Latest reviews by Juan J. Arrieta

(2022)
"Awesome return to Missoula"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

After having run this race in-person back in 2019 and virtually in 2020-2021 due to COVID pandemic measures, it was a great to be able to return to Missoula this year to participate in the weekend events for the marathon. Not only was I looking forward to experience once again the scenery, course, hospitality, and overall atmosphere that the entire weekend offers, but this time I was also bringing my wife and son with me to share in the adventure. We drove to Missoula from our home in Texas and made this event a big part of our summer vacation trip.

Beer Run/Packet Pick-Up/Expo
Soon after checking into the AirBnB we rented for the weekend, we headed to Caras Park in downtown Missoula to participate in the first of the Big 3 marathon weekend events, the Beer Run. It is a 3.1 mile social/fun run around Missoula, with a course that crosses the Clark Fork River and then tours runners through a nice route along the University of Montana campus.

I took turns with my wife pushing my son's stroller as we jogged/walked the course before finishing and returning to Caras Park, where we joined the party and live entertainment, which included free beer for all finishers over 21, compliments of Big Sky Brewing Company. After enjoying a beer, we moved to the section of Caras Park that has a large, covered pavilion area for the Packet Pick-Up and Expo. There were tables there organized by last name of participants and well-staffed with volunteers who helped us get our race bibs easily and quickly. We then went to the adjacent set of tables and picked up our participant shirts for both the 5K on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday. I loved their design and know that I'll be using them plenty in the future; they are both welcome additions to my collection.

There was plenty of race personnel on hand at the Expo; very friendly and helpful to answer any questions we had, such as specifics on the logistics for race morning, etc. I was also able to check out some of the merchandise being sold by vendors and liked most of it; had a hard time not buying everything in sight!

Tony Banovich 5k on Saturday morning
On Saturday morning we arrived at Caras Park at around 7:30am for the 8:00am Tony Banovich 5k. We easily found an available spot at the Caras Park parking lot and easily walk less than 5 minutes to the staring area. Just as we did Friday evening during the Beer Run, my wife and I took turns pushing our toddler in his stroller through the enjoyable course which runs along a nearby neighborhood, the University of Montana campus, and the trails along the Clark Fork River. It was an absolutely gorgeous and sunny morning to be outdoors and taking in the Missoula surroundings. There were many people like us who were making this a fun activity for the entire family to participate.

Farmer's market and afternoon BibRave Pros meetup
After finishing the 5k, we headed back to the Farmer's Market adjacent to Caras Park to eat breakfast and check out all that the local vendors had to offer. There was a great variety of food choices available and it was tough to decide. Everything we had was delicious and at reasonable prices. Our son also had a blast at the giant Castle playground there for over an hour, once again proving how this is truly a family-friendly event in so many ways.

Race Morning/Course/Support
The half marathon course is point-to-point, starting at an area with no parking available for participants or spectators, so the race provides buses that shuttle runners to the start. Bus loading times were from 4:15 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. at the Adams Center in the University of Montana campus. I was able to ride there with our AirBnB host who was also running the half marathon and was driving there with her friend. We boarded our bus at the Adams Center, at approximately 4:50 a.m. and arrived at the start shortly after 5:00 a.m.

Once at the starting area, I had plenty of time to go through my warmup routine, change to my race gear, and drop my gear bag at the trucks that collect them and take them back to the finish line.

The starting area was quite spacious to stretch and warm-up and had plenty of port-a-potties where I didn't notice very long lines on them at any one point.

The weather was perfect for racing at our 6:00 a.m. start, with temps in the low 50s with very little wind. It was all quite memorable with fireworks and a cannon blast, and we were off racing immediately after that. The course is mostly fairly flat or downhill, with the exception of a few gentle inclines over the last 5 miles or so. It is very runner-friendly and conducive to some fast times. Without making it my goal or stressing about it, I was able to beat my mark from my first time there 3 years ago by about a minute and a half: (2019-1:58:10 versus today-1:56:37). I was able to accomplish that by starting out nice and easy, not even checking my watch for pace and simply relying on perceived effort. Following that I was able to get into a good rhythm and zone by the middle miles and finish strong over the last 3-4. I truly had an enjoyable race from beginning to end. I felt that the support on course was outstanding with plenty of helpful and cheerful volunteers at the aid stations. Even though I was carrying my own hydration and nutrition, it appeared to me that the support tables were all well-stocked with both water and electrolyte drink (Powerade) as well as energy gels in some of the later miles of the race.

