Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar

(2016)
"The Not So Frigid "Niles Frigid 5k""
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The Niles Frigid 5k is held on the 3rd Saturday of January in Niles, Mi. It is a small town race with low flare and not much in extras as far as swag. It is a simple, small town race and I like that.
Packet pickup was from 10-8 on Friday and then a couple hours before the race at a bike shop just a block away from the finish line. Parking was pretty easy to find on race day and was right by the finish line. A negative (and it's not a big negative) is that you had to walk between a quarter and half mile to the starting line from where you park. But really, we are runners, we can walks little or include it in your warm up.
The race started from the boat launch parking lot in town and headed south along the riverine a gravel road. Most winters this would be snow covered but the day before the race, temperatures were in the 40s which melted all the snow and then froze over night making it very slick in a lot of spots. Also the melted snow left a lot of pot holes in the gravel road as well. Just had to watch your step.
The course was out and back basically with the first half being on a gravel road and the second half being on a icy bike path. Yeah, it may have been slippery, but it's also January in Michigan. That's kind of what you get this time of year. The view of the river along the finishing stretch made for nice scenery.
Swag: everyone who registered on time received a nice looking red tshirt with the race logo. Nice looking shirt but not a fan of Polly/cotton blend. Also if you registered early enough, you got personalized bibs.
The awards were also nice and original for age group winners. Top 3 in each age group received a snow flake medal with the race logo on it.
Overall it was a pleasant experience and a great small town event!

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(2015)
"Run with 100+ Santas"
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After a year or two off, the 5k Santa Stroll was back for 2015. This was the first year that I have ran this race. The proceeds from the race goes towards Santas Pantry which is a pay it forward organization that strives to serve others expecting nothing in return. They even have classes for school age kids which focus on teaching kids how they can serve their community.
Course: The race is run in downtown Elkhart, IN. The race starts in public streets, makes two turns and is on bike paths/sidewalks until the very end. The first quarter mile is filled with some sharp/tight turns. So if you are a little further back, watch out. Most of the course is run beside the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers. It also involves 1.5 laps around the Elkhart Island which can be confusing making sure you don't turn off the island too soon. But the island is probably the most scenic part of the race. Along the course is one water station, a hot chocolate/cookie station, and a candy cane station. The course was very well marked, so other than the 1.5 laps around the island, it's hard to get lost. Plus at every turn, and there were a lot of them, there were a volunteers making sure you go the right way and encouraging.

SWAG: if you registered early, you were guaranteed a disposable Santa suit to wear during the race. I did not wear mine, other than the hat due to race morning temps at 55 degrees and also, they didn't look too comfortable. A lot of others did wear theirs however. The suits didn't have the race name or logo on them anywhere, so I would have rather had a shirt, especially silly given the $35 registration fee ($50 for a family).
Awards: fastest "Santas" (both male and female) won a medal and $25 gift certificate to the local running store. Age group awards were very generic ribins. very much a letdown.
Race Organization: this was ranked fairly low. I don't believe there were too many runners involved in planning this race. Just seemed somewhat disorganized and also took a while to do awards after the event, I would say about an hour and s half after the race started.
Post race food: this would get my highest marks. Donuts, subway sandwiches,cookies, fruit, granola bars, candy bars, water, hot chocolate. A very nice spread.

I am not giving up on this race in the future but would love to see some improvements made such as doing away with the Santa suits and going to race shirts. Also would like to see course improvements do the course isn't as crowded early on.

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(2015)
"Needs Improvement But Has Potential"
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This was the first year of the Ugly Sweater Run, which supports the Elkhart Community Schools and the Tolson Center which provides after school activities for kids in town. The race was run on Saturday afternoon at 4:00.
Packet pick up was offered the night before from 6-8 at the towns Ice Skating park and before the race from 2-3:30. Instead of shirts for the runners, hats were given out. For a runner with a lot of race shirts, a hat is a nice alternative.
The race started on the streets for the first quarter mile. The first recommendation I would give to the race director is to change the start. 15-20 past the starting line was the first turn. Nothing bad happened, but if it was a colder day with ice on the roads, it could have been bad. After the first quarter mile, the rest of the race was on the city bike path/wider sidewalks. All the course was paved. There were several very tight turns at the beginning as well. The course was decently marked and not too many problems with following the course. It was apparent early on that the mile markers were way off. The first mile was at .9 and the second mile mark was at 1.5. The third mile mark was at 2.5. It was hard to tell if the finishline was coming up because of the location of the mile markers, but the course did end up short. Many of us measured it as 2.7 miles. The course was not too difficult as it was mostly flat except for a couple bridges you had to cross over the river.
Following the race, you were handed a button (kind of a finishers medal) and a ticket to go to a cafe about a block away and get hot chocolate and cookies for free (very tasty).
Awards were held right after the race. Not a wide variety of awards. Age groups were 15 and under, 16-30, 31-45, and 46 and over with only 1st place receiving awards. There was also awards for best ugly sweater as well. There was also a Santa there for pictures as well as a couple reindeer.
While the course was short, I did take the time to talk with the race director following the race. They were very open to recommendations to make the event better for next year. While the course was short, I can appreciate a new race director taking recommendations well. The race director did state they want this to be an event for both serious and non serious runners alike.
While some changes are needed, I would recommend this race in the future and plan to run it again next year.

