Latest reviews by Connie Kulczycki

(2018)
"My First F^3 Experience"
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I'm a no-frills kind of race girl that really appreciates a race that is executed well and F^3 really lived up to that.
Registration was a breeze and although I didn't receive a lot of communication leading up to the race, about 3 weeks prior, we got multiple updates, which was great to start preparing myself for race weekend. I also really appreciated that they sent out updates from the city regarding the Women's March - we knew to expect a little extra traffic and allow more time but that we shouldn't expect any race issues because of it.
I think one of my favorite parts of F^3 was the multiple options for packet pickup. Unlike most other races, packet pickup started the weekend before the race, hosting each date at a different Fleet Feet location. This was ideal for those that lived in the suburbs as I only had to drive to Deerfield rather than downtown to get my packet. There was also the option to pick up packets the morning of the race but that always makes me a little too anxious. For those that love a big race expo, this wasn't possible with that many locations. However, that isn't something that really appeals to me so I was fine with the simple store location.
The race was on a Saturday, something that was a nice switch from your normal Sunday-morning races. It also didn't start until 10 for the half and 10:30 for the 5k which I loved! I don't love getting up early and the fact that I was able to sleep in my own bed and drive to the city instead of getting a hotel room downtown, helped save a ton of money and stress. And although it was unusually warm for a January day, should it have been cooler, it would've been nice to have those few extra hours for the world to warm up a bit.
Since the race was hosted at Soldier Field, we were able to wait inside, stay warm and have access to a ton of (nice) bathrooms. Gear check was a breeze (both dropping off and picking up) and the vendors had their booths set up the entire morning so you could peruse them pre-race if you had time.
The course did a half loop around the stadium and came out on the lakefront path. It was a relatively flat course, minus a small incline within the first quarter mile and had a pretty view of the lake the entire time. I didn't use the aid stations but they were available for both 5k and half marathoners.
The post race party was held back inside the stadium with giant screens to show the rolling finishers, which was really cool. Unfortunately, I never saw the 5k finishers go up so I didn't get to take a picture with that, which was a little sad.
To conclude, they offered one free beer at Kroll's. It was a short distance away but directions to get there weren't clear so we took a long way to get there. I do think the signage could've been a bit better in terms of getting from the parking lot to the race and from the race to the bar. It also was a bit frustrating that we had to pay $20 for parking - since Soldier Field is so far southeast, driving is the only easy way to get there even if you do live in the city, so having that comped or a bit cheaper would have been ideal.

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(2017)
"Hot Chocolate 15k Chicago"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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This was my second experience with the 15k and although I was unable to run due to some wisdom teeth complications, I did work the race so I was able to see the full circle and hear many opinions from the racers.

Pre-race: I registered for this race in May without any issues. There was plenty of communication leading up to race day about packet pickup, race day information and other pertinent information. The website is well-organized to get information, as well.

Expo: Expo was held at McCormick Place which is great for those that do not live in the city and need parking but I know it can be a hassle for those that live in the city because it is a hard location to get to. They did have parking validated so it ended up being $10, which was nice and much cheaper than any other parking would have been downtown. Picking up my bib and goodie bag was extremely easy, the lines were short (granted I did go Saturday night) and the booths were filled with giveaways and other cool swag. I especially liked the chocolate tasting (my mom and I both went back for seconds since they did say they needed to finish it up before the night ended). I also loved that the past jackets were on display considering it was Chicago's 10 Year Anniversary.

Race day: It was SO cold. And unfortunately, since it is such a big race, you have to get there pretty early to get into your corral (which btws, since I am used to do bigger races, it is appreciated that there are actually corrals to organize the runners but I think there could be more communication about what a corral is and other race basics because I heard a lot of people confused about it). I know there was a weather post that went out but I think it would be good to have several communications, especially mentioning the idea of throw-away clothing, for those that are newbies. Other than that, there was a great start line ceremony and the course is great minus going under McCormick - it gets very dark in there and it's definitely a safety hazard with the potholes and mancovers.

