Latest reviews by Melinda Edgerton

(2018)
"Beautiful, fun, and friendly!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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Parking/Access
Race Management

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)
"It's a race! It's a party! It's a weekend!"
Overall
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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"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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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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(2018)
"Great race for new trail runners!"
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This trail race was such a lovely experience that I am convinced I need more trail races in my life. I am used to hiking trails and running road races, but I wanted to branch out.

I registered online and picked up my race packet at Running Soles in Elizabethtown the evening before (therefore no expo score).

On race day, I parked adjacent to the trail head/start line, and everything was well-marked and well-communicated. There were a couple aid stations, but this race is as green as possible, and they asked everyone to bring their hydration with them in the form of vests, belts, hand-held, etc. Follow this advice. I never had to stop for water, and fewer cups!

The race announcer called us in to the finish, and we received our medals, a variety of snacks, and water/Nuun.

I normally have more details on races, but this one was so easy to just drive in on race day, walk up to the start line, and run the beautiful trails alongside Freeman Lake. I would say 90-95% of the course is in the shade in the woods, but there are some stretches without tree cover. Fortunately, there was a nice breeze off the lake, and this year the temps were an amazing 64 degrees at the start! The terrain is barely technical- just enough for a beginner to feel legit! I didn't use trail shoes, so no new shoes required for beginners either! Much of the trail is crushed gravel, but large portions in the woods are dirt paths, with limited single-track if any.

What struck me about this vibe of this race (maybe this is all trail races, my experience is limited), was that even those who were at the front of the pack in the out-and-back course were using valuable breath to give those of us in the middle and back encouragement. Everyone was so NICE! When people passed one another, they said a few words. If you are feeling fast and energetic, you can register for the back-to-back 10k and 5k for the double challenge. I did my 10k and went on with my day.

Great race, beautiful location, fantastic team running logistics. I will be back!

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(2018)
"Cincinnati showed up for the race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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I write this review the morning after running the half marathon, still pumped up by yesterday's race. I have run some awesome races, but this might be my favorite. And like Jessica always says on the podcast, picking a favorite is difficult.

Let's get the logistics out of the way- the parking is very close to the start and finish lines, and parking for the expo is a breeze. Pro tip: For the expo, I found a small pay parking lot between buildings on 5th street just across from the convention center (before Race street, but just after exiting from the interstate and entering downtown)- $3/hour, much cheaper than the other lots. Also, if you are driving, plan to arrive at the race by 5:00 on race morning, and you will find the $5 lots still open. After they are full, it bumps up to the $15 price at neighboring lots. If you are in a hotel nearby, well, lucky you! I stayed in Florence, KY on the KY side because I procrastinated on booking a room, but it only took me 15 minutes to get to the parking lot. If you are doing this on a budget and have your car, definitely stay in KY and drive in. It's much cheaper. The Comfort Suites in Florence was located around grocery stores and Walmart/Target, which was important for planning my breakfast to cook in the hotel microwave at 4:00 a.m.

Toilets- When I arrived, people were inside the entrance to the Paul Brown stadium nearest the start line. The doors were opened to provide some warm space from the cool breeze outside (that cool breeze didn't last long) and runners were lounging on the floor and stretching. I went in and found a restroom with no waiting, and real toilets. Just outside were long lines for the port-a-pots. Shh!! THOSE people also didn't notice the plentiful port-a-pots in the corrals. I later used one of those with no line! It pays to explore a bit before joining the most obvious lines.

Okay, now for the rest of the day. It is a challenge to express how much FUN I had running this race. I don't remember LAUGHING so much in a race as I did during this one. Perhaps it was the hundreds of hilarious signs along the course, or the locals who showed up to dance, play music, and cheer for us, or the 8,000 volunteers they have to make this race go. I wish I could put that in bold- 8,000! There were cheering squads with volunteer shirts about every half mile, and they were...adoring. Every person looked us in the eyes and told us we were awesome, or strong, or doing great. Most races have pockets of cheering fans, but the only places I remember where there were no spectators were the bridges going over the river. Did I mention watching the sun rise while running over the bridge?

On the course- Gatorade endurance/Water stops were so frequent that I felt I had just tossed my last cup when the next station was there. They passed out GU at mile 9. Along the way, volunteers handed me tissues, cookies, Vaseline, (paper towels handed out shortly after that-details, anyone?), Swedish Fish, Hershey's Kisses (I passed on this one), oranges, wet paper towels at about mile 12, ice (that was a kind local not an official race volunteer), and my favorite- a Twizzler at mile 10 that I took tiny bites of throughout the final miles to savor and have something else to focus on.

I think because of the crowds, and so much to see with the parks, the urban areas, and the river, most people seemed to be running without music. Due to this, I had more conversations with fellow runners than I ever have. Everyone was having fun, and runners seemed compelled to share that fun with the person next to them. I found myself smiling most of the way, despite being a little under trained. I am middle-of-the-pack, and for this one, I hung back a little because I was not expecting a PR. I would be curious if the front-of-the-pack folks had the same fun, chatty experience.

Yes, there are hills, so prepare for them, but at least for the half marathon, it's the river crossings (but that view from the bridge is amazing) and a switchback to a park overlooking the river around mile 6 that is the toughest. They had volunteers there cheering and volunteering to take your photo. What a great excuse to rest a moment if you aren't going for a PR.

It was about 55 degrees and breezy before the sun rose, and because there was 90% humidity, once the sun came up, it was pretty hot. The marathoners who aren't in the front of the pack, or walkers in either race likely suffered this year. In this region, plan for any kind of weather when you pack in the spring. With heat/humidity, you might adjust your goals a little for that factor. You will have so much fun you won't care about a PR.

The post-race party is right on the riverfront, and I had a little picnic on the lawn in the shade of a tree. The free beer and pizza from LaRosa's was the perfect end to a sometimes challenging but always rewarding course.

The swag is great. The shirt is a tech shirt- be sure to size WAY up if you don't have abs to flaunt. I normally wear a medium shirt, but ended up exchanging my large for an extra large at the shirt exchange table. All marathon and half marathon runners receive a premium gift. This year, it was a very nice outdoor blanket that folds up into a nice bag with handles. We also received a commemorative poster and a 13.1 magnet. The medals were awesome quality, weight, and style. It's not all about the bling for me, but when the bling is good, that is a bonus.

My only suggestion for the race directors is to have pint glasses, etc. at the expo with half marathon on them. I didn't feel right drinking from a Flying Pig Marathon glass that I didn't earn. I suspect there are other customers like me who would buy these items!

A big thank you to the race organizers and the city of Cincinnati for providing such a lovely experience. I hope to visit Cinci again soon as a tourist and see more of the city at a slower pace.

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