Latest reviews by Samantha Santy

(2018)
"Vermont City Marathon - a New England Gem"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Vermont City Marathon has been on my list for a long time, and boy was it worth the wait!

Location: Burlington, Vermont is a unique city located on beautiful Lake Champlain. Wherever you look there is fresh, local food and there are craft breweries everywhere. There is plenty of lodging on the waterfront as well as a bit out of town. I stayed about 2 miles from the start and the race offered shuttles from multiple hotels. The shuttle worked great.

Expo: The Expo was located at the Doubletree Hilton, which was very conveniently located off the main interstate. Bib and shirt pick up was a breeze and there was lots of great swag from RunVermont (neck cooling sleeves and shaker bottles to start) and other vendors. I really enjoyed the Cabot Cheese, Untapped Maple and local brewery booths. There was also an opportunity to meet the one and only Meb! I was disappointed at the lack of race-specific merch. However, I got to the expo at 2:00 on the second day, so that may have been my fault as well.

Starter's Village: The start village at Battery Park was spacious and high-energy. There were plenty of porta-johns and also some good places to sit. The corrals were a bit small and self-seeded. I didn't find this to be too much of an issue, thankfully.

The course: One of my favorite things about the Vermont City Marathon is the unique course. It is a "clover" shape, which makes it easy for any friends and family to see you multiple times while spectating. The two passes down Church Street make for bit of energy between some more quiet areas. In terms of hills, there were 2-3 slight hills then the "Assault on Battery" just after mile 15. This climb is definitely a challenge, but the Taiko drummers make it worth it. After this big climb, the last 11 miles are flat-downhill. If you don't wreck yourself on the big hill, this is a PR-friendly course.

Course support: The support at this race is some of the best I've experienced.The aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were fantastic. There was food throughout the course, as well as Untapped Maple hydration, gels, and waffles. The neighborhoods also put together also food stops and hosed off runners.

Finish village: The finish line of this race was electric and unbeatable! The food selection was incredible, they even had Vermont's finest, Ben & Jerry's. I did not personally indulge in the beer tent but they provided beer from 3-4 local breweries, which is much better a Miller Light.

I would definitely recommend this race to a friend and hope to be back another year!

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(2018)
"Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K - Philly"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Expo: The expo was very simple and easy. Bibs were assigned via dynamic assignment methods which were very efficient. There expo was small-moderate in size, with some race-branded merchandise as well as typical expo finds. I enjoyed some hot chocolate and chocolate treats as well as the Nuun booth!

Start/finish village: I'm not a Philly local, but it seemed that the Art Museum was a pretty convenient location, if not a beautiful one! There was a small area with some heaters which was fantastic and the porta-johns were plentiful! The finisher mug tent was well marked and ready to serve up some Hot Cocoa! There were plenty of photo ops for those who were interested.

Race course: This course was simple and seems to be similar to other Philly races. The course started off running towards downtown, came back towards the art museum, and followed a road along the river for the rest of the miles. Thanks to the corrals, the course wasn't crowded. There were minimal hills and the course miles were well marked. Splits were collected at each 5K split. There was even chocolate available twice on the course!

Swag: The swag for this race was fantastic. As a lady, I got a purple quarter zip, which fits well and is incredibly soft. The medal is big and hefty, with a city-specific key-chain. Of course, the Hot Chocolate races are known for their chocolate finisher mugs! I loved the mug full of hot cocoa, chocolate fondue, rice krispy treats, pretzels, marshmallows, and shortbread cookies. I never received my banana, which I was slightly disappointed about.

This was a fun themed race and I recommend it for a fun time with friends!

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

Expo: I personally did not attend the expo. A family member picked up bibs and swag for my boyfriend, brother, and myself. She had no issues, aside from my shirt. Runners should note that the registration cost is low because purchasing a shirt, beer mug, or hat is optional. I got all three, and they are wonderful and reasonably priced.

Pre-race and parking: We left our hotel in nearby South Portland at 6. We faced some traffic getting off of the highway, and then some due to the road closures. There was plenty of parking close to the start, about $10 a pop.

The race itself: The half marathon had a wave start to avoid congestion. The first 7 miles run through the Old Port and residential neighborhoods. The course was pretty full at this point, and I struggled with getting sucked in behind large groups of runners. There were two long, steep hills (and steep downhills) around miles 2 and 6, but otherwise the course was mostly flat. After coming down the second hill at mile 8 was a loop around the Back Cove before heading back towards the start/finish. There were some amazing views, especially at the top of the second hill, and when circling the Back Cove. The one bad part of the course was around mile 11.5, when runners ran past a sewage plant. Yuck!

Course aid: The volunteers and aid stations were pretty fantastic. The volunteers were happy to be there and the stations were stocked. From mile 8 on, there were 3 aid stations with ice cold towels! The one disappointment about the aid stations was that I did not see any type of gel/chew fuel. I bring my own, but on a hot course, I think it's important to provide some.

Post race: The finish area was hectic, as the chute was short and people gathered right at the end. Thankfully I found my family and a misting tent (it was a very humid morning!). The party area was fun, with great beer and a fun band. I was disappointed with the food, though. There was not much left in the runner's food tent, and the pizza that was a main draw for the race was gone.

