Latest reviews by Kristen K.

(2015)
"A Great 5k in Downtown Anchorage!"
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NOTE: I originally wrote this review under the Snow City 5k race, but this is the same race so I'm copying it over here as well.

I ran the 5k this year, but there are many other Big Wild Life Runs races to choose from. The expo was pretty big for Alaska and our swag bags were awesome! We got long sleeved tech Ts that fit great. Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso were at the expo and were signing books for runners.

The race itself starts in downtown Anchorage and runs down to the coastal trail before running back up a large hill and ending on a flat finish. The course is beautiful and captures both the urban and the scenic parts of Anchorage. While there's quite a few rolling hills, runners need to be aware of that giant hill in the last half mile that will totally kick your butt if you're not ready for it! Your reward at the end is a beautiful medal that is shaped like Alaska! After the race there was so much food available, including grilled cheese, cinnamon chip bread from Great Harvest Bread Co., chips, and even some food trucks. It was raining so I didn't stick around too long, but it was fun cheering in the other runners as they finished. Even with the giant hill, I really liked this course and look forward to running a longer BWLR race next year! I think that tourists who are looking to run a race in Alaska would love this course (and the longer race courses), the swag, and the medal!

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(2015)
"A great 5k in Downtown Anchorage!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb bwlr 5k

I ran the 5k this year, but there are many other Big Wild Life Runs races to choose from. The expo was pretty big for Alaska and our swag bags were awesome! We got long sleeved tech Ts that fit great. Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso were at the expo and were signing books for runners.

The race itself starts in downtown Anchorage and runs down to the coastal trail before running back up a large hill and ending on a flat finish. The course is beautiful and captures both the urban and the scenic parts of Anchorage. While there's quite a few rolling hills, runners need to be aware of that giant hill in the last half mile that will totally kick your butt if you're not ready for it! Your reward at the end is a beautiful medal that is shaped like Alaska! After the race there was so much food available, including grilled cheese, cinnamon chip bread from Great Harvest Bread Co., chips, and even some food trucks. It was raining so I didn't stick around too long, but it was fun cheering in the other runners as they finished. Even with the giant hill, I really liked this course and look forward to running a longer BWLR race next year! I think that tourists who are looking to run a race in Alaska would love this course (and the longer race courses), the swag, and the medal!

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(2015)
"Alaska's best half marathon for women (and one lucky guy!)"
Overall
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I've run this race in both 2014 and 2015, and had great experiences with each one! Her Tern is Alaska's only just-for-women half marathon, and they also let in one lucky guy. It's not just a race though - it's a whole experience! If you sign up for this race you get exclusive access into a pre-race party where you can vote on the one lucky guy who gets to run with you, and you also get a preview of what the race "medal" looks like as well as some of the race-exclusive running apparel! The race "medal" is actually a bracelet that is designed specifically for the race and changes each year. In addition to the pre-race party, runners can join a training group where they get coaching and training specific to the race from knowledgeable staff at Skinny Raven. I signed up for the training group in 2015 and not only did I feel more prepared for the race, I had the opportunity to train with some amazing women in Anchorage and met a lot of new friends. I highly recommend the group! Now on to the race details:

Race Expo: This was a big event! After you get your bib, you get a swag bag with coupons for shoes, apparel, and running gear. They shut down the street in front of the store and set up a shopping area with race-specific apparel from Brooks. They've got a ton of different types of shirts, pants, hoodies, socks, etc. with the race logo on it. There's also a large poster with the names of all the runners on it, a station where kids can make their moms race signs, and even some snacks.

Race Day: The race actually has two start times - one for runners who need a bit more time, and one for runners who think they'll finish in less than 3 hours. After the first wave starts, there's pre-race yoga. There are lots of porta potties in the area as well as vendors for anyone who missed the expo. When the race officially starts, you run around the block one time so that everyone can cheer for you before you head off on the next 13 miles! The race runs down to Westchester Lagoon and along the Chester Creek Trail. It's a pretty course, but most of it is in the trees and there are no mountain views. The aid stations on the course are run by different organizations and they really seem to go all out with costumes, music, and fun signs. The rest of the course has barely any spectators, but the cheers and high fives from other runners will keep you going! This race, like all Anchorage races, ends on a giant hill. The training group coaches stand at the bottom and wait there to cheer you up the hill! It's a hard finish but it really makes you proud of finishing the race. After the race there are typical race foods (bananas and bagels) as well as cupcakes and mimosas! You also get your finisher's bracelet (picture is attached) which is a perfect way to wear your "medal" around all the time!

Overall, this is a great race experience and would be a fun destination race for runners in the Lower 48! There are so many unique details that make this race special, and it's a fun course. I highly recommend it to any woman who is looking for a not-so-typical race experience in Alaska!

