Latest reviews by Christopher McManus

(2018)
"Hilly Half Marathon"
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Sunday was the Half Marathon for the Runner’s World Festival. The weather was not in our favor as it had been for the 5K and 10K, it was around 40 degrees with some decent wind as well. Warming up for this race was crucial and having the parking lot areas nearby to warm up in was awesome. For more information about the expo please see my review of the 5K. The race started promptly at 8:00am.

The course did a quick loop around the block before heading to the Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge like the 5K and 10K. After crossing the bridge the course differed from the 10K and took us through a residential area down West Lehigh Street. Once we hit the third mile is when the course started to get pretty hilly. The climb lasted until just after mile 9, there were several flat sections between the hills but not many downhill just yet. We passed by Moravian College on our way to Monocacy Park. Throughout this part of the course there were residential areas, rural areas lined with trees, and businesses. Once we hit mile 9 the course took us back in the direction of the Fahy Bridge with a long decent down Center Street and Main Street. Once you hit the bridge it is all familiar territory as you head down Columbia Street towards Sands Casino for the final Mile.

The course was more difficult than I imagined with all the hills however I felt that the flat sections after the climbs offered a nice reprieve to catch your breath. To reiterate, though from miles 3-9 you are mostly running uphill it isn’t all in one straight shot. There were many breaks to keep you motivated.

The course had many aid stations stocked with water and Gatorade, and one aid station with gels. I found that some of the aid stations were hard to spot, ones with few volunteers at them. There were also several unofficial aid stations from residents with snacks and drinks which I thought was very nice of them. Since the course took us through many residential areas there seemed to always be some spectators cheering you on.

After the race they had bagels, bananas, nature valley bars, water bottles, and popcorn.

I did like that there was a special half marathon medal for the grand slam runners that had magnets for the other medals to connect to. It made it more rewarding to see all the medal combined after running all those races back to back.

Whether you’re running this race as a standalone or as part of a multi-distance category I think it was the best race of them all. It really showcased the different parts of the city and still provided a fun challenge.

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(2018)
"10K of your dreams"
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The 10K at the Runner’s World festival was back to back with the 5K. Runners who ran any of the multi-distant categories had only about 45 minutes after the 5K before racing again. Since I ran the Grand Slam I ran both races. See my previous review on the 5K for more detail about the expo, parking, and accessibility. This race started promptly at 9:30am.

The 10K course started at the Bethlehem Steel complex and followed the same route as the 5K to the Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge. Knowing about the uphill climb of the bridge from the 5K was a plus. After we crossed the bridge we went left and made our way to Conestoga Street which runs along Monocacy Creek. I found this to be the best park of the race due to the scenery. After that is when the course gets a bit more challenging. It’s just after mile 2 at this point and then next 1.5 miles was pretty much all an uphill climb. The course cuts down a few different streets during the climb which if you weren’t prepared for the climb could be disheartening. However at mile 3.5 you get to enjoy 1.5 miles of downhill as you make your way back to the Fahy Bridge. The final miles follow the same course as the 5K, down Columbia Street and past Sands Casino. Again, knowing about the small climb toward the casino was key so you could reserve some energy for the climb.

After the race they had bottled water, bananas, pretzels, and nature valley bars.

My overall thoughts are that this is a fun race with more challenges than the 5K, and better scenery as well. You get to run through more of the city and see more of the sights and you get a decent amount of downhill time as well. The aid stations were stocked with water and Gatorade and spaced out perfectly across the course. Whether you’re running this race by itself or as part of a multi-distance category I think it’s must run race.

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(2018)
"5K to Start the day"
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The Runner’s World 5K was just the start of the race weekend for me. The start and finish of the race are at the former Bethlehem Steel complex. I found this location to be very ideal to host the race for a few reasons. There were several places with real bathrooms to use, as well as portas. Along either side of the start line there are two big parking lots which were great to get in a warm up jog. Also on that note, parking was very easy to find and use. There was one lot right next to the event, however it gets blocked in during the race, since the course passes right in front of it. As long as you didn’t mind hanging out after the race, this is the best place to park in my opinion. There was another parking lot just a block away with a shuttle running to and from it as well.

The race expo was held at ArtQuest which is right at the event site and easy to access all weekend. Not as many vendors as I expected for such a popular race however they vendors they had were great, Aftershokz, Balega, and The Vitamin Shoppe to name a few.

