Latest reviews by Joshua

"Race Report: 39th Cooper River Bridge 10k"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Who drives 900 miles to run a 10k? This guy!

The opportunity to run over the Cooper River Bridge was in large part due to Boeing. They were gracious enough to pay for our race entries and mail us our goodie bags prior to our travels. They are a major sponsor for U.S. Military Endurance Sports (USMES) of which I am a member. As an organization, USMES promotes healthy lifestyles with a wide variety of activities, events, camps, and teams for our veterans and active duty members.

Boeing Tour

Part of our journey in completing the 10k was a tour of Boeing’s Charleston 787 Dreamliner Factory. This was a private tour for those of us on the USMES team. Boeing has a massive factory large enough to build 10 jets at a time – five on each side facing nose-to-tail. They also have additional support facilities to build sections of the plane. The majority of the bits and pieces are flown on a specially designed plane called the Dreamlifter. Our tour guides’ catch phrase was “Boeing is Growing.”


We used Charleston Air Force Base for lodging and our meet up point. Base lodging is generally priced comparable to the local economy while offering at least a four-star rating. The rooms are not fancy, but they get the job done. The expo and park-and-ride for the race shuttles were 10 minutes away. Food and shopping were a short distance from the base, too.

The Expo

Even though we already had our swag bags, we still made our way to the expo. This is typically an indication of how the race will be managed. As we entered the lobby area we could see a list of runners – all 40,000 of them. Farther inside were rows and rows of vendors including six vendors who served alcohol. Their contributions helped relax us after driving all day.

The Race

The Cooper River Bridge is located in Greater, South Carolina; the start line being in Mount Pleasant and finishing in downtown Charleston.

Race morning started out a bit sketchy – the forecast called for severe thunderstorms at the start of the race. Waking at 4:00 a.m. was tough, but this was essential to eat breakfast and get ready for the 5:15 team meet up/departure. As we left base, the clouds took a small break and allowed us to meet the expo transportation. It had rained all night at this point and projected to turn worse into daybreak. On the way to the starting line, a 20-minute drive by bus, our luck was beginning to change. The thunderstorms were breaking up and being pushed to the south.

Our bus dropped us off at the back of the starting line, somewhere near several dimly lit porta johns and Corral K, the last corral. Needless to say, we were a long ways from the starting line. Packing 40,000 runners into 15 corrals takes up several blocks. From the drop off point to our corral we had a good 20 minute walk. While we made our way there, along the sidewalk we could see that several shops had opened their doors early, and many of them offered snacks and drinks in their parking areas.

Opening ceremonies kicked off with the National Anthem and a trumpet player belting out “America the Beautiful” in a jazzy tune. The first two racers to cross the starting line were paralyzed and wore robotic exoskeleton legs that enabled them to walk.

As the clock neared 7:00 the race announcer called out over and over for runners to get ready. I was lined up just behind the elites in the competitive corral with an expected finish time of 40 – 45 minutes. At this point, my best 10k finish was approximately 43 minutes – on flat ground. The seated and elite corral was many times larger than the number of runners inside. This allowed them to continue to jog around in efforts to stay warm and stretch. My corral was elbow-to-elbow leaving little room to stretch or focus on the efforts ahead of me. Just minutes prior to the starting gun my corral was released to join those in front of us. Even though I knew I’d be unable to compete with the elites, it was pretty cool to stand next to them. As we crossed the timing mat and sped away, I couldn’t help but think, “If only I could match their speed.”

My heart was racing as we crossed the timing mats. It was a matter of seconds before I was engulfed by faster runners. Making our way to the bridge was an amazing experience – the crowd support was great. The local police were out supporting and protecting us as they blocked the side streets. The sidewalks were lined with onlookers cheering and waving signs. About every half mile or so a local band or DJ was set up filling the surrounding air with energizing tunes.

The Cooper River Bridge did not look very high at all – until we started to ascend it. Just before the two-mile mark, I knew I was going to fall off my pace before the top. My perception of the bridge did not meet the reality my legs were beginning to feel. As you can see from the profile, we had a 200’ climb in a half mile. Hill training in southeast Virginia is nonexistent, so my legs were screaming before the crest. This bridge separated those who trained from those who did not. I know I was passed by what seemed like a hundred faster runners leading up to the top.

At the top of the bridge, I could see the surrounding area. What a breathtaking site! This place was amazing!

Descending towards downtown Charleston provided my legs much-needed relief. This is where I was able to regain my pace and to catch back up with my Garmin virtual partner – he was clearly beating me on the bridge. The first vendor I saw once we hit level ground was Dunkin Donuts – too bad there was not time to stop and enjoy their yumminess! As we entered our final two miles into downtown, we were met with tons of crowd support. My ears were filled with cheers, cowbells, and clapping hands. This powered me through the finish with a time of 44:37.

