Latest reviews by Elizabeth Bain

(2019)
"2019 was an anomaly due to the "rally" and loss of a sponsor"
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The single star is because the race swag is supposed to be a Portland Thorns (pro soccer) scarf. But this year the Thorns pulled out of the race just days before it took place, and yanked the scarves, too. It would have been quite easy to have them for pickup AFTER the race, and any number of local running stores would happily have helped.

Kudos to race management for doing some crazy last-minute rejiggering to hold the event, after the white supremacists announced they were going to "rally" downtown.

Details: https://www.trainwithbain.com/every-rose-has-its-thorn-but-not-roses-on-the-river/

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(2019)
"Low-key, quality race"
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I registered for this race at the last minute to join a friend. I snagged one of the last half marathon spots!

I drove in from Portland on the morning of the race. Street parking was plentiful and easy to find, and I snagged a space about two blocks from the starting point. It took maybe 5 minutes to get my number and shirt, and I walked the shirt back to my car. The tech shirts have the race logo on them and are a soft material. I find the women's cut very flattering.

The race itself offers a 30-minute early start for those walking the half marathon. This is a nice touch, as then those who choose to walk don't end up finishing hours behind the runners. I chose to start with the walkers, and a group of about 20 started with me.

The course is an out-and-back "loop," which I learned has been adjusted from past race years due to local construction (and is also the reason why the 2019 course was not USATF certified). Essentially the course starts from the Buou brewery and heads (west?) along a few streets, the river walk (wooden boardwalk), and then park path, over to a small park before the bridge. The course turned around at the park, returning to the streets a block in front of Buoy, and then down the park walk (wooden boardwalk) in the other direction. At the end of the boardwalk, the course continued past the maritime museum, through a small park, past the piers with sea lions barking and sunning themselves, through a residential area, over some raised-wooden train bridges (with appropriate pedestrian lanes--this wasn't dangerous at all), and through some other parks. It then looped back at a turnaround and traced the same path back to Buoy. The course was largely flat, though there was one small hill in one of the parks, and one bigger hill at the very end of the course, before returning back to the start.

The aid stations were fantastic. Really all of the volunteers were. Every intersection where you could potentially make a wrong turn had a volunteer to direct you where to go. Every crossing of a road had a volunteer to stop traffic for runners. Each aid station had water, electrolytes, and some type of snack (raisins, for example).

The finish chute was well-staffed and runners were announced as they crossed. The medals for this race are pressed glass, which is unusual (I don't own any other race medal like this) and pretty. At the end of the race there is free food and beer for the runners, with the option to pre-purchase tickets for non-runners. There was no beer alternative (Buoy doesn't make cider or kombucha), and the line for the food (a good-looking seafood boil, including potatoes and half corn on the cobs) was long, so I opted for brunch at another local watering hole. The post-race party was a decent size, not overwhelming, and looked to be a good time.

Overall, I enjoyed the race and would do it again. I wasn't a huge fan of running over the wooden bridges--even though trains go over them so I am certain they are safe--because seeing the water between the slats was not for me, so I'd probably opt for the 10k next time.

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(2018)
"Low-key 5k Turkey Trot--FUN!!"
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This is a very low-key turkey trot. It's not chip-timed, there are no medals. That said, the race was $40 at last-minute prices, most of the funds go to charity, and it was beautifully organized.

I'm in town for Thanksgiving, staying in Des Plaines. My sole criterion for picking a race was proximity, and it worked in my favor. I registered online--the race used Eventbrite this year for tickets--and was not in town for early packet pickup.

On race day, I talked Dad and one of my brothers into joining me. We used google maps to get close, and then followed others to find parking. Arriving after 9, there was still plenty of time to pick up my packet (thank you to all the locals who picked theirs up early!), and for my Dad and brother to register.

The shirts are not fancy, with the race logo on the upper chest, and the three supported charities on the sleeve, with all the sponsors on the back. Some people hate shirts with sponsor logos, but I love this one because (1) this is a charity event, and (2) the number of supporting businesses demonstrates how involved the community is in this race. (I ran past some of them on the course!). Also, I love the heavy-weight long-sleeve cotton Gildan shirts and wear the few I own on a regular basis. I'm calling this a win, even though it isn't fancy.