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(2015)
"Small Town Thsnksgiving Running Tradition"
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Every Thanksgiving in Nappanee, IN, the I'm Thankful Four is held at 8:00. The start location is NorthWood High School which provides a lot of parking and an athletic center to keep warm in before the run if the weather is bad.
Proceeds from the race go to the Kelsey Mikel Scholarship Foubdation. Kelsey Mikel is the daughter of high school cross country coach, Mark Mikel who was tragically killed in a car accident 11 years ago. The run also promotes organ donation.
Early registration fee is $15 and goes up to $25 at packet pick up and day of registration. For the race entry, you get a long sleeve cotton tshirt and this year a I'm Thankful Four watch. Best watch $2 can buy as the race director states.
The morning of the race, there is a meeting inside the high school athletic center giving instructions for the 4 mile run and 2 mile run. As tradition in this race goes, there is also a period of time when everyone shouts what they are thankful for before going out to the start.
This run typically has over 800 participants involved. Even with the large number, this is a low key event, and it's advertised as such. There are no age group awards, but there are awards for beating the turkey. There are three turkeys: a male turkey, a female turkey, and a butterball turkey (honor system for anyone who weighs over 200lbs). This year if you beat the turkey, you received a hoodie. I am guessing over 100 runners beat the turkey.
The course is easy to follow and flat, parts are on roads, other parts on bike paths. Course is very well marked and volunteers are on every corner. There are no aid stations as it's usually cool enough that they are not needed. But if you need water, bring your own. The finish line is on the high school track right outside the athletic center.
There are cookies and water following the race to enjoy. Since there are no age group awards to wait for, you are able to leave the race location early to prepare for the rest of your Thanksgiving day.
This is a very low key event and family friendly run. Bring your kids, bring your dog and come out to exercise before stuffing yourself later on.

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(2015)
"A Mental Challenge"
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This is the second year that I have ran in one of the Veterans races in Columbia City, IN. This year I was taking on the full marathon. The course is the exact same as the full marathon except you do the course twice which adds a mental aspect to the race. It allows for a lot of second thoughts about wanting to do a second lap and you also know what's in front of you as you head out the second time (can be good or bad.
Before the race is a nice tribute to all veterans of the armed forces who are running in the race. Also prior to the race there were two moments of silence, 1 for those we have lost in war and 1 for those we lost in Paris the previous night. The national anthem was played and a loud cannon was fired to start the half marathon and full marathon together. The course heads east out of town and from
About mile 1-12, you are in the country. I like running in the country, but if the wind is blowing hard, it makes for a real tough run. Luckily on this day, it wasn't too bad. There are a lot of rolling hill sections on the course with the worst ring at miles 11 and 23.
One of the improvements needed on this course is change in aid stations. The volunteers were great at the aid stations but there just are not enough stations. The first aid station was at mile 2, then 4.5, 5.5, and not again until 8.75, 9.75, 11.25, 12.5, and 13.1 and at same locations for lap 2. Would love to see another between 5.5 and 8.75. Gatorade and water were at all stations plus gel one of the aid stations that you passed 4 times.
If your doing the full marathon, be ready to be running alone. The runners really thin out after you run the first lap as the half runners finish.

Swag: this year, the shirt provider switched from New Balance to Brooks. Got to say, I liked my New Balance jacket last year. The long sleeve Brooks shirt is nice though. Also given to half and full runners were given a pair of BrooksDash Gloves which came in handy on the cold race morning. The first 200 entries (no matter the distance) got a free pint glass from Nrooks. It's nice, just wish it had the race logo on it (but it was free).

Medals: the medals were nice. Once again in the shape of Indiana and had a Navy emblem on them. Every year they choose a different branch of service to represent. Also the race chooses a different charity that supports vets to support. This year it was Veterans Auto Racing Team.

This is a small town race. It's small in numbers, small in crowd support, but a great cause and we'll run race.

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