Latest reviews by Janelle Johnson

(2018)
"Huge PR at New Jersey Marathon!"
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This was my first time running the New Jersey Marathon and my second time running the marathon distance. I worked hard to prepare over the past 4+ months and was hopeful to have a strong race. Fortunately, I had a great day!

New Jersey Marathon Weekend includes a 5K and Kids Run on Saturday and the half marathon, full marathon, and marathon relay on Sunday. All the Sunday runners start the race together, then the marathoners continue on after the first 11 miles.

I went to the Expo on Saturday afternoon. Bib pickup was easy but I was disappointed in the lack of vendors. The gear was sponsored by Diadora but I found most of the designs lacked style. The marathon finisher shirt is white, long-sleeved, non-tech fabric...it's just not a shirt I'll wear often, which stinks because I love to show off my swag!

Race morning was rainy, which definitely caught me by surprise. There was some traffic getting to the Monmouth Race Track but it wasn't too bad and we were able to get an easy, walkable spot. There was a refreshment area outdoors and plenty of porta-potties. The race started right on time and everything moved smoothly. Tons of photographers on-site to get those (EXPENSIVE) race photos.

The course is very flat and takes you through various neighborhoods. There was a good amount of spectators along the way, some of them blasting fun music. The course was a bit crowded, but overall pretty manageable. I actually preferred when we split from the rest of the runners because I had more breathing room!

From miles 13ish-22ish is a long out and back. The out was really fun as we passed beautiful homes and eventually made our way to the ocean and the boardwalk. Once we started turning back on mile 19, I was starting to get a little bored (LOL, and definitely feeling those miles!). There were plenty of pace groups to hang with and they all looked very engaging and supportive of their teams.

Running and seeing the Atlantic was definitely a highlight of the race. We lucked out and the rain didn't last very long - by the time we were at the boardwalk the temperature warmed up considerably with blue skies. The last 4 miles were the longest EVER and on the other side of the course you could see them breaking things down...I was just eager to finish!

The last mile is brutal as you have people tell you you're almost done but you can't SEE the finish! We had several loops and turns through construction before finally making it to the final push. I did the best I could and fought my way across the line! I ended up with a 24 minute PR - I couldn't be more proud!

After the race there was a lot of confusion about bringing in the clear bags - that seemed to be against policy. I used the changing tent which was a huge convenience. I drank my free beer and they also offered $5 mimosas but there really weren't a lot of people hanging out at the Afterparty, so we didn't stay long. I actually paid for finish line parking for $15 but ended up wasting my money since my fiance was also running the race and there was not shuttle from the finish parking lot to the start. I was pretty annoyed about that.

But overall, New Jersey puts on a nice race! I wish that the Expo had more/better gear and vendors and that the Afterparty was more welcoming. Email communication was minimal, which I actually didn't like because I appreciate those last-minute updates before the race. But where it really mattered - good course, well marked, great volunteers and aid support...they did an awesome job.

I highly recommend doing this marathon if you get a chance!

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(2018)
"Fun Time with My First Hot Chocolate 15K!"
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This was my first time finally getting to run the Hot Chocolate 15K and I was grateful for the opportunity to run as a Bibrave Pro!

I picked up my bib at the Expo on Friday morning. The whole process was easy - the hardest part was actually finding the Expo in the Convention Center! This is one of the smaller race expos but there was still plenty of vendors and fun things to do. The chocolate giveaways were great!

I actually used this run as part of a 20 mile long training run, so when I lined up to start the race I had already run 9 miles. Everything was flowing smoothly and many of the 5K runners were already finished. Everyone seemed in good spirits and I was surprised how CROWDED this race was - they handled it all very well.

The course is very straightforward, you start on Ben Franklin Parkway and run towards Logan Square, turn back towards the Art Museum and do an out and back along MLK Drive. If you're a regular Philly racer, you may have found the course to be a bit boring. But we were lucky to not have any rain or snow as was predicted, and the course is very flat, except for the steep hill in the last 0.25 mile of the race.

Aid stations were plentiful (including giving out chocolate for those with a strong stomach) and mile markers were clear. There were several potholes on MLK Drive which made things a bit worrisome towards the turnaround point since the space to run was so narrow. Otherwise, things went pretty smoothly.

I was happy to run a solid race - by the way, there are TONS of pacers so you can always find someone to give you motivation - and when I crossed the finish line I received my massive Hot Chocolate medal. It's a beauty! Then I was able to enjoy the FInisher's Mug with hot chocolaet, chocolate fondue, marshmallows, and chocolate wafers. I wish I had more time to savor the treats but I had to finish up my 20 miles! My only complaint was that I didn't get a banana...that would have been SO good with the chocolate!

This was a really nice race and I'm glad I finally got to do it. I highly recommend doing a Hot Chocolate 5K or 15K if you have one in your area!

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(2017)
"Another Great RNR Experience!"
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This was my first year running Rock 'n Roll Brooklyn, and this year they offered a half marathon and 5 mile race. I was excited to run this race, shooting for a PR!

I live in Philly and took a BoltBus to NYC for race weekend. It was perfect since the bus stop is literally across the street from the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Picking up my gear was easy, but the layout was very different from the usual RNR Expos and there was very limited merchandise and not a lot of vendors. Still, plenty of swag was to be had and I picked up some nice gear.

My fiance and I were both running the race and we were able to get dropped off by family to the race start from Queens. It was still dark out when we arrived before 6:30, which was a little weird! You had to pass through metal detectors to get to the race area and there were plenty of porta potties avaialble to use before the race.

