Latest reviews by Jenn Savedge

(2018)
"2018 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon"
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Ran my first Indy Monumental Marathon yesterday and I have nothing but great things to say about this race! I'll break it down a bit:

EXPO
I got into town at 7pm on Sat night (due to some construction on my route) but as the expo was open until 8pm, I had no problem picking up my packet and even doing some shopping. I stayed at the Sheraton which was less than 1/2 mile from the Expo and the start/finish lines as well as plenty of places to eat and get some morning tea/coffee.

WEATHER
Race morning weather was cool (mid-30s) and clear, warming up to the upper 40s - low 50s by noon. Perfect race temps. No wind.

COURSE
Freakin' beautiful. Seriously! I had no idea that Indianapolis was such a pretty city but it truly is. The course took us through lovely neighborhoods, a park with gorgeous fall foliage, and alongside a river (the White River?) with stunning views along the way.

The crowd support was also fantastic. It was not constant - there were definitely places along the course that were quiet but for the most part there were tons of places along the course where people were out and about cheering and offering support.

RACE MANAGEMENT

Volunteers were plentiful everywhere from the Expo (where they are standing in key locations offering to take pics and answer questions) to the finish line (where they are literally walking through the crowd of finishers asking what they need and what questions they might have.

The race started on time and the course was well marked. There were plenty of aid stations although I did notice that you did not know ahead of time where they would be. The map just said that there were 19 aid stations along the course but it did not say where. That was fine with me and I never felt like they were too spread out, but I know some people like to plan ahead with their water, gel, porta potty stops.

One great feature of the race is that I was able to get a printout of my official time immediately after crossing the finish line. I know some races have apps you can use and this is awesome too but I really pushed the pace yesterday and I don't think I would have had the energy or coordination to fumble with my phone like that. It was nice being able to just walk up to a volunteer and have them look at my bib and print out my time (and even nicer since it as my first sub-4!)

All in all I had a great time at the Indy Monumental Marathon and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a PR, a BQ, or just a beautiful fall race.

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(2018)
"2018 Rock 'n' Roll Montreal Marathon"
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When I initially signed up to run this race, I did not realize that I would also be running a Ragnar race in the Adirondacks immediately before. Fortunately, the easy logistics in Montreal and of RnR races in general made it a breeze for me to take on this race combo.

EXPO: Sadly, I did not get a chance to experience the race expo because it closed at 5pm on Sat and with travel from Lake Placid, I was afraid I would not make it. Fortunately, I had a friend running the race who was easily able to pick up my bib and race packet. That saved me lots of time and hassle. My friend did say that she was a little confused about where to park for the expo but she eventually found her way without too much trouble.

LOGISTICS: I don't always stay at the host hotel for races but I did for Montreal and it turned out to be an excellent choice. The host hotel was the Hyatt Regency and it could not have been more convenient. Bag drop was actually on the second floor of the hotel and the start line was just a few steps from the door. Literally. It was a little cool and breezy and I didn't want to stand around waiting any longer than I had to in the morning yet I walked out of the hotel at 7:22 and walked in to my corral in plenty of time for the 7:30 start. That was unreal!

COURSE: I don't know what the course was like in previous years but I do know that it was completely redesigned this year and it was absolutely stunning. I really felt like I got a beautiful 26(.2) mile tour of the best that Montreal had to offer. From the Montreal Botanical Gardens to the beautiful townhouses and bridges around town, I soaked up the scenery on this course. And the pleasant cool temps meant there were lots of spectators out on the course to cheer us on. I didn't always know what they were saying but I appreciated their words and signs nonetheless!

SWAG and AID STATIONS: Race swag included a short-sleeved tech tee and a cool RnR medal. I'll admit that I was a little bummed that the half-marathon included Montreal's signature fleur-de-lis while the marathon medal was a little more generic. Aid stations were spaced about every 2 miles or so and seemed to be well-stocked with water, Gatorade, gels, and bananas.

ENTERTAINMENT: RnR races are known for their entertainment and this one did not disappoint. There were bands every few miles and music playing from almost every kilo marker. I did not catch the name of the band playing at the after-party when I crossed the line but they were awesome and even after completing a Ragnar race and a marathon I found that I couldn't help but move and groove a little to the songs.

All in all I think RnR did a fantastic job putting on this race and I found the people of Montreal to be incredible supportive and welcoming. Definitely worth adding to the race calendar!

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(2018)
"There is a reason Grandma's Marathon is a bucket list race!"
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This race is fantastic. Super-well organized, fun crowd-support, a beautifully scenic course, and enough people on the course (around 6,000 marathoners) to make the atmosphere fun without feeling overwhelming. 

Probably the most challenging aspect of Grandma's for most runners is the logistics of getting there and staying nearby. I wound up making the 15-hour journey via car which meant that I had to build an extra day into my travel time. Also, lodging in and around Duluth is not cheap. Most hotels charge upwards of $300/night and require a two-night stay over race weekend. 

