Latest reviews by Ben Lamers

(2018)
"Run For The Zoo 2018"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

It was a double race weekend for me for June 2 and 3 with the Run For The Zoo being the second run for me.

Runners had three options for Packet Pickup: Friday or Saturday at Lincoln Park Zoo, or the morning of the race. I went down to the zoo on Saturday and the packet pickup was super quick, maybe one of the quickest I’ve ever done. There’s really no expo for this race, just your bib and race shirt. But since the location is the Zoo, you can mosey around there for a while.

On race morning, the 5k started at 7:30 and the 10k at 8:15. Parking is available at the Zoo, but you’ll need to get there super early to snag it. There’s also street parking, but that fills up super quick. I ended up parking in Lakeview and walking back to Lincoln Park for the race. Basically, if you want to park close, get there early. Roads begin closing at 4:00am and will completely close around the race at 7.

Packet pickup was super busy on race morning, enough so that some runners needed to scramble a bit to get to the start. The rest of the start area was very easy to navigate. Plenty of bathrooms, and an extremely quick and efficient gear check.

The 5k operates on a wave start, and I think the 10k did as well (but I’m not sure). Either way, the start was all very smooth.

Looking at the map, I thought the 10k looked incredibly confusing. It was filled with two out and backs, and crossing over one corner at least twice. We also passed the start line 3 times. And while it was a confusing course design, there were more than enough course marking and volunteers to make this a non issue. Major kudos to the race in this regard.

A majority of the race is run along the lakeshore path and other trails in the area. I would say the course is about 60-40 pavement and crushed gravel. We didn’t really run through the Zoo itself except for the last mile or so. This was a fun weaving area. The only negative was running over the boardwalk (which I love) but due to some rain the light before, it was VERY slick and with a lot of corners we had to be careful to not biff it.

The post race area was in the Zoo itself with plenty of food and water available. Runners did have the option of grabbing a free beer. But I needed to get on the road, so I passed this up. We did get a coupon for a free coffee at Peet’s though!

All in all I was thrilled with this race. Very well organized, and really nothing I would change. I did notice that it would be possible, with the start times, to double the 5k and 10k. This could be a fun challenge that the race could officially have in the future.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Soldier Field 10"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I signed up for the Soldier Field 10 basically on a whim. As in, the Thursday afternoon before the race. So my pre-race experience was a bit condensed, to say the least.

Because of my late sign up, I was basically required to attend packet pickup at the Fleet Feet location in OldTown. Had I signed up in advance, like a normal person, I could’ve done pickup at the Fleet Feet in Elmhurst, which would’ve been WAY more convenient for this suburb dweller. Bib pickup was super quick at Fleet Feet though, and I was pretty happy they had me in the system about 20 hours after I signed up (I’ve had issues with late sign-ups at other races).

Fast forward to race morning, and an early 7am start. Of course, that meant an early wake up call to drive to Soldier Field. Fortunately, there’s virtually zero traffic at 4:30 in the morning, so I zipped downtown real quick. And parking was SO easy that early. Oh, and it’s free if you are there early enough to park in the SF lots.

Around 15-20 minutes before the race, runners are ushered into Soldier Field for the start. I thought this was the coolest thing ever, since we got to walk through the tunnel onto the field. As a football fan, that was so epic.

The race starts and we run through some for SF tunnels (which throws your watch a little) and out onto the road, down through McCormick Place and south. The turnaround is a smidge before the 5 mile mark, and the way back is pretty much entirely along the Lakeshore Path. The only part of the course we overlap as runners is going in and out of Soldier Field and back to finishing on the 50.

The post race “tailgate” area was pretty neat. Live music, one free beer for runners, and other booths and the such after the race. If I was planning to stay downtown, I could’ve hung out there for a while.

Now let’s talk SWAG. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the race shirt. I liked the design, it’s nice and simple, just not the feel of the shirt itself. I’d wear it around, but probably not while running. The medal, though, was awesome! Big, classy, and showcasing that this was the 15th year of the event.