Post-race party: First of all, the finishers mug is the BOMB. Like if there's one reason to this race, it's that mug. The chocolate is so good and the dippables are amazing. Unfortunately, the post-race party is a little bit of a hike from the finish line. I don't mind it because that's how many races are but I know those first-time runners and those that are just there for fun do not enjoy that walk. It's also pretty crowded in the park but I think RAM does a great job with the signage (although there could be more going through Buckingham Fountain) within the party. Picking up the finishers mug was a bit hectic and the chocolate was clearly put in the mug in a rush (there was chocolate dripping down the sides and a little sloppy) but when you're cold and hungry, it's not the biggest deal in the world.

Swag: I loved this year's zipup! My only gripe is that it fit somewhat weird - I sized up so it wouldn't be tight but only the arms got bigger while the bodice was still tight. The thumb holes were also in a weird spot. However, I love that there are male and female versions! I'm sure the guys appreciate not getting purple zipups.

Overall: Good expo and great race with VERY professional production all around - I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for either a first time race, or one to loosen up their legs post-marathon.

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(2017)
"The Color Run Chicago 2017"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
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I signed up for the Color Run a few weeks prior to the race with no issue. The week of, I got the event guide and was very impressed - it was short yet very detailed. It was funny and aligned with the overall happiness theme of the race.
The expo was held at Grant Park and thank goodness the weather was beautiful or else that would have truly spoiled the day. The check in process was a bit rough, it seemed as the though the volunteers didn't know what they were supposed to be doing but they were all friendly so I can't hold that against them. The swag was amazing - the shirt was one of the softest I have owned to date and the gold foiled tattoo was so much fun. I also loved the licorice and will definitely be purchasing in the future! I loved that we were able to personalize our bibs and they supplied a coloring table to do so. They really thought of everything, which I appreciated.
Upon arrival at Grant Park the next morning, there were a ton of people but they had it very well organized. They started the race earlier than what was stated in the guide but I think it worked in their favor with the amount of people in attendance. Although it was a fun run, I was slightly upset about the fact that the course was only 2.47 miles (I mapped it through Map My Run). When something is advertised as a 5k and runners pay for that distance, we expect to run that full 3.1 miles. In addition, the water station was a bit of a cluster. Since it was situated on a turnaround, it was extremely backed up and you could tell the volunteers were very flustered. My only other comment on the course was the finish line - it was right after the foam station and people once again were slowing down and not moving. The finish line left some to be desired. Overall though, it was a fun race and definitely something to experience if you have not!

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(2017)
"Chicago Spring Half Marathon 2017"
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I signed up for this race back in January and although it seemed a bit expensive, this was one of my favorite races in the past and the timing aligned perfectly with marathon training. From registration to expo day, I did not receive any communication about the race, which seemed strange to me. I even checked my spam folder and didn't find anything. There was a point where I couldn't remember if I actually registered or not and got nervous they wouldn't have a bib for me - definitely something that needs to be fixed for coming years!
The expo was held at Fleet Feet Old Town which is an amazing store and where I buy all of my running shoes, however, I've said this before and will say it again, I do not think this a great venue for an expo, especially for a race of this size. It was very cramped and hot in the back room, with no places to take pictures should you want to. The front of the store is also smaller so I didn't get a great opportunity to peruse the clothing like I normally would at an expo. In addition, I was disappointed with the goodie bags. It only contained a Hello Fresh gift card, some yucky beet juice, and a few flyers. I LOVED the shirts though! The color and flower on the front made it perfect for a spring race, although I felt bad for the guys because they were a bit girly.
Day of the race, besides the normal congestion and long bathroom lines that are to be expected at any large event, there were no issues. It had rained the night before but they did a great job of clearing things out and the sun helped to dry up the grass. The breakfast was great and there were a ton of tents to wander through post-race.
Even with the few hiccups pre-race day, I would definitely recommend this race to anyone that is looking for a spring run to get back into the swing of things. It has beautiful scenery (although a bit windy and a few unexpected hills), is put together very well and consistently has great medals (this year's featured the ferris wheel and even spun)!

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(2016)
"Hot Chocolate 5k Chicago"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Although I did not participate in the race this year, both of my parents ran the 5k. Since they live in the suburbs, they had their packets shipped to them and had no hiccups in the process. The only complaint they had was that there were quite a few walkers in the 5k and they had to weave around them the entire time. Other than that, they enjoyed the post-race snacks and band.

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