Latest reviews by Mary Jo Minarich

(2019)
"Red White and Boom Half Marathon"
Overall
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Expo Quality
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Parking/Access
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Yes! It's Red White and Boom Time!

One of the many things that were great about the Twin City in Motion organization is that they really care about their runners. Using email notifications and their app, they continuously informed runners of upcoming race issues like storms or heat. They even warned us that there might be a possibility of the race being canceled.

So when the Hubs and I woke up in the morning and read the race was still happening but with a yellow flag warning (Less than ideal conditions) we were excited. I mean it’s July in the Midwest and it’s always hot!

We had already received our packet on the way up in St. Paul so all we had to do was walk to the start. We dressed in our lightest gear and walked to gear check to unload some extra clothes for later. It was a perfect over-cast day which meant no beating sun on us. 

Gear check was a breeze and we were ready to run after a quick bathroom break. By the way, there were tons of port-a-potties at the start of the race and near gear check.

There looked to be a little under 2000 runners and the corrals had plenty of room for everyone. The Half marathon and Relay started at 6:30 and the 5K started at 6:50.

One thing I noticed was it was eerily quiet at the starting line. There was no loud music or announcer. I’m sure it’s because it was early in the morning and we were right under a ton of apartment buildings. 

After a quiet National Anthem, we were off. It was a toasty run even with the overcast and I was so glad I wore my best wicking clothes today. Twin Cities in Motion knew it was going to be hot and they did a fantastic job with their water tables. 

They even added more tables of water between each planned table. Nice job Red White and Boom!!! There was even a water table right before mile one!

There were hills…

And nice distractions like question and answer signs throughout the course.

There were flat areas …

And tons of police and volunteers helping with traffic. I kind of felt bad for all the drivers who had to wait for us.

But my favorite part was when we were heading back into the city and we could start to see it again.

By the time I hit mile 9 the sun came out. The yellow flag turned to red (Potentially dangerous conditions) and everyone knew to be careful. The sun did heat up the course and volunteers were very generous with the water so you could drink one and dump another on your head.

By mile 10 it was fun to just take pictures, including a selfie with Minneapolis!

I passed by the Grain Belt Beer sign on the way out and I was so glad we were able to run by it again to get a pic.

And the race ended on Heritage Bridge covered in American flags. Our bibs have our names on them so people were cheering and calling our name as we finished in Father Hennepin Park. 

And my favorite part of the race was a red, white and blue Popsicle and hot dog.

We finished and definitely earned this medal!

I’m glad I brought dry clothes to change into because I was soaking wet. After a quick change we hit the beer tent for a Summit Beer Company beer.

The rest of the day consisted of a nap, lunch and fireworks over the Mississippi River.

It was a perfect ending for this trip. 

The Red White and Boom  was a great race with a clean, safe course. I would definitely recommend this race in July. What's better than running 13.1 miles for the 4th of July!?

Tips for this Race:

Download the Twin Cities in Motion app on your phone. It’s a great way to keep up with alerts and information.
Stay at a hotel that is close to the park so you can walk to it. Parking was scarce with a lot of "No Parking" signs up.
Gear-check some dry clothes to change into if you don’t like sitting in wet clothes.
Carry ID, because they check everyone before allowing you in the beer garden.
Bring a blanket or chairs to the Fireworks. It gets crowded so you’ll want to claim your spot.

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(2019)
"Soldier Field 10 Mile Recap"
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Happy Memorial Day Weekend Everyone! My holiday started with the Soldier Field 10 Mile race. A bunch of us from my run clubs ran it. It was my 8th time running this race and I have to give a shout-out to BibRave for letting me run it for them. It has got to be one of my favorite races.

It’s always an early morning wake-up for this race – 3am! But I was glad that is was a 7am race start. The weather was really muggy already that early in the morning. As a matter of fact, Soldier Field was sending out weather alerts the day before the race.

