Latest reviews by Steve

(2015)
"Dangerous Weather Conditions"
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I ran the inaugural RnR Savannah in 2011, in 2012, and again this year (2015). Some situations related to my “Overall” 3 out of 5 star rating for the quality of this year’s run were out of RnR’s control.

Firstly, the weather was less than ideal. When I ran in 2011, the forecasted temp dropped a few degrees each day the week prior to the run. By the morning of the run, it was in the mid 30s and windy. 2012 had nice running weather (50s-60s). This year the forecasted temps kept rising a few degrees each day prior to the run. By the time the run started, it was in the low 70s (F) with 98-99% humidity. It was very foggy upon starting, but the sun began peeking through the fog about 1 hour into the run, and the heat index skyrocketed. By 9:45am, officials had to cancel the full marathon and re-route the remaining runners to the half marathon course. The temps were approaching 80 by this time (still with high humidity). Multiple runners were collapsing on the course. Sadly, one 35 year old half marathon participant could not be revived (this was confirmed by local news reports and online news reports).

I was impressed with RnR for sending all participants a “Heat Advisory” email the day before the run. It included warnings about the expected temps & humidity, along with tips for staying cooler and better hydrated.

Another negative for me (and other participants that I have spoken with) is that the convention center where the expo is held is located across the river from the downtown area. Again, this is probably a situation that is out of RnRs control since there might not be an appropriate facility for the expo within the city. The choices to get over to the expo are to ride a ferry, which runs approximately every 15 minutes, or a drive across the bridge. Each time I have attended, the line for the ferries becomes very long (especially the day before the run) and traffic on the bridge is almost at a stand still. Once arriving at the expo, it has always been well organized with many vendors available. Plenty of staff and volunteers have been visible and packet pick up lines have been pretty average. I lucked up this year and was able to get immediately onto a ferry after the expo, but as we were pulling away, the line for the next one was wrapping along the river.

The run is scheduled to begin at 7am. This year, it was unexpectedly delayed until around 7:15. The reason given as we waited in the corrals was that one of the aid stations was not ready. I was starting in corral 1, and the tension of the runners was becoming greater and greater with each passing minute after 7am. It was unfortunate to have a late start when the temps were already predicted to be so high. The corals toward the front were very easy to access with entrances on both sides of the street. I spoke with friends who began in corral 13. They said that the corral was overly crowded which made starting difficult with so many people bunched together.

I was averaging close to a PR pace for the first 10 miles, but then the sun broke through the clouds. It was as if I ran into a concrete wall! The heat and humidity became almost unbearable at that point. Luckily, volunteers were handing out iced towels around mile 11. I really think that is the only thing that got me to the 13.1 finish line! I still had a decent finish time of 1:37:02, but it was way off mark from my pace for the first 10 miles. For once, I did not over-analyze and scrutinize my finish time...I was just happy to have finished!

The friends who started in corral 13 said that many of the water stations (located every 2 miles) were out of cups by the time they were running by. If they wanted water, they had to cup it into their hands. The volunteers had also ran out of the iced towels at the 11 mile point by the time they were running by.

Some positives about this run:
It is a relatively level course. There are a few steady inclines, but no extreme elevation changes. The finish area is located at Forsyth Park which is one of Savannah’s most picturesque parks. The area is spacious and many volunteers are on hand giving out an assortment of recovery food and drinks. This year, they were also giving out more iced towels. Fortunately, they had plenty for everyone at the finish.

Savannah is a beautiful city that is easy to navigate by foot, bicycle, or car. The city has installed rental bike stations which make it even more navigable. There are plenty of unique restaurants ranging from casual dining to fine dining. The locals are friendly and supportive of the race participants.

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(2015)
"A Fun Start to Thanksgiving"
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This year (2015) was the 39th annual Sam Lapidus Montclair Run. It was the first year that they added a 5K along with the 10K and 1 Mile Fun Run. It was my first year to get the opportunity to participate in this run, but it will now be a Thanksgiving tradition!

