Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(2021)
"Making your virtual miles matter"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

I first heard about this event and the organizer, Native Women Running, when I heard founder Verna Volker on the BibRave Podcast. I have always been moved, and outraged, by the dark history of treatment (and current treatment) of our Native population and wanted to find ways to be better informed, and help amplify the voices of the population. I learned a lot listening to the podcast and also learned about the MMIW National Day of Awareness. The event was created to show support/solidarity for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, 2-Spirits, and their families. For example, the CDC reports that murder is the third leading cause of death among Native American women. The virtual run is actually a virtual event to raise awareness using ANY form of fitness/activity. Myself and several other BibRave Pros chose to run at least 10 miles (I incorporated it into my 16 mile training run) to raise awareness that Native Women are murdered at 10x the rate of the national average. The event this year raised over $30,000 for organizations that focus on supporting awareness, support, and campaigns to end this epidemic of violence.
Some other great aspects of the National Day of Awareness MMIW Virtual Run:
- Great social media interaction from the race organizer and supporting organizations meant that I heard from so many new voices and stories, and learned more every day about this issue. I feel like I now have more language and tools to continue to make sure this issue is not silenced.
- Swag just included an amazing, soft, red t-shirt, with very little other waste, meaning funds raised are allocated to more areas of need, rather than wasted on too much random product.

I will plan to take part in this event in future years and highly recommend it for others, even just for the aspect of learning more, and having more people informed about this issue.

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(2021)
"Small town race with all the zoomies!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

My friend invited me to this downhill half marathon and since I had 16 miles on my marathon training schedule I figured it would be good timing to mix things up a bit. This was also my first in-person "post" Covid race outside of an Atlanta Track Club race. Considering I'm now fully vaccinated I felt safe heading outside my ATL Track Club comfort zone.

Packet pickup: we drove up Saturday afternoon (1.5 hrs from Atlanta) and headed straight to the packet pickup at the town park (also where the finish and post-race party would be the next day). Plenty of free parking right next to the park. I'm pretty sure it was the RD handing out bibs and t-shirts at the check-in. It took less than a minute, but we spent a few extra minutes talking to the RD about the morning schedule, logistics, course, etc. He pointed to the top of the mountain where we'd be starting and we got excited! We did not see a lot of masks whether inside or outside during our stay and race experience, but there were only a couple times where we were in closer than comfortable proximity to groups of strangers. We wore masks as much as possible at the race and where we stayed in Dalton, whether inside or out; areas outside of metro Atlanta have much higher rates of vaccine hesitancy so it seemed like an easy way to be safe while still enjoying the area.

Pre-race: Chatsworth is a very small town so we stayed 25 min drive away in Dalton (carpet capital of the world). Dalton is right off I-75 so it's very easy access from Atlanta, and has more food options; some options in a cute main street area, plus the regular chain family restaurants in abundance. Nothing great, but it's manageable.

Race morning: once again, easy 25 min drive to the start and plenty of parking at the finish area. They had a line of school buses for driving runners to the start at the top of the mountain. In a pre-race email they had asked for folks to spread out into buses assigned by alphabetical last name, however, it seemed that no one really did this on race morning. My friends and I split the difference with our last names and got on a 6:15 am bus, which was surprisingly full. This was probably the only time I was "COVID uncomfortable" due to the enclosed space and more than a small group of strangers. It seemed that most people were wearing masks on the bus though. We arrived at the top around 6:30 and everyone huddled behind the port-o-johns to break from the wind lol. It was weird but also oddly convenient, and there were no lines if you actually needed to use the bathroom. At 7am I warmed up for about 1 mile and we had a gun start at 7:30.

The course: while the course is a downhill course, the first 5+ miles are actually a loop on top of the mountain where you actually have to run 2+ miles down the mountain, back up to the start, and then back down, with a few large hills in there. I ran fast on the downhills and then had to hike 2 of the large, steep uphills. So, the first 5 miles are actually pretty difficult. Once you pass about mile 5.5 you're headed downhill for real...and I mean DOWNHILL. The average downhill grade at that point is between 7-10%. The race highly recommends training for downhill running and I very much agree with this. Luckily my regular strength training comes in handy and I felt very good for this. I ran 1.5-2 minutes per mile faster than my normal pace on this section. It was really fun and beautiful. Gorgeous mountain views. They also had 2 photographers on course (True Speed Photo) taking free race photos. I LOVE free race photos! The course bottoms out around mile 12 and then it's a normal rolling course for the last mile. However, after bombing down that mountain and spinning my legs at epic speeds, hitting that "normal" section felt more like hitting a wall. It was really surprising, but my "engine" was just about out of gas lol. Terrain I'd normally be able to run no problem forced me to take a few quick walk breaks just to get my breathing under control. However, I managed to push through and make it to the finish line with an epic PR (1:48). Even with the huge net downhill, I don't think a PR is a guaranteed thing if you're not prepared for this type of course. Just something to keep in mind.