Post Race

Crossing the finish line was nothing special – no medal to hang for this race. After crossing the timing mats, the runners had to walk a block to the finish line festivities. Several members of USMES met to congratulate one another prior to exiting the secured finishing area. We knew finding each other was going to be difficult once the rest of the runners made their way to the post-race festivities.

The majority of the venders outlined the edges of a large grassy park while Boeing and a couple of others were in the center. Great music from the stage could be heard as we walked around. We found fresh pulled pork and sausage, water, pastries, a variety of hydration drinks not normally used, and many other vendors handing out free items in exchange for your name/email.

My only concern as the vendor area swarmed with runners and their friends/family was the visible lack of security. The vendor area was open to everyone, and this felt a bit unnerving considering recent world events.

Overall impression:
– This race was well-organized from beginning to end
– Tons of port-johns spaced out along the corrals
– Several of the local businesses opened their doors early
– Crowd support was great along the course, especially downtown
– Aid stations were in key locations and looked well-stocked
– Took forever to reach the crest of the bridge
– Finish area was massive
– Minimal security presence in vendor area
– Transportation to and from the start/finish line was a breeze as there were a multitude of buses

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
"Race Report: One City Marathon (2016)"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The city of Newport News, Virginia has done it again, hosting their second annual One City Marathon. This has hands down become my favorite marathon. Just about every corner and straight away along the route has a cheering spectator.

Marriott at City Center once again utilized one of its ballrooms to host all of the local venders for the expo, however it looks like this marathon is gaining popularity. The 2017 Health and Wellness Expo will be held in at the Denbigh Community Center and will include as many as 30 health, fitness, and apparel vendors. Not sure what the runner cutoff will be as of yet, but the last two years had a 400 runner cap. This does not include the marathon relay.

To complicate matters or to keep us runner on our toes, the race director and city chose to host this year’s race the weekend of Daylight Savings Time – losing an hour of sleep. This was not a problem because I went to sleep early. After spending the previous week sleeping on a cot in a tent, I could not wait to sleep in my bed!

The morning of the race was perfect! The temperatures started out in the mid-50s and there was not a cloud in the sky. I left my house to pick up my friend Eric around 5:30 a.m. This might have been a bit early, but we had a sweet parking place…not far from the bathroom. Waiting around was not a problem because we knew several other runners, so we chatted about our strategies. The race would begin at the north end of the city at the Newport News Park, and finish at the south end at the Victory Arch. The starting corral was very simple…a left and right side with easy access depending where your race pacer stood. At the front of the corral/starting line was the RD’s stage. We could hear him clearly making several announcements which included a little pre-race music. This motivated the growing crowd of runners! This year, unlike last year, there was a small pavilion not too far from the RD’s stage that had water coolers with plenty of cups. This was great for me seeing as how I left my water bottle in the truck.

The last few announcements were made around 6:50 a.m. including the National Anthem singer, a six year old from a local school. WOW, she was amazing! Did I mention she was six?! Five minutes to go and the hand cyclists were off. Nerves decided to kick in at this point. I was lined up with the 3:30 group. My watch was set for a 3:34 finish, so I didn’t want to be too far back from this group. Last year, I clocked a PR with 3:39 and my training leading up was great, so I was going big.

The horn sounded and we were off! As I crossed the timing mat, I depressed the start button on my new Garmin Fenix 3. I was able to practice with it the week leading up to the race. About 30 yards afterwards we made our first turn. The entire group of runners around me seemed to be so happy – this is what makes running fun. After about a mile into the race, I looked down at the runners in front and around me and realized the majority of them were wearing ankle-tracking pods – meaning, they were the first leg of the marathon relay. Now, I understood why they were so talkative and happy. I hung with them as they swapped out at mile seven and fresh runners started. This occurred three more times throughout the course, except I started to fall off the 3:30 pacer.

The race course was the same as last year except one minor change around mile 18. Instead of leaving the Virginia War Museum and going over Mercury Blvd, we exited the park and ended up back on Warwick Blvd. This change allowed us to go under the overpass and down to the final leg of the race. As I hit 70th street, I knew the end was near. This is about the same time the trees stopped blocking out the sun. Typically, 10:00 a.m. and mid-60’s are nice, but when there’s no shade and the finish line is near it is not so nice. I took several glances at my watch before I realized I was starting to fall off my projected pace. I really thought I was moving at the same pace as before, but my watch revealed I was doing a 9:00 mile. There seemed to an obvious disconnect from my legs and mind.

Somewhere between mile 24 and 25, the final water station came into focus. Here a high school band was playing and the crowds were cheering. They were a much-needed boost! I took one last cup of water and begin my descent towards the finish line. I could see a couple of other runners not too far in front of me and I began to pick up my pace. Could I catch them before the finish line? With just a couple of numbered streets to go before the final turn, I was able to catch two of the runners. The crowds erupted in excitement, which boosted me even more. As I passed the 26 mile sign, I felt my first twinge/cramp/electrical shock in my right calf. I did not know what to think…was I going to cramp here and fall down or was it going to pass? I pressed on knowing a PR was well within my reach. I crossed the finish line at 3:32:53, seven minutes faster than last year.

