Latest reviews by Allison Collister

(2018)
"Lackluster Experience"
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Unfortunately my experience in 2018 was lackluster compared to previous years. The expo was drastically decreased in the number of vendors and the design of this year's apparel didn't appeal to me.

I took DART to the West End station and walked the short distance to the start line. The gear check in with UPS was run very smoothly and was an easy process, and there were more than enough porta potties. The start corrals were released seamlessly. The aid stations were well staffed with great volunteers! The live music on course was still present, but it now augmented by mile markers that project music. And no more shoe tags! The bibs have the tracker built in (woo hoo!). The course is challenging and presents some serious inclines that you need to be prepared for. The finisher's area was spread throughout Reunion Lawn and allowed runners to spread out. The medal design didn't appeal to me, and the post-race food was really bad - I expect more than cookies and Cheez-its from a Rock n Roll race.

Overall, I am still glad I ran the race but cannot give 2018 the glowing review I have in past years.

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(2018)
"Post-race chocolate and sweet swag"
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The race organizers are great with communication and provide a lot of helpful tips and a training guide before the race. The expo was held in Fair Park over two days. My biggest complaint about this packet pickup location is that we have to pay for parking. The organizers make you aware of this before the race, but it's still frustrating. Race morning was chilly and perfect running weather. Unlike the expo, parking is free on race morning. I followed the tips on avoiding traffic provided by the organizers, but unfortunately it took me over an hour to get through the traffic and park! The 5k course circumvents Fair Park and isn't particularly difficult or very scenic. The plastic oversized mug you receive at the end of the race is filled with a cup of hot chocolate, banana, Rice Krispy treat, marshmallow and biscuits to dunk in the warm dipping chocolate. Enjoying the sweet chocolatey treat after a cold race is so delicious and rewarding!

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(2017)
"Great course but poor management"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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I’ve participated in several Rock ‘n’ Roll races in numerous cities, and 2017 was the first year I participated in the Seattle event. I travelled from Texas to Washington for the race.

Registration and Communication: 
Registration for Rock ‘n’ Roll series races is easy through their website Competitor brand site. If you are a continuous participant of these races, your registration information will be saved which makes it easy to register for additional races.

Pre-race communication brought the surprise that the start time was moved up one hour. This was communicated through their social channels first and then email, so I recommend making sure you are following the event on social media as well.

Expo: 
The expo was just okay. There were some major brands typical of other Rock ‘n’ Roll expos that were missing. This was the least amount of time I have spent at a Rock ‘n’ Roll expo, which was good for my wallet but left me underwhelmed with the experience.

Race Day: 
I had major issues with the organization and management of this event. First, the course starts in one location and ends in another. That isn’t that big of a deal (in fact, I think it’s fun!) provided there are transportation options to and from both points. The organizers recommended a race-provided shuttle from the start line (at an additional cost), suggestion taking the Link light rail, carpooling/ride sharing, and provided maps with parking suggestions. I opted for the Link light rail option and reviewed the best station and time options with a staff member at the expo. I showed up to the station and missed the first train option because it was unsafely over-packed with runners. I waited for the second train and had to jostle my way for space. When we made it to the UW station, it also became an unsafe experience with so many riders spilling out of the over packed trains and flooding the escalators.

I finally made it to the start line area with about 40-45 minutes until race started. This was later than I wanted to be there, but due to the issues with the trains it was the best I could do. I had to ask runners and volunteers where gear check was because it wasn’t immediately visible. I then had to walk over halfway around the stadium to find the gear check buses, then walk all the way back to the middle of corrals to get into the bathroom line.

Oh, the bathroom line…this is where things really went downhill. I waited over 45 minutes to use a porta potty. This is unequivocally unacceptable for a race to not have adequate bathrooms for their athletes. I missed my designated corral while standing in line. In fact, I had to run from the porta potty to the start line and I barely crossed the start line as the last corral was released. I was panicked and beyond stressed that I would have (within mere minutes) missed starting a race that I had travelled to.

Course: 
Once I was finally able to start the race – and way behind my designate corral – I had a lot of bobbing and weaving to do in order to catch my stride. The course started at Husky Stadium, featured some serious hills around the Washington Park Arboretum, and took us along Lake Washington Blvd by Lake Washington with gorgeous views. Around mile 8 we turned to cross S Genesee Street and headed north on Rainier Avenue, crossed I-90, turned onto Dearborn and went UP on on-ramp within the last mile to finally end on downhill slope into CenturyLink Field.

