distracted by looking at pretty lakes or buildings. My personal opinion is that if I'm running with forest on each side of me, I'd rather be on the trails than the road ;)

As you can see, there really isn't much negative to say about the race, just a few nit-picky things I felt worth mentioning for those thinking about this race in the future. I try to be as thorough in my reviews as possible :) Even though there isn't a ton of communication via email, you can like the race on FB and get your info there, or from the website. The RD is pretty good at responding to questions on FB which was good. I feel like it's an organized race - parking isn't a hassle, packet pickup is easy and quick, and they start on time. It's a smaller race, so corrals/waves aren't really necessary. I plan on making 2017 year 6!

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(2016)
"Great Community Support"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

My mom and I have been doing the Ridge Run for a few years now. It has become our own little Memorial Day tradition, and I'd say the same for most of the others there. It takes place each year on the Monday of Memorial Day, with a 10k starting at 8:00am and the 5k at 9:30am. There's a Youth Mile that starts at 8:10. The Tot Trot began at 10:30. Weather was in the 70s and sunny, but I felt the humidity wasn't nearly as bad as previous years, so that was a welcome treat.

PROS:
+ You can register up to about a week before the race and they also have race day registration (closes 1/2 hour before each race starts).
+ They had multiple days for packet pickup; Tuesday, May 23 – Friday, May 27, 3pm to 7 pm at
Running Excels at 10328 S Western Ave; Sunday, May 29, 12pm to 3pm, Ridge Park at 9625 S Longwood Dr.; Race Day – Monday, May 30, 6:30am to 9am, Ridge Park at 9625 S Longwood Dr.
+ Packets included coupons for Running Excel, a Fruit & Grain Bar, papers/postcards/sheets for other races and local businesses, a plastic water bottle, your bib, and a short-sleeved blue shirt (Gilden Performance, unisex, I got a M which I usually get and fits fine).
+ There's plenty of residential parking available for race day. We parked maybe a half mile from the race and walked over.
+ I'm not sure if there are any official aid stations, but there was at least 1 that you passed twice with water. It could be the community doing, or the race, not sure. Either way, it's nice to have, especially since the weather is usually pretty warm.
+ the community really comes out for this - since the race is along mostly residential streets, the families of the homes come out to cheer, a bunch put out sprinklers/hoses, and it's really just a fun, family-friendly event.
+ The course is well marked with cones and course marshals. At one point the slower runners and walkers are still on the part of the course that is split for the fast runners coming back. It's cool to see them pass and to cheer them on. Before they come along, a police car comes by to make sure everyone is pushed over to the left.
+ They changed up the finish area a bit, and now once you finished you went straight through the runners chute with the food and drink. Before you had to finish and then move down the hill to get the food. No more need for the runners food slip that you had to rip off your bib (even though it was still on there this year).
+ Post race food = bottled water, bananas, apples, mini ham or turkey sandwiches, and Fruit & Grain Breakfast Bar (strawberry).
+ Post race there's food and beer (not included in registration), free Rainbow Cone in small containers (I got one of the last containers), music, jumpy house for the kids. There's also a parade at 10:30.
+ Results on Active.com.

CONS:
- I was a little disappointed in the move of the finish line this year. It narrowed down to the path going down towards the park. We were going a bit faster than some others at the end, and it made it hard to pass since it was so narrow. I'm sure there was a good reason for the move, but I personally wasn't a fan.
- In previous years they gave medals to the top 3 of each age group. This year, only the top 3 men and women overall were regarded as winners (not sure if they received anything). This didn't matter for me, but I felt bad for my mom who usually receives a medal.

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(2016)
"Fantastic Inaugural Event!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Naperville Women's Half Marathon and 5k was held on Sunday, April 24 and 2016 was its inaugural year. Packet pick-up wasn't really an expo, just a stop at Naperville Running Company and down the stairs in the back, but it was quick and easy, so I gave it 5 stars. The weather was in the upper 40s at the start (though it seemed warmer), it quickly went up into the high 60s/low 70s by finish time (for me at least). I was wearing a t-shirt, arm sleeves, and shorts, but took the arm sleeves off before hitting mile 1.

Registration on Active.com and they had a fun pricing system when registration began on Tuesday, January 26 at 10am. Slots opened up at $1, then the next group $5, then it went up in $5 increments until the standard entry fee (highest for half was $100 and $35 for the 5k). I managed to score a $5 entry fee. Jackpot. Race weekend registration cost $125 for the Half Marathon and $45 for the 5K.

