Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar
Sunburst Races are typically held on the first Saturday in June. The event lines up with Notre Dame Alumni Weekend. In the past, I would have wanted to see this event moved to earlier in the spring to avoid the heat, but if you live in South Bend, you know everything revolves around Notre Dame. I say in the past because after this years event, I am not to enthused about running it again until they make some huge improvements.
The race begins in downtown South Bend and finishes barely on the Notre Dame campus. Between the start and finish, the courses (5k, 10k, half and full) wind through South Bend and Mishawaka.
Let's start with some positives.
-The shirts were of better quality design than last years.
-If finishers medals are important to you, this years were alright. I noticed that they decided to leave the race date off th ribbon after last years mistake. Probably smart.
-Packet pick up was quick and easy
-Volunteers were great
-Well marked course and police were there keeping the course clear of traffic.
-I enjoy running through the parks in Mishawaka
-6:00 start this year for the half marathon along with the full marathon
Now for the bad (hang on)
-Let's start with the biggest issue, the course measurement. Anyone who had run certified courses before knows that your Garmin will never be exact. In a full marathon, you can count on your Garmin reading anywhere between .1 and .3 miles long. It is near impossible to run the exact shortest distance for a whole race. If you figured out how this can be done, please, tell me your secret. With that being said, I have never ran a certified half marathon course and had my Garmin read 13.5 miles. It was a long course and I think Sunburst messed up somewhere
-The way that Sunburst handled the reaction from it participants on Facebook has been way out of line. You can see their Facebook post Here. I think about every runner took this as, "you are all wrong." You can read the comments from the post and draw your own conclusions. They did later post again on Facebook explaining that the course will be remeasured. We will see what that says.
-Alright something else about the course that doesn't have to do with measurements. Let's make the zoo a one and done thing. It seemed like a good idea, something different, but the paths through the zoo are too narrow and turns are too tight. Really slowed down everyone's momentum.
-Aid stations were well staffed, my only complaint is that some cups barely had water in them and others were about full. Unfortunately you don't know what you will get until you grab one and by then it might be too late to get another.
-I am going to stick up for the back of the pack marathon runners. Once again, Sunburst ran out of food and chocolate milk at the finish line. Sunburst provides food and chocolate milk to full marathoners, half marathoners, 10k, 5k, and the 5k walkers. My suggestions would be a sepreate area set aside for marathon runners. They paid more (both financially and physically) than any of us who ran a shorter race. Make sure they have what they need after they finished. I have seen some of these 5k walkers after they finish. Some of them are vultures.
-The big drawl of this race used to be that it finished at the 50 yard line inside Notre Dame Stadium. Because of renovations to the stadium, it's been a few years since this happened and who knows it may never happen again. I know this idea will piss of the Notre Dame Alumni and fan base, but let's move the finish line off campus. There is a minor league baseball stadium in downtown. Put the finish line there. It's a lot closer to the start. Besides, you run on campus for less than a tenth of a mile, what's the point?
-Picking up your checked bags is only for the half and fill marathons. This year you had to walk all the way around some buildings to get your Stuff instead of just after you left the runners only area.
-Fleet Feet was about all there was at the expo. Nothing against Fleet Feet, it's my go to running store, but other than Fleet Feet there was nothing.
-No bottles of water at the finish. Had to walk a little bit to get any water. Then when you finally get water, it's in cups like at the aid stations. Would be nice to get to take a bottle of water after the race.
My future in this race is uncertain at best right now. I can't say I won't do it again or even that I won't run it next year. I can easily see me stepping down and just running the 5k with my daughters. I can also see myself just skipping it all together. Time will tell. Right now though, if you were from out of town, I could not recommend you coming here and spending money on this race. Too many changes need to happen before I could do this.
This was my first experience with the Kalamazoo Marathon and I was not disappointed at all.
Packet pickup and Eco is held on the day before (Saturday) the race and the Wings Center. It is located right off of I94, so it is real easy to find. The expo isn't large, but for the size of the race, there were a lot of vendors (probably 15-20) mostly consisting of sponsors and other local races. To get to packet pickup, you had to wind your way around all the vendors but crowds were not an issue. Even had a place for family and friends to make signs for the next morning.
Picking up your race packet was easy. If you were not happy with your shirt size, they did have a exchange (if they had your desired size remaining).
