Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(2017)
"Merry Miles at Merrill's Mile"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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)
"Nice course; no charm"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

While the course is decent, the volunteers seemed to have no clue about running and were often just plain rude. The course is mostly flat (by Atlanta standards) with some rolling hills, so I think it's a good race for a first-time half marathoner, but don't expect any niceties. I recommend this race, with reservation, if you need to check off a state or want a PR, but if you've been to other races of any size you'll probably be a bit frustrated by some things.

Expo: very small with volunteers who have no idea about pretty much anything. Every single question I asked at packet pickup on Friday and during race day was met with dumb stares or shrugs. Some people would laugh as if asking for a plastic bag, or a different size shirt were completely outlandish requests. Honestly, it's ok if you don't know the answer to something. In that case please go find someone who does instead of treating me like an idiot; these are not difficult questions.

Swag: Maine Coast operates a bit like an al-a-carte race where you can opt out of race shirt, etc. The race shirt looks pretty nice but I opted out since I already have a ton of shirts and don't need more. I did opt for a challenge (39.3) jacket since it seemed like a good occasion for one. The shirt probably would have been better; the jacket is one of those cheap Leslie Jordan things. Get the shirt instead. The medal has a mermaid, sparkles, and a beer opener; pretty much all you need, so it's cool. You can "upgrade" to VIP registration which I think gets you a sling bag (something that costs less than $1) and a separate section of port-o-potties (I used the regular people port-o-potties at the start several times without waiting). I like the al-a-carte idea that more races are using these days but Maine Coast costs the same as many other races I've done but with none of the included amenities. I'm registered for the half and full challenge (I'm running the full tomorrow) and the challengers should probably be included automatically in the "VIP" registrations in my opinion.

Course: the course runs along the coast for several miles but you're within very close proximity for the whole race. While the course views were more boring than I expected, it was still really nice to hear the waves while running. I'm expecting the full course tomorrow to be somewhat more interesting since we'll be running through Kennebunkport, but extremely bad weather will probably impede any decent photo opportunities (weather is obviously completely out of the hands of the race). The aid stations were every 2 miles and had typical water and sports drink. No gels or any other snacks but that's not too out of the ordinary for a half. It sounds like more food will be available on the full course. The volunteers and few spectators on the course were pretty quiet, kind of like golf cheering. The aid stations were small, but typical as I said, and the volunteers were friendly enough for the most part, they just weren't very enthusiastic. I had one bad experience where I nearly fell trying to grab water from a volunteer and she started laughing at me. Really?? That's just unacceptable.

I really wanted to like this race. I was thinking it was going to be a nice small race with a friendly, homey feel. The course was good but I encountered so many rude people that it's hard to get around that negative feeling.

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(2017)
"Bumps in the road"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I ran the Maine Coast Marathon as part of the 39.3 challenge the day after completing the half marathon. You can find my review of the half here: https://www.bibrave.com/races/maine-coast-marathon/7468. I was excited about this weekend adventure but the whole experience was quite underwhelming.

Expo: as detailed in my half marathon report, the expo was small with very little to offer. They had already started running out of shirt and jacket sizes within the first hour on the first day of the expo, even though we chose specific sizes when registering. Wouldn't they order the sizes we selected months in advance. Also, everything with this race is nickel and dimed. The earliest registration fee for the challenge is $140 and it goes up to $170 late registration. This includes a finishers jacket (although like I said, they ran out of sizes and some participants didn't get their jackets at all). The race shirt is extra. Bag drop costs extra. Shuttle to the start costs extra. You can pay $60 more for "VIP" and get private bathrooms (not needed at such a small race), a sling bag (cheap quality), the locker, the shuttle bus, etc. However, these are all things that are included in any other race I've attended, for less than $140. The volunteers at the expo were not well trained and not friendly.