The course had some challenging hills but was scenic and fun. There were very fun sections of supporters and bands along the course. My favorite was the Seattle Kokon Taiko Japanese ensemble drumming band and the Seattle selfie station.

Due to the bathroom fiasco at the start line, I was in tune to noticing the bathroom stops along the route. Every single porta potty station had only ONE porta potty, and there was always a line at least 10 runners long. Again, for a race of this size, the lack of facilities is completely unacceptable.

Post-Race: 
Crossing the finish line in front of CenturyLink was really fun. I liked the medals this year. The finisher’s chute shuttled tired runners along while loading you up with post-race nutrition that you always have to juggle. The finisher’s area was spread across the lawn and featured additional vendors. Gear check was again very far away, but at least I was able to sight it and knew what direction to walk in. The headliner put on a good show and kept the energy up for a group of tired-looking runners!

Overall: 
I really enjoyed the course, but unless several management changes are made I won’t be returning to Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle.

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(2017)
"Post-race sweet treats and great swag"
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This is my second year running the Hot Chocolate 5k in Dallas. My first race was 2015 and I returned 2 years later in 2017. There weren't many differences over the past two years, and overall I really enjoyed the race. The expo is a medium size - larger than your local races that has packet pickup at a store, but nowhere near one of the larger organizer expos. The best part of the expo is the hot chocolate and chocolate dipped marshmallows :) The pre-race communication gives you a pickup code via email, and you can easily scan it at packet pickup. The volunteers were extremely nice and packet pickup was a breeze!

The Hot Chocolate race swag is the best! The hoodie is so soft and I much prefer it over another race shirt. The plastic oversized mug you receive at the end of the race is filled with a banana, rice krispy treat, marshmallow and biscuits to dunk in the warm dipping chocolate. Enjoying the sweet chocolatey treat after a cold race is so delicious and rewarding! The 5k racers don't receive a finisher's medal, but the 15k racers do. And racers of both distances receive FREE race photos - a rarity among race series of this size!

The course isn't exactly scenic through the Fair Park grounds. There is one overpass that accounts for the only "hill" on course. There was one aid station mid-race that was manned with adequate volunteers. The number of racers is so large that the course is packed the entire time. Despite the crowd, you can still run (or walk) at the pace that you choose.

I mostly like that this is a "fun run" that is welcoming to walkers and runners of all paces. The organizers even email out a free training plan from the time you register. I'll continue to run for chocolate!

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(2016)
"Good and bad changes in 2016"
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I'm left feeling on the fence about the 2016 RnR Dallas experience. There were some changes for the better and some for the worse.

The expo was still at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center (meaning, parking can be expensive). I was disappointed with the expo this year. The footprint was much smaller than the past years. There were still great vendors but it was much smaller than usual. I wasn’t digging the merchandise this year either - the designs weren't as cool or eye-catching or unique as other races I've seen in various cities over the year. The expo and merchandise experience was for the worse.

Rock ‘n’ Roll changed the course again this year. We started near the Convention Center and went through Deep Ellum, downtown, the West End, past Dealey Plaza, crossed the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and passed Trinity Groves, headed down through Oak Cliff and Kessler Park, turned to tour the Bishop Arts District, and made our way around Lake Cliff Park and back across the Trinity River towards downtown to finish at Reunion Park. Last year, we ran down the ramp from the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to Continental Avenue, but this year we ran the portion in the opposite direction and had to run up the circular on ramp! The final turn from Reunion Blvd. to the finish line on Sports St. was actually uphill. I didn’t mind because it was a very short distance – maybe 0.1 miles. I loved that it highlighted so many of the different neighborhoods in Dallas. And I actually loved the challenging course, so the course change was for the better.

The post-race experience was a bit more stressful than it has been in the past. The line for Remix Challenge and Heavy Medals was insanely long. I waited in line almost 30 minutes - after running a half marathon - to get my extra medal. But at least RnR still provides a great deal of post-race nutrition to drink and eat while waiting in the long lone. The location of the finisher's area was in Reunion Park, which was a nice change of scenery. It allowed the separate areas to be spread out so runners weren't too bunched up. RnR does an excellent job of gear check, and that was an easy process again this year.

Overall, I would give this year's race an in-between review. With some changes for the better and some for the worse, it's hard for me to feel strongly about it either way.

You can read more about my experience here: http://racesandrescues.com/race-report-rock-n-roll-dallas-half-marathon-2016/

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