Finish: we received a medal (it's really nice imo) and water at the finish. They had super yummy BBQ and beer, as well as massage tent (which I happily used before sitting in a car for a long drive home). The timing tent printed out your finish results right away. Overall, I found it to be a great little race, fun morning, well organized, and a good re-entry back into in-person racing. I think I'll look forward to doing this one again.

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(2021)
"Virtually still an awesome experience!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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I ran Hot Chocolate 15k Atlanta for the 4th time thanks to being a BibRave Pro. After taking last year off from the race, this year was a bit different of course due to COVID restrictions. In spite of this being a virtual race experience, and many people people feeling virtual race fatigue, there were definitely some positive aspects of the race being virtual this year:

- Run on your own schedule. This is especially key given the weather has been highly variable, and often terrible, for the Atlanta Hot Chocolate race. The virtual race option lets folks decide a wide window when they'll run and adjust according to schedule and, of course, the weather. I ran on the "real" race date since it was my birthday and the weather was lovely.
- Run your own route. I'm luck since I live in Atlanta and very close to the actual HC ATL course. However, the virtual option lets folks roll out of bed and run wherever their heart desires, even if that means virtually running through the streets of Atlanta from your home across the country. Why not?!
- Swag. I think this goes without saying, but the Hot Chocolate series has really done a great job setting themselves apart with amazing swag. This year was no different. I received my swag bag about a week before what would have been the real race date. It included a medal with a cool hidden chocolate compartment, extra pieces of chocolate, 2 packets of hot chocolate, and the zip up hoodie. The hoodie this year is really nice, fits great, and my husband pointed out that it looked great. Bonus points!

* I'm sure everyone will be glad to race in person in the near future, but I hope these races keep virtual options available to allow more people to take part on their own schedules and from closer to home.

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(2020)
"Honoring a Running Industry Great on the Roads, Tracks, and Trails"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

I never had the pleasure of meeting Tony Banovich, but I can think of no better way to honor the memory of such a loved running community legend than to run in his honor. I've been really glad to participate in the virtual run as a way to support Tony's loved Missoula community, keep motivated through the some cold, dark winter days and holidays, and honor his memory. Participants had from 11/12 to 12/31 to run 4.35 miles, the average daily distance of Tony’s 1,731 day run streak. All proceeds from the event will be donated To Run Wild Missoula, the organization near and dear to Tony’s heart. I’ve decided to add a personal challenge by averaging Tony’s daily mileage for the event period, 217.5 miles in 50 days. Registration is $35 and includes a commemorative pin, donated by Ashworth Awards, embossed with Banovich’s signature email send-off – “See you on the roads, tracks, and trails.” I'll be really happy to participate in this virtual challenge for years to come, and hope to make my way to Missoula one day and experience everything Tony loved about that community.

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(2020)
"2020 COVID aka Extreme Hill Edition! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

2020 has become the year of virtual racing but Atlanta Track Club has pulled out all the stops, and safety efforts, to make racing in person possible, fun, unique, and safe! The PNC Atlanta 10 Miler normally runs through midtown Atlanta but, due to COVID restrictions, difficulties with social distancing, lack of city event permits, etc. no large events are taking place in Atlanta (nor should they). Atlanta track club has had to pivot much of their event efforts this year, moving most to virtual and/or "racing by reservation" on private properties. The Atlanta 10 miler was the largest ATC event to get the racing by reservation treatment, allowing people to choose between a new, unique in-person race experience or a virtual experience. This was the first in-person road race experience I've had since March 1 and ATC knocked it out of the park with the PNC Atlanta 10 Miler: Extreme Hill Edition.

