Latest reviews by This Old Runner ~~
After a year of cancelled in-person races, every runner I know was looking for some extra holiday cheer. I found mine by training for and running the Elf Virtual Run hosted by Ram Races.
Runners were encouraged to post on social media with #RunWithBuddy. It was a nice way to connect everyone so we could see how other runners embraced the theme. There were many creative runners!
The race SWAG was based on the holiday movie, ELF. Every participant received a red full-zip hoodie, green beanie, and race bib with the ELF movie logo on it. The finisher's medal was shaped like a snow-globe and matched the theme. Everything was top quality. I'll wear the hoodie and beanie a lot.
Ram Racing did an excellent job of communicating with regular emails. Runners could download a training plan, and enter a contest to win energy gels. The race had it's own Instagram account that provided encouragement, info and updates.
Runners could register in November, then run anytime (and anywhere) up until January 31, 2021. There was a 5K or 10K choice for distance. You could upload your results to see how you compared to other participants. Registration stayed open so people could join anytime in December.
As soon as I registered, I started channeling Buddy the Elf. I added an Elf-themed face mask and Caramel Candy flavored energy gels to my workouts. I wore my Ugly Sweater sunnies and holiday socks. I even created an Elf Race Scavenger Hunt.
It was fun to run around my city wearing holiday gear. It was a nice distraction during a holiday season when we didn't travel or see extended family and friends due to Covid-19. It was helpful to focus on a themed race.
I love in-person events, but this year the virtual aspect of this race was excellent. I could share the race with friends and family who live far away. I didn't worry about safety precautions beyond my own mask and route. I ran when and where I wanted. I could safely share the experience.
It felt really good to have a reason to run more miles during a season filled with extra carb-loading!
I'd recommend this race to anyone who wants to stay active and enjoy the holidays + score awesome SWAG. You can read more about my race and scavenger hunt at ThisOldRunner.com.
The 2021 Allstate Hot Chocolate Virtual Races have a flat rate of $40. It's the same price if you run a 15K or 5K. That's a GREAT VALUE when you consider everything you get. (Keep reading!)
If you register a couple of weeks before the race, they'll mail your swag to you before race day. It includes a REAL race bib and your finisher's medal, so it's nice to have it early.
My SWAG bag arrived 6 days before my race. Perfect! Check out the contents:
• Super Soft Full-zip Jacket with a Removable Hood and Roomy Pockets
• A REAL Race Bib and Safety Pins
• 2 Packets of #HC15K Hot Chocolate (it's delicious!)
• Dark Chocolate Squares
• Race Sponsor Samples (i.e., Nuun)
• Finishers Medal with Chocolate Inside
The Allstate Hot Chocolate team interacted with runners online to encourage them to keep training. They encouraged everyone to post to social media with the race hashtags. That was a fun way to engage in a virtual race community. (All Hot Chocolate racers can interact on social using #HotChocolate5k and #HC15k.)
There was great communication throughout the training period. There's even a free plan you can download from the website.
Most virtual races have a way for participants to submit their results to see how they compare to the competition.The Hot Chocolate site makes it easy to upload your race results through your race account.
I completed my Hot Chocolate 15K Louisville in one of my favorite local parks instead of downtown Louisville. Yes, I'd love to see the sights and sounds of Louisville during a race, but I had a wonderful time taking in the views on my trail.
While no one will ever mistake a virtual race for a real one, there are plenty of benefits. That's never been truer than during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need a reason to go outside — or if competition, deadlines, and swag motivate you — a virtual Hot Chocolate race is the answer. They have races all across the US.
Until we're able to race safely in person, virtual races offer a fun experience that keeps people engaged and active. Add in some chocolate, a great medal and a jacket, and that's a win-win for me!
#HCLouisBr #HCVirtualBR #VirtualHotChocolate
One of the UPSIDES to this crazy year is all the virtual race options. I kinda love them because you can run races that were beyond reach in a normal year.
That's why I was all in for the VIRTUAL Air Force Marathon's Fly! Fight! Win! Challenge. My challenge included running a 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon.
