Latest reviews by Matt
The Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in Columbus, OH was held on Sunday, November 5, 2017. This was a week earlier than the race last year, which turned out great as the weather was overcast and 60 degrees at race start.
Registration for the Hot Chocolate Series, put on by RAM Racing, opens up early in the year. The prices for the 15k/5k are relatively inexpensive compared to other races. Early registration starts off at $69 and increases to $79 closer to race day. During registration you can also make a donation to The Make A Wish Foundation, which is the race partner charity. Not a better charity out there to support and hats off to the partnership between the race organizers and charity. Additionally you have the option of paying extra to have your race packet including (bib & race swag) to your home address.
Once you are registered you receive weekly emails from the race that includes any new race information, and what I found pretty cool a race training plan. Go from couch to 15k runner in no time. Joking aside a great addition for those runners who may not have a trainer and are just beginning to run. I did not take advantage of the training plan, however did take an in depth look at it.
The festivities kickoff at the two day race Expo, which was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. There were about 20-30 vendors offering race gear, local races and charities that you could purchase gear from and visit. Due to my travel week I was unable to make it to the Expo, so took full advantage of having my race packet shipped to my house.
From what I heard from participants at the race that did have the opportunity to visit the Expo, their opinions were positive on packet pick-up, the vendors and overall atmosphere. They did also mention there was CHOCOLATE to be consumed, which if you haven't heard is a staple/theme of the race.
Note: Due to volume of race participants there was no race day packet pick-up.
I was looking forward to race day during the leading weeks. I felt I had put in the necessary training to hit, if not surpass my goal. The night before the race, my wife asked if I checked the weather?!?!?!?! I am one that tends to not pay to much attention, but decided to look at the forecast called for 70% chance of rain and temperatures in the upper 60's. Wait this is November, right? I was driving in from Akron so the alarm went of early and I made the drive to Columbus. I arrived around 6am and traffic was actually pretty light. Prior to race day, in the weekly email, it was recommended to reserve parking ahead of time, due to the fact that 10,000+ runners would be participating. I did just that, but had a difficult time getting to parking structure I selected based on road closures. Eventually after some back roads navigating I found the parking structure and was pleasantly surprised to find it located right next to the post-race party! I passed through where the post race party would be and found that it was very organized.
I am not one to participate in gear check, but definitely made sure I checked it out and needless to say there were several volunteers checking in bags and areas were separated by bib number. Easy in and easy out. In that area you could find information and volunteers assisting racers with navigation questions, additional safety pins.
Off to the start line which was a 500meter walk from the post race after party. With the number of runners participating, each runner had a corral letter on your bib. There were plenty of restrooms available near the start line, and I did not see any lines. I made my way into the corral at 7:00am for the 7:30am start. The race director was engaging with participants and right before the National Anthem a few children from the Make a Wish Foundation told the crowd their stories and how the Make-A-Wish Foundation made their wishes come true. Pretty touching and even more of a reason to run this race. The National Anthem was sung and the race started.
Each Corral was spaced out to not congest the streets of Columbus, so I made my way out from the starting gates. It was getting a little warm at the time, but with the overcast it wasn't too bad. I positioned myself in between the 7:00 min and 7:30 min pacer.
The beginning of the race was through the streets of Columbus, where I expected to see more spectators than were out. I blamed that on the weather, however there still were cheers to be heard. The course is pretty flat with only 230 ft of elevation gain from start to finish. Although for me it felt that elevation change was more drawn out than sudden. Downtown Columbus was just that, big buildings, not to much to see. Around mile 4 you headed onto the campus of Ohio State where you passed the basketball arena and headed over the Olentangy River. This is where the spectators diminished to few if any and the course became peaceful. At mile 7 you headed through a residential area and back towards the finish line. The crowd presence was much greater here providing that extra jolt of energy to cruise to the finish line. There was a race announcer calling out names of each finisher, but I was to focused on hitting my PR to hear my name called. After you finished you were handed your finisher medal, nuun drink, a bottle of water and had the opportunity to take a picture. There were no food items immediately past the finish line.