The course: running on roads not closed to traffic and often without "protective" cones. Running on the right side of the road, not facing traffic. This just all seems like a recipe for disaster. Luckily, it's still early season in the area so there wasn't too much traffic (the weather also kept people away), but there were several instances where cars were let in between runners on the course, and sped around runners around blind turns. Scary. The rolling hills were more difficult than the half but still pretty beginner friendly. Not taking into account the terrible weather, the course was more boring than I had expected. We only ran along the beach for a couple of miles (maybe not a bad thing on a day with terrible rain and wind), but the rest of the course was on 2 lane highways or through neighborhoods. Not super interesting.

Aid stations: every 2 miles, and half of the stations had some food item such as cookies, sports beans, chicken broth, peanut butter pretzels, etc. The aid stations were small but they were probably the most well-done aspect of the whole event.

Volunteers: Interestingly, the volunteers during the marathon were MUCH better than during the half. Even in the terrible weather, they were much more enthusiastic and helpful. Volunteering is tough and these lovely people really made a tough race do-able for the runners. That said, there were obviously some gross miscommunication that led to at least one volunteer misdirecting about half of the field to run an extra half mile, costing some a Boston qualifying time. The race is not offering any remediation for this error aside from apology and varying explanations for why it happened.

Post race food: Almost non-existent. Mini-bagels and peanut butter, some pretzels, banana slices (when I asked for a whole banana they said no, even though most people had finished/left already and there were plenty left).

I think I would be a little less harsh in my reviews had we felt that the race offered a friendly environment. I was hoping for a small town, friendly, enthusiastic event, but I've been to large city races that felt much more fun and friendly than this race.

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(2017)
"Hills and happiness in beautiful Atlanta neighborhoods"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I've run the Publix Georgia Half Marathon and handful of times but this was my second time running the full distance. The race was definitely different from my first time running it; I was pacing the 5:15 group this time around and in 2014 my husband proposed to me at mile 22 so I seemed to forget how difficult the course was until this year. Atlanta Track Club took over the race management last year and I think they're set to build a world class destination event for the South. It was way long overdue for Atlanta to have a marathon to be proud of; we've reached the era of Atlanta marathons with greatness promised in the future.
The course itself is definitely a challenge so be prepared for some major hill training. If you're a first timer, think hard about this as your choice of race, but know we had several first timers in our training program and they all made it through Publix with plans to run more marathons. Surely that's a good sign. The new Ultimate Peach incentive sweetens the deal (Peachtree Road Race, Atlanta 10 miler, Atlanta Thanksgiving Half, Publix Marathon). Ultimate Peach finishers get extra awesome swag, this year including an engraved watch, plus a private tent with food, mimosas, and massages. It's a great motivator to have goals year round.
Final Verdict: While difficult, nonetheless, the swag, course layout, and beautiful neighborhoods, make this a worthwhile adventure.

