Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar

(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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(2016)
"Great First Year Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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The 9th annual Fort4Fitness Fall Festival had a new feature to its 2016 event. The Fall Festival has had a half marathon, 10k and 4 mile run in the past, but this year, they added a marathon. For whatever reason, I always said I would not drive an hour and a half to Fort Wayne to run in Fort4Fitness until they added a marathon. To me, Fort Wayne was too big of a city not to have a marathon. Once it was announced that there would be a marathon, I jumped on board and registered.
So the big question, when the marathon was announced, was what will the course be? Probably about a month or two later, it was announced that the course would be a series of 4 loops. The first loop was just passed 3 miles long. 2nd loop was the 10k course, 3rd loop was the half marathon course, and the 4th loop was the 4 mile course.
A lot of people were not happy about the course, and decided not to even run the race. I see some really good advantages to this though. For one, as a race organization, they didn't have to go out and find more volunteers for aid stations. Some of the aid station forvthe marathon were used 4 times by each runner. Also, really didn't need to close off any more streets than they did in past years, just needed to close them off earlier. Are there other places around Fort Wayne to showcase on the marathon course? Probably, but that does require double the resources as they were already using.
The expo is held the day before the even at Parkview Field in downtown. For the size of the event, this was a lot bigger of an expo than I expected. There was a wide selection of race merchandise available as well as a lot of vendors. Packet pick up was quick and easy. Great looking shirts this year as well.
Parking for both the race and expo was right by the baseball stadium. Real convenient. Also on race morning, gear check was available inside the stadium.

For this being the first year of the marathon, I thought that it was very well done and I really don't have anything to complain about.

The course: very nice course. Not the flattest course I have ever ran on, but the hills do keep you honest. If you are close to a Boston Qualifying time, this is a very good option. Also, if you have friends and family who want to come out and watch you run, the looped course makes this very possible. They will see you at least 4 times, and if they move around just right, they could see you probably at least at 8 different points. Also would be easy to and the police did a great job of controlling the crossing car traffic. The course does offer some scenery along a couple of golf courses and some nice neighborhoods where the communities did come out and support the runners. And of course, the finish is awesome. You enter Parkview Field in the left field corner of the stadium and run all the way around the warning track and then to around to the first base and the police did a great job of controlling the crossing car traffic. With everything going on in the country, I made sure to tank each officer I saw on the course. The course does offer some scenery along a couple of golf courses and some nice neighborhoods where the communities did come out and support the runners. And of course, the finish is awesome. You enter Parkview Field in the left field corner of the stadium and run all the way around the warning track and then to around to the first base dugout where the finishline is.

Aid stations: aid stations offered water and Gatorade. They got it right by having the Gatorade first at all the aid stations. Also at the end of each lap was an aid station with Gu. Plenty of volunteers at each station.

Swag: as I stated, the shirts are pretty sweet and the medals looked good to. I don't care much but there really wasn't much difference between the full and half medals. The size were the same, the ribbons were about identical. I would suggest making the full a little bigger.

Post race food: first off, any race that has chocolate milk at the finish is doing it right. They also had apples, bananas, pretzels, and granola. There might have been more, but that's what I got. My only issue was that it wasn't really clear on where the food was. I guess I thought since the concessions were open that there was no free food for runners. I even went back to the hotel to shower before finding it in the tent behind center field.

Would I recommend this race? Absolutely! Come check it out next fall. Great course, great support, great environment.

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(2016)
"A Great Salute to Our Wounded Soldiers and Those Who Gave Their Lives"
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The Volition America Run, Created by Major Dan Rooney, USAFR F-16 Fighter Pilot and founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation, Volition America raises funds to help military families pursue their passions through education. To read more about the race and the work of Folds of Honor does, please visit http://www.volitionamerica.com/about.

With the date of this race falling on September 11th, I knew this was a race I wanted to run.

Pros
-Easy registration process
-2 packet pick up locations to choose from. One on Friday, the other on Saturday before the race. The race was on Sunday and there was race day packet pickup available which was great for runners like me who traveled to Chicago the day of the race from a couple hours away
- real short lines for packet pickup on race day. Just look up your number on a sepreate table and make your way over to the check in table to get your bib and swag
-swag included a nice drawstring bag with the Volition America logo on it and a zipper pocket on the front. Also was a nice short sleeve tech shirt. This shirt maybe my new favorite race shirt. Love this shirt.
- about 15-20 portable toilets lined up for runners. Lines seemed long before the race but lined moved fairly quickly.
- no corrals for this race but there were pacers lined up to give you a good idea of where you should start from.
-before the race, Major Dan addressed the runners about how the race and foundation began which is a truly great story. We said the pledge of allegiance, Taps was played, and played the national anthem. After the national anthem, with the sound of an air horn, the race started.
- it was a great course. First mile was a loop around part of Grant Park before coming back near the start line and then headed out south along the paths by the lake shore. Runners ran by Shedd Aquarium, before some great views of Lake Michigan. The paths were flat for the most part but were a few hills and underpasses going under the road.
-Mile 2 was awesome. It was the Blue Mile where the race honored soldiers that have been lost. Runners were able to submit names and pictures of family and friends who sacrificed their life for our country. Along with that were volunteers holding American Flags lining the course and supporting the runners. Pretty cool scene.
-turnaround was around mile 6. After that you stared running back north with a view of skyline ahead. Another great view.
-very well marked course.
-aid stations had water and Gatoraid. Aid stations were about every 1.5 miles.
-the finish line was lined with American flag and announcer calling out every runners name as they finished. Even pronounced my last name right.
-after you finished you can get some water, fruit, pretzels and other goodies. A volunteer also put a medal on you.
-the medal is pretty sweet with the race logo on it. After you did all that, you could step over and have a post race photo taken with your well earned medal.
-post race there were free samples to taste from some sponsors. You could also purchase a few other race items. Also there was a DJ playing music.
-awards were announced for the top 3 make and female overall winners. Awards were also given for top 3 in each age group.
-course was a nice location, close to tourist spots such as the Shedd Aquarium, Buckingham Fountain, the Bean in Millenium Park, and the Art Institute.

