Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(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)
"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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(2017)
"Bumps in the road"
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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)
"Nice course; no charm"
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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)
"Hills and happiness in beautiful Atlanta neighborhoods"
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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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