Latest reviews by Melinda Edgerton

(2018)
"Beautiful small town race"
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This friendly local race sponsors the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. The race begins and ends at the Hendersonville YMCA, and loops through beautiful old neighborhoods along the lake, including the property where Johnny Cash's home once stood. There are plenty of rolling hills on this course, and the scenery is beautiful.

It's a partially open course, but because it is tucked away in a neighborhood that doesn't get much through traffic- I only remember seeing a few cars. Police officers were posted at any existing intersections, and I never felt unsafe.

There were excellent aid stations offering water and encouragement. Volunteers and fellow racers were friendly.

This race also had a $5 kids race that was held on the indoor track at the Y, and there was a kids bounce house party in the yard to entertain children while a parent (or 2) runs.

There was a LOT of food afterwards inside the Y, and of course indoor toilets.

I will definitely be back next year for the small town 10k experience!

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(2018)
"Beautiful, fun, and friendly!"
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This race in early November is perfect timing for great weather and foliage in Kentucky. We were fortunate to have a nice cool start, and although the sun came out and warmed things up, the clouds rolled back in, and there was some rain for marathon finishers at the end. The race also supports an excellent cause- fighting Multiple Sclerosis. There were 365 half marathon runners, 129 marathon runners, and 105 6K runners. That makes for a nice-sized local race that I was proud to support.
Note: A friend picked up my packet at the expo, so that was not rated.

Parking: There is plentiful free parking in downtown Bowling Green on a Sunday morning. It's a college town, and students were all sleeping...or studying, I am sure. I parked on the square and walked 2 blocks to the start. I could have parked closer. It's wonderful! The race-day packet pickup, gear check, and bathrooms were all at the Bowling Green Ball Park (read: real toilets).

Course: Western Kentucky University students are called Hilltoppers, and for good reason. The race begins on a slow climb up to the top of "the Hill," and then makes a slow decent through the beautiful campus. Then, you tackle another part of that hill, and then another. If you are new to hills, it may seem daunting; however, many people slowed down or power walked the hills at the steepest parts. Included in this challenge are large, beautiful trees in full fall glory. At one point on Chestnut Street, there were big yellow leaves tumbling down like glitter on the runners. It was a magical moment, and everyone around me was oohing and ahhing. Once you head out of the campus (a.k.a. the super hilly area), You are steered through a more urban stretch of road that was open, but an entire lane dedicated to runners both out and back. There were plentiful police officers and marshals to provide safety and direct traffic. The sheer number of cones was astounding. The race team was prepared to keep us safe. It was my first race with an open course, but there was nothing to worry about. Safety was not a concern. Again, this is a college town, so Sunday morning does not have heavy traffic. The race then dipped into one of the older neighborhoods in Bowling Green with wide streets and large shade trees. There were volunteer bicycle marshals throughout the race, and in this neighborhood, I ran into a friend and her daughter who escorted me for about a mile. Leaving the neighborhood, we headed back onto the main street toward historic downtown, back to the ballpark where we finished. Marathoners repeated this loop.

Volunteers/Aid stations: As I mentioned, there were bike marshals, groups of local youth stationed to cheer for runners, and aid stations galore. There was water/Gatorade endurance, Swedish Fish, Honey Stinger Gels, pickle juice, and a watermelon station manned by pirates (a race tradition--don't ask me). Talk about enthusiastic and genuine, the volunteers in this local race were outstanding. Perfect signage, everything was well-thought out.

Swag: A friend picked up my race packet, so when I met her on race morning and saw what she handed over, my first thought was that she had bought me some extras. No! The race "packet" is a nice roomy duffel bag, and inside was my bib, a short-sleeved cotton tee, a long sleeved tech tee, and a sticker. See photo. For repeat racers, they have special swag (i.e. the 7-peters are those who have run all 7 years of the race).

Free Professional Race Photos! I had my first great race photo ever.

