Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar

(2019)
"A Marathon That Keeps Getting Bigger Every Year"
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This is my favorite marathon to run every year. This race is flat and fast. Not to mention it has some of the best race organizers that I have ever seen. This is one of the top marathons to run for first timers according to Runners World and its on of the 15 largest marathons in the U.S.
Monumental Marathon is held in early November every year. Usually it is the first Saturday of November, but this year it was the second due to FFA taking over Indianapolis the first weekend. The expo was held at the convention center in Indianapolis. It is not the largest expo that I have been to, but it is still a good size expo with a lot of races present as well as other companies. Monumental also beings in a special guest from the running community for a shakeout run as well as to be present and speak at the expo. This year, it was Deena Kastor. I did manage to meet her and get her autograph on my bib.

My recommendation for anyone running in the Monumental Marathon and needing a place to stay, book your hotel stay at one of the hotels right by the start/finish. We stayed a couple blocks away and I wont make that mistake again. I didn't think it would matter but with the bad race that I had, I finished later than i planned on and had to leave the finish area right away to get to the hotel to check out right away.

The course did have a couple of minor changes to it this year but unless you have ran this race several times, you probably didn't notice any of them. This was done because of the new bus line that the city put in over the past year. This is a very flat and fast course, in fact, there were more Olympic trials qualifying times run on this course this year than in the New York City Marathon. The course is beautiful with the fall leaves through some of the neighborhoods. I also felt like there was more crowd support through the communities than there was in years past which surprised me since it was a cold morning.

The Swag was great this year. I think this years race shirt is the best that they have had. And of course, as they have for many years, they gave each runner a finishers hat when they finished up. The finishers medals are in its second year of a 4 year medal series as well. When completed, the medals will spell out I-N-D-Y. This year of course was the N.

Overall, you have got to run this race if you haven't. This was my 7th straight year of running it and I will be back for #8 next year.
To see my full race review, check out my YouTube Chanel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCkpHCC402U&pbjreload=10

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(2019)
"Just as great as I remember it. "
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This was the second year that I ran the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. The first time that I did so was in 2016. So it has been a few years and there have been a few changes since then in this race. I will get into that in a little bit. But I loved this race back in 2016 and it did not disappoint in 2019.

The race packet pickup was held at Louisville Slugger Field which is a minor league baseball stadium in downtown Louisville. It is an easy packet pickup was easy. There wasn't a real expo. There was Fleet Feet Louisville present to get your last minute needs as well as some Urban Bourbon merchandise for sale and bourbon tasting. Really, if you wanted to, you could be in and out of packet pickup in 5 minutes. What you got with packet pickup was your race number and red long sleeve race shirt. I did pick up a Urban Bourbon Boco hat and a race shirt from last year for $5.

I did get an opportunity to see some guys i know at the expo including fellow BibRave Pro Corey Queen who is the head of volunteers, Race director Michael Clemons, and Brett Albers who is now a Fleet Feet owner in North Carolina but used to be in Mishawaka, IN. Always great seeing familiar faces at races that are out of town.

While down there, the family did come along and we camped on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. This is a great way of saving some money and also making it easy to bring the family along. It was my kids and wife's fall break from school so that helped as well.

Race morning I drove to Louisville about 30 minutes away. I arrived early so that I could get in an additional 4 miles before meeting up with fellow Bibrave Pro's Stephanie, Lisha, and Linda. I was taking this race easy and just using it as a training run so I wanted to get a few extra miles in and figured it would be easier to do it before, rather than after.

After meeting up with fellow BibRave Pro's, I took my gear to gear check. What I liked about the way Urban Bourbon did gear check. You were able to bring your own bag and didn't need to use a cheap plastic bag. Since the start line and finish line were not at the same location, they made sure to get all the bags back to the finish area for the runners.

The start set up was one of the changes that was made since 2016. The course now starts right in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse and heads east on Jefferson St. to 2nd street. Back in 2016, the course took you directly to Cherokee Park. Now the course runs some around town a little more before going out to the park. Cherokee Park is my favorite part of the race. The hills are tough in this section, but it is beautiful especially with the fall leaves changing colors.

The finish is also different now. You now finish on Liberty street which is only about a block away from the start line. The big advantage of the finish area is that it is right next to 4th Street Live. The post race party is known as Bourton Bash and went until 12:30pm. Participants were able to enjoy samplings of bourbon from a number of Kentucky Bourbon Trail distiller. There was also pizza, beer, and a live bad (The Crashers).

