Latest reviews by Preston Ramsey

(2022)
"Seeing DOUBLE! (Blue Ridge DOUBLE Marathon)"
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Looking for a race that is challenging AND scenic - you've found it! And yes, you read the title of my review correctly - this race offers a DOUBLE marathon option. This is the option that I chose to attempt this year. Although I was only able to make it 33.5 of the 52.4 I set out to complete, I'm still very pleased with my effort and happy to say I'll likely return to Roanoke again in the future. WHY?

COMMUNICATION (pre-race/race weekend): The organizers do not beat around the bush in any of their pre-race communication - this race will be tough, but you can do it! The BRM Facebook / Twitter / Instagram accounts were always up to date and informative as well.

EVENT APP: I used it to track fellow BibRave Pros and other friends who were running. It was much less buggy than the version I used in 2019 and is again an app platform that is very reminiscent of what other marathons use. The fact that they offer an app with race info and tracking is definitely a plus!

RACE WEATHER: We could not have asked for better weather. Overcast, cool, and comfortable

EXPO: The expo took place outside in a park very close to where the races finish. It had almost a farmer's market feel as participants moved from tent to tent, checking out new gear and picking up their race shirts/bibs. The check-in process was also incredibly FAST! I think I was in and out of that particular area in less than 2 minutes. Get in, get stuff, move on!

LODGING/PARKING: This time around, I opted snag a room at a hotel that was less than a 5 minute walk to the start line, which means I didn't have to move the car at all! Even if I had to drive to the start area, there did seem to be ample surface street/lot parking to satisfy the number of attendees.

COURSE: Let's be honest - the elevation chart doesn't do this race enough justice. THIS COURSE IS HARD. You're climbing (read: most likely walking) up the first of three mountains - which just happens to be the LARGEST of the three - within a mile of the start. I overheard tons of people give the same advice in the starting area: walk the uphills and conserve energy early for the climbs later in the race. Once at the top, the views are absolutely stunning. But don't be fooled - what goes up must come back down and the downhill sections are just as challenging as their uphill relatives. If you're signing up for a future Blue Ridge Marathon, my advice would be to almost exclusively train on hills. Flat ground workouts are nice, but hills will be what gets you to the finish in Roanoke!

MEDAL: This year's medal was a simple circular, monochrome BLUE medal for the full marathon. The medal for the DOUBLE marathon was a much darker monochrome blue and in the shape of a belt buckle - very reminiscent of medals awarded at trail ultra-marathons.

OTHER SWAG: The best "swag" worth noting are the FREE race photos. Within a few days of the race, I got an email saying my photos were ready to review. With the exception of a few (trust me, we all have THOSE pictures), they really turned out very nice! Another piece of swag that was amazing was the coffee mug provided to participants of the SLOW-K (5k) on Sunday morning along with coffee and donuts (and mimosas for $, if that's your jam...and it was mine for sure!).

SUPPORT: Such a great race for support. The Roanoke community truly comes out to celebrate their race. Plenty of spectators and tons of helpful volunteers helped to make the pain of all that elevation melt away - or at least made me forget about it for a minute or two!

A DNF was not the end result I was hoping for, but I'd definitely be open to going back to Roanoke and MAYBE giving the DOUBLE marathon another go in the future - maybe. ;)

GO RUN THIS RACE!

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(2021)
"Mmmm...Chocolate!"
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This was the THIRD Hot Chocolate event I've signed up for, but the FIRST in which I've actually been able to participate IN-PERSON and in my "hometown"!

The 15k is such an odd distance, but I've run so many 5k's that it's nice to get after something different for a change! For me personally, the swag is what definitely made this event stand out - a really slick jacket, a well-designed medal, as well as the obligatory hot chocolate. You can't go wrong with that combination!

I would definitely recommend the Hot Chocolate series - in-person OR virtual - to anyone looking for a fun event that takes its name seriously!

Check out my full Hot Chocolate recap - https://prestonramsey.wordpress.com/2021/12/14/hc15krecap/

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(2021)
"Virtual Deja Vu!"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

This race is STILL on my list of "must runs" especially since I grew up relatively close to Dayton and the Air Force Museum - where the event is typically held. Why STILL? For the second year in a row, the organizers of the Air Force Marathon were forced to make the tough choice to pivot the event to a virtual one, rather than the return to an in-person event as planned. As bummed as I was for this change, I appreciate the openness and transparency throughout the lead up to race weekend. So, just like in 2020, I will once again give BIG PROPS to the race organizers for still putting on a fantastic event - despite going virtual!

COMMUNICATION - Consistent messaging across ALL platforms (email and social, specifically) made me feel like I always knew what was going on and/or what to expect.

VIRTUAL EVENT EXPERIENCE - Organizers knocked it out of the park AGAIN by offering a centralized online location to "participate" in the race expo, upload results, download race bibs, and even open a video with the national anthem just to name a few of the ways the event went above and beyond to give participants the race day experience.

THE RACES - Participants could register for the 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2 mile distances OR could do a challenge series which included 3 of the four distances (5k/10k/half OR 5k/10k/full). There was also a 1k kids run option available. ALL distances and challenge events were available for the virtual version of this year's race.