Race director, committee, volunteer team: I can't say enough good things about the communication from the race crew. We received frequent updates via email, they had a training team that met for long runs on Saturday mornings, and their social media has been interactive and fun. They re-post nearly all runner posts that tag the race, and respond quickly to questions. This was my first time running the race, mostly because although I live in TN, I work at WKU, and I like to travel to new places in races. I am so glad I chose to stay close and support this race. I saw a familiar town in a different way, and had a great time. I will definitely be back!

Note: In case future reviewers mention the lack of porta-potties this year, this was a race director's nightmare, I am sure. The vendor did not deliver them that morning. The vendor took complete responsibility; however a few racers blamed the race team. I don't think that is fair. The team quickly issued an apology and said they were discussing ways to make it right. I thought the response was appropriate and had the perfect tone, but I would not expect any kind of compensation for something that was not their fault. I saw runners going to some porta-potties at a construction site, running to toilets in a park, and race marshals were directing runners to a gas station that was happy to help out. The start/finish area had restrooms, so I think everyone managed okay. The amount of love and grace given to the race team on social media about this situation was a testament to how much runners love this race and how it will not deter them from returning. I am sure next year there will be more porta-potties than you can imagine.

All in all, a great race in a small-sized city with scenery, hills, and really friendly vibes from fellow runners and volunteers. It was big enough to not be lonely on the course, but small enough that I never felt crowded. It was a nice departure from most of my last large races. Hope to see you next year!

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(2018)
"Party on the hills! "
Overall
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Disclaimer #1: This was my first marathon in 14 years, so this is from the perspective of an almost first-timer.
Disclaimer #2: This year's weather was crummy. The days leading up to the race were in the 60s, but the race day wind chill never reached above freezing. The following day was 58 degrees. Fall is like that. Bring lots of options. I saw too many runners who were under-prepared for the cold day and were miserable.

Communication: The communication via email and social media was great, and they were responsive to questions throughout the days and evening before the race.

Course: The course is hilly. Some of the hills are short and sweet, some are the long buildup kind. Practice hills before you come so you aren't discouraged and your quads are prepared. Many of the hills are in the second half of the race, including a short steep hill shortly before the final turns to the finish.

There are so many lovely neighborhoods in Tulsa that I had never explored in my years of visiting family there. Some of the run is in less scenic areas, but you soon realize it is worth it to get to the beautiful parts.

I have heard from past participants that the race is typically full of spectators. This year, due to the cold, windy and sometimes wet conditions, many of the spectators decided to stay in by the fire. I probably would have, too. Many neighborhoods still had stations set up with drinks, selfie stations with props, candy, or Vaseline. The people who did go out to cheer on runners were effusive and friendly. I loved the support from the Tulsa community, and I can only imagine it would have been better had the weather not taken a freakishly cold turn that day. The great Bart Yasso was the true hero sitting in the cold calling out all of our names for hours, with no sign of weariness for back-of-packers. I was honored to have his distinctive voice waiting for me at the end.

My family was able to see me about 9-10 times along the route! I have some family who are local, so they were able to navigate around the outside of the route, and then park close to the finish. It is a lot easier to see people frequently in this race than in a larger city like Chicago or New York, so if you need a mobile cheering section, this is your race!

Aid Stations/Amenities: The official aid stations were plentiful and well-stocked, even for me near the back of the pack. There were plenty of porta-potties along the route.
IF you have the ability to upgrade to the MotherRoad VIP experience, it is well worth the money if the weather is at all chilly! REAL toilets in the tent at the start, with coffee and pastries. After the race, the indoor VIP experience was amazing with a catered buffet, free beer/wine and massages. I enjoyed a bowl of chicken noodle soup that was perfect for post-race rewarming. That was almost worth the price of admission alone. Treat yourself if it is within your means. This was the first time I have ever upgraded a race, and I was so glad I did. Even without the VIP experience, there are beers, pizza slices, and other goodies awaiting you at the end. You will be rewarded for your accomplishment either way.

Swag: Finishers received a jacket and high-quality spinning medal. If you complete the "Center of the Universe detour" of .3 miles, you also receive a high-quality commemorative coin that I liked almost as much as the marathon medal. The race photos are not free; however, they are great quality, and some of the best race photos I have ever had. Kudos for making me look strong!

