Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(2018)
"Small city race, big heart!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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Straight to the point: this is one of my favorite road marathons yet! Whether this is your first or 50th marathon, Vermont City Marathon is a race not to be missed. From the pre-race info, to the race management, and the fantastic neighborhood support, make Vermont City your next destination race for sure. I found myself surrounding by pure happiness and excitement all weekend and couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the entire 26.2 miles. That should be enough info for you to make VCM your next race experience but if you want more details, read on.

Race options: full marathon, half and half relay (2 people who each run half marathon distance), 3-5 person relay

Pre-race: Registration opens on October 1 and starts around $110 for the marathon. Relay options open around December 28 and start at $175 total for the half and half, and $250 total for the 3-5 person relay. Race management makes great use of social medial with many Thursday afternoon Facebook live sessions highlighting different aspects of the course, on-course nutrition, training, and race weekend events. There's also a virtual training add on with Coach Sam Davis that provides a great training plan and awesome motivating email updates.

Travel: There's plenty of great housing options in Burlington including chain hotels, BnBs, AirBnBs, and really affordable dorm room options at the local colleges. Race management does a great job making the race as accessible as possible to many different price points. If you can swing the extra cost, I highly recommend flying into Burlington airport. The race expo, downtown, and race start/finish are all within 10 minutes of the airport so you can manage without a rental car this way.

Expo: The Doubletree Hotel is the host hotel and expo location. It's 2 miles from the starting line and easily accessible from the airport. For a "small town" race I was really impressed with the expo. There was a nice selection of local running store vendors, local races, several product booths, as well as a large Hoka representation. The expo and packet pickup takes place on Friday and Saturday before the race. Packet pickup is very easy and the volunteer spent a lot of time explaining everything in the packet, race morning procedures, shirt pickup, etc. I should mention here that you should leave extra time everywhere you go during your VCM weekend experience because you'll get in conversations with EVERYONE, they're so friendly. This year Meb Keflezighi was a special guest and ran in the 5 person relay. He attended several meet and greets at the expo and around town during the weekend to take photos and sign autographs. I definitely took advantage of that at the expo. Special guest appearance times are listed in the pre-race info emails and website leading up to the weekend, so pay attention and arrive early to limit wait time.

Race Morning: Start time is 7 am. If you drive to the start, arrive by 6:15 to get parking. There's plenty of street parking (free on Sundays!) and several garages around town, so it's a very accessible course. There's also a bike valet if you choose to ride down. We drove down and snagged a spot within feet of the finish area at 6:15. The start and finish areas are in slightly different locations so there's a bag drop at the start which makes it really easy to have a change of clothes ready at the finish area party. I was really glad to make use of this since I was able to change into dry clothes and enjoy the party, beer, ice cream comfortably. An abundance of port-o-potties and self-seeded corrals make this a very stress-free race start.

The Course: I LOVED this course. I have the course difficulty 2 stars only because fellow BibRave Pros who are used to running in very flat areas felt this course was hilly. In my opinion, the course had amazing rolling hills in the first 15 miles and then all downhill from there. The first 15 miles have several gradual hills with really nice downhills, and the only significant hill on the course is at mile 15 and it is definitely consequential. However, once you crest that hill it's literally downhill and flat for the rest of the race. I fast hiked the hill to save my legs and then cruised for the next 11 miles to a 20 minute PR. The course does have a lot of turns with clovers and out and backs. This is meant to keep the race sequestered in the downtown area and neighborhoods, which makes it a really spectator friendly course. Spectators can stay in downtown and probably see you at least half a dozen times without moving very far. This also means that there's no really lonely sections of the course. Miles 4-8 are on a section of highway called the Beltline. Normally highway sections are much hated by runners but the rolling scenery was a beautiful backdrop and the out-and-back made it really fun to cheer and high five oncoming runners. I even got to high five Meb as he was running back! The course loops through downtown and church street area several times with tons of spectators hanging out at restaurant patios. Super fun. Most of the course runs through neighborhoods. The race itself is so loved by the locals that it seems everyone in town makes a front-lawn party of the event. I especially loved the jello-shots as well as the maple syrup shots. Yes, pure grade A Vermont maple syrup because, of course! The last 4 miles of the course runs on a path along Lake Champlain for flat/downhill finish and beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Finally, the finish line was packed with people and running through the chute makes you feel like a celebrity. I was smiling ear-to-ear and had so many high fives.

Aid stations: Nearly every mile and included water and Gatorade. You can easily run this course without carrying hydration, but I carried my pack just as backup since it was a bit humid. There was also various nutrition at several intervals including: oranges, bananas, popsicles. Untapped Maple was also on course with maple syrup based gels, drink mix, and waffles. Super yummy and their products only contain 1-3 ingredients each. The aid stations were well-stocked and never appeared to struggle with supply. The volunteers were exceptionally and also provided great excitement and support.