I felt the aid stations needed a section of their own in this review. This race isn't called America's Sweetest Race for nothing. As you approached the aid stations I was expecting water or Nuun to be the first cup, however at the first station I grabbed a cup only to find M&M's. What chocolate at an aid station? LOL, well I took that cup and moved on to water and my favorite beverage Nuun! There were plenty of volunteers staffing each station and more than enough beverages to be passed out. Each aid stations had a different snack.
The post race party was by far the best that I have been to. It was held very close to the finish line where you would find your Chocolate!!! Each participant received a cup of hot chocolate, marshmallows, pretzels, banana and chocolate fondue to dip your food into. Talk about a race having 500 gallons of hot chocolate and over 1200lbs of chocolate fondue. Yummy! There was music playing, several selfie opportunities with inflatable marshmallows. What I also found pretty awesome was the Make-A-Wish Foundation where you could have your bib scanned and donate $10 to make wishes come true. I definitely took advantage of that. All in all outside of real food being offered I enjoyed the chocolate.
The swag is by far the best I've received from a race. The 1/4" pullover colors for both the men and women participants is great. (Blue - for Men, Purple - for women). The medal for the race is modeled after a huge chocolate bar. This year the race added a key chain for each city as an extra. Pretty cool if you ask me.
All in all this was my first Hot Chocolate 15k and I wouldn't be surprised if you see me at another in the future. The race communication was excellent, the post race party SWEET, no pun intended and the swag fantastic.
Do yourself and register for a Hot Chocolate 15k/5k!!!
Have you ever wanted to run across International borders during a race? Well the Detroit Free Press Marathon cross the border not once, but twice. Did I mention that one of those border crossings just happens to be through a tunnel under the Detroit River?
This year the 40th running of the Detroit Free Press took place on Sunday, October 15th, 2017 at 7:00am. More than 26,000 runners would be participating in the International Marathon, the Marathon Relay, International Half-Marathon, and the US Only Half-Marathon. Wow, talk about a showing.
For my race review I will break out each area that I feel runners should know about the race going in. This will allow for a basis to determine whether the race is for them or not.
Pricing & Registration⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Pricing for the Marathon was in line with other marathons that I’ve run in the past. Increases are spaced out over the months from when registration opens up until registration closes. Note that since the marathon crosses the U.S./Canada border, you will need a valid Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (“WHTI”) compliant document such as a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license (“EDL”), trusted traveler program card (NEXUS card) or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident card. All entries are reviewed by government agencies prior to the race and yes you must run with the above during the race. Don’t think of the above as a pain think of it as having celebrity status!
Communication⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: The communication and social engagement by the race crew was awesome. They remained engage starting early on via all social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) answering questions, sneak peaks, and countdown information. This was exceptionally key day before the race when the weather outlook was ominous. Hands down awesome and takes an army to accomplish, yet they are so much smaller.
Expo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: The race expo was held in the Cobo Convention Center in Detroit. The expo opened Friday afternoon and once again on Saturday morning. There was no race day packet pick up due to above mention items. Packet pick up was easy if you followed directions, then again even if you didn’t it was that difficult. The race sent out a link to look up your bib number, which was requested from the volunteers at pick up. If you didn’t heed the warning luckily there was a computer onsite where you could complete this step. Hopefully you remember your WHTI document as it was required. All in all this process was easy. You received a bag with your swag and bib. Vendors were plentifully where you could purchase official race gear and anything running you could think off. Overall the Expo was on par for expos I’ve seen in the best.
Swag⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Who doesn’t like swag? I know I look forward to it. Inside my swag bag was a New Balance long sleeved tech shirt, Bib, bandana with The Free Press logo on, a 26.2 Free Press marathon sticker, and a official race program. The finisher medal for all sweet!!! Cool thing that participants were able to vote on what was featured on the medal. I selected the corvette and was I surprised to see that was part of the final product!
Course⭐️⭐️⭐️: Don’t let the three stars deceive you as that is focused on the difficulty and not scenery or the awesomeness of Detroit. Not a lot of elevation outside of crossing the Ambassador Bridge or coming back through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. I did say you cross the International border twice right? Well the Free Press Marathon is the only race in the world that does this TWICE, along with adding in the fact it is the only underwater mile. Through the race you will run on pavement and occasional brick roads through Indian Village and on to Belle Isle while finishing up the last miles along the Riverwalk. For the most part the roads are in good condition, but you will see a few areas that could be troublesome if you aren’t paying attention. Crowd participation can be found throughout the course, minus a few areas. What was interesting about this course was having to run through the border twice, as border patrol and custom agents were in high numbers checking for bib numbers and anyone carrying excessive liquids through those crossings. If you paid attention to directions traversing through these areas was relatively easy.