Runners could run their race anytime in September. I chose to run all three races on the original race weekend. I wanted to challenge myself and create a real race weekend vibe.
I picked 3 different race routes to keep it interesting. The weather cooperated, and I ran my races as planned. A BIG advantage to virtual races is you can adjust if weather (or life) interferes with your plans.
I took lots of photos and posted my races on social media for accountability and to share the experience with my friends and followers.
It was impressive how interactive the Air Force Marathon social accounts were. They were encouraging throughout my training, and gave enthusiastic congrats when I finished. That was fun. Seeing other people post about their races online made it feel like a community of runners.
Race management for this virtual event was great. There were newsletters, reminders, and updates. I had all the information I needed. Photos of swag and medals were posted online. They'll mail to finishers at the beginning of October. I earned a shirt, quarter zip jacket, and 4 medals for completing the challenge.
The 2020 medals feature the HH-60G PAVE HAWK helicopter. The challenge medal has moving helicopter blades! (See photo)
This was one of the best virtual races I've run. Management was attentive and interactive. There was a Facebook live stream on race morning. The race expo was online and open to the public. Runners could print their race bib and a finisher's certificate.
I hope to run the Air Force Marathon in person sometime. Until then, I'm very happy with my virtual run experience!
#FlyAFM #AirForceMarathon #FlyFightWinChallenge #AFMara
The Pittsburgh Marathon offers runners lots of choices. Full, Half, Relay, and 5K events. The 5K, Toddler Run, and Pet Walk are on Saturday, the Half and Full are on Sunday. The Steel Challenge gets you an extra shirt and medal: run the 5K on Saturday, plus one of the Sunday races.
RACE EXPO and PACKET PICKUP
The expo was at the Pittsburgh Convention Center downtown. Hours were 11 am to 8 pm on Friday; 9 am to 6 pm on Saturday. You looked up your bib number, got your bib, bag, and shirt. Signs were clear and there were plenty of people around to help.
We tried to hit the expo on Friday morning. Parking was tight since city workers and everyone running on Saturday were already parking in town. You could park and walk in to the expo but we didn't have time before a lunch date. We returned early on Saturday morning. Parking was easy, and the expo wasn't crowded. We were in and out in under an hour.
It was a big city expo with samples, vendors, fuel, shoes, and race gear. If you forgot anything you could find it at the expo. Brooks had a black and gold Pittsburgh edition shoe which looked sweet. Price was right, too. More details and photos at ThisOldRunner.com
I love the way the corrals worked. It was organized and easy. You could find all the info you needed about everything online or in emails. There is an app by P3R that sent notifications on race weekend. I appreciated messages like "Expo is Open" and "Head to Your Corral."
The starting line was organized and moved at a good pace. We opted for the last corral and ran a low pressure, back of the pack race. We started about half an hour after the first wave.
The course for the half was scenic and fun despite the cloudy, wet day. It was great to see the city on foot. The half had rolling hills — nothing too terrible. I did a lot of hill repeats to train for this race, so either they paid off or the marathon had more challenging hills.
Aid stations were about every 2 miles. There was NUUN and water at every station. Plenty of hydration for everyone. On course med tents and EMS and police were plentiful. If you had trouble on course there were plenty of professionals around to help.
SPECTATORS and ENTERTAINMENT
There were pockets of people cheering on the runners. It was a rainy morning, but there were lots of spectators. There were bands playing along the course, people dressed in costumes, and groups of people offering encouraging words.
OMG, I love, love, love the way this race ends. There are a couple of turns before you end up back on Liberty Avenue. Since there's a marathon there were still plenty of people lining the street and cheering when half marathoners finished. The tall buildings create an echo chamber. It was thrilling to run to the finish with loud cheers on both sides.
FINISHER CHUTE and FAMILY MEET UP
After crossing the finish you receive a medal, water bottles, banana, bagels, fruit cup, EatnPark Smiley cookies, salty snacks, and a heat sheet. There may have been other things I missed. Point is, there was plenty of post race food.
