Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar

(2016)
"A Little Better, But Still Needs Some Work"
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On December 3, the Elkhart Education Foundation hosted its second annual Ugly Sweater Run. All proceeds went to the Elkhart Education Foundation (donations are made by the EEF to Elkhart Community Schools) and to the Tucson Center (an after school program). While my kids do not attend school in the Elkhart Community School district, Amy wife is a teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School. That was probably the main reason why we decided to run this race again. Last year I would say was less than impressive. The course was well short, and I would say was more geared to the non-runner.

Registration for the 2016 race, I believe opened in October at an eye opening registration fee of $35. I should mention that for each adult that enters the race, you get to register a child (14 and under) for free. For a family, not a bad deal, but for a single person, this is just way to high. Then around Thanksgiving, they started advertising 25% discount codes for registration. A good rule of thumb is that you never offer a lower price than what those who registered early have already paid. It’s frustrating to those who have already committed.

One thing I don’t care for about this race is that it is an afternoon race. I prefer morning races, but that’s just me. The race began at 4:00PM with packet pickup starting at 2:00. There were opportunities to listen to the high school choir groups sing before the race or for you and your kids to get a picture with Santa.

The swag at this race, for the second year in a row was a toboggan hat. With the race being called the “Ugly Sweater Run,” I think they are missing a real opportunity here in not making an ugly sweater race shirt. I think it would drawl more attention from people wearing it in the community than a hat. Also advertised was that you received a ticket for free ice skating. What was not clear was that it could only be used that day and ice skating was free to anyone, not just those who ran, so this wasn’t a perk at all to running the race.

The race started on time. The course was changed this year but did feature much of the same areas. It used a few roads, but mostly bike paths. Only 2 complaints about the course: there are a lot of turns and it was a little long this year. I will, however take a course that is a little long rather than way short. Some of the other highlights of the course include carolers from Elkhart middle schools at a few locations along the course. The course was very well marked. There were no aid stations, but with it being a December race, it really isn’t needed.
The age divisions are weird though. They were 14 and unde, 15-29, 30-44, and 45-over. There were 170 who finished the 5k (even more who finished the 1 mile walk). With a race that size, it seems that the age divisions should be pretty standard. The awards were the same as in 2015.

Obviously it’s too early to plan my winter races for 2017 but I am on the fence on this one. I am just not sure it’s worth it. I would say it’s not worth $35 to enter. I think anything over $20 for early registration is too much for what you get. Probably the only reason why I did run this race was because of where the proceeds went.

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(2016)
"Just an average race, just with a Christmas themed name "
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The northern Indiana area really struggles with its Christmas theme races. I ran a couple of them in 2015, but neither race really stood out as a well organized/memorable race. There was one other Christmas race that I have yet to try until 2016, the Saint Nick 6. The race is held in South Bend at the St. Joseph Parish.

Packet Pickup

Packet pick up was held at the Parish office from 3:30-6:00 the day before the race. The process itself is quick and easy. You were given your race shirt, bib number, and fliers. Registration fees for the 6k was $20, 3k was $15 and the Run Run Rudolph was free. Very reasonable. If you register for the 6k and 3k, you got a white long sleeve tech shirt.

Race Day

The race offers a 6k and 3k distance. There is also a kinds .06k run as well for the kids called the Run Run Rudolph. The Run Run Rudolph began at 9:30.

The 6k and 3k started at 10:00 so the family went back inside the school gym to get warm. Temps were very cold outside and the snow we received the day before made the course very slippery. The course was mainly along the South Bend river walk which the city does a poor job of keeping clear in the winter.

Runners were called back outside for the start at about 9:50, given final race instructions, a prayer, and the race began. The roads were really slippery, and these were roads which had been plowed. Every step was a slippery one. The 3k and 6k started at the same time so it was difficulf to tell who was in which race.

After the 3k turned right off of the path and returned down another road, the 6k continued down the path. The course was an out and back course. So the whole course was snow covered.

The family was in a little bit of a hurry to leave for another event and if I wasn’t getting an award, I didn’t want to stick around long. It took a little bit to find someone who knew, but I finally found out that the top runner in each division gets a medal. It looked like they had ribbons for 2nd and 3rd but I just didn’t care to stick around for a ribbon so we took off.

Overall thoughts

This race was ok. I am not sure I will run it again next year. The price is good, but nothing about the race really stood out. Plus, if the weather is as it was this year, it’s not worth the risk of injury if the city won’t clear the river walk path. The race benefits Saint Joseph Grade School which I have no connections with and don’t feel the need to support, so it’s not something I feel the need to run in again. But we will see.