Safety: This course had so many police officers along the route blocking/directing traffic that I could not believe it. Most of them were shouting out encouragement to us, and one near the finish had a speaker in his trunk pumping dance music. I thanked him profusely as I managed to shimmy a bit while I passed. His music gave me my final push. A huge thank you to Tulsa officers keeping us safe!

Expo: This was on the small-medium side compared to some of the larger races I have run; however it had everything you might need if you have forgotten anything. I tend to avoid walking through expos too much prior to a race, so it was perfect. No lines! No fees for parking!

Finally, feedback from my spectator family: Print out your own Tulsa map or grab one from the hotel lobby and mark the route on it yourself. The race doesn't hand out printed brochures, and the course route on the app doesn't have cross-streets on it. Sometimes the shorter jaunts through neighborhoods don't have clear street names on the app so it can be confusing. Also if your spectators are older (like mine), then the route map on the app is difficult to navigate, more so with cold fingers. Hopefully in the future they will have more detailed printed maps at the least at the expo or in race packets for spectators.

Overall, I am proud of my accomplishment, and loved going to Tulsa for this race. The new Gathering Place (a nearly 100 acre park with trails and playgrounds galore) is the perfect place to shake out before race day, and to wear out any children who might be traveling with you. It is unlike any other park in the world, and worth arriving at least a day earlier to see while local kids are still in school.

You will love the vibe in Tulsa, and you will feel loved, even if the weather keeps many locals indoors.

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(2018)
"It's a race! It's a party! It's a weekend!"
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I had been reading about this race in nearby Kentucky for a couple of years, so when it topped the BibRave 100, I knew that the Urban Bourbon would be on my race schedule this year. This is a standout race for several reasons that I will outline below. After running many races over the years, in a variety of settings and sizes, I have come to understand and appreciate the "personality" of each race. I also understand how the race director, race team, and volunteers create, maintain, and engage with runners by using a consistent "voice." Therefore, I write this review as a runner, but also as a person who thinks deeply about brands, event planning, and communication.

Communication:
First, the social media for UBHM is on point. They are not only sharing information, they engage with their followers. I tagged them throughout my training in order to help them out, but they reciprocated by cheering me on consistently throughout the summer. If I mentioned them, they acknowledged it. I wasn't expecting a large race to be participating on this level with runners, and it meant a lot to have that small "woot" or "we are excited too" pop up in my comment feed. From a marketing perspective, it is brilliant. They already had me as a customer, I was already registered; however, they were tightening the hug and bringing me into the community. I felt courted for the race, so it was easy to fall in love with it immediately when I arrived in Louisville. Now I want to return year after year. Loyalty earned!

Besides the "easy" communication, the customer service was way beyond expectation if there was a snag. I ordered a training shirt for my husband, and I got a note from the race director that it would be a short delay because of the holiday weekend. I expected that, but that extra touch showed me that my order fulfillment mattered. Then, it turns out that they were sold out of the size I ordered. He communicated back and forth with me about the sizing, and we tried the next smaller size and he was right- it worked perfectly. Finally, when I signed my husband up earlier in the spring, I was rushing and I didn't realize that the Bourbon Bash was included, so I purchased an additional arm band in error. When I put it out there on Twitter that I would like to gift that to a fellow runner's support team member because I had this extra one, UBHM replied with the race director's email and offered to make it right. Since it was my own error, I was more comfortable paying it forward and giving it away, but again, they were on it, and generous. I share these examples because as runners we are normally fortunate to show up to races and never have snags, but UBHM's "voice" shows that they are responsive, attentive, and truly care about our individual experiences.

Pre-race: Free parking, straight-forward packet pickup without lines, and all the basics available for purchase from Fleet Feet should you have forgotten anything at home. Oh, and bourbon.