Aid Stations⭐️⭐️⭐️: Numerous is all can say. Aid stations could be found every two miles through the first half of the course offering Absopure H2O and Lemon Lime Gatorade. They lined each side of the street and were staffed by awesome volunteers. At times the stations were congested and it was difficult fining your drink of choice. After around midway the aid stations increased to every mile. Cliff shots were offered along the course consisting of Strawberry, Citrus and other flavors. There were other areas where oranges, bananas and other beverages were being handed out by spectators.
After Party⭐️⭐️⭐️: The after party was open for race participants and families. The location was a few blocks away from the finish line where additional food items, beverages, massages and race gear could be found. When you finished the race you were handed your medal, water or Gatorade and a bag of goodies for refueling. A much needed heat sheet was provided to all runners. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the after party due to a stop at the medical tent.
Parking⭐️⭐️⭐️: Several parking options were available in the downtown area. Race communication was sent out to use SpotHero to book your spot ahead of time. This saved time in the long run. Traffic going into Detroit wasn’t too bad, but there is quite a bit off construction downtown. I arrived early and had no issues making it to the start line well ahead of schedule.
Overall I would recommend this race to anyone looking for an October race. Great course, exceptional race volunteers and superb communication. If you want to see Detroit and Windsor all in one day this race is for you.
Heading into the Detroit Free Press Marathon to say I was excited would be an understatement. Growing up in Michigan for a good part of my life and going to college in downtown Detroit made this one special for me. Add running this as a BibRave Ambassador felt like having my cake and eating it too! Going into the race I was targeting a goal time or PR based on my overall preparation. I ran into injuries and a new job that impacted my training. This race was all for fun!
About two weeks prior to race weekend all the BibRave Pros received an email from the race team offering a “Behind the scene” VIP tour. Talk about sweet!!! So I headed up to the D on Saturday morning to arrive just prior to meeting up for the tour. I arrived at Cobo and found a parking spot, where we received a discount from the $15 parking fee. The Expo was hopping with excitement. Always great to see on race weekend. I picked up my packet without issues and met up with fellow BibRave Pros (Dane, Angie, Nicole, Josh and Jeph). Shortly thereafter Leah from the Free Press Marathon Crew directed us to where everyone, including the Free Press Marathon Ambassadors, was meeting up. We were handed an extra swag bag and off we went on the tour. We got to see where volunteers packed all the swag bags then headed outside to the start and finish line. Along the way we passed several cadets that volunteered packing up all the food finished bags. Talk about taking their jobs seriously while having fun doing it. The start and finish lines were being constructed which allowed for several photo opportunities and behind the ropes areas most are not privy too. To end the tour we headed up to marathon headquarters and to where all the pre race magic happens. Cool stuff and really appreciated the open arms during the tour!
