Latest reviews by Megan Sullivan
I had been hoping that the DC Wonder Woman races would continue to make their way east, as they were just too far away from me to run. Thanks to a global pandemic, the race went virtual this year, and I was all in! Registration was easy and not terribly expensive (I love racing, but I can't bring myself to pay $100 for a virtual race). And the swag! Awesome and useful!
Let's start with the swag:
*A FABULOUS long-sleeved shirt, in a material I would call almost-lined. Definitely too warm for September, which is when I chose to race, but I see myself wearing this shirt a lot this winter, both racing and just casually.
*Awesome Wonder Woman wristbands with zippers, great for rocking it out like Wonder Woman, but also perfect for carrying a key or other small items when you run. I'm always paranoid I'm going to lose my house key when I pull fuel out of my pocket, so this is perfect.
*Wonder Woman reusable bag - who doesn't need another bag to put stuff in?
*Incredible medal. This medal is seriously cool. I can't wait to hang it on my medal rack.
You also get a bib, but I opted to not wear mine racing - I felt a little dorky running on the trail alone wearing a bib - but if I had raced with a friend, I totally would have rocked it out.
This race didn't have heavy virtual support, but that's not really my jam. They definitely sent a few inspirational emails, but not too many, which was perfect for me. I also didn't feel like I needed to be part of any sort of online chat room for the race - again, not my jam, but some people might like that sort of thing.
For the race itself, I ran, it felt great, and I finally felt the desire to push myself. Training with nothing on the horizon has been tough, so this was just what I needed. When I got home, I proudly put my medal on and logged my results. I didn't pause my watch at stoplights, so I knew this was going to be a slow time, but I didn't care - it felt great. And the finisher's certificate is pretty sweet too.
I love the spirit of Disney races. This year, the 10k fell on my birthday, so of course I was running.
As I didn't arrive into town til Thursday, I hit up the expo the afternoon the day after it opened. In previous years, some of the popular race-specific items would have been sold out, but there were plenty of items of all sorts still available. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but it was fun to browse.
Disney has done a good job of spreading out the expo into multiple buildings to alleviate crowds. A definte plus.
Race morning dawned stupidly early, as is the norm for runDisney. We stayed at a monorail resort, but on race morning, the only transportation available was busses. I'm a huge fan of the monorail, but the bus worked just fine. Not too long of a wait, and our bus driver only got slightly turned around once. We made it to the race start in plenty of time.
I liked the way the corrals were setup this year - corrals were lined up next to each other and then filtered out the front and over into the starting chute, unlike in many races, where the corrals are lined up in a long line and you have to walk through the other corral spaces to get to the start. I felt like this reduced the amount of walking to the start line. They also metered people through the start, using a ribbon of sorts, so each corral was divided into mini-corrals for the start. This definitely helped some of the crowding.
We were unexpectedly in the last corral due to a mistake with placement on my sister's bib (so I went back with her), and it was definitely crowded. We were planning to do a run/walk and spent much of the time going around walkers. Nothing against walkers, but it would be nice if people kept to the sides when walking and didn't walk in such huge groups going across.
I enjoyed the course - I felt like we got to see a lot of Epcot, and plenty of backstage too. In general, some of the overcrowding was frustrating, but that's to be expected in a race like this, especially when we started further back than where we should have started.
Disney gives you water, PowerAde, a banana, and a snack box, definitely plentiful food for after a 10k. And to the delight of many, the weird cheese was back this time. (Personally, I didn't care that much, but apparently the cheese was a THING.) Plenty of portapotties after the race and the busses back to the resorts were easy.
While I heard there were some logistics issues for races later in the weekend, I couldn't say the same for the 10k.
This was my 8th running of the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler and definitely one of the most beautiful. Early April in DC is always a question mark - it could be snowing, it could be in the 80's. Anything's possible. But this year was just about perfect. However, even on the worst weather days, this race will always keep me coming back.
The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler is a lottery entry. The lottery always opens in December, is open for ten days, then you find out if you're in. But don't worry if you don't get a lotto entry - there are bib transfers open in February for all those people who thought running sounded like a good idea in December, then changed their minds. And of course, if you volunteer, you don't have to get in through the lottery, so here's another promo for race volunteering.
One thing I love about registration is the options. This race is CHEAP. With all the fees, this race cost me $51. Now, that's the bare bones entry. The registration comes with your race and a cotton t-shirt. For an added fee, you can get a tech shirt. For another added fee, you can also get a medal. I'm trying to cut back my expenses, so I didn't go for the medal, but was tempted. But the great thing is that you can do what you want. Love medals? Get the medal! Hate medals? Don't get the medal! Something for everyone without added expense to those of us trying to cut back.
The race does a two day expo - Friday afternoon/evening and then Saturday during the day. The team does such an excellent job keeping this organized. For the past few years, the expo has been at the Building Museum. Parking isn't so great there, but metro access is phenomenal. They have bib pickup on a different floor from the vendors, which definitely helps with crowds. The lines were long when I got there, but they moved so incredibly quickly. Lots of nice vendors around as well, so you can pick up anything you might need for your race and also have a few snacks. (They even had a sign up telling you which booths were handing out edible goodies. That's my kind of race.)