After a very early breakfast of a scrambled egg and half of an avocado, I was in the car with my friend John and we heading into the city. We made record time since NO ONE is up at 4:30 on a Saturday! FREE Parking was wonderful at the stadium. You never see that in the city!

We took the traditional picture on the stairs, wished each other good luck and then heading to our corrals. We hit one more bathroom stop before we walked onto the field. I love that they had port-a-potties inside the stadium.

One of the great thing about this race is you get to start AND finish in Soldier Field.

We had to be in our corral by 6:45 and they weren’t kidding. They locked up corrals right on time and some people had to start a corral behind because they were late. There were a lot of people dressed up in red, white and blue or carrying a flag!

After a lovely Memorial Day ceremony we started the race.

Nuun was the hydration on the course and they had all their flavors out along with tables of water and ice about every 2 miles. I love this course since you get a perfect view of the lake with a nice breeze every once in a while.

The volunteers were amazing at each station and the speaker at the turn around did a great job cheering all the runners and motivating them to finish safely. I love the last 5 miles because it’s a fantastic view of the city.

It was warm and I stopped at each water table to drink half the water and dump the rest on my head. The city of Chicago was there supporting this race with ton of volunteers, police officers and ambulances.

During the last quarter mile you can hear the music blaring from the stadium and it’s definitely fun finishing on the 50 yard line. I tried to see myself on the jumbotron but that wasn’t happening without my glasses.

At the finish, I grabbed my medal and a water bottle from a volunteer and enjoyed the stadium for a few minutes before they corralled me out. The volunteers did a good job with “asking nicely” to exit the field. I guess with 8,000 runners you can’t stay in there forever.Soldier Field 10 Miler Recap

Afterwards we all met one more time at the post-race party and enjoyed sitting on the grass watching the finishers come into the stadium. And the cold beer was delicious.

Helpful Tips!
Be sure to get to your corral on time.
Carry your own hydration. You never know what the Chicago weather will do.
Smile at the photographers… you get free pictures.
Enjoy the view!!!
Be sure to check out the post-party. The beer and band were fantastic.

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(2018)
"Run for the Zoo"
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I got my husband to sign up for the Run for the Zoo at Lincoln Park Zoo this year and he loved it! We left early and watched the sun come up over the lake as we drove through the city. It was very romantic… (Not really, it was just early.)

But because we were so early, we were able to get awesome parking and our bibs without any crowds. They also had a super organized gear check so we could have dry clothes ready for us at the finish. And we got to enjoy indoor zoo bathrooms and some of the animals before there were large crowds.

The weather was perfect with absolutely no humidity, a nice breeze and blue skies. And I love the way everything was on time.

7:30 a.m.: 5K Run/Walk
8:15 a.m.: 10K Run
9:00 a.m.: Safari Stampede (Heat 1)
9:45 a.m.: Safari Stampede (Heat 2)

Because my wonderful Hubby gave up his early morning for me, I decided we could stick together throughout the whole race. He wanted to do a run/walk pace (his favorite) so I ran it with him. And let me tell you–it was a lot of FUN.

During each of our walk breaks I took pictures! There were 600 runners in the Run for the Zoo 5K.

The course was pretty crowded and LOADED with kids. It was fun watching all the families run together. This is definitely a family-oriented event. But if you are a serious, fast runner, you do get some great prizes. Like plane tickets, zoo memberships and plush toys from their gift shop.

We had a blast running around kids, puddles and by the animals. There’s nothing funnier than hearing, “Oh look, a zebra!” during a race. We crossed the finish line together and totally enjoyed the race. And look, you get FREE downloads from the course photographers.

When we were done we grabbed some water, fruit and freebees like waterbottles and snack bars.

We did make it back in time to watch the 10K runners start their race. Ram Racing did a fantastic job getting everyone through each race. And the announcer kept everyone excited to start.