Next day I woke up to rain and severe wind. Weather reports were calling for 70 degree temperatures and 30 mph wind gusts at race start with possible thunderstorms shortly thereafter. I headed up to the race hoping for the best and met up with the BibRave Crew once again. We said our good lucks, snapped a few pictures and looked for the numerous port-a-potties! Lines were long as usual on race morning. Entrance to the corrals was a bit difficult as you entered from the sides. Each bib had a corral letter, but I didn’t see anyone checking at the corrals. We piled in and the Canadian & American Anthems were sung and it was race times! Each wave were separated by 2 minutes to prevent on congestion during those early miles and ultimately to allow for bridge crossing. I felt great in those early miles, although the humidity was getting to me. At mile 3 we entered the first border crossing and throngs of border/custom agents we large weapons. As mentioned earlier communication was sent out that your bib should be placed chest high, for easy identification by the agents. I saw one guy with his bib on his back get stopped. Sorry for him. Crossing the Ambassador Bridge was amazing as the sun was rising. As soon as I got over the bridge I needed to stop for a bathroom break. Always happens!!! Needless to say I was in and out and back out on the course without losing any time. I was keeping my goal pace of 8:30/Mile all the way through Windsor. Around mile 7 we headed out of Windsor and into the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. I think this is where my race went downhill, literally. The tunnel headed downward and I didn’t pay attention and picked my pace up well under the 7:00 min mark. The tunnel was very HOT and very HUMID without much air circulation. I tried to slow down, but felt the calve muscles taking a beating and that uphill climb around mile 8.5 was tough. Lone behold I kept pushing and got back on pace, but to no avail it was a struggle for the remainder of the race. Coming out of the tunnel runners were met with crowd support that reminded me of the parade after the Red Wings won their last Stanley Cup!!! That was just awesome!!! Talk about a brief uplift of energy! After we headed out of the city into Corktown staying focused was difficult. I continued on to the next mile marker I was looking forward to, 11. My sister, who is an accomplished marathon and ultra runner was waiting with oranges for me there. I came running into Mile 11, where she said I was doing great and I went on my way. Always feels good to know people are waiting to cheer you on, even if it is for a few minutes. Runners headed back into the city where half marathoners split off and marathoners headed back out of the city towards Indian Village and Belle Isle. I spent several of the next miles fighting calve cramps and being winded. Luckily for technology and FaceTime, my wife and daughter willed me to fight and continue on. I can’t thank those two enough for pushing me along. At this point from miles 14-18 my pace had dropped down to around 13mins. It was a steady dose of running 3/4 of a mile waking 1/4 of a mile intermingled with stretching. Indian Village was filled with spectators passing out adult beverages, bands playing music and the numerous high fives! Aid stations were key to my survival and it was great to see the various Wayne State University athletic teams volunteering! Well done from my alma mater. At this point of the race runners were faced with drastic weather changes from humidity, to sunshine and WIND! The wind during the race made me know what it’s like to try and run with a 30lb weight tied to your back. Little did I know the wind and weather would get worse on Belle Isle. For those of you that don’t know, Belle Isle is an island that sits out on the Detroit River. We crossed the bridge at mile 20ish and that is when the rain started. This was an area where there wasn’t much crowd support outside of the aid stations. It was scenic and took me back to my college days. Thankfully I persevered and made it off the Isle where I passed BibRave pro Angie entering. The home stretch was in sight and winding back and forth along the Riverwalk. Around mile 24 several motorized bikes came up from my rear saying move to the right. At this point I was like what the heck, but forgot that the US only half marathon started at 10am. So while I was struggling I had runners go flying right by me. At this point seeing the city was all I was hoping for. With my daughter in hand and on FaceTime, she pushed me to run it the remainder of the way. Emotions were were draining, the calves were hurting, but talking to my daughter let me see how excited she was. I raised my arms and crossed the finish line under the 5 hour mark. Definitely not my best time and probably won’t be the worse. The Detroit Free Press Marathon humbled me. It made me work. It made me proud I finished!!!
This was my first time running the National Interstate 8k Akron Marathon race installment. I was a last minute entry and felt that the communication provided by Race Management leading up to the event was fantastic. I have run in other races from the Akron Marathon race series so the emails leading up, ultimately had me registering.
The event hosts two different race lengths being the 8k & 1 mile race, which is run in downtown Akron, OH on the campus of Akron University. The start is just outside the InfoCision Stadium, with the finish being on the 50 yard line. The post race party was fabulous and provided various local breweries and root beer. The 8k was a new distance for me and would definitely recommend this race to those in the future.
Expo: There is no expo for this event. Packet pick-up is offered all day the day before the race and once again beginning at 7am on race day.
Swag: Included with your race entry you receive a race t-shirt, pint glass and medal for completing the race. The medal itself can serve as a bottle opener. In addition to your entry you receive three drink tickets to enjoy at the post race party, a banana and Chick-fil-a sandwich! SCORE!
Aid Stations: There were two aid stations on the course and to be honest I didn't even realize them. With the distance being only 5 miles, I ran right past them.
Course Scenery: The typical scenery one can expect when running through the city. I have run this route in other races so I was familiar with what to expect. Not much crowd support out on the course, but for those out there it was appreciated.