Finish area: at the finish you receive a medal (really nice one), heat sheet, water, bananas and other post-race snacks, pizza, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and chocolate milk, among other goodies. Once you exit the finisher area you can head over to the after party for free craft beef and live music. They have the party area set up right next to the finisher chute so it's really fun to cheer on more runners.

Overall, I think it's pretty clear that I LOVE this race and every person involved in it. I highly recommend making a family and/or group trip. The exceptionally friendly environment and multiple race options make it a great choice for a fantastic weekend adventure.

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(2017)
"A rocking time, even in the heat"
Overall
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I was mostly impressed with my first Rock N Roll experience. Savannah is always a fun city to visit and is less than 4 hours drive from Atlanta, making for an easy run-cation. The course was flat as expected, but did include some hills (mostly the highway) that did well to break up the monotony; complete flat tends to wreck my legs after a while. Truthfully, I expected there to be more bands considering this was a "rock n roll" race. I figured there wouldn't be a quiet section of the course but, unfortunately, there were some sections that were lonely (highway again). I've done nonprofit races with more music. However, the music represented was excellent and high quality. If you're a slower marathoner you'll miss the headliner band at the post-race party (I guess they want to grab most of the half marathon and earier marathon finishers for biggest bang); I made it just in time for the last song. In any case, the race accessibility, family friendliness, entertainment, swag, and awesome volunteers make this a worthwhile run-cation.

Pros:
- Expo: easily accessible by car (paid lot) or free ferry from River Street.
- Expo: even Friday, as the busier day, was still controlled, organized, and no long lines
- Course: flat, fast, old Savannah is beautiful, spectators are lively
- Aid stations: every 1.5ish miles, tons of ice cold water and gatorade (always cold even after several hours of a very hot race). Awesome volunteers. Spray stations, sponges.
- Start: if you stay in historic Savannah it's likely you'll be able to walk to the start and from the finish. Anywhere else and you probably have to take a shuttle (free) or park in town (I don't suggest this - very little street parking on those historic streets). I stayed 1/2 mile between the start and finish and this was great. I can't speak towards the shuttle situation.
- Music: not as much as I hoped, but it was all great quality and fun

Cons:
- No packet pickup for friends/family. Given this was a Saturday race, I had some friends that had a hard time getting to the expo before it closed from Atlanta, leaving after work. They do not allow friends/family to pickup packets even with signed confirmations and photo IDs. I was told by a director that this had to do with liability but I find that kind of a hokey excuse considering I've been to many other high security races that had alternative pickup options. They don't advertise this but there is supposed to be an emergency packet pickup on race morning at the start. Luckily my friends made it to the expo 15 minutes before it closed on Friday. The start is very crowded and chaotic; we would have never found the race morning packet pickup in time.
- Course: yes it's flat, but it also includes too many miles on a not flat, not shaded, highway. Boring and painful, especially in the full exposure of 80+ degree sun, with no clouds.
- Music: I've done nonprofit races with more bands/mile
-Start: very crowded and chaotic around the start area. There are supposed "corrals" but there's no actual separation and you can really just start anywhere.
- Finish: pet peeve really, but the jacket pickup for marathoners should really be directly after the finish line chute, not across an open, sunny field. Luckily we remembered to walk over there, but we met people at the hotel that simply never found/remembered the jackets because they weren't obvious where to pickup. Add to the mix people tired and sun baked, it's easy to forget to pickup if it's not right in your path after finishing.

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(2017)
"Get Moooving for the most beautiful friendly race!"
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Looking for a run-cation with beautiful scenery, cows, friendly volunteers, and hugs at the finish? Then Mad Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay is for you! It's a tough course, probably the hardest road course I've done, but more than worth it for the idyllic setting. Hike the hills, run the downs, and enjoy everything in between.

Pros:
- Check in : in a tent outside the Waitsfield Inn, the official race lodging. if you stay there you just walk outside to get your bib, and roll out of bed in the morning to the start/finish area. Driving is very easy. Waitsfield consists of one main street area and you can park at pretty much any business in town with marathon signs. Very easy access all weekend. Note, small race = no expo. You check in and get your swag. That's it. No other vendors. I hate expos so this was great imo. It's a very small race, so there's not much reason for an expo anyway.
-Swag: nice gender specific shirts (but they're not distance specific - they all say 'marathon'), sling bag with some goodies and discounts from local vendors, nice medal with a barn, of course. :-)
- Course: absolutely stunning. Cows, barns, farmland, mountains, covered bridges, dirt roads.
- Aid stations: at least every 2 miles with great volunteers. Water and gatorade. The half didn't have any food at the stations but I don't need any for a half. Not sure about the full. Every aid station had port-o-johns as well.
-Volunteers: have I mentioned how friendly everyone was?
-Beer stop at mile 10.5 with local brew. Full pours too!
-Finish area: easy access for friends and family. Beer. Donuts and cider. Ice bath. Yoga mats. All the things.
-Hugs: the race director hugs every single runner across the line. Awesome.