Finish Line/Medal/Food
The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing out medals. There were large metal tubs on one of the sides full of ice and soda, water, and Powerade. After picking up my gear bag nearby, I headed to the adjacent Caras Park to stretch, take in my Hüma recovery smoothie, and enjoy the post-race festivities. There was plenty of room to find a spot, be comfortable, and relax. Before heading out, I went by an area where race photographers were taking pictures of finishers with their medals against a banner backdrop. This and all the other pictures taken by race photographers are included free with race registration, something which is an OUTSTANDING benefit that not many races do.

Conclusion
I feel this is a unique, high-quality race that is definitely worthy of its reputation. It is extremely well organized with easy-to-follow processes and systems that efficiently accommodate thousands of participants, but still has a small-town, friendly atmosphere and feeling to it from beginning to end. The town and surrounding areas are FULL of natural beauty just about everywhere you look, so it makes the trip there that much more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't had an opportunity to experience it yet.

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(2021)
"Nice course"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I had an overall positive experience at the Big Tex Run 5k.

The start and finish lines for this race were located on Randol Mill Rd, directly in front of the Texas Live! Facility in Arlington, Texas. This area is perfect for this type of event, as there is plenty of room to warm-up, stretch, and wait for start time. It was also good for parking, as there is a large lot directly adjacent to it that is quite convenient to use, except if you were needing to leave prior to 10:30 a.m. If you needed to leave before that time, it was better to park in the other lots in the area about 3-4 blocks away walking distance. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to drive out since the streets surrounding the parking lot were closed off for runner safety until that time.

The race started on time as scheduled at 8:30 a.m. I found the course to be comfortable and easy to run on, with wide, ample streets which allowed me to find a straight line quite quickly among the approximate 200 other runners. The course views are also great as the route goes around the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium as well as the Texas Rangers Globe Life Field. The course markings were also easy to follow and there were some volunteers posted on the few turns it had on it. All of that helped me get into a good rhythm and cadence from early on and all the way to the finish.

After crossing the finish line, I had to leave for my hotel right away because of a work commitment, so I wasn’t able to stay for the post-race party. However, my cousin who ran the 10k shared that they did enjoy the live music and free beer that was provided there and had a good time.

We did experience a few issues that were likely caused by a shortage of volunteers during the event:
- No signs or staff directing participants to the exact spot for packet pickup, as the location indicated on the race website was not correct
- Only one person at a table off to the side from the finish line attending to the handout of medals

That being said, I feel that this is an event with a lot of potential because of the attractiveness and comfort of the facility where it is held as well as because of the course around it. Hopefully the volunteer situation can be resolved next year, and if so, this can definitely be an even better race in the future.

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(2021)
"Exceeded my expectations"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I had been looking forward to this race for a long time, and the wait was well worth it, as it did not disappoint---It actually exceed my expectations in every way possible.

Packet Pick-Up/Expo
After flying into Louisville from Houston with my family, we got a rental car, drove and checked into our hotel, then headed to the Expo/Packet Pickup, which was held at Louisville Slugger Field in downtown. Parking there was ultra-easy and free, and I found the facility to be perfectly suited for the event, as it had ample, comfortable space, with a well-organized layout.

It only took us a few minutes in line to get our race bibs and post-race party bracelets. The packet also included a BUFF multifunctional headwear with the race logo. We were also able to pick up a couple of energy gels and bib tabs for the race at the Fleet Feet vendor tent as well as sample some Jim Beam Bourbon, the race's sponsor.

