Latest reviews by Jen Skiba

(2017)
"BuffaLOVE"
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I love Buffalo and the Buffalo Marathon continues to impress!

I originally signed up to run the John Beishline Memorial 5k to use as a shake out run the morning before the half marathon but an injury led me to throw my plans out the window. Instead, I went to Buffalo with thoughts that I would only run the 5k and run/walk it with my cousin as a fun run.

Registration: Registration was online and super easy. I emailed the race about changing shirt sizes and they responded quickly and said it was no big deal. The 5k was limited to 1,200 participants and the race filled up a few days before the event.

Expo/Number Pick Up: There was no expo before the 5k—it opened up at 9am, a half hour after the 5k started so we walked through after the race. The vendors were mostly local road races but I got a cool “7 Run 6” shirt from Fleet Feet. Number pick up for the 5k was the morning of the race and very organized. We hardly had to wait at all.

Swag: The only thing you got for the 5k was a nice moisture wicking t-shirt and a medal. The medal was ehh but I will definitely wear the shirt.

Start Line: With 1,200 runners, there was no real organization to the 5k start line other than fast runners up front and walkers in the back. We were fun running so it didn’t really matter that we were back of the pack to start.

Course: The course was ok. Pretty flat, a few hills. One aid station with water at about mile 2. The route went through neighborhoods before looping around Niagara Square and finishing in front of the convention center—the same finish line as the half marathon and marathon.

Food: After the race all the food was inside the convention center. Oreo cookies, popcorn, Cheetos (!!), cold pizza, etc. We had to wait until after the half marathon and marathon for the Mile 27 beer brewed by the Flying Bison for the Buffalo Marathon.

You can read my 2017 Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap on my personal blog Run Jen Run: http://www.jenrunsfastblog.com/2017/05/race-report-buffalo-half-marathon-2017.html

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(2017)
"Newport is a beautiful place to race!"
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Newport Rhode Races featured a marathon, half marathon and a 5k. The half (about 1,000 runners) started 30 minutes after the full (500 runners) and I was really looking forward to playing catch up with the slower marathoners but I went into the race injured and had to pull out of the race at mile 4. I had a great time in beautiful Newport and hope to come back to race someday!

Parking: Parking for the half marathon and 5k was at an Industrial Park so there was plenty of parking. Runners took a shuttle to the start line. I was originally worried about the shuttle situation but it was a breeze. It would have been nice to start at the start/finish so we wouldn’t have had to check bags (see “Bag Check” below) but logistically it wouldn’t have been possible for the race.

Number pick up: My dad and I got our numbers before the start of the race. The lines were short and we got them right away, no problems.

Swag: Cute gender-specific tech shirts. Age group winners won coasters. All runners received a medal--I didn't LOL--but if you complete the whole Rhode Race series, runners received an anchor which fit all the medals from the series around it. I’m not usually a medal person but I saw one and it was pretty cool.

Bag check: What a mess! There was no rhyme or reason to bag check. It was basically throw your bag in a pile where you wanted and then when you got back… all the bags had moved and you get to search through a pile of a million other bags. I’m just glad I got back to the finish line early so I was able to find my bag before anyone else did.

Bathroom situations: Decent amount of porta potties. The line got really long before the race and most had run out of toilet paper.

Start line – The start was at a beach (right near the Newport Cliff Walk). Runners lined up in the road by predicted pace. Seemed like a pretty good system for the size of the race.

Half marathon course – The course was beautiful! So many water views and so many rolling hills. I didn’t get to experience the whole thing but my dad said it was challenging. The roads weren’t great but there was a sign when entering the town of Newport that they were fixing the roads in Fall 2017. My dad talked about a ton of potholes around mile 9 and there was a big mud puddle just before the finish line. I’m surprised it wasn’t filled in before the race!

Aid stations/water: Aid stations were about every 2 miles. I have to give a big virtual high five to the Mile 4 water stop. They were awesome when I pulled out of the race calling for a ride and offering me water, food, blankets and a warm place to wait. In efforts to be “green,” the race only offered mini water bottles at the finish and then paper cups of water in the food tent area. I literally stood there while the volunteer filled up my water cup 12 times and I would have liked a full bottle to carry around with me after the race and for the shuttle ride back to the car.

Food: Post-race food was ok. Bagels, Papa Ginos pizza, Clif Bars, packets of applesauce, chips, etc. There was a table with people grilling burgers. They smelled DELICIOUS but they were about $10. My dad and I skipped the beer garden even though we were pumped about the TWO free Shipyard beers. The line was super long to get in and it was all enclosed and in the shade. It was a beautiful day—we figured we would get home and have a beer in the sun on my back porch instead.