Cons:
- I don't count this as a con but many people would like to know that the course is extremely difficult in terms of hills. Long, steep hills that you pretty much have to walk/hike. I saw everyone walk except the elites. But for every killer uphill, there's an epic downhill.

Check out my full weekend report at https://funsizeathleteblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/bibrave-race-review-mad-half-marathon

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(2017)
"Merry Miles at Merrill's Mile"
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Do you want to test your limits and see how far you can go surrounded by fun, supportive people? Then Merrill's Mile is for you! I signed up for the Merrill's Mile 24 Hour race in order to hit 100k training distance as part of my 100 miler training plan. There's not many 100k's around so doing a timed race was pretty much my only option. I expected to feel like a hamster in a wheel, with tedium going around a 1 mile track but I was happily surprised at how fun this event was. I did know many people at the race, which allowed for a fun, campy group feel. However, even if you're not from the area and arrive solo, everyone is so friendly and helpful. No one runs alone!

Race options:
6hr Race Options:
* Start time: 9am Saturday
* Start time: 9pm Saturday
* Start time: 9am Sunday
* Start time: 9pm Sunday
12hr Race Options:
* Start time: 9am Saturday
* Start time: 9pm Saturday
* Start time: 9am Sunday
* Start time: 9pm Sunday
24hr Race Options:
* Start time: 9am Saturday
* Start time: 9am Sunday
48hr Race Option:
* Start time: 9am Saturday

Pros:
- Easily accessible: 1.5 hrs north of Atlanta and a 9am start for the 24hr race allows for an easy morning drive to the site. I arrived early and set up camp with plenty of time before the start.
- Luxuries abound: a timed, loop race allows for runners to set up camp and pass all their goodies every mile. It's a great way to test nutrition and race day plans for a long effort with less aid station access. I set up a tent and camp chair for resting, and had a cooler with some personal goodies not available at the aid station.
- Aid station: amazing volunteers with great food. They switched up the food throughout the day and night, with soup at night and pancakes in the morning. Everyone was helpful, friendly, and supportive. A volunteer even did minor blister surgery for me in the middle of the night.
- Swag: the t-shirt is nice and comes in women sizes as well. The finisher token is a dog tag since the race is on an Army Ranger base. Very cool! Also included: badass metal spork, and a folding cup.
- People: have I mentioned how nice and supportive everyone is? Seriously, if you want to try for big miles these people will get you there.

Cons:
- An ultra...in Georgia...in July...around an exposed track. DON'T FORGET YOUR SUNSCREEN!
- Running circles for 6,12, 24, or 48 hours may not sound like a lot of fun but it's not bad with all the friendly faces around. I talked to a lot of people along the way. In a normal trail race I usually see a few of the same people due to my pace.

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(2017)
"60,000 running friends tradition!"
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There's only one turn but this race always provides plenty of excitement. Treat it as a race, treat it as a party, treat it as both, and you're bound to have a good time. If you've run any previous race I highly recommend submitting a race time so that you don't end up in one of the last waves. There's around 25 waves with about 2 hours between the first starters and the last, so race experience can vary widely depending on where you start. Despite the huge number of runners, the waves start exactly on time, 5 minutes apart. Enjoy the costumes, the spectators, the signs, and the possibility of plenty of free drinks along the way. Atlanta Track Club membership (only $35 per year) has 2 major benefits related to Peachtree: 1) guaranteed entry if you're a member before February and 2) entry into the post-race party with free beer and bagels. DO IT!

PROS:
-access: I always park about 1 mile north of the start at Kroger or the Brookhaven MARTA station, and then walk to the start. It's easy to MARTA or Uber back to our car at the end. Not bad considering there's 60,000 runners
-swag: the peachtree shirt is a great collectors item and you often see them running around ATL in the years after the race. I save mine for a future shirt quilt. Beer, bagels, peaches, Whole Foods goody boxes at the finish. You can purchase a commemorative medal if that's your thing.
-Spectators: best 4th of July party/block party/parade ever. Includes drunk people at 8am, candy, drinks, costumes, a priest with holy water, etc.

CONS:
- Heat and humidity - it's ATL on July 4th...duh
- Aid stations: warmish water and no powerade. M'eh. At least it's only a 10k. I will say, they finally figured out how to keep the water at the finish cold this year.

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