Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar

(2018)
"How Far Is 10 Nautical Miles???"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Who has heard of running 10 nautical miles?  Who knew that there was a difference between a nautical mile and a regular mile?  The Fort 2 Base race features 2 race distances, 10 and 3 nautical miles.  I am not 100% on what the the exact distance of a 10 nautical mile race equates to in real miles, but it is over 11 miles.  Anyways, 2018 marked my first time running the Fort2Base run, and given that it is the first time that I have heard of a race using nautical miles, this would be a new distance PR.

Registration opens at on January 1st.  Fees to register started off at $40 for the 10 nautical mile race and go up to $90 race weekend.  For the 3Nautical mile race, fees started at $25 and went up to $45 on race weekend.  There was also discounts for active military, veterans, and dependents. 


Packet pickup was held in four different locations in the week leading up to race day in the Chicago area.  You could also pay an extra $10 when you registered to have your packet ready for you on race day.  If you were staying at the host hotel, you could also have your packet waiting for you when you checked in at no additional cost.  


The race is a point to point race, starting just south of Fort Sheridan, running around the neighborhood where military families from all branches live, around the parade grounds, and then from miles 3.25 to  about mile 9 was on mostly shaded bike paths.  The course finished at Foss Park  just North of the Naval Station Great Lakes. The course is supposed to measure 11.5 miles (roughly) but when I ran, my Garmin measured 11.22 miles.  I went back and looked at the course map and it looks like everyone missed a small loop a the beginning of the race. Which makes sense why the mile markers were off so early from the start of the race.  But no matter, it was a great course.  I enjoy running around the parade grounds as well as on the bike paths.  There was a couple of less scenic portions to the course, but I believe that you will have that at about any race, especially the longer distances.  
This was also the first year, I believe, for this race not to finish on the Naval Base. We did get an explanation that it was because a new Commanding Officer began his service on the Base this past June and there were also some security issues (a bus driving to the wrong part of the base) last year during the race.  Due to this, the race was asked not to finish on the Base this year.  It sounds really promising however, that the race will probably finish on the base in 2019 (fingers crossed). 
With this being a  point to point course, runners are bused out to the starting line.  The buses run run 5:00-6:15.  The race starts at 7:00.  I felt this information was very well publicized by email, social media, and on their website.  But as you can imagine, obviously some did not read the information and were late getting to the buses.  The race was delayed by a few minutes.  The race director thanked all who were present on time for the buses  for reading the information and doing as they were asked.  She didn't sugar coat her frustration of the other runners, and I do not blame her at all. 


If SWAG is your thing, then Fort 2 Base has you covered.  Let start with what you get at packet pickup.  First, they give you a pretty sweet 1/4 zip long sleeve shirt.  On a day like race day, its not a shirt you are going to wear right away.  But come fall, it will become one of my favorites for sure! Also, in the race bag was a nice luggage tag to put on your bags next time you travel.  Obviously the shirt is more appreciative, but also the little useful things are nice to get as well. 
Also when you think of SWAG and what a lot of runners want after they finish a tough race is a finishers medal.  This year, is the first year of a 3 year medal series.  this years medal features the tower at Fort Sheridan which runners ran by in the first couple miles of the race when going around the parade grounds. Next year will be the tower from the naval base.  The third year will feature a ring with a star and anchor on it.  All three medals will stack on top of each other.  


Awards were given to the top 3 overall in each race (male and female) as well as top 3 in each age division.  I honestly do not know what was given to the overall winners since I missed that part of the awards presentation, but the age group awards were a coffee mug with the race logo on it and said "Age Group winner."  I appreciate when a race gives an award other than a trophy or a medal, but instead gives something that is useful like a mug.  


A couple recommendations for runners if you are thinking about running the Fort 2 Base in 2019.  First off, if you are thinking about running it, do it.  Its a great race.  Yeah the distance is different than usual but its a great, well run event.  If you are traveling from out of town, stay at the host hotel.  It was no more than a 10 minute drive from when you load to get onto the buses to get to the starting line. Plus, if you want, the hotel will provide a shuttle of their own, to the buses.  The hotel was also very welcoming.
The aid stations at the course were also great and very supportive.  There was water and Gatorade at all the aid stations.  I don't believe that Gatorade was supposed to be at every station but with the heat on race morning, they made sure every runner had what they needed. The volunteers and course marshals were great as well.  Law enforcement was also at every street crossing ensuring runners safety as well. 