Other: GameFace Media was all along the course snapping pictures and they were free! The best! The race also offered a bike valet program and free athlete tracking through the RaceJoy app.

You can read my 2017 Newport Rhode Race Recap on my personal blog Run Jen Run: http://www.jenrunsfastblog.com/2017/04/race-report-newport-rhode-race.html

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(2017)
"Miami Marathon"
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I LOVE Miami!

Registration: Registration was online and super easy. The earlier you signed up, the cheaper the registration fee is.

Race Communication: I was a little disappointed with race communication leading up to the race. They really upped their social media game this year which was exciting—I love seeing my goal races pop up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—but they focused SO MUCH on getting sign ups and very little on motivating and informing participants already signed up. Runner tracking information wasn’t released until 2 days before the race (and it was super delayed so I’m glad I didn’t have family out on the course relying on tracking me) and I was a little frustrated at the start line not knowing ahead of time that they were going to wait 5 minutes in between corrals.

Expo: What a disaster! For the first year, the Miami Marathon expo was held at Marlins Park. It sounded like a cool idea but it was SO CROWDED and I have to mention the $10 flat rate parking. We were waiting in lines everywhere. Wait in line to go through security, wait in line all the way up the ramp to get to number pickup… then more lines and ramps to get your race shirt. We barely looked at any of the vendors because it was just too much—90 minutes just to get our numbers and race t-shirts.

Swag: Bright orange tech shirts honoring the 15th anniversary of the race & a drawstring bag. Lots of additional official race merchandise was available for purchase. FREE race photos was also a nice bonus!

Start Line: 6am start time was rough but I’m sure on a hot, Miami day I would have been thankful to run that early. I loved the whole atmosphere at the start line. Bright lights, loud music. We parked right near the start (for $20, ugh!!) and were able to go hang out inside the American Airlines Arena to use the bathroom and stay warm. Multiple corrals set up and runners were seeded by pace. Each corral had its own race start. Announcers did a good job keeping everyone informed and motivated.

Course: The course was awesome!! Flat and lots of palm trees! Runners travel over a few bridges and causeways, which were really the only hills on the course. Just enough to break up the monotonous of running on flat roads. 2017 was such a grey race day and also cold and rainy—very uncharacteristic for Miami—so I was a little sad because I spent a lot of time with my head down because of the rain. So many water views, I wanted the sun!

Aid stations: Water and Gatorade every mile was nice! Also took pineapple late in the race for a boost when I was on the strugglebus.

Finish Line: There’s nothing like seeing the finish line when you know you’ve accomplished your goal! The feeling was incredible. The last straightaway headed to the finish line was lined with people cheering. You cross the finish line, receive your medal and then are handed a bag to collect post-race Gatorade, chocolate milk, bananas, bagels, single serving packets of cream cheese, pretzels, granola bars, etc. etc. etc.

Other: Miami is one of my favorite cities. The race featured 25,000 runners (total of both the half and full) and featured a HUGE international field. Beautiful course, great energy—I’d totally recommend this race!

You can read my 2017 Miami Marathon Race Recap on my personal blog Run Jen Run: http://www.jenrunsfastblog.com/2017/02/race-report-miami-marathon.html

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(2016)
"2 days, 3 races, 5 medals!"
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Thumb runner s world classic hat trick medals x5

In its inaugural year, the Runner’s World Classic featured a 5k and 10k on Saturday (paired together as the “Five & Dime”) and a half marathon on Sunday. Run all three races and you complete the “Hat Trick.”

Race weekend events took place at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA.

Registration: Online registration was a breeze. No issues.

Swag: The only thing you got when picking up your numbers was a bright blue cotton t-shirt with the Runner’s World Classic logo on the front and a whole lot of sponsor logos on the back. I rarely wear cotton t-shirts but it was nice they had gender specific sizes.

Parking: Since the race took place at a college, there was plenty of parking. There were a lot of volunteers directing traffic and acted as a well oiled machine. I have to give a shout out to the police officers that broke into a car after the 10k on Saturday to rescue a poor pup left in a white SUV. Seriously, who would do that—it still pisses me off to think some dog owners out there would think that was ok.

Bathroom Situation: Decent amount of porta potties. Never had to wait too long. They did run out of toilet paper on Saturday after the 10k BUT I noticed a ton of extra rolls in each on Sunday.

