Latest reviews by Jeph Maags

(2017)
"Toledo is FAST"
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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The slogan for this race is run faster in Toledo, and it's true. There is one or two hills, but they are not very big or steep, so if you are looking for a PR or BQ (obviously not in the half), this is a great race to try. It's flat, so it's not fast in the sense that it's downhill, but it's a fair test for any runner that doesn't really want to tackle a lot of hills.

Pre Race
I didn't hit up the expo, so I can't tell you anything about it. The one thing I kept hearing about the race is that traffic can be a nightmare the morning of, so pay close attention to the road closure warnings. Feel free to reach out to the race on social media and ask for parking recommendations. They provide a map, but they can also let you know what's going to be easiest. I parked in lot 25 and had zero issues with traffic by coming to the campus from the north on the west side.
My only issue with this race was bag drop. When I went to leave my stuff at bag drop, I was cutting it close, so there wasn't much time. Bag drop was not located where they said it would be, so I ran up and down the street until I found it. They reached out to me on social media saying that they will ensure the location and instructions online line up next year.

In Race
Because of the bag drop issue, I got started 3 minutes late, which meant I had to weave through a lot of people. It did give me a chance to see the sheer size of the race. There are a ton of people running this race which is always fun. It's not crazy, just bigger than I expected. The course weaves through the UofT campus and then into residential areas. These neighborhoods are more well to do and bigger homes, so it's a really scenic run even though you're in the city the whole time.
April weather can be hit or miss. Our day was absolutely perfect. It was a sunny day, but much of the course is run in a shaded area, so it's not beaming down on you the entire time. I would say more than 10 miles were in the shade. I would guess that this would also offer protection from the elements if it was a bit of a messier day.

Post Race
Getting to cross the finish line on the 50 yard line in the football stadium is so cool. There's plenty of room to meet up with friends and cheer on the finishers. After you exit the stadium, there is a big finishers area with post run food including pizza and you can cash in on the 2 beer tickets that come with your bib. I was done around 8:30am (7am start) so not really a big beer drinking time for me, but it's there. Also loved the band that was playing post race. They were a lot of fun.

SWAG
I loved the shirt I got, simple and not too many ads, so I'll wear it a lot. In addition to the shirt, you get a glass mug as you exit the stadium which is a cool personal touch to Glass City. I must say, the medals are HUGE!! They're in the shape of Ohio, but they look really cool and if you do the marathon, you won't believe the size!

I wasn't fully tapered for this race and still came within 17 seconds of my PR. I have multiple friends that PR'd and I believe close to 30% of marathoners BQ'd, so if you're looking to hit some goals, I highly recommend this race!

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(2017)
"Rock Your PR"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Rock CF is a great event. It takes place at the end of March which can be a nice warm up for spring marathons, which exactly what I used it for. The course winds around the perimeter of the island which makes it pretty scenic along the water. It is also pretty much completely flat. There was less than a handful of gentle inclines, but nothing really worth mentioning. Late march is not the most beautiful time in Michigan as things aren't really budding yet, but the water adds a cool element. The down side to that is that if it's a windy coolish day, you're going to feel that wind coming off the water, so dress warmer than you expect, you can always throw things off.
There isn't ton of crowd support, as it's a smaller race, but for being a smaller residential island, I was impressed with the amount of people who do come out. At one point in the race you get to run through an airport hanger, which I have heard typically has a bunch of people in it to cheer you on, however that wasn't the case this year. But being towards the end of the race, I could see how that would be a good boost to the finish.
Parking is pretty easy. You can park at the middle school and walk over easily enough. If you arrive a little later there are free shuttles over to the airport where there's lots more parking, but I would try the school first. Check in is inside the school gym which is a great place to keep warm before the race begins as, the start line is just outside.
After the race, the gym is filled with bagels and the famous Rock CF cookies that help after a race. There was even a massage station which I always take advantage of. It's free to get a quick massage and it really helped.
For those interested in shirts and medals, Rock CF have some pretty sweet ones. Probably the coolest shirt that I've ever received at a race and the medal was a heavy guitar pic which was really sweet. If you live in the Detroit area, or just across the border in Canada, I highly recommend this race that goes to a great cause.