Before the Turkey Trot proper there are several kids' races. The kids get a shirt and a medallion on a ribbon (it looked like it was plastic or rubber, I didn't get a close look). The announcers did it up for those races just like they did for the main race. After the kids' races, the announcer introduced a representative from each of the three charities that the race supports: Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, Ignite the Spirit, and SALUTE, Inc. All three are charities that help the police, firefighters, first responders, and military. There was a moment of silence for the three Chicago police officers lost in the line of duty (still fresh in most minds due to the very recent hospital shootings). The announcers also mentioned some groups walking/running in memory of individuals connected with the event.

About 7,000 runners and walkers did a 5k down part of the main road (something or another highway at that point), and through the neighborhoods of Edison Park. The race is dog and stroller and kid friendly, so starting in the back ensures you will bob and weave--if you are a fast runner, you need to start in the front. The neighborhoods had plenty of people out cheering, some with fires and brunch, as well as people watching from inside their houses. There were a lot of turkey inflatables.

The course had no aid stations, which was fine by me. (It's cold. I warmed up running, but wasn't hitting it hard anyway.) The finish line had bottled water and a tent with a variety of snacks (fruit, bagels, pastries, juice pouches for kids). Fleet Feet, one of the sponsors, had a small tent with a little display, but there was no merch or sales pitch. Nearby was a table to exchange shirts (in case you needed a different size) or buy extras.

Parking was plentiful in the neighborhoods, and we had zero wait to get in or out of the race area. The race started on time, had great announcers, live musicians and vocalist for the national anthem, and a fun family atmosphere. This is NOT a big to-do fancy race that people would travel just to attend--and that's part of why I loved it. I felt like I was just jumping in on the local tradition (22nd year!). Overall, I would absolutely do this race again.

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(2018)
"Community support means great perks"
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The Ladybug Run for CDH awareness is a fundraiser, a moment of remembrance for those kids who died from CDH (50% of children do not survive), a celebration for the CDH kids who do survive, a networking social for CDH families, a fun run, and a great way to spend a day.

Pretty much everything I said about last year applies to this year.

This was my second year running the Ladybug Run. I missed the early packet pickup due to work, and picked up my shirt and bag the day of the race. Volunteers kept the line moving quickly, and I had plenty of time to put my bag (a really nice drawstring from Athleta) and coupons in my car (day passes to Club Sport, gift card for Chick-fil-A), with my tee. This year's tee has a cute ladybug design on the front, with sponsors and essential facts about CDH on the back. Day-of registration was also available, subject to the race limit (which I assume has to do with the permit to use the park).

Pre-race, there was a program to remember those kids who lost their fight with CDH, and to celebrate those who lived. There was a ladybug release (yay, natural pest control!) and a ladybug costume contest.

The 5k and 10k have a combined start, with a separate start and course for the kids' race. There are no formal corrals, but the crowd is released in (unmarked) groups. People are pretty good about sorting themselves out. The 5k is one loop, and is stroller-friendly though there is a significant hill (it's paved). The 10k is the 5k plus another, different loop. It runs past the dog park, so naturally I had to stop and pet some dogs, and watch some of them playing.

We had gorgeous weather once again for the after-party. Sponsorships literally pay for everything, so 100% of your entry fee goes to CDH awareness. The after party featured live music, local beer and cider (2 pints each, but there was plenty for another round if you were so inclined), and a huge spread of food: grilled cheese, tomato soup, bananas, bagels, peanut butter, watermelon, coffee, hot cocoa, water, oranges, and more.

While there is beer and cider, this is a 100% family-friendly event. Plenty of kids were on the 5k route. Serious runners had a place up front (ribbons for age group awards). Medals for everyone.

I look forward to the 2019 event.

