Latest reviews by Vanessa Junkin

(2017)
"Algonquin 50K - Perfect Race for my First Ultra!! "
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This year, 2017, was the first year for the Algonquin 50K, and from the course to the volunteers to the fellow runners to the swag and the race management, it was just awesome.

I have run marathons, but this race, on Feb. 11, 2017, was my first 50K. I signed up because it seemed like a lot of my friends were doing it and my friends were also the race directors. Everything was very well-organized and the course, on trails, was very well-marked. I, along with fellow first-time ultra marathoners, even got a letter in the mail ahead of time. I paid $45 (early rate) plus a processing fee, which I feel is a good value.

The course is on the Algonquin Cross-County Trail in the Pocomoke River State Park. It feels like a very remote area, and there was just about every sort of terrain, from single-track dirt trails to wider trails to rocks, sand, grass and mud/water. It is a beautiful area to run in nature and the course doesn't get boring (although that doesn't mean I didn't get sore or want to be done!). It is a very flat area, but I gave the "Elevation Difficulty" a 3/5 because I thought the course was difficult — I do run most of my runs and races on the road, but I thought the difficult terrain was worth noting.

I didn't rate the "expo" because there was not really an expo with different vendors and things like that. There was packet pickup at 1400 South/Hopper's Tap House in Salisbury. It was easy to get my packet, which included my bib, along with a long-sleeve tech shirt, trucker hat (first time I've gotten a trucker hat at a race!), stickers, water bottle and calendar. 1400 South is a food court where people can get drinks at Hopper's and enjoy barbecue, pizza, wings or grilled cheese from the different eateries.

The aid stations were great. Each was manned by a local running group - the Eastern Shore Running Club (disclosure: I am secretary and my boyfriend is the president and aid station captain), Athletes Serving Athletes, the Pemberton Running Club and Midshore Multisport. (I am also a member of Pemberton Running Club and Midshore.) Knowing the people at the aid stations made these even cooler because I got to see friends and be greeted, but they were also good with providing other items. Among the items at aid stations were water, TriFuel, pickle juice, soda, M&Ms, cookies, scrapple, doughnuts, trail mix, potatoes, chips and more.

People who finished the course in under eight hours received a handmade mug at the end. I love the mug and it's such an awesome item to have to commemorate my achievement. The Top 3 males and females earned large handmade trophies, which were also really cool (I didn't earn one of these).

I'm really happy this was my first ultra, and spending it with so many friends made it even better. But there were people from out of town, too!

Read my full blog post here: https://sherunsbytheseashore.com/2017/02/12/the-algonquin-50k-my-longest-run-ever/

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(2017)
"The Louisiana Marathon - Awesome Volunteers & Support! "
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I traveled to The Louisiana Marathon from Maryland to run 26.2 miles at age 26.2 this January. One of the things that stood out the most to me about this race was the awesome course support — particularly the volunteers. There were so many water stops, which were needed on a humid day (particularly for someone from Maryland in January), and seeing those light blue shirts was something to look forward to. All the volunteers were very clear about what item they had (water, Powerade, ice or Honey Stinger) and were friendly. Because my name was on my bib, some volunteers would even cheer for me by name. There were also members of the community who came out to support the runners, with fun signs and even much-needed Vaseline.

I definitely noticed some hills in the course, but I still gave the elevation difficulty a one-star rating (least difficult) because I am from an extremely flat area. For someone not from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the elevation probably wasn't too tough. One of the hardest parts was going up a hill/overpass just about at mile 25 (Mile 25 was at the top of the hill). Of course, I was already extremely tired by then because of the distance.

My favorite part of the course scenery was running around the lakes in the first half of the course. It was also nice to go through the LSU campus. Much of the rest of the course was in neighborhoods.

It was very simple to pick up my bib and shirt. The swag we got at the expo included a shirt and bag. The reason I gave this a 4-star rating was because the shirt was a little big. However, I didn't ask to exchange it and it is very soft and comfy. I also thought the medal was really cool. At the expo, there were also some discounted items for sale, and I was able to get a $10 singlet from local retailer Varsity Sports.

Everything seemed well planned and organized. I didn't have to park, so I probably shouldn't have rated that, but my boyfriend dropped me off close to the start. We did have to walk a few blocks to get back to his car.

I had a lot of fun at this race and it was great to enjoy the Cajun cuisine and beer afterward as well.

For a full race recap, see my blog post: https://sherunsbytheseashore.com/2017/01/19/the-louisiana-marathon-26-2-miles-at-age-26-2/

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(2016)
"Rehoboth Seashore Marathon and Half - Love this race! "
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I love the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon and Half Marathon! I have returned to this race for four years and will be back for my fifth year in 2017. It was my first marathon back in 2013, and I also ran the full in 2014 and the half in 2015 and 2016. This race has an awesome Facebook group, where you can connect with runners ahead of time, and the race organizer, Mary Beth Hanna Evans, is very involved with answering questions and helping out. This year, I made selfie frames in response to a post by Mary Beth on the Facebook group and was able to get a free entry for 2017. The scenery is beautiful and it's a flat course with amazing support at the water stops and there's also a fun after-party with food and beer. I also love hanging out in Rehoboth Beach; there are plenty of great places to eat. Hope to see you there in 2017!

Latest race recap: https://sherunsbytheseashore.com/2016/12/04/i-beat-my-rehoboth-seashore-half-marathon-goal-by-33-seconds-and-had-an-awesome-experience/

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(2016)
"Dogfish Dash a fun experience!"
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I love the Dogfish Dash and have returned to this race every year since 2012. The race used to be a 5K and 10K, and the past two years, it has been an 8K. Participants get a shirt, along with a bag, a stainless steel pint glass and three beers.

There did used to be some additional food options, but I still really enjoy attending this race with my boyfriend each year. If the Fifer's food truck is there again when you do this race, make sure to buy some apple cider doughnuts - they are delicious!

The course is mostly flat, with a few hills, and there were enough water stops. There was an issue with registration this year, but it was very quickly resolved. If you want to get into this race, you have to be online right when it opens — this race sells out very quickly!

Also: The map shows that this race is in Lewes, but it is actually in Milton, Delaware, starting and ending at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

Latest race recap: https://sherunsbytheseashore.com/2016/09/26/dogfish-dash-once-again-a-blast/

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(2016)
"Bottle & Cork hot, but fun! "
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I returned to the Bottle & Cork Ten Miler this year after doing this race once before, in 2011. It was a good race, despite the extremely hot and humid weather that day. Race organizers did offer the opportunity to start an hour early for slower runners because of the heat, which I thought was a great idea, given the conditions. I still started at the original time and just ended up walking a decent amount.

The course is nice and includes roads in Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach, along with the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. Along the boardwalk, there was someone handing out bags of ice. It was also nice to be sprayed with a hose (not part of the race, but it showed the friendliness of the community). There were also a good amount of water stops.

Ten-mile finishers also received a finisher's medal for the 40th anniversary (not sure whether there is usually a finisher's medal). After finishing the race, enjoy food and beer at the Bottle & Cork.

Race recap can be found here: https://sherunsbytheseashore.com/2016/09/10/40th-bottle-cork-10-miler-a-hot-race-with-friendly-people/

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