There are not any hotels located by the start/finish area. I would suggest going to the host hotel in downtown Kalamazoo. It is probably about 2-3 miles from the start but it is the cheapest if you register with the discount code and it is s nice hotel. Even had water, bagels, and fruit out for the runners on race morning.
The race location was easy to find and there was plenty of parking within a very short walk. At the starting lines, Pacers arrived early to help runners figure out where to start from. After the national anthem, the race started promptly at 8:00. The half marathon and marathon start together and run together for 3.5 miles. First few miles are easy but there are hills later on the course. A few of the other sites around the course are downtown Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University, local neighborhoods and parks. Course uses all roads early but some bike paths later on. Vehicle traffic is very well controlled by local law enforcement. The course is not totally closed off to traffic but runners are given plenty of room to run.
My favorite part of the race is the neighborhoods. A lot of families had parties out in their front yards and were cheering the runners on as they went by. The toughest hills were at mile 9 and 22. Another great aspect of this race is the Bacon Station (around half way, only in the full marathon Course), Gimmy Bear Trail (around mile 18 I believe), and Popsicle hill (mile 22). Nice reward on the last real tough hill on the course. Along the last mile, crowds really started to form along the streets to cheer on the runners.
For this being a smaller marathon (not too small but also not a huge race) the support from local residents was fantastic. Families just came out on their lawns, watched and cheered as runners went by.
The local police departments did a great job of keeping the course cleared of cars. Since I wasn't running all out, I made sure to thank as many as I could.
Aid stations were great, spread out very well and had plenty of volunteers.
Challenging course with enough hills to keep you honest. It was also very beautiful course as well
Live band at the finish
It was easy to find parking before the race and easy to leave after.
There was post race food which included water, fruit, and chocolate milk.
For $8 you could purchase a hot dog, veggie burger, or BBQ Chicken meal. Also came with a drink. If you did the Half and Half or Mitten Challenge, this Meal was free. If we didn't get it for free, it would have been worth the $8.
Popsicle hill was awesome!
Nice looking shirts
Free race photos to download after the race
Very well marked course
Easy expo to navigate, packet pickup was easy. Also had a chance to exchange shirt sizes
very energetic announcer (hey, he at least tried to say my last name as I finished)
Cons (this will be short)
I love cold chocolate milk after a race, but for some reason, they got the chocolate milk out before the race even started and left it sitting out on a table. There is a 5k and 10knoption as well so I am sure they wanted it out for those runners, but keep some in the cooler for the marathon and half marathon runners. Mine was warm.
If you don't like hills, then this may not be the race for you, but even that wasn't too bad.
There were a couple of boring sections of the course but what marathon does not have those? Running on Western Michigan University Campus was one of those spots. Students are gone for the summer and it's not a very attractive campus.
The Wisconsin Marathon is in Kenosha, about an hour north of Chocago. The race is run along lake Michigan offering beautiful views. The race location was easy to find on race day. While the early miles do have some early hills, it is mostly flat. The city does seem to support this race and local businesses were happy to see all the runners come to town. Look through the race program for deals local businesses offer runners over the weekend.
The Wisconsin Marathon did a great job of updating registered runners on important details leading up to race morning
Runners had three options on where to pick up their race packet. They could go to a location in Milwaukee, or Chicago a week early or the day before the race at the race location. There was a small expo with a few vendors and races at the race location the day before.
The course is right along the lake shore for most of the race, offering a lot of great views
With good weather, this could be a great PR course
Unique finishers medals
Unique race logo allaround, used on race shirts.
13 aid stations along the marathon course and 6 on the half marathon course with water and Gatoraid. Mile 18.5 aid station has ClifShots. Aid stations also seemed to be well staffed with volunteers
Post race food options included bagels, water, cheese (of course), and bananas. Each runner Aldo had a tab on their bib for a free brat and beer. I didn't partake in the beer but the brat was fantastic.
Live band at finish line
Well marked course
If you took your bib into participating businesses in Kenosha you could get discounts or free selected items.
Mostly closed course.
Parking was a little ways away from the start/finish
Roads need re-paved in some sections
Second half of marathon there isn't much crowd support, gets pretty quiet
There are a couple of sections of gravel roads. Most of it is packed down well though.
Would like to see more food with salt (chips or something). After a marathon, I need to replenish on Salt after a marathon.
Race photos are not free and seem to be over priced.