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(2016)
"Take a Tour of Indy on Foot"
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The 9th annual Indianapolis Monumental Marathon was held on Saturday, November 5th, 2016. This is the 4th time that I ran the Monumental Marathon and it has become a must run event for me every year.
The exponis held Thursday and Friday before Saturday's race. The expo was held in the convention center. I am guessing there was probably about 20-30 vendors in attendance. You could also purchase race merchandise. Picking up your race packet with your number and shirt, is quick at easy. You are emailed a link ahead of time to look up your number. You take your number to the right table, show them your picture ID and that’s it. You can pick up a friends packet as well with a copy of their ID.
Gear check is located about a block away from the starting line but right beside the finish area. Corrals were set up as well. The first 4 corrals were set up for those who submitted a time for a preferred starting spot. The rest of the runners lined up according to goal pace. Somehow I didn't get a corral assignment but was able to sneak in.
Other than a minor change of running half way around Monument Circle (in the past you only ran a quarter of the circle) the course was the same. The course is a great tour of what Indy has to offer. You run by all the monuments (Indy has more monuments than any other city in the country other than Washington DC). You also run by Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and through other neighborhoods. My favorite stretch of the race is between miles 15-17 running on Meridian Ave. it is a beautiful stretch of large homes, including the governors mansion (no sign of Govenor Pence, I guess he was a little busy that day), as well as the beautiful fall colors.
The finish line is right by the capital building and is lined with fan support. The finishers medals, as always, are nice and feature one of the cities monuments.
Finishline food consisted of banana, water, cookies, chips, granola bars, chocolate milk, and seems like more. Should offer a bag to carry all of this in. Also, once again each runner got a finishers hat. In past years, the hat was more useful due to cooler weather at the finish, but this year, temps were in the 50s.

This has become a very large and popular race. This year the half and full marathon sold out. There were 19,000 participants between the 3 race distances. If you want to run the 2017 race, register on January 1 firbtheir best deal

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(2016)
"Run for All the Chocolate!!!"
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The 2016 Columbus Hot Chocolate Race was my first Hot Chocolate Race. I had heard about them but it never worked into my schedule.

Expo: The expo was at the convention center in downtown Columbus. Construction was going on around the building but it really didn't effect how easy it was to get in and find the room. Parking was also located right beside the center. Before walking into the expo, you were handed Chocolate right away. The first stop when entering the expo was to pick up your bib number then move over to the next table to get your jacket. Loved the jackets as they are very thick and warm. If you wanted to, you can be in and out of the expo in 5 minutes. There were several other vendors as well. Also, dont miss the chocolate dipped marshmallows, cookies, and of course hot chocolate.

Race Day: the race started and finished The McFerson Center. Parking could be found at several parking garages. Gear check was right beside the starting line. There were several signs pointing you in the direction of the starting line. Also at the starting line, the corrals were well labeled and volunteers were checking bins to make sure you were entering in the right area.
The race started promptly at 7:30. Corral A started first. A couple minutes later, corral B started and so on. Every corral got its own start.
The course was very well marked and impossible to miss a turn. The mile markers were accurate and where the 5k and 15k races split, there were plenty of volunteers and signs pointing you in the right direction. The 15k course ran through downtown Columbus and out to Ohio State Campus and back. The first half of the race featured steady uphill s. The second half was more downhill to flat. The aid station featured water, Nuun, and of course, chocolate.

Finish: after crossing the finishline, you are handed a medal shaped like a chocolate bar and a bottle of water. You can also take your bib, which has a tab on it to redeem for your mug of hot chocolate, fondue chocolate, and banana, pretzels, and other items to did into your chocolate. It was really good. In the park, a DJ was present as was Hot Chocolate Merchandise for sale.

Overall, this was a great race experience and recommend it for new runners and experienced runners.

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(2016)
"Can't Say Enough About The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon"
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Wow! This is one of the most well thought out, put together races I have ever ran. It all starts months in advance with race email, and social media posts keeping runners up to date on all that is going on and keeping everyone excited. Also, they are very involved in replying to your tweets or facebook posts. Very encouraging and personable.
Packet pickup was held at Louisville Slugger field. If you like large expos (I am guilty) you will be disappointed. That's not what they do. For the record, I was not disappointed in packet pickup. It was quick and easy to go in, grab your bib, get your shirt, and sample some Bourbon. Side note, you have to be 21 years or older to run.

Race starts and finishes in downtown Louisville. Be ready for your GPS to be thrown off by the tall buildings, it happened to me. The course starred off flat but hills were thrown in between mikes 4-8 as you ran through Cherokee Park. The park was my favorite part of the course with the hills and fall colors. It was beautiful.
Aid stations were well staffed with volunteers throughout the course, also police were at every intersection making sure roads were clear and safe for the runners. You can tell the city really stands behind and supports this race.
The finish is in downtown. Once you finish, you are given an awesome looking medals, a bottle of water, a finishers photo is taken (all photo downloads were FREE this year!), a heat sheet, and then more food options including bagels, fruit, poweraid. And that doesn't include the post race party.

Post race party (Urban Bash) included live music, Bourbon samplings, pizza, and great soup. Great environment to hang out in.

From registration all the way till leaving the race, this is a must run. The environment is spectacular. Glad I made the trip down to Louisville!

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