Swag: Like I mentioned before, the swag was an additional price. The shirt is of great quality, and has a boat, lobster, and water landscape. For $12, it's awesome. The hat and mug were also great purchases. The medal has a beer opener and has a beautiful ship with some blue glass. Everything plays into the Old Port theme.

Overall, I would gladly do this race again for either the half or full. The course is beautiful, and despite two big hills, it is a generally easy course. The main downsides are that sewage plant, and the fact that the race is in July (it may be Maine, but it does get hot and humid!)

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

Expo: Bib pickup was easy and pretty quick. I did wait for a few minutes due to "dynamic bib assignment", but it all worked out fine. The rest of the expo was pretty miniscule. There was a race merchandise area with a decent selection of branded items, however, all that I saw said "marathon and half marathon". I was hoping for some solely marathon items. Aside from that, there wasn't much that was tempting aside from the KT tape booth. I was in and out within 15 minutes.

Pre-race and parking: As was recommended, I arrived 90 minutes early, so parking was a breeze and just a short walk from the start line. There were plenty of bathrooms and gear check was easy. There were 7 corrals, and I appreciate that bibs were being checked as people entered corrals. There's no use having corrals if people don't get into their assigned area! There wasn't much in terms of pre-race entertainment or music, but the race started promptly, which is the most important part.

The race itself: The course starts by winding through residential neighborhoods for the first 10 miles or so. There were a fair amount of families who were out cheering us on, which was well appreciated. This didn't continue much past mile 10. There were aid stations every 1.5 miles, which were well staffed (especially for the first half). If I remember correctly, most had porta johns as well. The course is FLAT. There were 2-3 "inclines" over bridges, but nothing that could truly be considered a "hill." If you like the water, there is plenty of it, as well as nice houses near the water! The only part of the course I didn't enjoy was Asbury Park. There were people crossing in front of runners at will on the Boardwalk, and to be honest, didn't smell great. The last mile or so was on the boardwalk on Long Branch, which was a beautiful place to end a run. Water/gatorade stations were every 1.5 miles, there was a lot of medical support, and porta johns were available at most water stops.

Post race: I finished late enough that the chute was very easy to maneuver through. Runners received boxed water, gatorade, and a pre-packaged box of snacks. My only complaint is that no bags were allowed in the finish area. I understand that it was for safety purposes, but I'd rather have my gear check bag inspected and be able to bring it in. I didn't enter the finish area because once I had my bag, the last thing I wanted to do was re-check it, then get it again when I wanted to leave. Shuttles back to the parking area were quick and easy, however I didn't like that they dropped runners off about a 10ish minute walk from the main parking area.

Swag: Marathon participants received a long-sleeved tech tee, which is of great quality. It matched the medal, which was double sided and rotated. I loved the details in the medal, especially all of the towns the course ran through being on the back side.

Overall, I would do this race again for either the half or full. The If you want a race catered towards marathoners, this race isn't for you. Course support dropped off (but was still present) after the half marathoners turned towards the finish, and by the time I was done (5:00:00), the finish festival was pretty much over. While I never ran "alone", there were significantly less people on the course. Despite the amount of runners, us full marathoners worked just as hard to reach that finish line!

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(2017)
"Rock N Roll DC - a great challenge"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Expo: I went to the expo on Friday, the day before the race. Despite the security line to get in (and having to pour out my water), the expo was very organized. I enjoyed the variety of vendors and the woman at the pacing booth was very helpful with my few questions. My one complaint is that the hours don't go late - with the awful DC traffic, I had to take a half day from work to make it there in time, from Baltimore.

Pre-race: There were tons of porta-johns with reasonable lines, and gear check appeared to go smoothly (I didn't check a bag). Corrals were assigned by "expected time", but there was no control over them the morning of the race. I purposefully self-seeded myself back, knowing I wasn't going to run the time I submitted, but many others definitely didn't. Aside from that, I loved the pre-race music. I seeded myself around corral 12-13, and it took me about 15 minutes to cross the start.

On the course: The course was congested for the first 4-5 miles, but then it opened up. While the course missed some great monuments, it still offered some great sights for tourists. For people who have run other DC races, this course is very different, which I love. There are plenty gentle rolling hills in the second half after one BIG, STEEP hill around mile 6. My favorite part was around mile 9-10 when you run a straight shot towards the Capital. It was a beautiful view and giave runners something to work towards during a hard portion of the race for many. There was great spectator support within the last mile of the race, which made the finish very exciting.

Post race: The qeue(s) in the finisher's area were organized and quick. I was thankful for a full bottle of gatorade. It may be small thing to others, but I was bummed that there weren't any potato chips! Sorry Rock N Roll, pop chips are not as good as a bag of salted potato chips! The band in the finisher's area sounded great and of course, it's a must that a race offers a post-race beer.

Other: The swag is great. The medal is high quality and I love that the premium is a short sleeve. In my experiences, most 1/2 and full marathons give out long sleeves, and their short sleeved t-shirt is great. I honestly don't mind that there wasn't much else because I find that often, a lot of the things given away in premium bags are wasted. Getting to the race wasn't super easy, but not awful either - $16 for parking is steep. But if you're willing to use the DC metro, it isn't all that inconvenient.

I would definitely recommend this race to a friend - I'm already signed up for next year. Sign up early for the best prices, or look for deals throughout the year.

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