Start Line: Runners lined up by predicted race pace for each race. The road was pretty narrow and the pace times were super close together. We were kind of late to the 10k and there was no way to get any closer so we lined up in the way back. Also, a HUGE pet peeve of mine—there were 2 boys on scooters at the start of the 10k! How did race officials not see them?

5k Course: The 5k course was fairly flat compared to the other races and went through mostly shady neighborhoods. It was a big loop course and actually pretty boring and I thought we would be running more through campus—but it was a super small school so they did what they could!

10k Course: The thing that sticks out most was the epic hill at mile 3. The combination of heat, humidity and that giant hill killed me BUT there was a pretty long downhill towards the end of the race to make up for it.

Half Marathon Course: Holy hills! I wasn’t really prepared for the rolling hills of North Andover. Most of the course was through neighborhoods with a fun little stretch through the center of town. We revisited the 10k hill around mile 5 and after that is was up and down, up and down. Definitely a challenge for me. If you look at my race review history, I tent to choose the flat courses. :)

The Bling: For the weekend of races, I earned 5 medals! FIVE! If medals are your thing, these are pretty cool.

Weather: It was what you would expect for July! Hot, humid and poor air quality. The 10k was the toughest because it started at 8:30am vs. 7am for the 5k and half.

Course Support: Aid stations were there when I needed them. Medical staff were all over the course—especially during the half marathon. All the volunteers were friendly and some were even singing to us!

Food: Water only on Saturday (although there was an orange juice sponsor!) and both water and Gatorade on Sunday. Basic post-race food choices. Bars, chips, etc. I would have liked to have some fruit. Seeing yogurt was weird. I was skeptical since it was so hot. Yasso was a sponsor and those tasted good, as usual, but again—no fruity Yasso choices!

Other: MarathonFoto was all over the race course taking pictures. I am not usually one to but race photos unless it’s a big race of huge importance to me but they separated the races on MarathonFoto as Saturday and Sunday so if you wanted to “Buy All” you had to pay $59.95 for each day’s worth of pictures.

You can read my 2016 Runner’s World Classic Race Recap on my personal blog Run Jen Run: http://www.jenrunsfastblog.com/2016/07/race-report-runners-world-classic.html

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(2016)
"Buffalo Marathon, I'll be back to ring that PR bell!"
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With record breaking temperatures in Buffalo, the Buffalo Marathon went above and beyond to prepare and keep runners safe.

Registration: Registration was easy online. Registration was open until the race filled up—which ended up being a few weeks before the race.

Expo: I didn’t get to spend as much time at the expo as I would have liked but I did get the Run Buffalo t-shirt I’d been eyeing for months! The vendors were mostly local road races but they had a great lineup of speakers that I missed including a live, virtual talk with Meb Keflezighi.

Swag: Love the long sleeve, half-zip shirts! Warning – women’s sizes ran small. Also loved the Buffalo Marathon temporary tattoos on the number pick up tables!

Start Line: Runners lined up at the start based on predicted race pace. Everything seemed to go smoothly. The starter was ready to fire the gun at 6:28 but held us back to start at 6:30 on the dot. The start line fireworks were a surprise!

Course: Flat and the potential to be really fast! A couple of little out and backs, around the parks through the neighborhoods and down by the waterfront for a nice tour of Buffalo. Lots of spectators out cheering and spraying runners with hoses.

Finish Line: 5 Buffalo Bills players were there to hand out medals? Could it get any better than that? They even were calling runners by their first names for a nice, personal touch to make every runner feel special.

Weather: Average race temps are in the 60s (it’s Memorial Day Weekend) but in 2016 we battled the heat. Thank goodness for the 6:30am start time because my iPhone was already saying 70 degrees with 85% humidity while we were waiting around to run.

Aid Stations: The race added aid stations to every mile on the second half of the marathon course to deal with the heat. They also brought in trucks to make sure all water stations did not run out of water and added ice stations. One of my best decisions of the day was grabbing an icy towel at Mile 10!

Food: Just past the finish line there were tables with water, bananas and oranges. You had to go inside the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center for the post-race party featuring Mile 27 beer brewed by the Flying Bison for the Buffalo Marathon.

Other: I love the city of Buffalo! On the right day, this course has PR written all over it. Course is great, crowd support was great – all we need is perfect running weather. I’m coming back for you Buffalo Half Marathon! I want to ring the finish line PR bell!

You can read my 2016 Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap on my personal blog Run Jen Run:
http://www.jenrunsfastblog.com/2016/05/race-report-buffalo-half-marathon.html

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