Elevation Difficulty: The overall elevation gain over 5 miles was 220 ft. I definitely did not expect that and overall my performance was affected as I started out and race this way too fast. The hills that were on the course were gradually climbing.
Parking/Access: Free, close parking is always a win!
Race Management: Exceptional and what I have learned to expect from the Akron Race Series group. Knew exactly where to be and when. The announcements pre race could be heard across the venue.
The Buffalo Marathon was my first destination race and one that I had marked on my calendar for quite sometime. Buffalo was a 3.5 hour drive and provided many options for additional sightseeing if that is your thing. How could you not want to partake in seeing one of the seven wonders of the world, Niagara Falls? The race falls on Memorial Day so allows for families or runners to make a long weekend out of it and enjoy all that Buffalo has to offer. I will dive into the extras that all races offer, which sometimes can be the deciding factor when registering. Therefore stealing from The Buffalo Marathon, "The Race Awaits!!!"
Expo: I felt that the expo was very well organized and provided an equal amount of race gear and race promoters. The packet pick up was easily identified, where awesome volunteers were handing out your race swag. This is where you picked up your token to the Pasta Party if optioned. Throughout the expo you could find several photo ops were with the Buffalo Marathon logo to show off that race bib. This was the first time that I spent an extra amount of time at an expo and was mainly in part to the star studded line up of speakers. Anywhere from self motivators to past olympians!
• Bart Yasso
• Melissa Kahn
• Fitz Koehler
• Jeff Galloway
• Tim Kaufman
Unfortunately due to a late start in my travels I missed fellow BibRavePro Melissa Kahn speaking, bummer. The higlights of the day where listening to Bart Yasso speak about running the Bare Buns 5k!!! Joking aside Bart has been an inspiration to many runners, including myself! Next it was to listen to Fitz speak about strength training for runners. Talk about a segment that I needed to hear, as strength training is one aspect of my running that is non existent! I look forward to embarking on a new journey that will have me looking at faster times and a BQ. I finished up the evening at the Pasta party where we were treated to Pasta, with a variety of sauces, meatballs or chicken, rolls or fresh bread, and a salad that was better than any salad bar I've seen. A wide variety of beverages were served, including Mile 27 the beer and brewed for the marathon. To finish it off coffee and desserts were on hand! Great way to spend pre-race day!
The swag in my opinion was top notch. I particularly like the 1/4 zip race shirt. The colors just stood out and one that I could find myself wearing outside of racing. The medals across the board were amazing looking and featured a Buffalo holding an American Flag (see picture). An additional swag item for those running the marathon was a key chain (Buffalo head) symbolizing your achievement of conquering 26.2 miles.
Parking was not an issue for the Expo or on Race Day from what I could tell. I purchased a race weekend parking pass for $25, as my hotel was about 1.5 miles from the start and finish lines. I definitely did not feel like having to walk after running the full. I was a bit concerned as race guide mentioned roads closing down at 5am, but arrived at my parking spot, less than a .25 mile and was surprised to see the lot not full. Free parking was also offered in a parking deck about .5 miles away. No issues here.
Talk about knocking your socks off. Race Management by far was the most organized I've seen in a while. Greg Weber and team seemed to have all the details planned out for any surprises that possibly could have been encountered. Additionally I felt informed over the five months while waiting for race day. The social media team was very engaging and posted about the race frequently!
Now on to what you all have been waiting to hear about....The Race!
Another thing I like about the race is the start time...6:30am! Allows a start with cooler weather and most of all me finishing without feeling it took a good part of the day. Even only with starting 30 mins prior to most races. I arrived as runners started converging on downtown Buffalo for a Sunday morning race. Cool temps and sunny skies. The music was rocking and race announced Fitz Koehler was interacting with the crowd! 6:30 approached and the corrals started to fill. Sooner before you knew it the National Anthem was being sang and ended with a firework display! Racers were off...
