Latest reviews by Connie

(2018)
"2018 Wisconsin Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

SWAG: the shirt was a decent quality, nothing to write home about and the design reflected the anniversary logo.

Expo: I picked up my packet the day before the race. The expo was a bit underwhelming - there were only a few tables set up and the vendors weren't the friendliest. I did appreciate that there were multiple pickup locations around the Chicagoland area though - I just wasn't able to get to one of them due to being out of town.

Aid stations: there were plenty of aid stations but due to the extreme heat, they could have been staffed/stocked a lot better. I was in the front of the pack and the back end of the course's aid stations were already starting to dwindle.

Course: the route is a little weird - you loop south, loop north then loop even further south. You pass the finish line area a couple of times which is hard especially when the weather is so extreme and literally run right next to it as the half marathoners are finishing. The north loop takes you through some rolling hills and they are much harder than you would anticipate. The second south loop takes you through gravel roads with little shade. The course was clearly not my favorite

Parking: this was incredible. There were plenty of close options and because the race is huge, there were no issues finding a place to park.

Post-race: the brat and beer were the perfect way to end this dreadful race. There were plenty of picnic tables set up to lounge at and they had music and fun cutouts to take pictures with. I was very disappointed in the fact that we didn't receive free picture downloads because I actually had a few good ones, especially with the nice lake background. It was $15.95 for ONE picture download which just seems absurd.

Overall: it was a decent race but I don't think I will ever participate again as there's nothing outstanding pulling me back other than the close proximity and great parking. It was managed well but I'd rather try a new one.

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(2018)
"2018 Salute Inc 5k"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first year participating in the Salute Inc 5k and I had a wonderful experience despite the heat. This course takes you through the Arlington Heights neighborhoods so while it is a flat and fast course, the scenery isn't much to write home about. The t-shirt we received was a simple cotton t-shirt but it has the Salute Inc logo very large on front which I enjoyed because it is for a charity. There were even medals, although small and simple (dog tags), which I was not expecting and was pleasantly surprised by! The management was done beautifully - pre race there were a few speakers and post race they did awards in the center so everyone could hear them. They had popsicles and plenty of water/electrolytes which was great for the hot day. There was also an incredible pancake breakfast. I did not pick up the packet, my mom did, that is why I cannot comment on that process but she said there were no issues so I'd say it was great! Considering it is such a small race and the main goal is to raise money for Salute Inc, they did a wonderful job and I will definitely be participating in future years!

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(2018)
"My First F^3 Experience"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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)
"2017 SeaWheeze Half Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was by far my favorite half marathon I have ever participated in! Rather than it just being a race, the whole weekend was an experience.

SWAG: every year, lululemon designs a pair of shorts for this race. You'll never see this design in stores and it changes every year for the race so it's pretty cool to have a custom, once in a lifetime piece

Expo: picking up my packet was extremely easy. They knew the crowds would be out of control but they handled it very well and other than waiting in line for the store for a bit, the lines were pretty controlled. There were a ton of tables, yoga, meditation, shopping, and food at the expo. The main experience though was definitely the store. Every year they have an exclusive SeaWheeze shop of designs you can only get there. People line up for HOURS and stuff goes pretty fast. However, I went abotu midday and was still able to find some stuff in my size! It is a bit expensive because it's lululemon but the quality is worth it. And as long as you go into it knowing you'll spend more than what you're used to spending at an expo, you'll be okay

Course: the course was mainly along the Seawall (their running path along the water) so it provided beautiful views of the city. There were a few difficult parts though, going over the bridge and up a tiny hill plus a very steep but short hill around mile 11. Otherwise it was pretty flat and fast

Aid stations: there weren't many of these which on the day was okay because it was cooler and overcast but if it had been hot, that would've been an issue for sure

Post-race: I was a bit disappointed that there were no photographers out on the course - I would've loved to have a picture crossing the finish line because I was so excited about my PR but oh well. After the race, the yoga and meditation spots were set up, there was a boxed breakfast and then later that night, there was a yoga festival and concert that was so much fun.

I highly, highly recommend this race to anyone that is able to swing it. TBH, it's a little expensive but something you will look back on all the time and be very happy you went. Also, go for a few extra days so you can explore Vancouver - great city!

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