The race was geared towards women, but there were a few men out there.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup at Naperville Running Co on Saturday from 10am–5pm. They switched their times, but sent out an email updating everyone. They also offered race day pickup from 5am–6:30am
+ Packets included a women's cut technical shirt (pink for the half, mint green for the 5k), a Naperville Women's Half Marathon string backpack, your bib, and the chip timing device (one of those plastic things you tie into your laces).
+ Packet pickup was quick and easy. You went to your bib number 'line' (they sent an email with your bib number, so I kept that handy when I went in) - the envelope included your bib, safety pins, and chip timing device, then stepped down to grab your shirt (they knew the size by looking at your bib - there was a tear off piece on the bottom for shirt size), then you could put it all in a string backpack.
+ Race Clinics at Naperville Running Co (I didn't attend, since I'm not from the area and I had plans, but they looked interesting).
+ The lines for the porta potties before the start weren't too long, and they moved quicker than I anticipated.
+ 7am start for the half, 7:20am for the 5k.
+ Pacing signs to help runners line up accordingly. When the race began at 7am, all runners began - no waves (not an issue, being on the streets gave plenty of space for runners to spread/thin out).
+ Gear check was open 5:30–7:15am (I didn't utilize this so can't say anything else).
+ I applaud the race and the city of Naperville for doing such a wonderful job blocking off streets and intersections. They had a TON of police officers and volunteers on course. I swear there was one every block. Some of the course took place where it was a 2-lane each way street, so they blocked off the right lane; so many cones and signs to let cars know what lane they should be in. I never once felt unsafe. I made sure to thank the volunteers and the police officers. Many of them cheered and clapped for the runners, which was even nicer. They also did a nice job using cones, arrows, and signs to help direct runners throughout the course, though there was almost always a volunteer or cop when there was a turn or change in the course (i.e. when it went from street onto the trail).
+ So many aid stations. I had trouble keeping track, but they said there would be an aid station every mile. I think there were 10 or 11 on course, so just about. Obviously there wasn't one at 13 since you're going into the finish, and I think maybe not at 4 or something... but really - there was plenty. Most also had porta potties as well. All had water and gatorade, and though not always in the same order (water first, gatorade second), the volunteers were great about letting you know what they had in their hands. Most of the aid stops also had Clif Shots and/or Shot Bloks. Well done!
+ Some might say the course elevation was easy, but I felt there were so many hills! I'm so used to flat terrain being in the city or even mostly around me unless I head to the trails, so I wasn't expecting to battle as many hills as we did. Call me a baby, but I thought it was tough haha. I put this in the pros column because I like the challenge and change of pace.
+ Nice scenery - different than the same old LFP course, and the city of Naperville has some beautiful houses and trails. I liked that the course mixed it up between the streets of the city and the trail path (paved).
+ We were towards the end, so we almost had a private finish line - the announcer was cheering us on and speaking to us directly, which I thought was cool. I heard him say to a runner finishing after us that it wasn't a finish line, it was a runway :)
+ Finish line goodies: Finisher medal (it had a cute tiara on it - some might say the race swag was too girly, but I didn't mind). Treats included bottled water, canned pop, bananas, apples, mini bagels, cream cheese, grapes, granola bars, cookies - it was insane (in a really good way).
+ Photographers at the start, and a few miles in, then again towards finish.
+ Photographer at the post-race party for runners wanting their photo with the Naperville Women's Half Marathon backdrop.
+ I didn't know it until we were enjoying the post-race party, but it was a 4 hour time limit, which I think is great. Hopefully it encouraged walkers or people afraid of a 3:30 time limit to join in on the fun!
+ Post-race party began 8:30 and ended at 1pm. Plenty of time for everyone to enjoy - not just the speedy folks.
+ Enough race communication that I was never wondering anything. I knew where packet pickup was, and when they changed the time they emailed. They were also good about updating their SM accounts to stay informed. The only question I never got a response on was where to park (you'll see below that I was quite confused haha).

CONS:
- Honestly, the only issue I had with this race was that there was limited information regarding parking for either packet pickup or the race. I asked someone at pickup if they had any parking tips for me, and he said he knew nothing about it and to look online at the maps. I did so when I got home, but couldn't figure out what it meant exactly. No addresses or suggestions on what the best place to go was, or a legend saying what everything meant. It was confusing to me (maybe others figured it out better haha). I got a little anxious not knowing where I'd be going the morning of the race, but I found a garage that other runners were parking at and did the same... even though the signs in the lot said no parking 2am–9am. I put a note in the window saying I was there for the 7am half marathon start, and just hoped due to the race, they wouldn't be checking the garage or that since a bunch of other runners parked there it wouldn't be an issue (and it wasn't, but I was so nervous). It was maybe a half mile from the race, but we were there early and it was fine. Again, not being from the area, I had no clue what was ok. The parking lot I was originally planning on going to had a 2-hour time limit, so I kept driving in hopes of finding one without one.

For an inaugural race, only having one con (in my opinion) really is quite amazing. You never know with a newer race how it will go, but I think the RD and everyone involved did a great job. Hopefully they'll be more helpful with parking suggestions next year. I'd definitely keep this race on my list for 2017 if my day is clear... and hopefully it'll be $5 again ;)

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(2016)
"Smaller race - 6.55 miles on the LFP"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Third Annual Chicago Quarter Marathon was held in Chicago on Saturday, March 26, 2016. Weather in Chicago was fantastic for a race: low- to mid-40s and sunny with about 7mph winds. Maybe not ideal for some, but I loved it.