Pros:
- Expo --> There's vast disagreement here, but I LOVED the intimate expo experience. In my mind, most race expos are monstrosities with the same stuff that I can easily buy on discount through Amazon without dealing with the anxiety inducing crowd. None of that BS at Publix this year. Expo was set up in a small circular fashion with a quick in-and-out bib pickup situation, easy crowd movement around the circle, and just a booths, including Atlanta Track Club gear store, Publix race gear store, Tesla, a rowing studio, some fun snacks, a Publix booth with extra swag, and a handful of others. Definitely saved time, stress, and money but there were many people (about 50/50 among my FB friends) who were disappointed because they wanted a big expo. I give full points for this expo experiences; others may give few points for the same reason. Just know what you're expecting.
- Race start --> Centennial Olympic Park is nicely appointment, easily accessible via MARTA with many parking deck options as well around the area. The start area is spread out in a way that allows easy navigation, bag check, access to both public toilets and port-o-johns. There's also a Starbucks right near the start line that's open and allows athletes to hang out; especially nice during poor weather.
- Corrals --> Easy access; your assigned corral is on your bib but I didn't see much policing of that. They may have been more strict in the front corrals. There's a generally policy against CamelBaks now ( something that most major races are implementing and being dictated by FBI/police policies) but there were still a few seen on the course since, again, I didn't see a good way of policing for those. Just be aware that it's against the rules so bring at your own risk.
- Course --> HOLY HILLS BATMAN! If you've not run in Atlanta, know that it's mantra is "heat, hills, and humidity." While the race this year only included the hills (we had beautiful weather) there is no point on the course where you get a break (except downhills of course). I'm giving it 4/5 difficulty because I've run a fair amount of trail races with much more elevation. Also, I'm running Mad Marathon in VT in July and I think those hills may end up worse so I'm leaving room here for "improvement." ;-)
- Aid stations --> Every 2 miles, almost like clockwork. Well appointed and included several different food options spread throughout the course, including sport beans, gels, cookies, oranges (OMG the best!). The volunteers seemed well trained in terms of handing out drinks in a way that was helpful and not obstructive. For a race with not great crowd support (Atlanta residents need to get with it), the aid stations were fun zones that broke up the course nicely.
- Course scenery --> I'm a huge fan of Atl neighborhoods. The houses are beautiful and each neighborhood has it's own flavor. One star off for the shit miles from 22ish on (after Piedmont Park) that are boring/awful IMO running through GA Tech and then the last mile slightly uphill to the finish on industrial Marietta. Blah.
- Mile markers --> Many people probably won't care about this (the course as a whole was marked accurately) but as a pace team leader the true course mile markers are important for maintaining correct pacing (Garmin pace/distance is always slightly off). Unfortunately, mile markers 23-25 were missing creating a situation where I was convinced I was behind pace. By time the next mile marker popped up at 25 I realized that I was 2 minutes ahead of pace. Frustrating to say the least. Considering I'm friendly with much of the Atlanta Track Club staff (and other pacers noticed the same problem) I'm confident this won't be an issue next year. *I hit the finish at exactly 5:15:00 anyway. :-)
- Post Race --> Due to a computer issue with matching race registrations to Ultimate Peach qualifiers, ATC discovered during the expo that they had underestimated by about 50 runners. Several friends of the ATC including myself were asked if we'd be ok accepting our Ultimate Peach swag a couple weeks late so they could order extras. I have no problem with this and feel that the ATC dealt with the situation as best as possible. As a data scientist I'm aware how difficult these data systems can be and I'm not surprised by the issue. Outside of that situation, the finish area is well-appointed with everyone receiving a box of snacks, variety of drinks (including chocolate milk - chug chug), medal, heat sheet, etc. Centennial Park provides a great finish area as well, especially on a nice day, due to to the open grassy areas great for relaxing/picnicking after the race.

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(2017)
"New Spring Tradition"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Last year was the inaugural race and they had issues with timing/distance. It seems that any first year kinks have worked out and the half distance was spot on; I haven't heard of any issues with the full distance.

This was my sister-in-law's first half marathon so I decided to run it with her, since I'm usually the running instigator. I love doing any race in Chatt because it's so accessible to Atlanta, it's a great town to visit, and I have several free places to stay. :-)

The website provided clear schedule of events, shuttle bus/parking info, and course maps, so everything on race morning was very clear and simple. There's plenty of parking at the finish area at Finley Stadium and they provide school buses from the finish to the start line. It was clear but chilly that morning. Starting in downtown Chattanooga was great though since many of the local businesses were open and we were able to stay warm in a coffee shop right at the start. There were plenty of port-o-johns as well as several public restroom options at the visitor bureau, aquarium, and local businesses. It's not the prettiest course through Chatt but I very much enjoyed the varied neighborhoods and rolling hills. There's definitely a high point in the middle of the half course that made miles 5-7 kinda tough but overall I think the course can run pretty fast because you get a lot of great down hills and rollers.

The finish line was seriously impressive, with a veritable red carpet experience. The finish chute food was set up just like a mini grocery store, with everything neatly stacked and ordered on shelves. It was seriously impressive; great job Food City! After the race, bib tickets can be used for meals at several different food trucks, as well as free beer tickets. I gave my beer tickets away since they only offered Bud Light (beggars can't be choosers I guess).

I'll definitely be adding this race to my spring rotation and will consider doing the full course next year.

Final Verdict: This makes for a great Spring getaway to an amazing southern city. DO IT!

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