Yes, it was a bit warm this year, but I really liked this event. Plus, how many 10 mile races are floating around out there? RAM Racing always runs an awesome event, and this one was no exception

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"The Humboldt Mile"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I signed up for the Humboldt Mile a while back, looking to notch and official mile time, because it's all about what shows up on Athlinks, right? Most mile races in nearby cities (Des Moines, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis) are all week night runs, making it difficult for an out of towner to randomly show up. When I stumbled upon this one in Chicago, and on a weekend no less, I went in for it.

Packet pickup was originally going to be Saturday-Friday at either Nike Running Bucktown or Sip of Hope (depending on the day). That changed to only during the week at night, but packet pickup on race morning was added, so I opted for that. Quick and easy, plus a coupon for a free coffee at Sip of Hope AND a free coffee right there before the day. Can't get much better than that...if you're a coffee drinker.

The race is held in Humboldt Park along with, what seemed to be, endless amounts of baseball games. Most entrances to the park were blocked off (because, you know, we were running) but street parking is plentiful in the Humboldt Park area. I managed to snag a spot about 100m from the start line. Perfect.

Runners were asked to go into a Wave Start based on running ability, but I saw no enforcement of that, just go where you thought you should be. And most runners did, I had no issues with it at least. The RD said some words and we were off.

The course is pretty simple, it's only a mile after all. Down, take a left, and back up to the finish; all contained within the park. Water and various post-race snacks awaited at the finish. If you were up for it, if you ran Wave 1 quick enough, you would have time to jump back into Wave 3.

In case you were wondering, the course is USATF certified and has chip timing as well.

Oh, and can't forget about the swag! The shirt is a nice design, text saying Humboldt Mile with the Puerto Rican and Chicago flags in back of it. Plus it's a Nike shirt! Basically worth the entry fee right there. I could've done with a color other than white, but who cares, it's a nice shirt.

All in all, I really liked this event. I might not have had a great race personally, but this was super organized, and super convenient being an 11am start on a Saturday.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Cellcom Half"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

My Dad had signed up to run the Cellcom Full as his second marathon. Naturally, I wanted to be there, and the Half was a perfect way to attend the event. Initially, I had hoped it would be a PR attempt, but 5 weeks of pneumonia scratched that, so I took this one super conservative. Ok, now let's get onto the actual review.

Packet-pickup - We went to packet pickup right when it opened on Friday afternoon. Since my Dad and I were staying at our cabin, it made more sense to grab our bibs on Friday on the way instead of driving to and from Green Bay (about an hour) on both Saturday and Sunday. For us, it was super quick. Runners take the escalator up to the second level of the stadium and you just hop in line according to your bib number. It wasn't crowded when we arrived, but the bibs are in a smaller room, and I could be that being a little cramped if the expo got bigger.

The expo itself is located in the Lambeau Field Atrium. It was nothing special, but not a bad expo at all. The race had their merchandise (obviously) and there were a few local running shops, as well as nutrition tables, set up. I'd also note, that if you needed to stock up on running socks, this year's expo was the day to do it. Super cheap running socks!!

Swag - I'm not a fan of the race shirt at all. It's a Saucony shirt, which is nice, but I think the design is ugly. This year's color scheme for the race was Purple and Red, which doesn't look great on a gray shirt. The shirt itself is gray, with red (men) or purple (women) side panels and shoulder panels. I did like that the Marathon and Half Marathon shirts designate the distance though, instead of lumping them all into a "Marathon" shirt like so many events do.

Some of the additional merchandise for the race was pretty nice, though. And a few of the shirts were super cheap at the expo. I also LOVED that the race sold Finisher shirts at the Merchandise Tent at the finish, but not at the expo. I'm fairly superstitious when it comes to wearing the race shirt before the race (a big no-no!) and buying gear (ESPECIALLY Finisher shirts) before you even toe the start line. So only having the Finisher shirts at the finish was nice.

Course - It's not something you see every day, but the Half and Full run completely different courses. There might be a mile or two overlap at the start and finish, but that's all. The Half runs almost exclusively through residential neighborhoods. Great for crowd support, which there was a lot of, but not great for scenery since you only look at houses.

Aid Stations were about 1.5 miles apart, although I'll be honest I didn't pay too much attention to that. One thing I noticed almost immediately, though, is that the water cups weren't those cheap paper thin cups you basically crush by touching. These were sturdy, you could easily run with them for a good way if you needed to. Gatorade was in their standard green cups, so it was easy to tell the difference. All AS also had volunteers on both sides of the road, which really cut down on congestion.

