Latest reviews by Janelle McLeod

(2018)
"Oaktown is here!"
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Oaktown Half used to be called The Town. It was revamped and re-branded as the Oaktown Half for this year's 5 year anniversary. The website promoted a new course, new race management and new swag for 2018! This year there were approximately 1200-1300 runners and it is growing each year.

I live 2 hours away from this location so I opted in for the Expo-In-A-Box option which was an additional $15 and I received all of my items about a week and a half prior to the race. In the box was my race shirt, bib, a set of Oaktown BibBoards, sample of Nuun, sunscreen, voucher for 2 A's baseball tickets, protein snacks and a cleansing wipe. Considering there was no race day packet pickup, the expo-in-a-box was a great option and I loved it.

I drove up on race morning with a fellow runner and we arrived at the parking garage around 6:45. Race time was 7:30 so we knew we had plenty of time. Parking for runners was a flat rate of $5 until 1pm, giving us ample time to run the race and hang out for a while afterwards. The parking garage was underground so when we went up and walked out of the parking garage- surprise! We were literally steps away from the Start/Finish line. Perfection.

The race was scheduled to start at 7:30am. It did start approximately 20 minutes late, which would have annoyed me, however they continued to announce it was delayed and explained it was only to ensure the course was safe for all runners to take off. You can't argue with course safety and I appreciate race management going above and beyond to ensure all their checks were in place. I'd rather start a few minutes late and be safe than the opposite.

The course itself was very flat, less than 75 feet of elevation gain overall. We ran through the downtown streets of Oakland, alongside a freeway, around Lake Merritt and back through downtown. A huge shoutout to Oakland police who were present at literally every corner of the route, directing traffic and cheering on runners as well as ensuring our safety every step of the way.

The scenery around Lake Merritt was beautiful and it was full of other runners, walkers and bikers who were out enjoying their Sunday morning. It was a great vibe all around and although the crowd support was scarce, it was great to see those that did come out and cheer on the runners. The volunteers at each aid station were kind and excited to be there and you could really feel their energy. It was great to have water and Nuun hydration every 1.5-2 miles on the course and I think race management did a great job with the aid stations knowing it was going to be a warm day with little shade.

At the finish, you were immediately handed a huge square medal for the half marathon as well as an adorable mason jar with the Oaktown Half logo on it. They also gave each runner a banana and a HoneyStinger caramel energy waffle which just so happen to be my FAVORITE flavor of HoneyStinger. Lagunitas was also serving free beer for the runners which they poured into your mason jar making it SO convenient!

Overall I really enjoyed this course; it was fast, it was flat and it was well organized. I will definitely consider coming back in future years! #OaktownHalf

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(2018)
"A Super Run!"
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This was my first time attending the Super Sunday event and I enjoyed it! The packet pickup was at our local Fleet Feet store the day before the race and they also offer race day packet pickup options. The parking on event morning was simple as it was held at the local college campus. There was also a 5k option held at 8:30am and the 10k did not start until 9:30am. This allowed for any runners who wanted to run both races plenty of time to finish and get back to the start line. They also had a "championship ring challenge" award for those who ran both distances.

The course itself was a loop around the college campus and close neighborhoods. The terrain was relatively flat, mostly asphalt roads, one bridge that we ran over twice and some dirt/gravel levy paths. The course support was high school and college aged volunteers who provided a cheerful atmosphere as we ran by. The best part of the course was the finish line, which took place on the football field inside the college stadium. Runners came in on one side of the stadium, ran past spectators around the infield track and finished with a 100yd sprint to the finish line.

There was convenient grab-and-go snacks and water as you exited the stadium which made it quick and easy to leave. Once outside the stadium, there was a post-race party that had local breweries and food for purchase. This was advertised as a tailgate party and looked to be lots of fun with music and entertainment. I had to get home for the SuperBowl festivities so I could not stay and attend but it looked like a good time! Definitely adding this race to my list of annual races.

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(2018)
"A new Run Disney Experience!"
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This was my first RunDisney experience and boy, was it an experience! I am not a huge Disney fan, meaning I love DisneyLand but I do not live and breathe Mickey Mouse, nor did I desire to wear a costume for this race. I will commend all of the runners out there who did create a costume and toughed out 26.22 miles in it, because it did not look comfortable or easy! I am a creature of habit and I need to wear the gear that I know works for me when I run.

My husband & I were invited to do this marathon by a couple friends of ours. It was their first marathon, as well as my husbands first marathon. This would be my 3rd marathon but it was also a month after my 2nd marathon so I had planned to take it easy, back off and run at their pace. Our friends have ran Disney half marathons before, they dress in costume and they knew what to expect. We met them at the expo right after we flew into Orlando the Thursday before the race. The expo was held at ESPN Wide World of Sports and was spread out between 2 or 3 buildings. There was plenty of booths to shop at, specialized Disney items to purchase and designated creative zones to take pictures at. Everyone got to sign the marathon wall if they wanted to which was also pretty exciting. Our swag bag included a nice long-sleeved technical running shirt along with a RunDisney luggage tag and some fun snacks and treats. There were even better swag bags for those who signed up for several races or the Dopey Challenge, which was completing all 4 races (5k, 10k, half and full) over the course of 4 days.