Race-day logistics and start line
The start line for this race was located on Main Street, right in front of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, between 5th and 6th Streets. There were plenty of reasonably priced parking options, and we easily found one at a parking garage on the adjacent block to the Center. The starting area was large and comfortable, with plenty of room to stretch and warm-up before the 8:00 am start.

The race offered a bag drop-off tent, but this time I decided not to use the service since my wife was there with me and she was able to take the backpack with my gear after I finished warming up.

Course & Support
The weather was picture-perfect for a race with temps in the mid 50s and beautiful, sunny skies. Once the race started, I followed my plan as drawn and made sure to take it easy and not run too fast over the first couple of miles. I focused being "in the moment", thankful for my health, for the beautiful day we were having, and simply enjoying the gift of participating in a real, in-person race again. The course was quite scenic throughout its 13 miles and I feel that it helped me get into a great groove from the beginning. The hydration stops were placed and spaced perfectly approximately every couple of miles or so, and even though I was carrying my own water, I supplemented it by grabbing 2-3 cups as I went by them. The volunteers there were super cheerful and helpful, and made me feel a rush of energy as I went by each one of them. By mile 3, I settled into an awesome feel and pace, and realized after doing some quick mental math that it could carry me within striking distance of my PR if I could just stay in that zone and close out strong. Thankfully, that feeling never left me, and the last 4 miles proved to be my fastest block of the race, carrying me to a new 1-minute PR at this distance.

Finish line and post-race party
The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing medals and helping out with the post-race hydration and nutrition tables, which were well stocked with fruit, energy bars, and electrolytes and spaced-out perfectly.

And as if the race itself had not gone awesome enough, the post-race party---appropriately named "The Bourbon Bash" was amazing. It was immediately adjacent to the finish line at Fourth Street Live! and it had great live music by the popular local band, The Louisville Crashers, as well as an ample variety of bourbon samplings, beer, pizza, and burgoo, a local style of stew I'd never tried before but that I absolutely fell in love with as soon as I tasted it.

Conclusion
I feel that this a high-quality race that deserves all the accolades it has received over the years. Race management did a great job organizing and delivering on every aspect from beginning to end, and I know that I definitely want to come back and experience it all over again, perhaps as soon as next year.

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(2021)
"Great involvement, support, and motivation by race organizers"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

This race was switched to virtual this year due to COVID, but despite not being able to go run it there in person I found it quite valuable to run it virtually as it gave me something to works towards for this time of the year which helped me stay motivated to keep up with my mileage and overall fitness.

The race organizers were always involved and interacting with participants on social, and also went above and beyond by including a special/custom runner's box with items from Missoula and Montana in it in addition to the regular swag that is typically provided by most races. They were also great in emailing out consistent and informative updates about the race.

I mapped out a 13.1 mile route here in Houston that started at Hermann Park and went through Rice University, University of Houston, and back, and had a great time running it with 3 friends from my running club as well as a couple of family members. We took it easy and enjoyed the scenery, snapping pics of interesting spots along the way. Glad to have been able to participate virtually and looking forward to getting back to running it live in Montana in 2022. 🙏🏽💯🏃

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(2020)
"Remembering Tony Banovich"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

This was a virtual event created as a way to remember Tony Banovich, an awesome human being who served as Race Director for the Missoula Marathon and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Run Wild Missoula. Tony was deeply dedicated to the running community, and his sudden passing left behind running shoes too big for anyone to fill.

It meant a lot for me to participate in this event because from the moment I had met Tony at the start of the BibRave campaign for the 2018 Missoula Marathon, he treated me like family. He communicated often with me and went out of his way to do things that made me feel completely welcome and appreciated as an important member of his team.

The virtual event consisted of running or walking 4.35 miles, which was the average daily distance of Tony's amazing 1,731 day run streak. It was a great way for me to set time aside to think of him and the example he set for all of us to follow.

Proceeds from the event benefitted nonprofit organization Run Wild Missoula and therefore support the Missoula running community which was such an important part of Tony's life. Registrants completing the challenge receive a commemorative pin embossed with the event logo, and nice memento of Tony and his legacy that will make a neat keepsake for many years to come.

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