I may be biased because I know a bunch of people who work with the team at CUCB, but their communication is phenomenal. They work so hard to make sure everyone has the info they need and their social media person is top notch!
While there isn't a ton of parking down near the race start, DC is filled with easy-to-access parking garages within walking distance. Metro isn't open early enough to get you to the start, unfortunately, but there are plenty of other options.
Race start is also easy to find. Just look for the Washington Monument. You can't miss it.
This race has a colored corral start, and the team did a great job making sure everyone knew where their corrals were. Also, there are plenty of portapotties. Yes, there are lines, but they're not bad.
The race publishes the order of the wave starts and the times that they start, so if you're in one of the back waves, you know that you have time after the official start to hit the bathroom and such. It makes for such a relaxing start. The waves all get off within 25 minutes of the start, which gives the crowds a bit of time to spread out.
The only time I really noticed any congestion on the course was within the first mile, but I think that goes for just about every race I've ever done. And it certainly wasn't terrible - I never had to slow to a walk due to crowds. The course is beautiful. You get to run past so many DC sights and out onto Hains Point, where the cherry blossoms really shine. There were plenty of people stopping for selfies and photos (just make sure to step off the run course, guys!).
The race does have a tight pace limit - 2:20, so a 14 minute mile pace requirement. The National Park Service won't allow the roads to be open any longer, so they have to get the runners off the course. There is a sweeper bus, but there's also a cutoff point at mile 5, where if you aren't on pace, you will get diverted to the finish line. Definitely something to be aware of before you register. (There is also a 5K run/walk race that starts after the start of the 10 miler, so there's something for everyone.)
The course is relatively flat until the very end of the race, just a few little rollers. (Yes, it seems cruel to put a hill right at the finish.) I think of it as a generally easy course and one that's really enjoyable to run.
The volunteers are PHENOMENAL. Seriously, these people are amazing and cheerful and work so very hard. I don't know how CUCB gets so many great volunteers, but I'm so glad they come out.
After the race, there's water and snacks, standard stuff for a race. You can also go pick up your medal if you purchased one. This year, there were some issues with lines at bag check, but they've already apologized and indicated plans to fix it for next year, which made me really happy to see.
This race really does a great job of listening to people and putting on a great race. They've dealt with all sorts of issues (weather, accidents diverting the course, etc), and each year is still stellar. I'll be back in 2020!
This was my sixth year running the Space Coast half and I was not disappointed.
This year, they started a new medal series honoring the manned space missions. The four years will honor Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Shuttle missions. And of course, there is bonus bling to be had. Run any 3 years, get the Moonwalk Challenge medal. Run all 4, get the Hall of Fame medal (plus the Moonwalk Challenge medal). I don't normally run races for the bling, but seriously, these medals are phenomenal.
Of course, it isn't just about the medals. If a race isn't well run, I'm not going to show up.
The full marathon is a course comprised of two separate loops - a North loop and a South loop. In previous years, the half consisted of just the south loop. The full has a 7 hour time limit, so the half also had a 7 hour time limit. This year, they offered a second half course on the north loop. Because it was the first half of the marathon, that meant that North Loop runners started with the marathoners and had 3.5 hours to finish. At sign-up time, I was not running at all thanks to my labral tear, so I opted for the South Loop. I knew the course, I liked it, and I liked that I had 7 hours to finish.
One awesome thing about this race is that if you're a slow runner or even a walker, you can absolutely do the South loop half and you won't be all alone. There are tons of people who are walking so it's a great race for someone who is worried about keeping a 16 minute mile.
Communications for this race were great. The race directors sent a number of emails to make sure we had all the information we might need. They even included a helpful map of parking for the expo, which this year, was across the street. For added safety, there were police stopping traffic on the road between parking and the expo to ensure that everyone crossed safely. It was an awesome addition.
The expo wasn't huge, but there were a number of good vendors there. If you needed something for your race, you could get it. The race-specific merch was pretty great too. The race shirt itself is a long-sleeved t-shirt and the sleeve featured patches from the Mercury missions. Some say it's too gaudy, but I love it.
The only downside to this race is the parking at the race site. There isn't really any, so you have to find a place to park nearby. There are plenty of locations to choose from, but it's the one frustrating part of the race weekend. There are busses from various hotels, but I've had sporadic luck with them. If you do choose to take the bus, always take the earliest one. Trust me.
This race had a North and South Course that all started at the same time in the same place. South runners to the left, North to the right. It was surprisingly not as confusing as I feared it would be, though it took over ten minutes for everyone to get across the start line.
The race course itself is lovely. Relatively flat, along a road with houses on one side and waterfront on the other. The locals often come out to cheer or set up aid stations for the runners. If you want to do shots during a race, this is your course. The water stops are incredibly well manned and everyone is so very friendly. The course support is absolutely phenomenal.