PROS:
+ Through January 25, you received FREE packet shipping for $50.25 (Through February 25: $50.25 (option to add packet shipping for $10) and After February 25/Race Day: $60.25)
+ Packet pickup held at Road Runner Sports Chicago March 19 10am–6pm and March 24 10am–8pm
+ Full-zip red cotton sweatshirt with embroidered logo - nice quality and very soft with two pockets
+ Finisher medal
+ 9:15am start time
+ Allow you to change your jacket size up until Jan 8 - they didn't reveal the jacket until after some had already registered and it wasn't gender specific, so some people might have wanted to change.
+ Start outside of Soldier Field - easy to access via CTA or parking was available at Waldron Deck for $20
+ Course wasn't too congested, even though the start had no corrals or pace line-ups
+ Course went south along LFP and then back north
+ Mile markers and clocks
+ Energetic, motivating, friendly volunteers
+ Post-race snacks included banana, bottled water, and KIND snack bar (your choice of I think three flavors)
+ Bands at post-race
+ Easter Kids' Hop - kids 10 years and under at 10:45 for $7 - each registrant received a t-shirt, treats, and a visit from the easter bunny

CONS:
- There were 3 water stops, but since course was up and back it was like having 6. Each stop had 1 table with lots of volunteers. After the first one at about mile 1, there wasn't any water/cups left at ANY of the stops even though there were plenty of volunteers still around. This didn't matter for me, because I bring my own hydration (partially for reasons like this), but I felt bad for my mom who could have used at least one cup mid-way through. At the turnaround I saw there were a ton of people behind me, which meant none of them would get water either. They need to rethink their strategy for next year. I get it was only 6.55 miles, but not many people need water at mile 1, they probably do around mile 4, so it was unfortunate to see this happen, especially since I thought the rest of the race was managed well. I was getting nervous that they would be out of water at the finish too, but luckily still plenty of treats for the remaining finishers it looked like.
- Didn't bother me, but I'm sure it bothered others that there were no pacing signs for people to line up in the proper spots. I was towards the back and it seemed ok once we started - it thinned out quickly enough and I didn't see too much pushing, but I know there are always those that prefer there to be a specific line-up, so figured it was worth mentioning.

Recap on the blog with more personal details: http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2016/04/chicago-quarter-marathon-recap.html

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(2016)
"Awesome Group Stage in Chicago (Team Red Route)!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The United Relay of America is the first of it's kind. It's a non-stop relay (running and cycling from one stage to the next), with three different routes, all meeting in NYC on June 4. The starting points for the routes were Seattle (red route), San Francisco (white route), and Santa Monica (Blue Route). Usually I do a Pros and Cons list, but I think for something like this it'll be better to just explain how it all went.

I took part in the group stage (318) in Chicago on Tuesday, May 24 beginning and ending at the Park at Lakeshore East starting at 7:15am. The weather was in the 70s and sunny - a gorgeous (though warm) day on the Lake. The water was calm and sparkling, and we got some great photos with the city as our backdrop. There were 6 of us, plus 2 crew support that ran with us. It was for a 5k loop, which the leader (the first person to register) helped create. When registering, you also chose one of about twenty charities to help fundraise for. There was no fundraising minimum. I chose to support All Out, a charity that campaigns for equality for LGBT people everywhere.

About a week before our leg, I received an email from the RD (James) with information regarding start/end points, the other runners along with their contact numbers, and other helpful info.

Since it wasn't a race, there were no aid stations, which is the only reason I said 1 star. For a 5k I didn't deem it necessary anyway, plus I brought my own water since it was hot/sunny out, plus along the lakefront there are water fountains available too.

The 5k was super laid back. Anyone could run whatever pace they liked. I said I would be on the slower side doing run/walk intervals, and two other girls said they would run with me (even though I insisted they could go ahead, since I knew the area and would be ok). Super sweet of them. The only girl had done the leg leading into the 5k (11 miles) and decided to do the 5k too. Richard, one of the crew who had been with the relay since the beginning of the route in Seattle, also ran with us. I say ran, but really about half way through, we were stopping for photos, we did some passing off of the baton, and chatted. We had a great time getting to know one another, and did some group shots over by Buckingham Fountain. By the last mile, we ended up all together (except for one girl who was speedy and had to get to work so couldn't hang around) walking and talking.

It was great to meet some new people, and I'd say we'd all call each other friends by the end of it. Hugs all around. I was wishing I had had the time to run more legs, because everyone involved were so great. I will definitely be looking into running this relay again next year, and hoping to grab some friends to do other legs together.

For the t-shirt, we received a code to use on the webpage that was for a free shirt. The shirt we could get was for free (cotton only), but you had to pay $5 flat rate for shipping. They also sold some tech-shirts as well as a sweatshirt if you were interested. The shirts came in Red, White, or Blue - I suppose you could pick any color you wanted, but I wanted to rep red route so I got a red shirt.

I've been following the adventures of the Red Route (and the others) and it's been so fun to see all of the places they've been since leaving Chicago. Looks like they are having a blast. Please consider keeping this great relay on your radar for next year. Not all of the slots were filled and it would be great if the crew didn't have to do so many legs themselves - they must be tired! It also benefits so many great causes, and being able to pick which one you want to fundraise for is pretty cool.

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