Latest reviews by Barb

(2018)
"The Secret is OUT!"
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By mid-July, I start thinking back about the wonderful cold winter days of running and how great it was to be able to run distance without feeling like I have sweated out every ounce of fluid that I have taken in since my last run. That is why the timing of the Canal Half Marathon in Hancock, Michigan was so wonderful. Mid-July in Michigan’s Copper Country is the absolute best weather to run in. The sun is out, but the blistering heat is nowhere to be found.

The Canal Run has options: 10 Mile Walk, Half Marathon, 10 Mile Run, 5 Mile Run, 5 Mile Walk and 2 Mile Fun Run/Walk with staggered start times that feed into the same race. There is also a Kids Dash at McLain State Park. This year, Houghton County suffered a major flood just weeks before the races, so the routs were affected, but a first-time participant would never know it. Historically, the road race ends in beautiful Hancock, but this year, it was an out-and-back, ending at McLain State Park. I swear I read about "rolling hills," but thankfully, they were not nearly as bad as I feared with a minimum elevation of 604 and a maximum of 883.

The Half Marathon route started at the stop sign of Koskela Road north of Hancock and took runners along M203 to McLain State Park, where the 10 Mile Run and Walk joined the race. Together, runners and walkers continued on M203 along the Portage Ship Canal on M203. The 5 Mile Run and Walk joined the race and, soon after, there was a turnaround to head back towards McLain State Park for the finish. I was a bit worried about the other distances joining in on the Half Marathon course, but it actually worked out well and kept me motivated and on pace.

Shuttle Service was well organized and there was no wait. Parking was not available at McLain State Park, so participants, volunteers and spectators were directed to park at the First Apostolic Lutheran Church, where buses shuttled people to the various starting locations. At the finish, buses were immediately available to take people back to their cars. The shuttle service was an impressive example of organization and not nearly as stressful as I was anticipating.

The race was impressively well supported and the registration/packet pick-up was smooth.
A very detailed Race Guide with helpful reminders about nutrition and recovery was included in each race bag along. This year, the Canal Run donated all of their Canal Run Gives Bank funds to the Portage Health Foundation’s fund to do its part to help the Copper Country Community in its effort to recover from the flood.

This is a must do race and could easily turn in to a yearly must do!

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(2018)
"Spring Racing Season Kick Off with Gazelle Girl Half"
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Gazelle Girl Half Marathon is the perfect half to start Spring Race Season in Michigan. I have been fortunate enough to run this race every year since it started in 2013. I feel a sense of pride in this race as this was the first half marathon I ever ran and it was the inaugural year of the race in which I ran it.
This is a Women’s Half Marathon that is held just before a 5k and 10k, all of which have primarily female runners. The pacers are friendly and motivating (not to mention fun to run with). Running alone without a pace group is also fun as this race has amazing community support. Specifically, at mile 3 there are approximately 30 men in tutus cheering on runners. Further into the race, there are Girls on the Run teams also providing support, when runners need it the most.
The course has been mostly flat with one slight incline in the beginning up Division Avenue and one small hill toward the end after the Sixth Street Bridge. Aid stations and cheering groups are also plentiful along the route.
This event raises money for four charities in West Michigan that impact the lives of girls and women: Kent County Girls on the Run, the YWCA, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (G.R.O.W.), and the Gazelle Sports Foundation.

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(2018)
"Downhill to PR"
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This Half was amazing! The course (point-to-point) was mainly downhill, seriously, D-O-W-N-H-I-L-L! In fact it was so fast, I shaved six minutes off my Half Marathon Personal Record (PR)!

The expo was wonderful with many vendors and other races participating. The swag registration bag was amazingly full of 3M products like post-it notes, glue, magnets, lint roller, etc

There were over 7,000 runners, this year, which I believe I heard the announcer indicate was a record for the event. There were porta potties, but not enough, as the long snaked lines took forever to get through.

The support along the race was certainly positive and present.

After race snacks were sufficient and the atmosphere was inspiring.

In support of 3M’s global initiative to advance female leadership, 3M Austin recently named Girlstart as the beneficiary of the 2018 3M Half Marathon. 3Mgives contributed $50,000 to support Girlstart’s educational programs in conjunction with the race.

Girlstart provides a year-round, intensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs for K-12 girls. Their core programs foster STEM skills development, an understanding of the importance of STEM as a way to address and solve global problems, as well as an interest in STEM electives, majors and careers. Girlstart’s programs naturally aligaligns with 3M’s Women’s Leadership Network (WLN), dedicated to accelerating the appointment of women leaders and providing necessary connections to help women explore, grow and gain visibility throughout their careers at 3M.

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(2018)
"Start the Year Off Right"
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Winter running is the best running and why not start the year off right by running a stunning 6 miles along Lake Michigan?
This was the second year that I rant this beautiful and challenging course.
Make no mistake about it, the first three miles of the 6 Mile run are hilly. Block House Hill is no joke! In fact, my Garmin showed 309 feet of elevation gain for this race. The last three miles are flat and fast.
There are many age group awards, which takes a while, but the chili and snacks (and heated tent) make the wait worth it.

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(2017)
"Pleasant Surprise"
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This was the first year that I ran this event, so I have no idea how the race was in prior years but I do know that there was a new race director and route for 2017.
This race is now a yearly must do for me.
The race begins downtown Muskegon with access to restrooms (running water) in a local arena and porta potties. The route goes through some neighborhoods and the City of Muskegon, but not for long as you are quickly taken towards the water.
The support was great with friendly encouragement along the route. Where the spectators were lacking, the views of the Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan Shorelines made for a peaceful, breathtakingly beautiful route.
The end of the race was back downtown where there were plenty of snacks and fun kid-friendly things to do to celebrate physical activity.

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