There is no expo for this run. Participants have the options to sign up online (http://bhamjcc.org/sam-lapidus-montclair-run) or in person at the Birmingham Jewish Community Center. The community center welcomes all participants! Race packets can easily be picked up at the community center on the Wednesday before the run or on race morning. Since the run does not begin until 8:30am, either option is hassle free. All 5K and 10K participants receive a long sleeve running T-shirt.

The run begins and ends at the community center. Even though it has a large parking lot, I was advised that it fills up by around 8am on the morning of the run. This is really not a problem because there are office complexes on each side of the community center that allow participants to park in their lots. We arrived around 7:55am and had no problem finding a parking spot in the first office complex that we drove up to. The community center is open to all participants and has adequate restroom facilities, so there were no long lines to wait in prior to the run.

Between the 10K, 5K, and 1 Mile Fun Run; there were around 1,500 participants, all starting at the same time. I was concerned about how this would work out, but serious runners seem to simply get into the front of the corral area. I entered about 20 feet from the actual start line and had no problem being too crowded or having to try to pass other runners at the beginning of the run.

The run is an up and back on Montclair Road, which is a relatively hilly road, but the course was very manageable, even to novice runners/walkers. Plenty of police officers were on hand to block side streets and escort the occasional local vehicles if necessary. Birmingham has usually not had enough cold weather by Thanksgiving for all of the leaves to have fallen off of trees, so it’s likely that participants still get to enjoy the colorful fall foliage while running along Montclair. This year’s temps were around 55F with sunny skies, which made for perfect running weather. A water station was set up at the 5K split and at the turn around area for the 10K. There were also water, gator aid, and sodas available at the finish area.

The 10K and 5K were chip timed with final results being based on gun time rather than start line crossing. I suggest starting in the front for participants who plan to run a decent pace and want a more accurate finish time.

After 39 years, organizers of this run seem to have the entire process perfected. I highly recommend participating if you find yourself in the Birmingham area around Thanksgiving.

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(2015)
"A Flat and Easy Course"
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San Jose was the 17th Rock n Roll Half Marathon that I have completed. While the huge crowds of participants in some cities make navigating the start corrals and courses pretty difficult, San Jose was completely opposite.

With this being only a half marathon, the participation level was much smaller. This allowed for a quick packet pick-up at the expo, easy entry into starting corral, and plenty of running space throughout the course.

This course does not offer the scenery that participants experience in cities like DC, Vegas, and etc., but it was among the flattest courses that I have ran with RnR.

This run offers a low frills weekend with a great opportunity for a quick finish time, and chances are that there will be nice weather for running.

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(2015)
"A Barrel of Fun!"
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What could be more fun than running a scenic half marathon and learning about bourbon all in the same weekend!?

With this being our first time to participate in the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon, my husband and I sprang for the VIP packet pick-up, and we are very thankful that we did. It was located inside the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Lisa and Julie from the Louisville Sports Commission. They had us checked in with our packets within minutes of walking into the VIP Bar. This allowed us plenty of time to socialize, nibble on the tasty hors d’oeuvres, and have a complimentary bourbon cocktail before the guided tour of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience facility (which was also complimentary). It was by far the most pleasant packet pick-up experience that I have encountered for any run.

I was a little concerned about there only being one start corral, but it was very well organized, and I had no problem getting into the area of the corral that I wanted to start from. Overall, the participants were very courteous in the order that they entered the corral...with those who were planning to run slower or walk staying towards the rear to allow faster runners towards the front.

We were surrounded by picturesque fall foliage throughout the course. The hills around miles 5 through 7 were pretty extreme, but they were manageable. The time lost running uphill was countered by the faster downhill pace.

The finish area was not overly crowded, and they had plenty of refueling food and beverages. The Bourbon Bash on the Belvedere was the post race party. It included even more food, bourbon & beer tastings, a live band, and an upbeat group of runners and organizers to chat with.

There are no negatives that I could come up with for the overall experience. I look forward to participating again in 2016!

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