Race morning: Bag drop was right by starting line. No corrals, but race pace signs were visual cues for where to place yourself in the crowd. It all worked out fine-don't let the absence of corrals deter you. The KY Derby bugler got us in the KY race mood by playing "My Old Kentucky Home" and the "Star Spangled Banner."

Race course: The course was a nice mix of urban and park settings, with a challenging hill in Cherokee Park that is not to be afraid of. It's a lovely park with huge trees and meadows. I power walked up the hill because I wasn't planning to race- this run falls in my marathon training and I didn't want to go all out. Despite walking the hill and hitting up a porta-potty (there are plenty of them throughout the race), I still had a 2 minute and 30 second PR in this race. The race ends downtown amid a cheering crowd.

Aid stations: These were well-stocked, even at the mid-to-back of the pack, and run by very friendly volunteers. One volunteer was positioned at multiple places with bandaids and vaseline. She had hilarious comments to draw our attention to her helpful items. Just another fun touch to the experience.

Safety: There were golf carts running along the course, and police officers at every intersection. They were very friendly, one giving high fives to everyone making one of the final turns, and another female officer who was clapping and cheering (and since I am not at the front of the pack, she had been doing that for a while).

Spectators/Scenery: Although there were not huge throngs of spectators out on a chilly morning, there were enough to feel loved. There was always something new to look at- different neighborhoods, interesting homes near the park, and downtown views.

Bourbon Bash: Now, this, my fellow runners, was a party. A big one. The arm band you receive as a participant has little tabs that you tear off and hand over to obtain your beer, pizza, and bourbon samples. Live music was the backdrop on 4th Street as runners danced (those who could), ate, and mingled. I have never hung out after a race for so long. It really rounded out the experience as a celebration of all the work it took to get there in training. My husband and I were celebrating our 8th anniversary, and the party felt like it was for us. I absolutely recommend that you grab your friends and run this together. We didn't register for the VIP experiences, or the optional Bourbon walk afterwards; however, I am sure those extras added to the experience even more. I did not feel slighted in the least for the non-VIP experience, as the Bourbon Bash was so much more than any other post-race offering. Just know there is a way to take it up another notch should you have the time and resources.

Swag: One of the best long-sleeved tech shirts I have ever received, and a very cool medal with spinning Jim Beam bottle in the middle of a bourbon barrel. FREE RACE PHOTOS, friends! Free. Quality. Photos.

Overall: Attention to detail, a focus on fun, and designed to make you feel as if you came, you conquered, and celebrated. Race management is top-notch, and should be an example for all races. You will not regret heading to horse country and running in the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon!

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(2018)
"Beginner-friendly race for all ability levels"
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This was only my second trail race, and my first with the Nashville Striders. Because I am new to trails (and not adjusted to humidity), I was at the back of the pack.
Nearly everyone who passed me after they had turned back on the out-and-back trail gave me a "good job" or "nice work."

I gained confidence in trail running after running this varied course. It starts with a short out-and-back on a park road before heading into the 4 miles out/4 miles back main trail. There are segments with roots and rocks, and it is a relatively flat course for trying out that terrain if you are a newbie like me. There are lake views at the start of the trail, but for most of the run, it's in the woods with a couple areas that have clearings. It was mostly shady, so although there was high humidity, the sun wasn't bearing down too. Because I wasn't in a competitive pack, I had some nice long periods where I was alone.

The awards started after everyone had finished, which is definitely not the norm. Finishers could enjoy the cookout while waiting, but if they were annoyed to stick around for the last finishers, they never showed it. Everyone was cheered across the finish.

I'm used to large road races, so this was a nice simple race that didn't take an entire day. Parking was near the start, and walk-up registration was available. No expo, so I didn't rate that one. Free amateur photography available within hours. Water at mile 1, and water, Gatorade, and GU at mile 4 turnaround. Volunteers everywhere you needed them.

As another reviewer said, it's possible to place in your age group because of the size of the field. I placed second in my age group for females. Out of 2...

Overall, loved this quick, efficient, friendly race through beautiful but humid woods. Next year could have totally different weather. Just go for it.

Bonus: actual toilets at park visitor center!

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