Swag

As mentioned earlier, every participant received a free race long sleeve race shirt. This is a nice shirt and I think will be great to do those cooler fall/spring training runs. Also, at the finish you were given your finishers medal which is in the shape of a Jim Beam bottle and the Jim Beam logo in the middle of the bottle spins. Its a great/unique looking medal. Also, just two days after the race, free race photos were available that were already sorted out for you.

Overall, I cant give this race enough praise. It is really my favorite half marathon that I have ran. The race director does a great job putting this race together every year and I always look forward to the opportunity to run it. It is not a fast course with the hills, but it is scenic and a challenge that you should not shy away from. I think the changes the did to the course in the last couple years were the right ones and made the race even better. Aid stations were well staffed and the volunteers were fantastic. This race deserves all the praise that it gets and more.

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(2019)
"Bucket List Race"
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I have been wanting to run the Air Force Marathon for years and I finally got the opportunity to this year. The main reason I have not ran it before is because it is on a Saturday morning and my daughters are running cross country and have meets on Saturdays. So unfortunately, It will probably be some time before I am able to do it again.
The expo is held on the campus of Wright State. There is race merch right when you enter the arena and vendors all around the concourse. Then you go down the arena steps to the basketball floor where there are more vendors and where you get your bib and shirts.
Every year, Air Force Marathon has a featured aircraft. This years was KC-46 Pegasus (re-fueler plane). The KC-46 Pegasus was featured on the shirt and the finishers medals. The shirts were very nice and comfortable. No complaints there. The medals were also huge and heavy.
As far as where to stay for race weekend, there really isn't a place to stay right by the Air Force Base that you can just walk out of your hotel and walk to the start. But on race morning, there are some parking options. The one that I recommend most is that you can go to the campus of Wright State and park at the arena to take a shuttle. You have to be there early to do so however. There is also parking at the base but traffic can be a nightmare. If you take the shuttle, it will also drop you off right by the start line.
The Start is right on the Air Force Base. Before the race, they had a flyover with the KC-46 Pegasus which was pretty cool. Unfortunately, there was a lightning delay that lasted probably 30-45 minutes. Reading one other review I think that there was confusion on why there was a delay and they did not have us go inside. While it did rain at the start, there was no lightning in the area of the start. However, if the race started, then we would be running right into the direction of the lightning which would have put runners in danger. Luckily there were plenty of tents to hide under.

It was a hot day for the race, which was out of the control of the race directors. They did have extra aid stations especially in the last few miles to help runners out as best as they could. This meant that there were aid stations every mile for the last 10k. In post race announcements, it sounds like this will be an every year thing now. The course does have a couple of tough hills especially in the first mile of the race. However, it really isn't that bad. There is actually more elevation gain in the half marathon than the marathon. The volunteers on the course were great and very helpful.

I would say the only thing that they need to work on is the gels. They were missing from the course until late into the race. The race director also admitted to messing that part up and I can respect that. Things happen. This is why you should never rely on gels being out there and bring your own.

If you would like to see my full race review, check out my YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKpupnJ2He8

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(2019)
"I have a Love/Hate Relationship with this race"
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Over the years, I have had a love/hate relationship with the Sunburst Half Marathon. I loved to hate it. Then a couple years ago, a new race director took over, made some changes, and the race was showing improvements. Then this year, s new race director took over and it seems to be back to where it was, maybe even worse. I had seriously considered not running this event at all this year. Then I won a free race entry at our running club awards banquet for 2018.
This years race was held on June 1st and followed the same course as the last couple of years. There are 3 race options: the half marathon, a 10k, and the 5k. Race weekend kicks off the day before the race with the expo held at the Century Center in down town South Bend. The expo is pretty easy to get around. When you enter the expo area, you pick up your packet along with your shirt at the same table. For the first time in recent years, they didn't give you a bag for gear check. That's because there was no gear check on race day. Apparently runners had not been using it enough, so it wasn't offered.
The rest of the expo was mostly small with a few races present, along with local businesses. Fleet Feet Mishawaka had a huge presence at the expo bringing most of their store. The expo was open from noon until 8:00. If you paid extra, you could pick up your packet on race day.
This years shirt was a "poly/cotton blend." This was the worst poly/cotton blend shirt I had ever seen. 90% cotton, 10% polyester. From what I have heard there has been a lot of complaints about the shirts, so I guess I will pile onto that. If I had paid the astronomical race entry for this race, I would be even more upset.
All races start at Four Winds Field (home of the low A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, the South Bend Cubs) and finish at the 50 yard line of Notre Dame Stadium. The finish is probably what brings most people to this race and is probably the only thing that keeps this race alive. There have been some years where the race did not finish in the stadium and registration numbers were down.