After wishing everyone good luck we headed to the beer tent! Isn’t it funny that runners think nothing of drinking a beer at 8:30am after a race???

The Run for the Zoo was a fun race and I would definitely recommend this run to anyone who wants to support Lincoln Park Zoo. The money keeps the zoo free for everyone to enjoy.

Helpful Hints
Get to the race early. Parking lots fill up fast and there are street closings that begin at 4am.
Pack a clean set of clothes. There are plenty of bathrooms to change in.
Bring your own bag for gear check. They do not have them there.
Get to the front of the corrals if you plan on being fast. It’s pretty crowded after the first couple of corrals.
Bring your ID for the beer tent. They require it!

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(2018)
"Silo District Marathon"
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The Silo District Marathon race day was on Sunday, May 6th!!! I still can’t believe that this was Fixer Upper’s, Chip Gaines first race and he’s running an actual marathon! He looked great, especially when he was with his family who were all there to cheer and run with him.

Here are the Details!
Packet Pick Up: Packet pick-up was the day before at the Waco Convention Center. There you got your bib, a tech shirt, a plastic gear-check bag, and tons of goodies from big sponsor names like TARGET! And you got cute tote bags from Magnolia.

Parking: I highly recommend parking in the remote parking they have set up. There was plenty of room and the busing system was perfect with tons of air-conditioned city buses. There were buses coming and going until 4pm and we never had to wait for one.

Port-a-Potties: There were a ton of port-a-potties for the runners at the Silos and on the course. And we got there early enough to use the flushing bathrooms. This is very important to runners…

Waiting Area: The Magnolia grounds were lit up with a ton of cute lights. And it was nice watching the sun come up behind the silos.

Gear Check: Gear check was available. The line was a little long but it moved quickly.

Pre-Race Warm Up: They had warm-up exercises with REFIT Studio founder Cathy Ballas. Who by-the-way had her condo designed on one of the Fixer Upper shows.

To the starting lines: After warming up, we headed to watch the marathoners take off. Marathoners were starting first in corrals A and B. And Half-marathoners started in corrals C, D and E. We wanted to watch Chip start the race so we headed to the front to watch. Here is where I wish I was 3 to 5 inches taller. It was hard for me to see Chip until he stood on the steps.

Brave Like Gabe

There he talked about Gabe Grunewald’s Foundation which was the whole reason we were here. 100% of the profits from the race will be donated to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation. Funds were collected for research on rare cancers. Gabe who continued to race throughout the 2017 season despite battling adenoid cystic carcinoma inspired Chip to run a marathon. And rather than find a race, he decided to stage his own in Waco. And that’s how the Silo District Marathon dream started.

We watched Chip start and I couldn’t believe that he was wearing long pants and A TOOL BELT!

The corrals were packed and we ended up having to start in the way back. It was fine because we met some lovely people. Everyone shared where they were from, all the runs they have done and why they were all here–for Mr. Chip Gaines!

The Silo District Marathon Race
This race has got to be one of the most organized races I have ever run in. The police were out everywhere and volunteers were cheerful and helpful.

The heat reminded me that we were definitely in Texas. I am so glad I trained inside lately because it definitely got really hot during this run.

In the beginning you get to run through the Baylor University campus. It was beautifully paved and clean. The air was still cool and the trees that aligned the streets created nice shade. Then you got to run around McLane Stadium.

Next we were in the heart of Waco and I ran past the library with its mural walls! I always like to see that in a town.

Miles 5 to 9 seemed to fly. Not because I was going fast. It was because the scenery changed all the time. We ran along the Brazos River, and the turn-around was along some beautiful trees and greenery.

There were water tables every 2 miles and I stopped for water at each one of them. I could start to feel the heat around mile 8 and knew that I needed to stay cool to finish this race strong.

Crossing the suspension bridge meant we were heading back into town. That was a nice feeling because it was really starting to get hot around mile 10.5!

The mile signs were a nice distraction. Every mile there was a positive quote to keep you going.