A friend and I wound up staying in a dorm about 3 miles from the course which was easier on the wallet but made for some extra juggling to figure out parking on race morning. Fortunately, we are both early risers and so we arrived at the transportation area for the shuttles around 4:30am and had our pick of parking spaces. I easily boarded the scenic train to the marathon start and my friend got on a 4:45am shuttle to the half start.

The train was lovely. However, I will say that the bathrooms were disgusting within about 30 minutes of the trip. Train lavs don't flush very well and with that much use, they were blocked and overflowing pretty quickly. I talked with a woman who has ridden the train in year's past and she said the same thing happens every year. So if you're riding the train to enjoy the scenery then go for it; if you're riding the train to take advantage of the bathrooms, skip this "perk" and take your chances with a porta-potty instead. They are plentiful at the start line as well as along the course.

Grandma's is a point-to-point race course starting in Two Harbors, Minnesota and finishing in Duluth (hence the shuttles.) The course is pretty much flatish -I live in a hilly area so this felt flat to me but there are a few gentle rollers and short but steep "hill" dubbed the Lemon Drop which is more feared than it needs to be simply because you hit it around mile 21 of the race. 

There is lots of crowd support and music along the course so if you feed off of the energy of the crowd, you can get your fill here. The crowds aren't huge but you are rarely alone on the course. If you prefer, you can just look to the left and soak up the view of the tall pines bordering Lake Superior. Even though it was foggy and overcast on the day of this race, I could still and smell enough of this scenery to really make me fell like I was at a destination race. 

After the race, you can grab your medal, t-shirt (only finishers get shirts!), and food which this year consisted of fresh fruit, bagels, chicken broth (because it was a pretty chilly day), and snack bars. The finish line also has showers where you can get cleaned up and a rockin' party that certainly outlasted me although that wasn't really saying much!

Bottom line: Grandma's is a fantastic race that is so fun and well-organized that you'll be glad you added it to your list.

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(2017)
"The best little race that you've never heard of"
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This past weekend, I ran the Ridgway Marathon. This is a pic of the start line (and 2 of the guys in this pic were running a marathon relay!) As you can see, it's an extremely small race. I had never heard of it until a friend put it on my radar last year. But it was an amazing race, and here's why you might want to add this one to your calendar.

The logistics for this race were a breeze. I live close by but even if I didn't, I know I could get a hotel for a minimal fee (no exuberant fees for race weekend!) I was also able to park AT the start line. I've run 24 marathons and I've never been able to drive to the start line before!

The racecourse is flat and fast. It's a certified Boston Qualifier, which is cool. And it's perfectly scenic, running along the local rails-to-trails path. I managed to pull off an 11 minute PR so I can attest to the fact that this course (a 13.1 mile out and back) is fast.

And the race organizer and sponsor are wonderful. It's a small race, so they treat runners like elites. Both before and after the race, they made sure we had everything we needed (like ziploc bags for our gadgets since it was raining.) After the race, the main race sponsor, Dr. Cole, lended me an arm to walk my over the the food area where he got me a banana and opened my Gatorade. He also let me know that his office (the race "expo") had a shower that I was free to use. And he had also brought in folks to do free massages (with tips going to hurricane relief). I took advantage of both and went home much less cold, stinky, and sore than I would have been otherwise.

The only negative about this race is that because it is so small, it can get a little lonely out there. If you thrive on spectators, this isn't the race for you. While I do usually like a few spectators to help keep me motivated, I have to say that I was fine just listening to my music and taking in the beautiful race course.

Also, because there were so few of us, I got a high five from each of the marathoners as we passed each other at the turnaround. And I knew the names of each of the four other women who were running. It really made me feel like I was running with friends even though I had only met these people minutes before.

Bottom line: The Ridgway Marathon is the perfect little marathon that you have probably never heard of. Check it out...I hope to see you there next year!

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(2017)
"Train for the hills and this may become your new favorite race"
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The Pittsburgh Marathon offers an amazing way to tour this beautiful and crazy fun city. Yes, there are some hills, including one doozy around mile 11. But honestly, they are not that bad at all and if you just include a hill or two in your training rotation you will be fine. The race organizers even recruit special volunteers to be "hill runners" whose sole job is to encourage and run with people up that tough hill. That support, plus the support from volunteers and spectators was amazing.

Other than that big hill, you'll experience gentle rollers that take you past PNC Park (where the Pirates play), Heinz Field (Steelers), the Carnegie Science Museum, the Strip District (not at all seedy), and a number of cool subdivisions in which spectators came out in droves offering everything from beer to gummy worms.

The swag was your usual standard fare of long-sleeved tee and race bag along with some really cool custom race socks. Nice touch!

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