I truly enjoyed this course as you started off leaving downtown Buffalo into a residential area. Crowd support lined the streets and were very energetic. You made a turn at mile 3 and headed back downtown to once again a large crowd. Around mile 6 you headed out towards the run along the lake. A cool breeze and if you didn't pay attention could catch yourself gazing off into the water. Once again around mile 11 you headed back towards the downtown area, running by Key Bank arena, home of the Buffalo Sabers. Next you headed back towards the half marathon finish, where is marathoners headed back out towards Delaware Park. Finally finishing up you turned and made your way back to the finish downtown. The scenery was a variety of landmarks in Buffalo, upscale residential areas and the Lakefront. The crowd support was wild and one that I expected after reading previous reviews and know why this race sells out on a regular basis!
The aid stations were staffed by volunteers who were amazing. For me volunteers can give you an added lift when you are struggling and needing a pick me up. Water stations for the first 13 miles were spaced out every two miles and offered water and Gatorade. You knew exactly what you were getting as a volunteer was positioned before you hit the station providing instructions for what to expect first. Multiple volunteers were staffing each stations and don't believe I ever had to slow down or wait for liquids. Energy gels were offered at mile 8, 12, 15, 18 if my memory serves me correctly. Hands down awesome job on the aid stations. After mile 13, aid stations were stationed every mile. I saw medical staff at several of the stations just in case there was a need for it.
Looking for a fast race??? This is it...the elevation was non existent. Well not really. There were a few hills but nothing that would bring you to your knees. Total elevation gain was 473 feet. Definitely a course I enjoyed running.
If you haven't registered for 2018, something is wrong. Hands down this race is a must run. The crowds alone have me registering for next year. A well laid out race providing something for every distance! The expo was great, especially the speakers as I felt I left an more educated runner! So don't hesitate any longer and Run Buffalo in 2018!!!
The 2017 Pro Football HOF Marathon installation of the event was run on April 30th, 2017. The event location and course was changed from last year's race. Temperatures were extremely hot and humid which made the running brutal.
The race offered a huge deal on the marathon entry after the race last year. You could run the entire full marathon for ONLY $26.20. I am not sure if this was to increase participation, which in fact I believe it did, as the numbers increased from 2500+ to 7000+ for the entire races (5k, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, and Marathon Relay).
The course was revamped last year to limit the turns and construction taking place on the HOF Stadium and was moved to downtown Canton. The elevation for the course seemed to be a lot more than I recall from last year. The route was basically starting and turning around at the finish line and rerunning the route you just came from. So you knew the rolling hills you just went through would be encountered again. For the most part the race was run through neighborhoods and the city of Canton. You did get to run by President McKinnley's memorial...twice.
Aid Stations: I felt that with the heat and the humidity there should have been more aid stations out on the course. They had them spaced out every 2 miles, where on most marathon courses after the half you will have them every mile. They did have gels out on the course at two stops. Flavors were Vanilla Bean and Strawberry Banana.
Expo Quality: The location of the expo was not definitively documented to which high school the expo was to be at. The parking was limited and a line extended out the front doors on Friday. The expo indoors consisted of about 20 vendors with race swag and various other running products for purchase. There were also a few race vendors there promoting upcoming races.
Parking/Access: Parking as mentioned above could have been organized much better. There were two parking options offered, VIP - which provided close to race start/finish, and the second option being at the county fairgrounds. When I arrived at 5:45 and saw a line of cars extending back to the freeway I knew there would be a delay to the start. They had only one entrance open causing the back-up and each person had to pay $5.00 to take the shuttle to the start (2 miles). After finishing the race there was a line waiting for transport back to the county fairgrounds which took me 30 mins. Not something I was looking forward to after just running 26.2 miles. I felt last year's set up was much better.
Swag: The swag was probably the best part of the race. The medals looked just like a football ticket that had the center piece that spun. Each finisher received a fleece blanket which on a hot day wasn't needed, but anytime it is cold can be pulled out. The shirt design was much better than last year, however the material was just okay. Each participant received free admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well.
Finisher Party: Thumbs down on this, after finishing you received a banana, a bag of chips, a granola bar and a sports drink. Where was that cold refreshing beer or warm slice of pizza at the finish? Additionally there wasn't a localized area where the finishers could hang out.
Overall I was disappointed with the race this year. I had high hopes coming in as last year the HOF Marathon was my first race ever. I know several things affected the overall intentions of the race organizers, with the construction around the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but at this time would not recommend this race.