The morning of the race was pretty cold for Florida, a chilly 42 degrees at the start. There was plenty of parking and bus drop offs because many of the runners came from Disney hotels. We drove our rental car there and had plenty of time. The walk from the car to the start line, however, was about a mile, so we started the trek early to allow time for bathroom breaks. There were plenty of port-a-pottys along the way, a stage pumping loud music and plenty of booths to walk by if the spectators were interested in shopping or browsing.

Because this was the 25th anniversary of the marathon, there were many special surprises planned, all with the number 25 in mind. They had corrals labeled A-H, but each corral had 3 or 4 waves in it. This allowed for a total of 25 waves to accommodate 25,000 runners. In between each wave, the DJ's would play a song from that year of the marathon. For example, wave 1 played music from the 1st year of the marathon, 1984. Wave 2 got music from 1985, wave 3 got 1986, etc. All the way until they reached the 25th wave and they played new music from 2018. I thought it was a fun touch to add to the theme of the 25th anniversary.

The race course takes you through all of the parks in the area as well as many of the freeway overpasses. You hit the Magic Kingdom around miles 5-7, then run through Animal Kingdom at miles 13-15, followed by ESPN Wide World of Sports for miles 19-22 and then the race finishes through Epcot. It was really fun to experience these parks while they were mostly still closed, and the crowd support was great in these areas especially. There were water stations at nearly every mile and a dozen character stops along the way. (Disney characters in costume that allowed you to line up and take pictures with them) Bathrooms were not hard to come by as there were plenty of port-a-potty's along most of the course and you could even use the facilities at the parks if you ran by one.

I found it hard to run fast during this race as there was not a lot of road courtesy and many walkers walked 4-5 people wide, taking up the entire path. There was also a lot of congestion around the character stops because so many people were waiting in line to take pictures or catch a glimpse of the characters. I can see why this would appeal to many Disney fans and followers, but for someone who wants to run a marathon to finish with a goal time, I would not recommend this race. RunDisney is more of an experience rather than a race. I thoroughly enjoyed everything they had to offer; the creativity, the positivity and the fun of this race.

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(2017)
"Family Fun Event!"
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This is my 2nd year running this event and it never disappoints. This race is typically the weekend before Christmas and offers a 5k and a 10k course. It begins at a local high school where there is plenty of parking and only a short walk to the starting line.

I love how family friendly this event is as they welcome all ages, strollers and even dogs. This year I ran the 10k with my 2.5 year old goldendoodle and we had no issues. The course runs along the paved bike trails through some residential areas with plenty of room to pass other runners as needed. There are some challenging hills but you are equally rewarded with a downhill shortly after.

This race also benefits a local charity for Keatan Raphael fighting Childhood Cancer. I am happy to run this race, promote this race and continue to sign up for this race for years to come. The community genuinely comes together to raise funds for this important cause and many students from the local high school volunteer their time to come out and cheer on the runners as well as man the aid stations. It is a positive experience with a cheerful vibe and I encourage you to check it out if you are in the area!

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(2017)
"Beautiful Country Run"
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I ran the 20 mile course for this race because it tied in perfectly with my marathon training. This event is 3 weeks prior to the California International Marathon and I needed a 20-miler before my taper so I chose this one. There were so many great things to mention about this race!

The packet pickup was simple- from 10-2 at our local Fleet Feet in Sacramento the day before the race. My only suggestion here would be to make the packet pickup time a little longer, they are usually 10am-7pm. The 4 hour window was tough to get to because I live 30 minutes away and coach youth soccer on the weekends. This race is known for their shirts; it is a nice, long-sleeved technical shirt made of the softest dri-fit material you will ever experience. I left mine in my car, knowing I would want to change into it as soon as I was done with my run.

Race morning was quick and easy. There was packet pickup starting at 6:30am on site for those who couldn't make the other packet pickup. The event starts at Delta High School and they allow parking there on the field, with several attendants to guide you in.

There was not a ton of people running the 20-mile course, so the start line wasn't too crowded. There was a quick "Runners on your mark; 3 - 2 - 1 - Go" followed by a gunshot and we were off! The course is very flat, only one or two small hills throughout, as we are running along country roads in wine country. The scenery was stunning and I enjoyed watching the sun rise over quiet vineyards. The roads were mostly closed the entire course, so we were able to spread out and I never felt too close to anyone until we met up with the half marathoners on the back half of our run. There were plenty of water stations, at least 6, and lots of friendly volunteers from the high school cheering us on. There were a few port-a-potties at each water station, but typically a line of 1-2 runners ahead of you if you needed to stop.

After mile 10, we met up with the half marathoners who started about 30 minutes behind us. There was also a 10k run but by the time we got back to their turnaround point they were all finished. My only frustration was the half marathoners we met up with were typically walkers as they were hitting mile 4 as we were hitting mile 11. From miles 11-20 we were stuck having to weave around the half marathon walkers on a narrow 1-lane road.

The finish line was small, with enough space between runners to have your name announced as you crossed the chip mat. This race also offers a hot lunch for all of the runners in the cafeteria; I didn't eat as I needed to get home but I saw some of the plates and it looked good! Bread rolls, pasta, salad, etc. I will definitely be back to run this race next year; with the distance depending on what I am training for!

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