This year, the finish party was still in the park like normal, but the finish line was no longer right there, which was a bit disappointing. My favorite part of the race was finishing while friends cheered me in, going and getting some post-race food, then cheering people in while I ate. The new finish made that hard, and it was also much more anti-climactic. That said, the post-race spread is awesome - eggs and pancakes, pizza, beer, soda, and of course water and bananas. And a finisher's towel along with the medal! Perfect for keeping warm or sitting on picnic style as you feast!
This was my tenth year running this race - so I'm probably a bit biased.
Packet Pickup was smooth as usual. I stopped by on my lunch break on Friday and it was a quick process. The expo is huge, but it's really geared towards military families, and this year, I was less impressed by the wares. There were tons of freebies though. I just didn't need to collect any more water bottles!
Race morning came as normal. I will admit, I wasn’t super motivated to run. As has become my routine, I planned to arrive at a local parking garage by 6 am. Definitely earlier than I needed to be there, but as roads are shut down, it’s just easier to get there and be ready to go.
Things were a bit different for the race this year due to some road construction. It meant that the course was different and the start was a bit different. They added two additional start waves to help thin out the crowds. Typically, we would have gathered in grouped corrals in the Pentagon parking lot, and then led to the start. Due to the construction, the corrals were lined up in a straight line from the start. Since I was in the 9th wave, the brand new pink wave, that meant the start was a hike away. Some people opted to not go to the corral and instead wait for the corral to come past them, but we opted to go to the corral and wait.
As per usual, the wheelchair racers were finishing before we started, and just as we got to race start, the race winners were coming in to the finish as well. That’s aways a bit funny and a bit demoralizing. Mostly, I was jealous they were done.
While this year’s race wasn’t as hot as last year’s, the humidity was ridiculous. My weather app said the humidity was 90%; the race announcer said it was 100%. Either way, it was disgusting. The race started and I started my intervals and within ten minutes, I was dripping sweat.
I opted to run with a handheld water bottle for this race. Nowhere near enough fluid to get me through the race, but more than enough to get me between water stops. And I was definitely glad I had it. The first water stop was around the two mile mark and they were out of water cups (though I believe they had cups of Gatorade). Volunteers were pouring water into mouths, into cupped hands, and in my case, into my water bottle. Due to the heat, people were taking multiple cups (not blaming them – it’s just what happened) which meant they ran out by the late corrals. I had my bottle refilled and went on my way.
Due to the rerouted course, there was one spot where the race came to an absolute standstill. I’ve never had that happen in this race before, even with 35,000 racers. It didn’t last long, but it was certainly a surprise.
At one point, I ended up running alongside a vision impaired runner and his guides. I was so impressed with their process. The runner and one guide were each holding onto a large ring, and it was seamless how the guide would call out directions. The second guide ran right behind them, blocking anyone from attempting to cut between them. They moved as this tight little pack and it was so cool to see.
This race is always so organized, thanks to the amazing volunteers and the organization of the Army. So I was really surprised when we got to mile 7 and there was no more Gatorade at the stop. I don’t typically use it, but was shocked that they were out. That said, there was plenty of water everywhere, which was great since by that point, I was ready to pour it on myself. Which I did.
This year, thanks to injury, I was slow enough that I saw the cutoff after it was closed. Around mile 5 or so, if you’re behind required pace, they divert the course because of roads that have to be re-opened. This only cuts about two miles off of the race. I’m usually enough ahead of it that I don’t see it, but this year, the diversion was in place by the time I looped back to that spot. This unfortunately had an impact on my race. At the beginning of a race, you’re always passing people and being passed, but by midway or so, things have usually settled out. Sure, you are still being passed or passing, but not to a great extent. However, when a group of slower people is diverted, that whole process has to start over. For the most part, it wasn’t problematic, but I definitely got caught behind a few packs of walkers who didn’t realize they shouldn’t take up the whole course.
The hardest part of this race for a lot of people is the bridge near the end. It’s the same bridge that destroys people at Marine Corps Marathon. I don’t usually have an issue with this bridge. Not so this year. I was starting to get fatigued and I was just mentally tired of running, so this bridge felt so very long. It felt great to get off the bridge.
I got my second wind sometime around mile 8.5, mostly because I knew I was getting close to being done. Plus by that point, you’re back with the crowds again, which definitely helps motivate. And finally, FINALLY, I was done. I crossed the finish line and was handed a bottle of water. I made my way through the crowds, got my finishers coin, and walked towards the food. They seemed to have a ton of extra food this year, as usually by the time I finish, pickings are slim. The volunteers were also pushing water like crazy. I was still finishing my first bottle when I was handed two more bottles. The food offered was all packaged - cookies, bagels, muffins, and a fruit cup, plus bananas. Nothing too fancy, but quick and easy.
All in all, I was super delighted to be able to finish, and I will certainly be back for my 11th running next year!