The chute funneled racers towards Point State Park where you could meet up with friends/family. Take a quick right for the porta potties and gear check. BTW, the full marathon's named sponsor is FedEx. Gear check was in FedEx Trucks parked along Liberty Avenue.
Marathoners received a free beer; $5 for everyone else. The beer tent was a couple of blocks away from Point State Park.
Inside the park were more vendors, free samples, an official merchandise tent, challenge medal pickup, etc. The rain was on and off all morning, so we joined the group huddled under the arch to visit with family. When the skies cleared we made our way back to the ice arena where we parked for free.
The race medal is nice -- shows the city reflected in the river, plus highlights the three rivers. The race shirt is black tech long sleeve. It was nice to throw it on after the race. In the swag bag there were some $10 coupons for Dick's Sporting Goods and GNC, plus Honey Stinger Waffle + coupon, NuGo Bar and info on getting your medal engraved.
People in Pittsburgh are always friendly and fun, and so was their race!
Photos and more info here: www.thisoldrunner.com/2019-pittsburgh-half-marathon-review.html
Can a spectator review a race? Yes, yes they can when it's as awesome as Rugged Maniac in Dade City, Florida! I didn't run since I had a half marathon soon, but I enjoyed watching and cheering for all the muddy runners.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The race was held at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City, FL. It's a beautiful rural area about an hour north of Tampa. The obstacles were positioned on a 5K course that wound through open fields, sloping hills, and oak groves. Spectators could watch from a multi-level viewing stand, or walk out to some of the obstacles.
The course and festival layout were excellent. Start and Finish line, festival, bag check, check in, shower area, and port-a-potties were all conveniently located.
CHECK IN and BAG CHECK
Check in tents opened at 8 am. Runners were encourage to arrive an hour and a half before their start time. Free bag check was available near the starting line.
Since the DJ was playing music and the festival was set up early, there was plenty to see and do before racing. (Bull riding, corn hole, food, vendors, merch tent, walk around the ranch, etc.)
Runners took the course in waves of 200 people. The elite wave was at 9 am. They were the only officially timed wave eligible for awards.
Everyone else self reported based on their watch or the clock at the finish line. The waves of runners kept the event moving at a good pace. No traffic jams at the obstacles, and a constant flow of racers to watch.
There were two water stations on course, plus water, bananas and oranges at the finish line.
The festival area had games, free samples, music, bull riding, food and drinks. Racers receive one free beer. The DJ kept everyone entertained with a steady stream of activities and contests. Stein-hoisting, pull ups, and pie-eating contests happened throughout the day.
Food and beverages were for sale using a ticket system. You had to purchase a block of $10 tickets.
POST RACE CLEAN UP
There was a shower area and changing tents across from the festival area. Hoses on scaffolding create the showers. There were large garbage cans filled with water for deep dunking. Runners could donate their wet, muddy shoes to a charity that cleans and donates the shoes.
The weather was perfect: 72 degrees and low humidity with lots of sunshine. It was easy for runners to warm up after the race.
Parking was $10 per car. $15 for a van. Cash only. Everyone parked in an open field, then waked about a quarter mile to the starting area. It was a pleasant walk with views of the race.
Every racer received a tech shirt, finisher medal, free photos, and one free beer if old enough to drink. The photos were online by Thursday after the race.
FIRST TIME OCR?
Everyone I spoke to said Rugged Maniac is the best choice for first-time obstacle course racers. From what I saw, I'd agree.
The obstacles were challenging, but not impossible. You could walk around anything that was too difficult. Some obstacles offered alternatives like a ladder instead of an incline.
Overall, I think anyone who trained for it could complete the race. I saw runners of all ages, shapes, and sizes on the course. And they were all smiling!
Like any race, register early for the best price. Early bird pricing for next year opens right after the race and lasts for several months. There is a $10 discount for military and students.
CHECK OUT MY PHOTOS
See tons of photos from this awesome event here: http://www.thisoldrunner.com/2019-rugged-maniac-dade-city.html