- Location: Since mass gathering permits, shutting down public roads, paying for police presence, etc. is not possible at this time, Atlanta Track Club moved the 10 miler to the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA (about 1 hr northeast of Atlanta). I'm not a fan of driving so far outside the city for an Atlanta-based race, but I couldn't pass up the opportunities to 1) support Atlanta Track Club, 2) race in person, and 3) run around a race track! The road course track meant lots of awesome sweeping turns, and HUGE hills (but this also meant there were some epic downhills!). The track itself, while pretty far outside the city, was easily accessible from a major highway. Since this was a "race by reservation", some friends and I signed up for the 9am start time, so we were able to leave ATL at a reasonable hour, and also not worry so much about running in the cold.

- Pre-race experience: since people were able to sign up for start times between 6:30am and 10:30am, arrival times at the track were staggered so there were no wait times to enter, park, health checks, packet pickup, bathrooms, etc. Upon entering the track, employees gave temperature checks and health waivers to everyone in the car and masks were required at all times on the grounds, except when running. Prerace instructions had requested folks to arrive no more than 45 minutes before their start time. We did end up arriving 90 minutes early but it was no issue. We parked easily, and used the restrooms without waiting in a line. There were no large banks of bathrooms like you normally see at races. Instead, there would be 1-2 bathrooms scattered together around the parking and start area, and on 2 places on the course. No waits since people were arriving at staggered start times. Genius. Before the race we received a google form to fill out declaring we were symptom-free, had not been exposed to someone with COVID within 14 days, etc. The usual questions these days. We showed that form confirmation in order to check-in and get our race number, assigned at check-in. Again, no lines. Next to the check in, they had a small gear store where you could buy the race shirt, ATC masks, etc. The general race registration included the course, timing, medal, swag bag, and snacks. Extra goodies, such as the shirt, could be purchased additionally. I really appreciate this "al la carte" type race experience because many times I do not like the shirt, won't wear it, don't need it, etc. This time, I opted to purchase the shirt because it included the (hopefully) one time only "Extreme Hill Edition" logo. The shirt was also the really nice Mizuno poly-blend material, offered in unisex and women's sizing. We walked to the start line on the track about 15 minutes ahead of time.

- The race experience: Once you crossed onto the track, the checked you in again and confirmed your name and start time. We were there a few minutes early and could have started with an earlier wave but opted to wait a few minutes for our friends to show up so we could start together. Each wave had up to 25 people. The runners lined up at cones in 3 lanes on the track, staggered 6 feet apart of course. It was as if we were little cars lined up to start the race; done out of necessity for social distancing but pretty cute/silly all the same. As someone who is 4'11" and feels very claustrophobic surrounded by folks at the start of races, I very much appreciated this start experience. Each wave started exactly on the 5 minute mark so we were off precisely at 9am.

The course itself was 3 times around the track, 2 long loops which included some extra turns on some inside service roads, and the last lap of the outer course. Since everyone was starting at different times they had a great lane system in place that kept everyone in the correct place of the track depending on their current lap. Basically, you started on the far inside of the track, were in the middle lane for the 2nd lap, and ended up on the far left by the finish. There obviously were no crowds cheering but they had several volunteers placed cheering and directing folks into the correct lanes. Also, you could hear the music and announcers over the PA system from anywhere on the loops. There were a couple port-o-potties scattered on the course, never with a line, and there was a self-serve aid station which we passed around mile 3.5 and 7.

They definitely were not kidding about the "extreme hill edition" but I felt it was actually must faster than expected. Most of the elevation was gained in 2 hills on the front half of the loop, which allowed for some really fast downhills on the second half. I ran up halfway and then fast hiked half of the 2 largest hills and then ran the rest of the course, ending up with a 10 mile PR on what was supposed to be a very difficult course. When we first drove into the track and saw the hills, it was very jarring and we laughed (A LOT) but once I was out there, it was really fun and not nearly as bad as expected (but beauty is in the eye of the beholder lol).

Once finishing the race, there was the typical water and Powerade bottles (again self-serve, with volunteers monitoring but not touching), and then you received the swag bag which was already pre-packed with snacks, medal, and some other goodies. Atlanta Track Club referred to the whole race experience as a "touchless" experience. I would say it was a physically touchless experience with plenty of personal ATC touches.

While I hope we can be back to our regularly scheduled programming for next year's race, this experience was really fun and unique. I hope that once larger races come back (and I hope they do), that these types of touchless, race by reservation experiences are still offered. I think they provide a great opportunity to continue doing what we all love, while providing a low-stress, safe environment. Kudos to Atlanta Track Club for making lemonade out of lemons.

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