Originally I was supposed to be in Corral 11 but I got it changed to Corral 9. Unfortunately it didn't matter because it seemed that people were all over the place and the race started several minutes late. I couldn't tell if the 5 milers started first or if they ran with the half marathoners, but it was CROWDED the first mile when we finally started!

I actually really enjoyed running through Brooklyn. The course is pretty straightforward but there is a very long out and back section that's about 6 miles long total...it was brutal because it was boring and there wasn't really any music playing, despite the "Rock 'n Roll" experience. It made things mentally challenging, but unfortunately it was also about 100% humidity and that made the entire race a struggle for me!

The last few miles run through Prospect Park, which is beautiful! I will need to go back there for a run. This is where we really got some energy from spectators and live bands were finally playing (albeit a little too loud). There is a massive hill to climb that was absolutely miserable, but the last half mile or so is downhill and you can at least look really fast for the finish!

I really recommend this race, despite not having a great personal experience due to the weather. Minus the start of the race, it was very organized, mile markers were accurate, and the hydration and aid stations were plentiful. There were also plenty of potties along the course in case you needed it. The afterparty featured a beer garden and a pretty good featured headliner, and they even gave out blankets to runners. This was a really nice race and I'm glad I did it!

I was dropped off to the race start.

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(2017)
"Hot and Humid in Montreal!"
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This was my first time running a race outside of the U.S. and I was extremely excited to run my first fall half of the season in Montreal! Unfortunately, we had some unseasonably warm weather for race weekend, so much so that the full marathon had to be canceled, so many runners dropped down to the half.

The Expo was on Friday and Saturday and I attended on Friday. There was plenty of swag to buy and a decent variety of vendors. They also offered a free STM day pass for the day you ran your race, but since it was a separate process, I completely forgot to get in line and grab mine.

Getting to the race via subway was easy, but there was a long walk to get to the race start. Fortunately, there were plenty of porta-potties available and the view of the city from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge was stunning!

The course itself, honestly, was a letdown for me overall. Most of the time is spent running down parkways, through parking lots, or over/under highway bridges. You even run through an amusement park! Montreal is a pretty city but you don't get to actually run through it until about the last 4 miles, and when you do, it's really nice. That's also when you get the best crowd support. Because the heat and humidity were so high, the lack of scenery was even more apparent as I tried to find ways to distract myself, lol!

Also, this is a very crowded race. While on the bridge at the start you can see that there are tens of thousands of runners rearing to go. It's awesome to see, but if you're trying to PR (thank goodness I wasn't!), it would be really tough to avoid bobbing and weaving around people.

But with all that said, RNR did a great job organizing the race. The bands were great, the water stations were pretty well stocked (though they could have had more stops), mile/km markers were accurate, and there were plenty of post-race snacks plus beer.

I think that if the temperature was in the 50-70 degree range versus 70+ with 100% humidity, I would have really loved this race!

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(2017)
"Loved My First Trip to Seattle!"
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I live in Philadelphia and love Rock 'n Roll races having previously run in Philly and DC. I heard great things about Seattle decided to go for and go for a solo weekend trip. This year was a new course from "stadium to stadium" - going from the University of Washington Husky stadium to Century Link Field where the Seahawks play. I heard that Seattle is very hilly so I knew it wouldn't be an easy course, but I was looking forward to something new.

I arrived in Seattle on Friday morning and went to the race expo early in the afternoon. I spent probably way too much time in the Expo - there were plenty of vendors with lots of things to sample and I bought a ton of Seattle-themed gear - hey, I don't know when I'll be able to make it back! I actually had to do onsite registration because I forgot to register in advance (OOPS!) - thankfully everything went smoothly and I was able to get my bib and gear with no issues.

I stayed in a hotel downtown and took the LINK train system to the race start - it was extremely easy and convenient, but the trains filled up VERY quickly - they should have had more trains running that morning for the 6:30 am race start because I know there had to be a lot of people who made it late to the race. When I came up from underground I was pretty disoriented - I had trouble finding the gear check and the lines for the portapotties were EXTREMELY long - the longest I've ever seen - thank goodness I didn't have a bathroom emergency!

The race start was chaotic and people were confused about how to line up in the corrals - I was just happy to get started, just a bit before 7 am (I was in corral 13). The course was crowded and it took me a few miles to get comfortable, but once I got in my sweet spot, I enjoyed the race. The views along Lake Washington were beautiful and the rolling hills were fun. The live music was pretty good and there was a decent smattering of cheering spectators here and there.

The best part of the race for me was the Blue Mile in honor of our fallen soldiers. It was literally a mile long - longer than the Blue Mile in DC - and it really gave me so much perspective about life. It was definitely emotional and inspiring - thank you!

There were some awkward parts of the course where the marathoners would split off from us and then re-join us on the course. A little confusing, but volunteers did their best to communicate with the runners.

The last couple of miles were the toughest mentally since they were pretty boring with no spectators. When I could finally see the stadium I was excited and tried to kick it up a notch - happy to finish strong once I finally saw the finish line! My goal was to beat 2:15 and I finished under 2:12 so I was happy!

We got gorgeous medals and were provided with plenty of snacks on our way out. I didn't hang around for the free beer or concert - I honestly just felt gross from the high humidity and wanted to go back to the hotel and crash! I was glad I went out of my comfort zone traveling from Philly to Seattle for a race and I had a great time in the city. I'll definitely be back, but I probably wouldn't do the half again. The full marathon looks like a much better course!

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