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(2018)
"Great cause for a well-done race"
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This race has two distances, 5k and 10k, plus a kids' race. The race is entirely staffed by volunteers from Clark Public Utilities, and the race entry fees go to Operation Warm Heart, a fund to help those experiencing economic hardship pay their utility bills. The fund specifically helps people who don't qualify for other programs, like government aid. Most heat in this area is electric, so having the power shut off in winter can be especially hard. One of the cool things about this race is that the entire race is run by Clark Public Utilities employees--there are no other volunteers--and 100% of the race entry fee goes to Operation Warmth. Everything else is donated by sponsors.

Registration is online or by mail. You can register online up until the day before the race, and on race day if you pay $10 more (regular entry for either 5k or 10k is $30). There are two pre-race packet pickups, but since I live in Portland and wanted to avoid the extra trip, I did day-of bib pickup. (This only works because many of the people who can pick up their bibs early do so and I am thankful they did!) In addition to the 5k, 10k, and kids' races, this race has adopted the highly successful Race for the Cure non-race option, "sleep in for warmth."

Parking is free and plentiful in the lots at Clark College, which is about two blocks away from the starting line at the Clark Public Utilities building. There was also parking at the library, and downtown street parking about three blocks away; you can also park at the public spaces on Fort Vancouver. The race is pretty low key (though I did see some obviously experienced and speedy runners) and access is really easy.

Both the 5k and 10k courses are a loop. The start/finish is in the parking lot in front of the Clark Public Utilities Building. The area had a bag/coat check, bib and shirt pickup, plentiful porta potties (including the nice ones that are a truck instead of a plastic shed), and booths for some of the race sponsors and local businesses. Post-race, this area had some snacks including grilled cheese sandwiches by Franz bakery, KIND bars, and peanut butter bagels. Since I don't live in Vancouver, I didn't check out the booths too carefully.

The kids race, which I did not see, takes place entirely in the area right around the Clark Public Utilities Building. The other courses use typical Vancouver race routes, with the 10k on an out-and-back across Fort Vancouver down to the river, running west to a turnaround point, and going back. There were two water stops on the 10k course (but you pass them twice, so it's 4 drinking opportunities). Most of the course was on sidewalks, though there were some street portions. There were plenty of volunteers at all turns and crossings, and the 5k/10k split was well-marked. (The bibs are all the same, not coded to 5k or 10k.) The 5k and 10k share the portion that crosses Fort Vancouver, at which time the 5k heads for a loop around downtown.

The field was a decent size, but not gigantic. The event was family-friendly, with participants of all ages, and kids in strollers. There were quite a few people with dogs despite the request that people leave their pets at home (this wasn't super obvious on the website, you had to click to the FAQ), but I didn't see people running with their dogs (and all of the dogs were very well-behaved). I started at the back of the 10k pack (walking with a friend who is on "no run" instructions from her PT) and found that people sorted themselves better than they do at larger races--strollers and dogs in the bag, fast people in the front. The 10k starts first, with a brief break before the 5k starts. The race is chip-timed with the type of chips that are metallic-looking and stuck to the back of the bibs.

While the race only has medals for the top finishers, I'm fine with that. (Hello, it's a charity race to help keep people warm in the winter. I don't need fancy stuff.) There were race shirts for all 5k and 10k participants; if your kid wanted a shirt, they had extras for sale for $10 (this is because the kids' race is free registration). Since I registered pretty late, I was offered one of last year's shirts (they had XS, S, XL, and XXL) which was fine with me since I like the design better. The first 1000 registrants also received a goody bag with stuff in it from the race sponsors. (No idea what all was in there, since I registered late, but I'm cool with that.)

The finisher party was across the street in the library parking lot, in two big tents. The first tent was a beer tent, with locally made beer called "Heart of the Couve." The second tent was the soup tent, sponsored by a farmer's market/produce market Chuck's something. There was a turkey soup and a vegetarian vegetable barley. I was happy for a warm bowl of soup at the end.

I would definitely run this race again. (Maybe even run next year.) It's a great cause, and the race was very well-organized and well-run.

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