Could do better at utilizing social media to get the word out about the race
This was the 6th year for the Carmel Marathon, the 2nd time that I have ran it. Other than one small change to the course, the course has stayed the same. But first let's start with the expo. The Expo is held at the Monon Community Center about a mile from where the race starts and finishes. The expo was open from 11-8 on Friday, the day before the race. You enter the expo and go straight to packet pick up which is quick and easy. There were about 20-30 vendors/races there to check out. If you wanted, you could be in and out in 5 minutes.
Race Day: if you stayed at one of the host hotels (except for one) you could take the shuttle bus to the start/finish and of course, back to the hotel after. We stayed at the one hotel that was not offered a shuttle so we drove. Parking was no problem and we parked at the garage less that a quarter mile away from the start.
Gear check is offered right by the finish shoot, and there was about a line of 40-50 portable toilets for pre race use. The race started at 7:30 with opening ceremonies starting at 7:15.
The course: the course was tougher than I remember with rolling hills. The course starts with the half and full running together for 3.5 miles. The course consists on roads, some neighborhoods, and bike trails. By he bike trails when it was just marathon runners were fine and had enough space to run on. At the 11 mile mark, the full and half combine again. After that, there was a lot of zig zagging to get around slower, even walking half marathon runners. The bike paths at this point were very tight and hard to pass. The course does get a little boring between miles 20-23 running through office parks. The course finishes up at down town Carmel right where it starts.
Aid Stations: Fir info read the pros and cons but I would like to see more aid stations.
Well marked course
Mile markers were right on it seemed
Good use of bike trails
Aid stations had water and PowerAid
I believe one aid station had gels
Medals were real nice
Good amount of post race food, and chocolate milk
The expo was easy to navigate. Not a large expo buts good amount of vendors. Also packet pickup was a breeze
Free race photos to download
I would have liked to have seen more aid earlyin the race. The first aid station came at 2.5 miles, followed by the next one at mile 5. I can understand why there wasn't any at mile 1, but with the heat, there need to one at every mile after mile 1
The very last aid station had 2 workers at it and both were pouring water and not handing any out. If you wanted water, you had to grab it off the table.
According to my wife, at the start it was extremely congested at the back.
I would like to see separate start times for the 5k/8k races than starting at the same time as the half and full. Allow the marathon and half marathon runners to spread out more.
This is not a knock on the back of the pack half marathon runners, but it gets very congested on the bike paths after the half and full combine again. It makes for a lot more zig zagging through traffic. The only way I can see to avoid this is to revamp the half course somehow.
This year, Carmel Marathon implemented a "Sprint to the finish." Basically, whoever runs the fastest last half mile compared to their average pace the rest of the race, wins $100. First of all, $100 is not worth registering for the race alone when you can pay near that for the race depending on when you register. 2nd, all you have to do (if you want to win) is slack off the rest of the race and just sprint the last half mile. Kind of defeats the purpose of the rest of the race. Just do away with this.
For the first time in years, the little town of Wakarusa, IN has a 5k race. The Maple Syrup 5k falls on the second day (of 3) of the towns Maple Syrup festival. The festival happens on the last weekend of April every year.
There was no early packet pickup. There was race day registration that started at 6:30AM before the 8:00AM start. Pre registration was $20, race day $25. There was plenty of parking as the race started at Memorial Park which is right behind the local elementary school. If you registered early, you were guaranteed a 50/50 shirt, also all runners received bags full of coupons and other fliers.
The race is small, just under 100 participants in its first year. This made it great for beginners and also families. For the first year, there was no chip timing.
The race began at 8:00 exactly. The course was flat and fast. It does consist of 3 out and back sections. This is not ideal for a course but the race director did what he could with the streets that the town would allow him to use. The course was very well marked with arrows. There were also plenty of volunteers on the course. It was also an exact 3.1 miles.
After the race there was bananas, cookies, and water for participants. For overall winners, awards were 16oz of maple syrup and gift certificate for RoadID (top 3) and age group awards were 3oz bottles of maple syrup.
Well run race
Easy to get packet
Restrooms right by the start/finish
No chip timing
Out and back sections
I spoke with the race director since the race. There will be chip timing in 2017. Also the course will be reevaluated for possible changes.
Mao come to Wakarusa, enjoy the race, catch the parade after the race, get some maple syrup goodies, free pop corn, and enjoy some free entertainment.
To see how my race went, check out my blog post: Running for All the Maple Syrup! – Daddy, Did You Win?