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(2015)
"A perfect way to celebrate the longest day of the year!"
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I live in Anchorage, so I was really excited to run leg #2 of the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon Relay this summer! Packet pickup happened at the Alaska Airlines center and was a pretty big expo by Alaska standards. We were able to quickly pick up our bibs and timing chip and were told our shirts would be waiting for us at the finish line. There was a volunteer there with a giant race map that was explaining the course to people, and that's when I learned that my section was going to be 8 miles of hilly trails. Visitors were nervously asking about bear spray, but you definitely won't need it during a race with this many people (although make sure to watch out for moose!).

On race day we easily parked at the start and sent off our first runner. The course had some viewpoints marked where we could go cheer for our runner, but we decided to head straight for the exchange point to save time. Once my runner came up I strapped the timing chip onto my arm and headed off! Leg #2 was very hilly and took place on tank trails in the woods near the base as well as some single track trails near the halfway point of the marathon, although the other 3 legs were on paved surfaces. I met lots of marathon runners from all over the US and it was really fun hearing people's stories and how they ended up coming to Alaska. After about a mile I realized that my GPS and the mlle markers were different. It turned out that my leg was actually 8.8 miles, which is a lot of extra distance! At the finish I ran in strong, only to realize that my next runner was stuck in traffic and couldn't make it to the exchange point on time! After that frustrating moment, the rest of the race went smoothly. We were really excited to cheer in our last runner and get our medals and shirts, but it turned out that they ran out of shirts for the relay and we had to get half marathon shirts instead. I'm not sure how that even happens but I felt weird taking a shirt for a race I didn't actually run. After the race we got free grilled cheese sandwiches and bread from the Great Harvest Bread Co. which was perfect!

Overall the race was a great experience and I'd recommend the relay to people who live in Anchorage and know the area - just be aware that the relay distances were a bit off, logistics of picking up/dropping off runners is hard due to the amount of people in the area on race day, and you might not get a shirt at the end if you're not one of the first people. Overall it's a great way to celebrate the solstice and meet lots of runners from all over the US!

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(2015)
"Most Beautiful Half Marathon EVER!"
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The Zion Half Marathon is a half that is held in March in Springdale, Utah right outside of Zion National Park. This was hands down the most beautiful half marathon I've ever run in my entire life! From start to finish the event was run really well and it was a great experience.

Expo: I actually worked the expo as a volunteer, which got me a free shirt and 50% off one of their other races in the next year. It's definitely worth considering if you will be in the area! Other than bib/shirt pick up, there were very few vendors. They did manage to have a running supply booth for last minute fuel belts and fuel options for the race which was a nice touch. The race shirts were beautiful and fit really well, and you could exchange for another size if needed. They also had a really neat mural with each runner's name printed out to create the shape of Zion National Park. It was really fun seeing all of the participants and trying to find your name!

Race course: The race is not technically in Zion National Park (it ends at the park entrance), but it doesn't matter because the 13.1 miles before the park is GORGEOUS. The elevation is high which makes running difficult if you trained at sea level, and it does go uphill most of the race. But if you train well and/or are willing to walk a bit you will be fine. It was the first race where I didn't mind walking up a giant hill in the middle because of the extra time I got to look at the scenery! While the first 10ish miles are in an area with almost no spectators, you finish in Springdale with tons of people cheering you on for the last 3 miles. And best of all - it ends on a downhill! My profile picture is actually at the race finish line, which was so amazingly beautiful.

Race logistics: Because it's a point-to-point race, you either need to park at the finish and take a bus to the start, or park at the start and take a bus back from the finish. You can also do what I did and have your husband drop you off at the race start and then go hang out in town for a few hours until you get there. This can be confusing but it worked out really well. At the start they had a warming tent with a DJ and tons of water and coffee. The race starts before the sunrise which means temps will be low, but the warming tent was a great touch! At the finish there was a separate section only for runners where there was tons of food - you got all of your post race snacks in a to-go box, as well as a banana and chocolate milk. The snack box included things from Honey Stinger and Clif so they were delicious! There were also free finisher pictures. The finisher's medal was huge and amazing! It even had a map of the race course and Zion National Park on the back of it.

Aid stations: Vacation Races has cup-free races! This is awesome because it eliminates so much waste and there is no risk of tripping over water cups on the course or at the finish. The downside is that you either need to carry water on a fuel belt, or carry one of their reusable race cups on you during the race. If you don't mind carrying a little extra to help cut down on waste you won't mind the aid stations at all. Some of them were even stocked with fresh fruit and Nuun!

Overal experience: This was the most well-organzised race I've ever run, as well as the most beautiful. But the best part was the type of runners that ran at this event - it wasn't about competition and seriousness, it was about running in a beautiful place with other adventurous runners. I saw so many people taking selfies, being silly, wearing costumes/cool outfits, and just taking it easy mid-race because they had days of hiking ahead of them. Vacation Races makes sure that all runners are inspired to enter the national parks where they host races by creating exclusive "clubs" that runners can join by hiking a difficult trail within 72 hours of the race. The hike for this race was Angels Landing, and I'm so proud to say that I hiked it and joined the Angels Club! It felt like just as much of an accomplishment as running the race, especially because it was so difficult. I loved the sense of adventure and motivation within all the runners at this event, and can't wait to run another race by this company!

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