There was a bit of a delay in starting the race due to a last minute check of the course, to make sure that it was fully blocked off and safe for use to run on. I appreciated that and didn’t mind the delayed start. Originally there was an 8:00am start time and we started at 8:10am, still not bad.

Even for a 5K the race seemed very fast. We made our way to the Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge which was the main part of this race. The course takes you up the ramp of the bridge and across which is a steeper hill than you would imagine. Once across the bridge we did a quick loop around the Bethlehem Public Library. On the backside of the library was an aid station with water only. Then it’s all downhill from there – to the front of the library and back across the bridge. At the bottom the course follows Columbia Street down to the other end of the steel complex. There is one minor hill – up and down – by Sand Casino, then you get to the final turn and have a nice straight flat finish toward ArtsQuest.

After the race there was water, pretzels, banana, and Nature Valley bars to snack on.

My overall thoughts are that it is an ideal 5K for a beginner or seasoned runner. The course isn’t very technical but still provides some challenge.

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(2018)
"Fun Trail Race"
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Friday was the 3.8 mile Trail Run. The race was held in the afternoon which was different but fun. They shuttled us to the trail start from the race expo, which I thought was a great idea. I didn’t have to look up direction to the trail start and drive there, this also kept the parking lot pretty empty so we had room to stretch before the race.

Before the race started they had a few speakers from Altra who gave us tips about trail running in general and about this course. I thought this was really cool because for some runners this would be their first trail race, and running on the trails is a lot different than a road race.

I had a little insider knowledge about the trail and was told that the trail shrinks down to a single lane so we got up to the front of the pack before the race started so we wouldn’t get stuck farther back than we wanted.

The trail itself was clearly marked and well-traveled. There were the typical obstacles you would expect on a trail: loose rocks, roots, dirt and leaves which all added to the fun. There was a good balance of up and down hills and in most places plenty of room to pass runner if you needed. The downhill finish was very fun.

There was pizza, popcorn, and bottled water after the race.

100% recommend this fun trail race!

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(2016)
"Best race to date."
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This was my first time running any of the big six marathons, boy was this little Maui boy in for an eye opening experience. I feel like this race was so great that I will forever be let down when I run other races.

Expo: This was by far one of the biggest expos that I've been to save Honolulu. It was so well organized, which is had to be with so many runners. We got an email with our bib number and a QR code, which was even Apple Passbook capable. So when I got to the first station I scanned my code from my phone that checked me in a gave me a station number. At my station my name and bib number were already in cue making it easy for them to give me my bib. Next we walked all the way through the expo to the end where our swag bags and finisher shirts were. They scanned our code again and made sure we got the correct shirt. Then there were all the different vendors including but not limited to Nike, Fleet Feet, Aftershokz, Nuun, and so so many more! Tons and tons of swag in the bags for us!

Race morning: Getting to the race start was pretty overwhelming. I have to enter through a specific gate in order to get to my corral. Then go through a security checkpoint where they check your bags, and then still another checkpoint at the gates to my corral to make sure I had the matching letter on my bib. The MC did a great job keeping the crowd moving and entertained as we made our way up to the start. The race started on time and was very prompt form corral to corral.

Race: It's really difficult to recall all the different roads and neighborhoods that we went through for me not being a Chicago native. You can get a more detailed and specific description of the course on their website. The things that stuck out the most for me were how flat the course. The only real hills were going up over bridges or under an underpass, except for in the final .2 miles there is on pretty steep hill. I thought that it wasn't terrible because the crowd was raging loud enough to push you up the hill. The course went all around that city so there were parks with beautiful fall colored trees, residential areas, and through big cityscapes. Absolutely breathtaking!

Aid Stations: each aid station was about a block long. They don't mess around here! The first half was all Gatorade and the second half was water. There was an aid station that had Power Gels in many different flavors that they passed out, some with caffeine and some without. Then towards the ladder end of the race there were three different aid stations with bananas.

Parking/Access: it was a very accessible race location. I didn't have a car so I cannot say how the parking was like but the buses, trains, and taxis made it very easy to go to and from the race. I will note because this is probably one of the biggest faults of the race is that to leave the finisher chute you have to walk down a flights of stairs. I'm sure everyone complains about this, I didn't find them terrible at all. I mainly just wanted to mention so they future runners would know to expect that.

An extra fun fact is that there were Nike Run Club pacers who were perfectly on time! Something to keep in mind is that if you need someone to run with then they will be there for you. I think this is one of the best races I have ever done so I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to have a fun Marathon!

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