SWAG - Every year, the AFMarathon features a different aircraft as the highlight of their swag, with that aircraft prominently displayed on the medal and shirt (and other pieces as well). My swag items were mailed to me after the event weekend, and just like 2020, I am once again impressed with all the items! Beautiful medal and patch and comfortable shirt! I was also able to purchase an additional item - a collapsible, reusable cup! That will come in handy for other events I am sure.

OVERALL - Despite this event being virtual for the second year in a row, I am still more than pleased with how things went. I felt as if I was in Dayton, participating with thousands of others, even though I ran my event during another event 5 states away from home. Very glad to have been a part of this event and I look forward to running IN-PERSON (hopefully?!) in 2022!

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(2021)
"Return to Racing!"
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Let me start with this, this was my first in-person marathon since October 2019 - AND IT FELT SO GOOD to be running a marathon again with people!

TRAVEL: To and from Fargo, ND was so easy. Connecting in Minneapolis with a four-hour layover each direction meant time for food and to just relax. The airport in Fargo is SUPER SMALL, but incredibly easy to navigate. It is less than 2 miles from the expo/start/finish of the race, which is also next door to my hotel. I walked this distance the morning that I flew home, as the hotel shuttle wasn't running that early when I left. Speaking of walking, I used the layover to also do some additional walking. This helped mitigate any post-race aches and pains. Overall, travel to this event was the easiest I've ever had for any event.

EXPO LOCATION: EVERYTHING for this event takes place at the locally-famous FARGODOME. It makes sense too - it's the most recognizable location in Fargo, it's HUGE, and it does allow for social distancing...but that didn't seem like that big of concern for most participants - though the organizers did try. I was actually able to sign up for the Friday Night 5k (the night before the marathon!) just a few hours in advance.

TRANSPORTATION: I walked EVERYWHERE during my time in Fargo because everything I needed was within eyesight of my hotel. Dinner, CVS, the Fargodome (expo/start/finish). The only time I used a vehicle was the hotel shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and when a local friend picked me up for dinner after the race. If you do what I did, you never have to worry about a vehicle. With that said though, there is a lot of Fargo I didn't get to take in as a result - so make your choice wisely!

LODGING: I'll keep this simple - my hotel was literally right next door to the Fargodome. Door to door was a 5 minute walk across a big parking lot. There were definitely cheaper lodging options further away, but this could not have worked out better. Pay the extra money if you can and stay close to the 'Dome.

RACE MORNING: On race morning, I walked over to the 'Dome from my hotel - again, 5 min walk. Since the start was so close to the hotel, I didn't even leave to head over until about 15 minutes before the race began! They have gear check, but I didn't take advantage. The only item I had in addition to my normal race gear was my "throwaway" shirt - the walk to the 'Dome was a bit chilly, but I tossed that shirt at the start line. .

CORRALS: Not really a thing at Fargo this particular year. The start was basically "if you're fast, go to the front - if you're slower, go to the back." This actually worked pretty well (in my experience) for the marathon start on Saturday...not as much for the 5k on Friday night.

THE COURSE: The start was a little crowded, but it began to spread out fairly quick. The course itself is absolutely great - AND FLAT! The only exception to this would be the rolling hills through the few parks the course passes through. Also, this course has you run through both North Dakota and Minnesota - a nice twist if you're looking to add states to your list! Aside from that, the only real difficult spot on the entire course (for me, at least) was the overall spectator participation. While there was a pretty decent turnout overall, there were definitely large patches of the course where spectators/music/entertainment would be a big motivator to push runners forward.

AID STATIONS: This would probably be my biggest criticism of the Fargo Marathon. I really felt like the aid stations were too spread out across the course. Additionally, I was surprised by the smaller number of aid stations in comparison to some other marathons I have run. While the distance between and number of aid stations were surprising, the volunteers working the aid stations were rock stars and made sure runners were taken care of!

RANDOM WIN: On my first flight the day after the race, I was fortunate to be sitting behind Fitz Koehler - the announcer and starter for Fargo Marathon race weekend. I had the chance to chat with her during our layover and learned about her fitness journey as well as her battle with breast cancer. It was awesome to get to meet her and I'm really excited to follow her journey going forward!

OVERALL: If you're thinking about Fargo, it's probably because of the movie of the same name. Trust me, there is more to this northern midwest city than meets the eye. My advice? Definitely consider signing up for the Fargo Marathon! The community is incredibly nice and welcoming, the city has a charm you will not find anywhere else, and the race (the reason you're going to go) is a hidden gem.

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(2021)
"How SWEET It Is"
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This was the SECOND Hot Chocolate event I've signed up for, but the FIRST in which I've actually been able to participate! With that said, I do wish I would have been able to run this event in-person in Detroit, but virtual runs have become the norm and this race is no different.

I was able to head out to on of my favorite local parks that offers some amazing views along with very well maintained trails to knock this run out. The 15k is such an odd distance, but I've run so many 5k's that it's nice to get after something different for a change! For me personally, the swag is what definitely made this event stand out - a really slick jacket, a well-designed medal (with a surprise inside!), as well as the obligatory hot chocolate mix. You can't go wrong with that combination!

I would definitely recommend the Hot Chocolate series - in-person OR virtual - to anyone looking for a fun event that takes its name seriously!

Check out my full Hot Chocolate recap - https://bit.ly/hcdetroit15kpart2

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