This race is awesome.  I know that a lot of people were upset when it could not finish on the Naval Base, and maybe I would have been disappointed to had I ran this race before, but I thought it was a great event.  The volunteers, as stated earlier, were awesome.  As you finished the race, you were greeted by members of the Navy along the course and soldiers were there to give you your finishers medal.  Proceeds for this race went to the USO and the Navy Ball.  I believe that it changes from year to year where the funds go, but it goes back to the military in some fashion every year. If you are thinking of running it and are disappointed that you will not be able to complete the 3 year medal series, don't let that stop you.  All three medals make a great stand alone medal as well.  Registration will open January 1st, 2019.

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(2018)
"Improvements are being made. "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is the the I believe 5th year in a row (Maybe its more than 5, I am not sure any more) that I have run the Elkhart County Fair Parade 5000. Typically on race day, it is a bright sunny day with temps in the 90’s. Which typically is my go to excuse for why I never run well in this race. But this year was different. Temps were in the mid 70s, with some sun and a threat of rain. Now mid 70s isn’t exactly cool for running, but it does lessen the impact of my excuse and for this race, is really great weather.
This race is run along the parade rout for the Elkhart County 4H fair so there are a lot of people along the course watching. The race is limited to 400 people, and this year, the number of registered runners did not hit that number. I am not sure as to why as the weather was as good as it will ever be. The race is also held on the first Sunday of the fair and starts roughly at 1:20pm (notice I said roughly, more on that later). You have to go to the fair grounds before the race, pick up your bib and shirt, and then either do a warm up to the start line which is probably a 2-2.5 mile run from the fair grounds, or you can take the shuttle bus.
As I mentioned, the race is scheduled to start at 1:20, or as soon as the roads are clear, and this includes trains. We are allowed to line up about 5-10 minutes before the race starts. And we wait, and wait, and wait. Finally we get word that we are waiting for a train to pass by. The race route crosses 2 sets of railroad tracks. I have been stopped at both sets of tracks in races in the past. The train we were waiting on was on the first set of tracks. So once that one goes by, we should be all set to go. Once they get the all clear, the race begins.
At about the 3/4 of a mile point, I heard the dreaded noise none of us wants to hear at this race, the train horn. Yep, another train. Goshen, where this race is held, is known for its trains. They just built a overpass to get over these tracks, but the course does not go on the overpass for whatever reason. It would be a nasty hill for a 5k race, but still better than having to stop.
Once we entered the Horse track, we had to run passed the finish line and then run a full lap around. By the time we were passed the finish line, it felt like my shoes weighed 5 pounds heavier. it was getting tough. I ran the third mile in 6:41. There was just no traction on the track.
Overall, the race was handled well. They have tried many times over the years to work with the trains to get them not to cross during the race, but they simply don’t care and just carry on with their business. Maybe the fair will decide to use the over pass in the future but I kind of doubt that will happen.

The race, for the second year in a row, gave out tech shirts to all participants. This is an improvement from the cotton shirts of the passed and the logos are looking better than in the past as well.
The one thing they need to work on is the awards. I now have the same small, cheap medal for the past 3 years. very generic. But for $25 registration fee, I cant complaint too much. Also, if you want to run this race in the future, pre register for the race. there is no race day registration.
One other thing they did differently this year was pull bandits off the starting line and off the course. This years bib was plain white with black numbers. First time they actually went with this. I did witness the race director kicking out a group of 5 or 6 runners who had what looked like past years bibs with the timing company logo on it. Some other runners told me they witnessed more of this before the race started. Nice to see races taking action.

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(2018)
"Finishing inside Notre Dame Stadium"
Overall
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The expo had a few local 5k races present passing out information out about their races as well as local companies. The expo was held at the Century Center which is really the only place in South Bend probably big enough to hold the expo. Participants enter a room upon arriving at the expo to pick up their shirts and bib numbers before checking out the vendors. This year was the first year that you had the option of having our packets mailed to you before the race for a fee. Also, you could select to have race day packet pick up for a fee as well. This is the first year that they did not have race day packet pick up for free. Some people were upset about the fee for race day packet pick up but I get why Sunburst went in this direction. This is a race of over 5000 people and the last thing a race wants to do on race morning is put volunteers at a table to hand out packets rather than placing them somewhere else. Also, you have vendors paying for expo space and they want people to come by and talk with them. Honestly, for a race this size, I think they should do away with race day packet pickup all together.