If you've heard people talk about the Cellcom, you'll commonly hear two great things: it's super flat and you run around Lambeau Field. Let's talk about those things.

The Half course is mostly flat, but if you've expecting all flat roads, you'll be in for a rude awakening. Runners charge up a somewhat significant hill around Mile 8, and another not as big hill around Mile 11. In fact, the Half had almost the same elevation gain as the Full. The 26.2 course is super duper flat since it's mostly along the river. The Half will challenge you a bit more with the hills.

Running into Lambeau is a neat experience, especially if you're a football fan. I'm not a huge fan of the Packers, but it's a cool place to be. The course takes you through the concourse and tunnels that the team uses, around the field, and back out of the stadium to the finish.

Except this year there was no field. The grass isn't in at Lambeau right now (for this year's race at least) so we effectively ran around a huge sand pit. I'm not even kidding, go run on a paved path by a beach and you'll be running next to the same sand we did. For me, that was kind of a bummer in the stadium especially since the field itself, as football fans know, is fairly famous.

Post Race - I'll admit, I thought the Finisher Chute would be a lot better than it was. Water, cups of Gatorade, and chocolate milk were the only nutrition available. I certainly could have missed it, but I didn't see any food. And I think that's because runners get 2 free beers (yay!) and 1 brat with their entry. So the race tries to funnel you there instead of providing more at the finish. But I tell ya, sometimes you just want a banana right after a run, and there was none of that at the finish.

The finish area was very nice though. Organized areas and tents, plenty of seating, and live music playing. It isn't the biggest Post Race party you'll find, but it was a very good one!

Medal - I need to have a separate area for the medal. For a Half or Full, I really just want my medal to look cool. The medal, nor the ribbon, looked cool. Our medal was a cut out of a football with the race's name on the top. When you've got a historic stadium, the Packers, and a great city, I think you can do better than a wirey cut out football. And the ribbon? Skinny and blue with "Half Marathon" in white. For the Full, the medal was slightly larger, and the ribbon was blue and red. Other than that, the same. Let's just say, this could've been better.

All in all, despite my gripes, the Cellcom is an excellent and well organized event. If you're in the Midwest and are looking for a good race in the Spring, this is it. I would go back.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Ravenswood 5k"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Took to the streets of the North Side of Chicago for the Ravenswood 5k, and it's a definite go-to Spring race. Let's get into the details.

Packet pickup - There is packet pickup the two days (Friday and Saturday) going into the race at the Fleet Feet location in Old Town. So if that works for you, it's a nice way to pick up your packet early. Otherwise, there is race day packet pickup from 6:30 - 7:30 before the race as well. Doing my best to avoid the city traffic, that's what I opted for.

Swag - I gave the shirt three stars because I'm honestly not sure where I stand on it. Super comfortable, and a nice subtle logo design. But the color pattern is what gets me. Gray front, but the sleeves and back are green with a subtle pattern. To me, it makes the wearer look like a snake. So I'm not sure where I stand on the design.

Course - The course runs you through the streets of the Ravenswood neighborhood. So it's mostly residential running, but you do head past some businesses as well. I honestly didn't take in a whole lot of the course, because I was trying not to die while running. In the residential areas there were tons of speed bumps that we ran over. I didn't think they were much of an issue, but the race pulls out all the stops to point them out: spray paint, signs, and volunteers with megaphones. The finish line is in a slightly different spot than the start (which I really like) and it's about a 1/4 mile straight shot into the finish.

The course is also super flat. I think there were technically some hills, but let's be real. There weren't any. Definitely a course to pick up some speed if you're looking for that 5k PR.

Parking - Since it's in the city, parking could always be a question. The race does a great job of letting runners know ahead of time where some parking spots are around the area. Admittedly, I parked a little further away in a ramp, but that's because I was planning to hang around the area for a while. There's street parking to be had, and there were a couple lots the race had available close to the start.

Overall - All in all, this was a great event, as most of RAM Racing's events are. If you're looking for a fast spring 5k in Chicago, look no further than the Ravenswood 5k.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.