The Silo District Marathon Finish: You can see the finish at the end for a long time. I could tell it was close and far at the same time. So I worked staying focused on my breathing and listening to the crowd. The crowds were huge at this point and the announcer was fantastic. And with this race you get a free downloadable picture!

The finish chute was divided with the marathoners ending on one side and the half marathoners ending on the other side. And the medal was huge and fantastic! They really do things big in Texas.

After the Race
After the race we grabbed some sweet teas and sat down to watch the other runners finish the race. There was a jumbo cam up so you could watch the finish line. There was also the Chip Cam where we could see where he was on the course during the race.

We enjoyed a couple of the food trucks available including the sweat tea truck again while we waited for Chip to finish. Chip finished in 5:21:54 and looked amazing. I’m so glad we stayed to watch him finish.

This was a fantastic running trip and we would definitely do the Silo District Marathon again if it wasn’t so expensive for us to fly to Waco. I do recommend this race especially for the great cause, the Brave Like Gabe Foundation. Which by the way, this race raised $250,000!

The one thing I would tell runners is, this race is a definitely Bucket List race. Especially if you are a Fixer Upper fan!

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(2018)
"Soldier Field 10 Mile"
Overall
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Here was my 7th time running the Soldier Field 10 Mile race! I love this race for its length, location and beer at the end!

And we definitely deserved a drink after this race. BECAUSE IT WAS HOT! According to my phone, we started in the 70s and ending in the mid 80’s by the end of this race.

With a 4:30am ride to the city we were all in front of Soldier Field for our regular group pictures by 6:15!

Ram Racing and Soldier Field did a great job organizing its 15th race. I had prime starting position this year in corral C. I was glad I could use my Athlinks account to help me prove that I could run starting in this preferred corral.

Now just like last year, be prepared to cry at the pre-race ceremony. You start inside the Soldier Field stadium and get to watch Budweiser do an amazing tribute to Folds of Honor and its contributors. Here watch and grab a tissue…

After the video, names of fallen military men and women this year, a gun salute, Taps and the National Anthem, the race began in small waves. The course was the usual with an out-and-back heading south first. While in the shade of the stadium it felt great. But once you were out, you definitely noticed the heat and the sun.

Here’s My Mental Diary!
Mile 1: Hmmm, toasty already. Just get through the McCormick Place tunnel and focus on staying hydrated.

Mile 2-3: Hit the water table and keep going. “Definitely stay to the right to get as much shade as you can.” That sun was already hot and it’s only 7:30!

Mile 4: You can start to see people coming back from the turn-around. “I wish I was on that other side already…”

Mile 5: YES, the TURN-AROUND!!!

Mile 6: Water table time and I have got to take a picture! The city looks awesome!

Mile 7-8: “I thought this was the windy city??? There is absolutely no breeze.” I’m starting to get a little angry now and I’m done…

Mile 9: I hear my name and there’s my friend John. That totally perked me up. Especially knowing that I am less than a mile away and I can hear the inside of the stadium.

Mile 10: As we run into the tunnel onto the Soldier Field field, I realize this is why I love this race so much. It is definitely an amazing feeling running into this huge building.

Finish: DONE and AMEN!!!

Runners get a great medal, water and can take pictures before they leave the stadium.

Afterwards, you can walk through the stadium building and there are water bottles, Nuun and bathrooms. It felt so good to just wash my face. Before you leave the building, they give you a bag of goodies that we all gobbled up!

After grabbing our cool-looking Budweiser beer from the beer tent, my run club and I sat in the shade to watch the rest of the runners finish. This has become a fun tradition.

Would I recommend this race?
Heck Yeah! It is well supported, super-organized and a ton of fun–EVEN IN THE HEAT. Ram Racing did a great job taking care of all the runners with extra water tables, ice cups on the course, and frozen towels at the finish.

Put this on your to-do list in Chicago!

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