Latest reviews by Jonathan McWalter

(2017)
"Wonderful Course, But Failed Race Management"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I ran the half marathon distance last year with this race so I had hoped for a similar experience with the 10K this year. The reasoning behind the 10K was that I was going to be coming off of running the Chicago Marathon (my first marathon) one week earlier and wasn't sure where my legs would be. Smart choice by me. :)
I'll start by saying the race management team does a good job of sending updates and emails talking up the race and encouraging participation. They are very good at doing that. Also, they have a large presence on Facebook and Instagram, from what I saw, with many ads promoting this race. Now, we'll come back to them in a little bit where there will be a better explanation for just the two stars.
The expo was quite lively and I imagine that had to do with the fact it was pouring rain and all in all a crappy day outside. The place was packed with people picking up packets, checking out the Saucony center, the State Farm tent or listening in to a course expert go over the marathon course. Packet pickup was a breeze, even with my getting my packet and a relative's, who was running the half distance. I wasn't able to stay as long as I would have liked but I did get to enjoy checking out the Harley-Davidson cycles on site!
The course itself was relatively low impact. Pretty flat with slight incline/decline moments but nothing huge. It takes you from the start point thourgh some city streets over to the lakefront and past the Milwaukee Art Museum. You head past the marina and then take a U-turn just before Lafayette Hill by the Colectivo Coffee shop. After that you are retracing your steps for the most part to get back to the finish line. Other than being a dreary day with sprinkles and such, the course is truly a nice one to run. At the finish, you are welcomed with your medal, water, pretzels and bananas.The swag with this race is a nice long sleeve tshirt, various coupons and a free beer ticket. This year the beer was provided by Milwaukee Brewing Co and they provided excellent choices. There were four food trucks and a Fuel cafe providing free samples of coffee.
Now to the bad part of the race management. I had to grab my medal on the run as I continued running through the finisher area to get to a clear spot to keep running since the 10K course was marked short. I crossed at 5.72mi instead of the necessary 6.2. This is the second year where this race has had an issue with course markings and distance. This is going to be a giant detriment to the future of this race, I believe. One year is bad luck or just a mistake, but two years is not a good reputation to have, especially when you market yourself as a Boston Qualifying race. No good. Even with that, I would say this is a race running but it needs new management first. This city deserves this race and it really shows off the beauty of the city. It's just too bad that it has been marred by a giant error.

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(2017)
"My First Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

What can I say? This was my first ever marathon experience and it went great. I mean, sure my time wasn't anything world class but I finished and I was very happy about that! Now, I do have some pain and soreness now but during the race nothing major ever came up and I did have a fear that it might. So I was lucky. But, back to the race. I loved the experience! I've never felt that way during any run ever before. The energy the crowd provided was insane and amazing and I am forever grateful for all the fans and the volunteers which made it an event that I will never forget. And they were celebrating their 40th anniversary this year so as a separate piece of bling, they sent anyone that turned 40 or was turning 40 this year a patch to iron on or clip on your gear for the run. Another cool memento from an awesome race!

T-Shirt/Swag: Basic honesty here. The tech shirt is great and all the coupons are great and the edible inclusions are a nice extra touch that not a lot of races do. The post race beer from Goose Island was a perfect ending along with all the goodies (bananas, water, cheese popcorn, other salted crisps, etc) plus my beer ticket for the post race party netted me a Goose Island IPA. But the main swag that I care about is that oh so sweet medal!

Aid Stations: Awesome! As were all the volunteers at them. Water, Gatorade Endurance drink at all of them. People filling your portable water bottles if you had them. Sometimes people with hoses spraying water to cool people down. Later on, at a few stations were quarter pieces of banana. Also at one station were Gatorade gummy Bloks and a couple of stations after that were Gatorade performance gel packets. Plenty of ways to hydrate (or overhydrate too) but also making sure all runners were fueled up.

Course Scenery: Not much to look at really. I was so focused during part of the race that I didn't get to see out over the river when we crossed it a few times, but I did enjoy going through the tall buildings. But mostly city streets and concrete to look at. Nice finish line and great area (Grant Park) for the post race party.

Elevation Difficulty: None really. Some small points of incline and decline throughout but relatively flat until the very end before the finish line and even that was a very subtle rise before leading you around a corner to that magic ending.

Expo Quality: So I didn't get to this until later Saturday just a few hours before it was ending so I think I missed out on some of the excitement. But there were a TON of vendors with nice merchandise to purchase or just to check out. Lots of shirts, shoes, energy supplements, testing out areas, places to sign your name and take pictures, areas to check out your gait, etc. The expo was easy to get to as well; bus service from select hotels made it simple to get to and fro. Also, packet pickup was a breeze. No wait. Went by quickly and then onto all those vendors.

Parking: Meh, I stayed at a hotel and did the valet thing at a "great" $71 for one 24 hour cycle. Ugh, Chicago....

Race Management: Great, great and great. Constant updates for months leading up to the run. And the week of kept me updated with possible weather changes and whatnot. Really great information being provided constantly. No excuses to say you didn't know what was going on or when something was going on.

All in all, I had a great time and am glad that I was accepted to run this race and make it my first ever marathon. It was amazing and I would tell anyone who has not run Chicago to definitely run it and if it will be your first, all the better!

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(2017)
"2017 Brewers Mini Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The 2017 Brewers Mini decided to change up the course and it was for the good, even if it didn't agree with my body, lol. It was a fun race with a lively atmosphere, runners having fun and volunteers keeping the spirit alive. The course changes added to the enjoyment. There was a little more course added to the early stages around the Harley Davidson museum area and less boring city street scape. Then after mile 10, they changed up the course to have you go up an incline, then a decline, past a park, a U-turn and then up and through a different park (with another incline) which made the end of the race challenging, at least when you are battling a hamstring strain. As always, they had you finish with a lap around the Miller Park warning track and into the parking lot. And of course, you get that sweet medal at the finish! The course has great supporters throughout it, not just at the start/finish. And I enjoy heading through the Miller Valley past the brewery; it makes for a pretty view in the morning hours.