Cons:
These are really out of the races hands.
-this is the first time I had ran a race in Chicago, but the course is not closed to other runners, walkers, and bikers. With a 7:00 start, it wasn't too bad early but as the race went on, it became more crowded. There was even another race going on. Not much the race can do about it and it really wasn't that bad. I don't see any way that the city could control this even if they wanted to.
-parking. As a guy from a small town, I hate paying for parking for any event, but this is Chicago. No avoiding it. Parking wasn't too far away, it made for a good warmup.
-parts of the course, especially mile 12, the pavement was rough and really had to watch your step. Once again, this is an issue for Chicago to work on.

I loved this race and will be on the lookout for the race date for next year.

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(2016)
"Year 2 was just as good as the first!"
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The B Strong 5k is held on the last Saturday in July. I assume that it is because it is the last weekend that Indiana High School cross country runners can run in road races until the season is over. The race is held at Bremen High School and starts and finishes right outside its main doors. It offers a 5k and a fun run mile. First 50 kids who finish the mile gets a medal.
Packet pickup is held the night before or the morning of the race at the high school. We choose the morning of the race. It was quick and easy. Included in the bag was your shirt (tech and gender specific), your bib with timing chip on the back (first year they did chip timing), a souvenir cup with race logo, and some other flyers.
The 5k starts first at 8:00, the 1 mile fun run starts at about 9:30 (depending on when the last 5k participant finishes.
The course is simple and the route is closed off to all traffic. You start heading east from the school, then you reach a park and run on some of the side walks through the park (can get a little tough to pass). Then it's roads the rest of the way. Basically think of it as a rectangle and that's the course. There is a hill that is called the B Strong Hill. It can be a tough one but not too bad. It's about at the half way point. Other than that, it's a flat course.
The race provides water at the 1st and 2nd mile marks, and a little odd, but Gatorade at mile 2.5. Just seemed like an odd place for Gatorade. Honestly, I don't think 5k races need to offer Gatorade at all. At the finish, the race had ice cold water, otter pops, fruit, and cookies for all runners.
Awards were held right after the 1 mile run. Not a bad idea to have the kids run last to give the race time to process results. Doesn't feel like there is as much down time waiting for awards. As soon as the last miler finished, the 5k awards began. The awards were scaled down from last year (probably to help pay for chip timing), but the medals were nice and custom made with the race logo.
My one and only complaint is the course was 3.17 miles (other runners measured the same). I am not sure how to change that except to have the start finish at two locations. Overall though, a very well run race and would highly recommend it.

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(2016)
"Needs great improvement! I have faith it will improve"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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I am actually on the edge of recommending this race or not. The course is great, but organization needs work

We arrived at Syracuse shortly before 7:00AM for an 8:00Am scheduled start (more on that in a little bit). When we arrived, we went straight to check in to get out shirt, race number, and chip. Nothing else was given such as flyers or other sponsor stuff. Check in seemed real slow and a little disorganized. They became more evident the hour before the race as the line became 20-30 people long and stayed that way right up until 8:00.
As 8:00 approached all runners and walkers made their way to the start in anticipation of an 8:00start. As 8:00 came and went, it was obvious we would be starting a little late as people were still registering. After a little bit, we noticed that there was no longer a line. Then we learned that they still needed to add names in the computer. And do we waited, and waited, and waited.
Anyways, at 8:42 the race finally started. The first 3.3 miles were gently rolling hills. Not huge hills but constantly going up and down with very little flat running. The next 4.7 miles were then mostly flat. The course does run a little around the lake and the second half is fast.

Let's start with some positives:

-I like the course. It is a challenge but can be run fast as well
-Good competition
-The races are odd distances (at least in this area) which makes it unique.
-Start finish line was by the local park which was key due to some of the things that needed to be improved...

What needs to be worked on:

-For this being the 39th annual race, the 42 minute delay was really surprising. Something will need to be done about that to avoid it in the future.
-The 3.3 mile race was the only distance that was chipped times. The 8 mile race ended up finishing before reaching the timing mats even though 8 mile runners were given timing chips. I did ask the timer why the 8 mile was not chipped time and I was informed that their system could not handle two different race distances. This was the first time I have heard of this being a problem. I would say if you are going to have chip timing, get a company that can do both distance. That leads to the next issue...
-Unfortunately, the start was not the only thing delayed. The awards for the 8 mile race were delayed as well. Since the 3.3 mile race was chipped timed, the results were quick. But it took a long time to get the 8 mile results completed. For a race that was scheduled to start at 8:00, we didn't leave until around 11:30. Luckily we didn't have anything else going on in the afternoon.
-Awards for the race were long sleeve tshirts for age group champions, and drawstring bags for 2nd and 3rd in division

After the race, there was also oranges, apples and bananas to eat. There was also bottled water. Registration fee was $20 early and $25 the day of.

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