Latest reviews by JOHN SNUGGS
• small, friendly field;
• super well stocked aid stations and volunteers;
• 4 out and back loops for the marathon;
The Altis group does about a dozen different small marathons, primarily using the "trails" within suburban parks. The race was held at Lake Accotink park in northern Virginia (Springfield). I live about 2 hours south, so we drove up on the morning of the race. I was interested because I work for a company that recognizes Veteran's Day as a holiday and I thought it would be fun to run a marathon in the middle of the week.
We arrived early to get our bibs and t-shirts. The line was long (about 20 people), but efficient processing put us back in the car within 10 minutes. The t-shirt is simple white with the race logo on the left breast. It's nice, but since it's not a technical shirt, it won't get a lot of wear.
The course had to be adjusted this year due to some park maintenance to the trail. It included a short section (less than a mile) along a crushed gravel trail across rolling (small) hills - very pretty, but a tougher surface than the other 3 1/4 mile section of the trail which is blacktop. None of the course are technical trails.
Fellow runners were very friendly. With the looping and out & back nature of the course - there are many opportunities to run with or cheer-on people - developing a community as the race goes on. The field included 44 marathoners & 107 half finishers. The first two laps with more than 150 people running were fun and went by quickly. Three aid stations were manned by students from nearby Lee High School - with the day off, they volunteered in exchange for a donation to a school in South Africa. They were very cheerful and enthusiastic. The aid stations had cookies, pretzels, soda (Mountain Dew, Coke, Diet Coke), as well as water and Gatorade.
* Organization / communications;
* Free Photos;
* Great Course Scenery
* Aid Stations - Spacing of final miles needs to be closer (no more than 2 miles apart);
* Zig-zagging through parks in the middle of the course;
* Same medal for half and full;
* Aid Stations - Water / Nuun only until mile 19 energy gel ... I like more variety - fruit, pretzels, Coke, etc
We travelled in from out of town and stayed at a hotel on the race course - which is awesome, especially if you have people who will be spectating (we didn't in this case). Our hotel had a wedding on Saturday - someone (I'm assuming from the wedding party) decided 2:30 AM would be a great time to develop an echo near our room. I've often wondered why hotels don't put all their runners in the same area ... we probably aren't going out drinking the night before a race AND we get up earlier than anyone ought to, Back to sleep -- until the road crew decided to close streets (including the one 7 floors below our window) a mere 4 hours earlier than runners would be on them. I'm sure it's possible to quietly block a traffic lane - the poor guy who was given this road to close seemed to be working alone and was forced to drag 10 foot wide "Road Closed" signs which sounded like fingernails of the Green Giant across a chalkboard.
They ran a school bus shuttle to the start from our hotel and several others. It only took about 15 minutes and the heated bus was nice on a chilly morning. The half and full started the race together and then split near mile 9. The first three miles run along Lake Michigan. The scenery was beautiful as we ran along a two lane road which was closed to traffic. My gripe was with the pace teams. With both half and full running together, I was stuck behind the 2:10 / 4:20 pace groups - each with two leaders ... essentially blocking the entire lane. A disciplined runner would have recognized the sign to relax and stay within his own training ... I was irritated and worked through them. The biggest hill in the course is just before mile 4 - it's a long steady climb which separated us out a bit. This was the first of many times when people let us know that we had gotten through the last of the hills - LIARS! The houses were gorgeous as we headed back into downtown. Many people were out on the porches and balconies. I recall one guy about fifty who was standing along the street screaming "You've f*-ing got this." over and over. An interesting fan approach at any time - this was a bit before 8 AM. As the course goes through Marquette University, the runners separate with the half turning left while the full goes straight. Still before 9 AM, there weren't many students out, but the campus is beautiful. The full course eventually goes through an urban park on a paved path with quite a few twists and elevation changes. I haven't seen something like this included in other races - not my favorite, but it certainly required fewer street closures. I felt great through the first half of the race and my pace was faster than I had trained.
Even though the weather was chilly at the start, it was a sunny day and I was glad to be in a singlet as it got warmer. The mile markers were clicking by with my Garmin showing about 0.1 mile early - then suddenly, near mile 15, I passed the mile marker, then a moment later Garmin said I had gone 15. In a section with no spectators, I was really dragging, I pulled out my second GU and once the sugar hit I felt a bit better. The race had water and Nuun about every 2-3 miles. Near mile 17, I wanted some sugared / caffeinated Coke, or perhaps just some variety. The course goes around the ballpark where the Brewers play - a very nice area not close to downtown. The hills just keep rolling causing a bit of discussion among the runners ... we were all a bit surprised at the number and frequency of hills. I hit an aid station near mile 22 where I took the last GU and some water. I was surprised (and assumed it was a mistake) that the final water wasn't until mile 25. The half course had a longer stretch before hitting the same final water. I hope they add a stop around 24 for both ... on a cooler day, it might not have mattered, but on a hotter day it would have been worse than uncomfortable. In that area (without water), I saw a young woman with a sign that said "If Lamar O can survive a brothel, you can finish 26.2" -- that was a new one for me ... I smiled.
The medal is same for both half and full (that made things easier for volunteers, but I prefer a distinction between the two). They provided free photos - very nice!!
Overall, I really like this event. It was especially well-done for an inaugural. The Race Director definitely has a lot of experience and orchestrated a runner-friendly event.