SWAG: The medal of course, a Brewers ticket to a future game, virtual coupons and this year's tech shirt in Brewers blue, which I love! And then there is a post race party with a band where you get you 2 free beers! Plus food options (at a cost) if you are still hungry after eating the banana, yogurt, popcorn and granola bar they had you at the finish line, plus bottled water.

Expo Quality: Kind of weak this year, IMO. Not many vendors up stairs, some tables just with samples out but no one there to talk to and the volunteers for the other races weren't that energetic or eager to sign anyone up, IMO again.

Parking: Piece of cake. Get there early enough and there is plenty of room in the parking lot surrounding the stadium. Doesn't get any easier than that.

Aid Stations: Plenty with water and Gatorade. And lots of helpful volunteers handing out the water and cleaning up.

Race Management: Plenty of race updates and information leading up to race day. They just toss emails and Facebook posts for several months before the race.

Another year down, I would definitely recommend this race to someone looking to do a half marathon or once of the shorter distances. You will enjoy the whole experience.

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(2017)
"First Time Racing the Sausages!!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first time getting to run this race despite having interest in it for several years now. It always fell on a date in July when I was heading off on vacation, but this year my vacation was a week later so I was able to participate in the run. I signed up with a group so I wasn't the one who picked up the shirts/packets so I cannot comment on the quality of the expo or pickup process. I also didn't directly receive the emails, etc from race management but having dealt with the Brewers racing staff before, I would assume they were informative and prompt.

As for the race itself, it was a blast. It was a nice simple course, some slight elevations along the way but nothing too strenuous on the body. You run along the streets surrounding the Brewers' stadium, Miller Park and you also get to take a lap around the warning track during the run, so that was fun. There are two aid stations on the course, both serving water but I was disappointed in the fact that there wasn't water being handed out at the finish line. Your bib provided a ticket for water, which is fine, but the tent to pick up the water was a decent distance away from the finish line. Not optimal if you cross and then want to cheer on friends that are still racing. There is no medal for the race but you get a sweet shirt (as my picture will show), a free beer (Miller Light), a free brat (plus Chik-fil-a was handing out sandwiches) and a voucher for a free Brewers ticket. So there is some good swag involved. And after the race there was a band jamming away to lighten the mood and keep everyone in a happy mood. And after you're done drinking/eating/listening you can head back to your car, which is conveniently located in the Brewers parking lot.

It really is a fun race, a simple 5K with views along the course, beer at the end and a chance to trot along a major league baseball field. Fun all the way around!

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(2017)
"2017 Rock N Sole Half"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is the fourth year running the half marathon (my first year I ran the quarter) and this was the first time they switched up some parts of the course in comparison to previous years. There was a new start and finish line which I thought worked well. It had you beginning and ending in the festival grounds as opposed to starting a few blocks away on a side street and ending just outside the grounds. This did cause the race to be delayed though since you had go through security to get to the corrals but the old adage reigns here: be on time or even earlier! I also liked the subtle change on the course in between miles 7 and 9, where instead of staying up on the bluff like previous years, they had you go down a winding road and then go north along side Bradford Beach before doing the turn around to head back to the festival grounds. Music seemed better to me this year,with an exception or two. The guy playing the saxophone is a great player but I just don't think this is the place for soothing jazzy sounds. Also, the race management needs to improve what they use for music at the mile markers. Little iPod speaker bases don't provide anything until you are right on top of it and that last for a split second as you go by. Louder please or bigger speakers please!
T-shirt/Swag: I found this to be lacking. Women received a tank top while men received a runner's shirt. BUT, they were both the same powdery blue with light yellow writing/designs that are barely visible. Where is the tank top option for men? And that it with the second year in a row having an UGLY color for a shirt. Highly disappointed. Also, there wasn't as much chances to acquire things at the expo. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of awesome vendors selling shirts, water bottles, gels, etc but there wasn't a spinning wheel where you could get more Summerfest tickets or other raffle options. They did have BMO Harris Bank giving away short socks again, which are so soft and comfortable. The coupons in the bag were also disappointing; no nice discounts for local stores like in years past.
Aid Stations: Plenty on the course with water and Gatorade. Also several misting stations as you ran by which was very refreshing and around mile 9/10 a station handing out soaking wet cool wash cloths for your neck/head/arms/etc. They do an excellent job with this.
Course Scenery: I always love it! You run across the Hoan Bridge and get a great look at Lake Michigan, then you are up on the bluffs later, coming down towards the beach; nice breezes at times and then the brief section where you run though some residential areas and the crowds of people cheering you on really provides a boost. And once again, the "happy go lucky fans" manning their own "aid station" handing out shots of Schiltz beer (this year I did take part in this.)
Elevation: Difficult parts again with the steady grueling climb up the Hoan Bridge and then the "big " hill by the Colectivo coffee shop, which I always find daunting.
Parking: No issues this year but that's because me and my brother in law took a ride sharing service to the starting point.
Race Management: Great. Plenty of email updates in the months leading up to the race and then every day on race week. Also, I have to give extra credit this year since for some reason I registered myself for this race twice this year, but they kindly refunded me one of my entries and it was the more expensive one too! I was appreciative of that.

I say this all the time; this is a fun race to run. Great after party with a band and beer (more food options were needed this year) but the amount of fun and happiness going on is great. Everyone supporting one another and having a good time while doing it. Plus this year had the added bonus of good weather!

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