Race day consisted of 3 different race options, the half marathon, 10k, and 5k. This is the first year that they did away with the marathon distance. The number of people that were running the full had been in decline for a few years and it was just time to end it and focus on the other 3 distances which I think was smart. They had just over 100 last year of over 5000 total participants.
The course just seems to get tougher and tougher every year for some reason, but there really wasn't any kind of major changes to it. There are a few hills on the course including Hallelujah Hill right before mile 12. I actually like the course thought for the most part. You spend a lot of the early miles running along the St. Joseph River as it leads to the river walk of Mishawaka before going back to South Bend and heading towards Notre Dame.
I would say that the race lost something with the new finish line, which I know a lot of people will disagree with. First I feel that I need to make a little bit of a disclaimer, I am not a Notre Dame Fan. In fact, I cant stand Notre Dame. I would love to see the football team lose every game. There I said it. Now onto the finish line. This was the first time in I believe 3 or 4 years that the race finished inside of Notre Dame Stadium. Not a big deal to me, but to a lot of people, it was a big deal. Anyways, while you get to finish right on the field, you are finishing in the middle, away from any crowds or people cheering. Family and friends were allowed to come into the stadium but not onto the field. So the finish line felt dead. I thought the finish was better when you finished outside of the stadium rather than in it. There was also more of a post race party atmosphere when you finished outside of the stadium. My understanding was that this was Notre Dame's decision, not Sunburst. I am not sure what Notre Dame is concerned about considering that the field is field turf and not real grass. Cant do much damage by allowing friends and family to come on the field. Notre Dame wouldn't even allow Sunburst to hand out medals on the field. You had to go on the concourse to get your medal. If I was a big Notre Dame Fan, I would probably want to get a picture with my medal on the field. Notre Dame, your field is not that special or sacred.
Other than the finish line, I thought that everything with the race went real smooth as compared to other years. The medals this year were great and featured the skyline of South Bend overlooking the St. Joseph River. I am king of surprised there wasn't more of a Notre Dame feel to them, but that's alright. One of the new features this year was that you were given the opportunity to choose what shirt color you wanted (assuming you registered early enough).

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(2018)
"5th time running this race. Will keep coming back"
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I have run the Randy Miner Memorial Run in all 5 years of its existence since being brought back after probably 20 years of it being away.  Back in the days of me being in middle school (Yes, it has been that long ago), the Etna Green County Run was held on the morning of the 4th of July every year.  The race was organized by a distant relative of mine, Randy Miner (I believe he was my mom's cousin, not sure what the correct relationship is to me). Then, in 2014 (I Think), my friend Todd Hoffer, who has always looked up to Randy Miner, brought the run back a few years after Randy passed away.
Since Todd has brought the race back, the race has been held on the second Saturday of June in the afternoon (as much as I continue to try to convince him to move it to the mornings).  His reasoning is sound, as there are quiet a few other local races in the morning, and it gives runners the rare opportunity to do 2 races in one day.  But man, the heat can be a killer.  He have seen the heat index near 100 degrees in past years.  This year, on the way to the race is the small town of Etna Green (Can you even call it a town?) I thought maybe for a change we were going to catch a break in the weather.  It was over cast the whole drive there and the temps were in the low 70s.
The four mile run started at 5:00.  There was a nice breeze coming out of the west, so the wind would be in our face for the first half, which in with the summer heat, I didn't mind at all. 
The course is 4 mile loop in the country, so don’t expect any shade but it is s true Indiana country run.
If you need a reason at this race to stick around for all the awards to be handed out, its for the door prizes.  The grand prize every year has been a 50 inch flat screen TV.
While this race is hot every year, the local running community shows up for it.  Probably becasue of the man who puts it together.  Basically the money that comes in from the race, goes right back into the race.  Todd is always trying to build the running community in whatever way he can while remembering his friend Randy Miner.  Its not the biggest race you will ever run in, but it is the biggest little race you will run in. Todd also spends a lot of time creating his own overall awards for all races.

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(2018)
"Its a race that is getting bigger"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

There was just under 100 runners the first year, then last year there were 105 runners that competed in the race. This year, the race more than doubled in size with 225 runners.
The course was the same as last year with the start line being on the south end or Memorial Park behind Wakarusa Elementary School, made its way out for the first out and back down some less traveled roads in town, came back to the park, got onto the path around the park, hoped onto another road on the north side of the park for the second out and back, came back and finished back on the walking path in the park. It is really and easy course to follow and with all the volunteers that were on the course, it was impossible to get lost. Even with doubled the number of runners at this years race, it did not get too congested on the roads or the walking path.
The awards for this race cant be beat. The top 3 overall in both the male and female divisions won a large bottle of maple syrup. The top 3 in each age division won a small bottle of syrup. There is some pressure from some of the children for their parents to win the large bottle of syrup. Each runner also received a cotton t-shirt with their registration. I usually complain about this but for a cheaper race, its hard to complain about it. This year also, your tag was taken off of your race bib before the race and put into a raffle for free shirts from fleet feet, free race registrations for other races, and other great stuff related to the festival in town. Winners were drawn while everyone was running and you were able to come to the tables to see if you won after you finished.

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