386 runners from 25 states and Canada crossed the finish line earning a spot in Newport News history.

I am more than happy to continue running in the Newport News One City Marathon for as long as I live in the area! The crowd support and quantity of volunteers make this race a huge success. It was also refreshing to see that feedback from last year’s runners was valued and implemented, resulting in changes that were much appreciated.

My Stats:
Time: 3:32:53
Overall: 48 of 386
Male: 41 of 248
Male Age Group 40-44: 9 of 39
Masters Male: 22 of 150

Gels and Salt Pill schedule (approx. time/mile):
30 mins before start – 4 Sports Legs
15 mins before start – 1 Honey Stinger Chocolate gel
5 miles – 1 Honey Stinger gel
10 miles – 1 Honey Stinger gel
13 miles – 2 Salt Sticks pills
15 miles – 1 Honey Stinger gel
20 miles – 1 Honey Stinger gel / 2 Salt Stick pills

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
"Race Report: Sentara Colonial Half Marathon"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The College of William and Mary’s Track and Field program and Sentara Medical partnered to host the 37th annual 5k and half marathon races. All of the events took place on the college campus and the weather was picture perfect; not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the upper 60’s.

The half marathon was a last minute addition to the race calendar. I had a choice of doing this half marathon or run 26 miles – final long run before One City Marathon – with Eric, my running partner. This was a no brainer! As you can tell we ran the half. The race clock started on Sunday at high-noon, which made planning a bit difficult. Generally most running events, I have attended, start early in the morning. Nonetheless, I planned the day like any other…just pushing food and hydration out a couple hours.

The expo was held in the William & Mary Hall, a multi-purpose arena that hosts collegiate events. Lucky for us we arrived early enough to secure a parking spot close to the expo and finish line. The expo had a couple local vendors – local running club, local running store, and a representative from Sticks (Mediterranean Cuisines). So it did not take much time to go through the expo. I did however buy a really cheap sweatshirt for my next marathon…could not pass up a toss away layer for $5. It will be repurposed once I cross the start line at One City Marathon.

Off to the starting line!

It was a short journey from the expo to the 5k & half marathon start line. Good thing because the bathrooms at the arena were extremely limited – one deep. I am the kind of person to visit a porta john and then hop back in line to go again. The starting area had plenty of fresh porta johns awaiting us (okay me). The area around the starting line was a great place to hang out. We were able to gather in a large field surrounded by several of William & Mary’s historical buildings. This area made it easy to talk to other runners and meet up with fellow Strava friends. After a quick meet and greet it was off to stretch the legs a bit around the field.

The start time is approaching

A Fife and Drum procession left the arena and marched to the start line. Upon arrival they paused for the National Anthem. Then the call came out for the runners to line up, and we were off once the black powder rifles fired. The Fife and Drum played as all the runners left the area.

The course

When I signed up for this event, I knew the route was an out and back with a loop at the halfway point. However, I did not realize we had to run HILLS too. We left start line and traveled through the local neighborhood until we crossed over a bridge and onto a paved trail – most of the course was on this trail. Here, I wished I had worn my shoe gaiters – the trail was cover with small sticks, leaves, rocks, and such. One of those small rocks decided to tag along in my shoe at about mile two. Lucky for me, he did not spend too much time at the back of my shoe – it worked its way up to my toes where there was more room. This trail was lined with trees throughout, which was nice because this was turning out to be a hot day. The hills definitely challenged each runner’s true strength throughout the entire course.

Aid/water stations…could have been more abundant on the final leg of the course. I am thankful I kept my gum from the start as I was feeling parched towards the end. As we left the trail, and entered the neighborhood again, I found those providing directions were losing sight of their objective. Three times, I had to swing wide because the course was not mark with a cone or sign, but a person half-heartedly pointing the way. At one point our path was filled with other pedestrians, so I was not sure I was even going the right way, which felt unnerving. Once I saw the Hall again, I knew I was close to the finish. The final part of the course consisted of several sharp turns (on the sidewalk) to short climb to the arena (basketball court) where the finish line awaited me. As I crossed, I could see my wife waiting my arrival – absolutely the best part of the race!

Overall, this race was okay. I am not sure I would do it again, but for a last minute entry the price was fair, only $60. The cost did not matter as it supported the track and field teams.

Postrace meal was at Sticks – it was close by and they offered a BOGO free coupon…win win!

My stats:
Crossed the finish line at 1:39 with a pace of 7:35.
Total Runners: 74 of 713
Males: 62 of 376
Age group (35-39): 8 of 44

Login or sign up to leave a comment.