The half marathon starts at 6:30am followed by the 10k and 5k throughout the morning. We will get I to the timing of other race starting later in the review.

The half marathon course starts outside the baseball stadium in down town South Bend and then starts heading west and basically makes its way to the neighboring town of Mishawaka. The part of the course in Mishawaka is actually my favorite part of the race. There is about a 2.5 mile section of the race that is along the river walk. It is probably the most scenic portion of the race.
It's amazing to me though, with as many neighborhoods as you run through, there really isn't much crowd support along the course. It is really kind of dead which continues to be a disappointment to me.

There are a couple of sections of the course I do not like. One is where the 10k and half marathon join. The half marathon runners are coming from the south and heading north while the 10k runners are coming from the west and making a left turn to join the Half course to head north. This meant the course became very congested fast. To make matters worse, they put an aid station right after that turn in the middle of the road. As I was getting my water at this aid station, 10k runners were cutting completely over onto the other side of the road cutting me off. Took everything in me not to trip over them.
Another section is about and back section at I believe around mile 8 that is probably about 50 meters out and 50 meters back. Just move the start line back 100 meters so we don't have to do this. Plus it's after the 10k joins the half marathon course making it very crowded hairpin turn.

The last section was where the half marathon/10k course is joined by the 5k course. This really didn't effect me at all but it did the back of the packers. By the time the back of the half marathon pack got to this point (11.5 miles), the 5k walkers were coming through and the half runners had to zigzag through them. I was walking back to find my wife after I finished and noticed all of this going on. I was telling any half runner I saw to run on the sidewalk so they didn't have to zigzag through all the walkers taking up the whole road. They would be doing this until they finished at the stadium.

All of these things of the course can be corrected by a few simple changes. It's as easy as moving the starting line back and adjusting start times or enforcing runners/walkers or the shorter races stay to one side of the road.

I don't know where I stand on running this race again next year. It seems that as registration prices seem to creep higher and higher, the value goes lower and lower. The great thing is that all my running friends are typically running and it's always great to see them.

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(2019)
"Very Warm and Hilly "
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This is the second time that I have run the Kalamazoo Marathon. I last time I ran in Kalamazoo was in 2016 after running the Wisconsin Marathon, completing the Mitten Challenge. This time I would be running on mostly rested legs and hoping for a better result than to just finish.
The expo was held at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo. The expo seemed smaller than it did in 2016 and a lot less that I was interested in. I did pick up a Run MI Boco hat from Gazelle Sports but that was it. You had to walk through the whole expo to get to your packet and shirt. That was kind of annoying, but I get it. We were out of the expo probably within 10 minutes of entering.
The shirts are disappointing to me. The shirt is more of a 50/50 blend which I am not a big fan of, as well as a really small logo on it. The women's shirt was pink also, which makes it even more difficult to see the logo. To me, I don't care about the logo and how visible it is, I want something comfortable that I can run in. This shirt just doesn't do it for me.
One thing that happened on the course, I believe on mile 11 was that a woman driver, who apparently decided to ignore the street closures, was driving on the course. When she saw that she could not get out one way because of the closures, she turned around and eventually ended up right on my heals. Now, I could have been a nice guy, and maybe I should have let her go by. But she was the one who ignored all the signs and was driving on the marathon course. She honked, I waved and kept running in the middle of the lane. Eventually she got on the shoulder and sped by. Oh the fun of running marathons.
Overall, I like this race, its a good test of your body. It is not a fast course and you shouldn't run it if you are looking for a PR or a BQ. However, if you are looking to test your body and see what it can go through, give the Kalamazoo marathon a try. The course support along the course is actually great and top notch. You run through so many neighborhoods, especially early in the race that are real supportive of the runners. There are just a lot of hills on this course and they just keep coming and coming. The temps can also be an issue. On this day, it got pretty warm and dehydration started to kick in.

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