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(2016)
"You get a BQ, You Get a BQ, Everyone get's a BQ!!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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Known for being Canada's fastest marathon, this really lives up to it's name. I was looking for a fast race, so I signed up. There's about 7km (4 miles) of running downhill on the half and full marathon courses. The rest is flat, so get ready for a PR.
EXPO:
Set up in tents, it's an outdoor expo. There wasn't a ton there so I didn't stay long. When I went to pick up my shirt, it was nice they had long sleeves, but they didn't have my size. There seemed to be an abundance of XL and S. I feel like that could be better organized. Parking was super easy though for both the expo and the race, all in the same location. For the full and half marathon, you got shuttled to the start and your bags were brought back to the finish which is where you parked. Super easy, super convenient.
RACE:
There is some space to hangout indoors before the race which is nice in November. However, it was a perfect day this year, so we lucked out. The race is not very scenic, nor are there a lot of spectators. For the first half of the race, you are pretty much in farm land. for about 3 of the first 10k, you run along Ridge Road which overlooks Hamilton, Lake Ontario and you can see Toronto floating in the distance. It was pretty amazing, but that's about it for the first half. The second half you are on a closed section of highway for the first part of it which again, isn't the greatest view. About 10 of the last 14k are along Lake Ontario which becomes a nice view with tons of spectators. However, the last 10k of a marathon you're not too interested in the view.
Aid stations were every 3k or so and offered Nuun and water. It was supposed to be water first, Nuun second but a lot were mixed and some volunteers didn't speak up to what they had. I was constantly asking as I approached. Also, when the amount of spectators increased, there was a lot more people crossing the route or just walking along it as if there wasn't a race happening, which was kinda weird.
Although the first half had a lack of scenery, it almost felt like an uneventful long run which helped take my mind off the fact that I was racing. It took away the pressure and made it more enjoyable. The other runners were great and for the first time ever, I actually chatted with runners throughout a chunk of it. I wouldn't have expected less spectators and boring views to help, but I think they really did.
OVERALL:
The course is fast. It was my 2nd marathon in 6 weeks, and ever. I beat my first time by 22 minutes and got a BQ. The medal is pretty awesome and free massages are available. That's worth the price right there. Great post race festivities and a fun finish line.
Definitely somethings they could improve on, but if you're looking for a BQ or PR, I'd highly recommend this race!

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(2016)
"Great day for a PR"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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Thumb img 5851 1

The Event:
I found this race because our family was vacationing nearby. I had never been to the area before, but what a cool place for a race. The Steel Stacks in Bethlehem are an amazing expo venue and there was a great festive vibe around the whole weekend. Parking was a breeze and it was easy to get around. I have yet to find a picture that really does the venue justice, but it was awesome.
Expo:
When you walk in, there's lots going on which is a cool atmosphere. However, the package pick up was up a few levels and the signage wasn't the greatest, so it took some finding. Upstairs, the expo was really cramped, but easy to navigate. I didn't even pull out my shirt until after the weekend, but was pleasantly surprised to find a full long sleeve which I love for fall running! Loved it.
Race:
My goal was to set a 10k PR. Looking at the course map, I knew it would be a challenge. The elevation map showed there were plenty of hills on the front half. However, I couldn't find an elevation map with numbers on it, so I didn't know how big they were. It's nice to face the hills when you're feeling fresh, so that back half isn't as rough. I managed a significant negative split between the front and back due to the differences in elevation.
You get to run through Bethlehem which was a pretty scenic place. I loved the atmosphere and it was cool to see the people who came out to watch the 10k. The race was not too crowded and I had plenty of space to run the entire time. Every part of the race had a cool view to it, which made for an enjoyable experience. The home stretch is lined with people for a good distance making a really fun finish line.
Overall:
It was a ton of fun. I felt like bag check could use a bit more security, and the medals were a little smaller than I would have hoped for. However, that being said, those are really minor things. If you're looking for a fun event surrounding the race, or a gorgeous course that's lots of fun, can't go wrong with this event and I plan to be back next year!

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(2016)
"Montreal Marathon Shows the Best Montreal Has to Offer"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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This is the second year in a row I've participated in this event. Last year the half, this year the full marathon. It's a beautiful course with an amazing bridge start before you wind your way through the city. Absolutely love the scenery. Few things about this experience.
Pre race:
I had a friend that waited over an hour to get her bib. It's a big race so this is to be expected, especially if you go first thing. Both years, I went to the expo Saturday afternoon and there's no wait. That being said, once you make your way into the vendors area, it's so full and crowded. They need to make more space. Not any fun or worth my time sticking around. Can't imagine what it's like when it's super busy. Picked up my race kit and loved the shirt. Thought it was so much better than last year. Good job!
Race Day:
I love that they give you a pass for the subway for the day. It gets a little crowded funnelling into the cars, but better than looking and paying for parking. This is a perfect time of year for a race in Montreal. Temperatures have dropped but not too cold. Found there to be plenty of aid stations with tons of volunteers, even after we left the half marathoners behind. I can't explain how many spectators there are too. So many people lined the streets and are yelling and cheering. So much fun and helps to encourage you along the way.
Post Race: Such a festive atmosphere and the concert was great. Also cool to get a finisher's jacket this year. The medal is cool, but seems a bit small for the marathon compared to other races I've seen. I like the way it looks, but doesn't seem to have much to do with Montreal, more rock n roll. Would be cool to have a local theme to it like some other Rock N Roll races. My only post race beef though is the bag check. When you finish a marathon, you don't want to have to walk more than a kilometer to find your bag. Then when you get to your bag, have the volunteers acting completely clueless as to what's going on. It would be great if the bags could be closer.
All in all, there was no let down coming back to do this a second year. If anything, it was better. Love the race, the organization, the scenery and the atmosphere. It's a challenging course, bit more hills than most, but not too bad. If you're looking for a great destination race in a unique city, I highly recommend this race.

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