Latest reviews by Montana Ross

(2020)
"Best Damn Race and a Best Damn PR! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

BDR is always a good time and this year was my fifth year running the series, although my first year running the half. In previous years, all three race distances were on the same day which meant you had to choose between running the half, 10k, 5k or 10k/5k challenge. Since I love challenges, I've always run the challenge previously. This year though they moved the half marathon to Sunday which enabled runners to register for all three and earn even more bling!

Packet Pick Up/Swag: Packet pick up has several options which is great for the runners. Thursday at Dick's Sporting Goods in Westshore area, or Friday and Saturday at the race venue. I opted for race morning pick up because I wasn't able to get to the other areas to pick up my packet. It's nice when there's a race morning option available for runners as many people work late these days and can't always make it out to the packet pick up locations. Honestly this year I felt the swag was a little lacking compared to last year. I remember getting a t shirt for each race I did last year; this year there was just one t shirt for the entire series. I love the t shirts for this race, they are a soft cotton/poly blend which feels nice and it's a shirt I actually wear throughout the year. Also last year we got pint glasses. This year it was just the t shirt. But that's not the most important thing so, ehh.

EXPO QUALITY: Honestly I didn't walk around the expo that much because Saturday it was raining and Sunday it was cold. There were a couple other races and vendors on site offering free samples and there was one tent that had gear for the runners along with the official BDR merchandise. It's definitely not the same quality as Disney or Gasparilla, but those races are considerably larger than BDR.

Parking/Access: Parking is the only thing about this race that's a little lacking. Downtown Safety Harbor is not the easiest spot to find legal parking. Lots of people park on the side streets but those fill up quickly if you don't get there early enough. This year we stayed on site at the Safety Harbor resort which meant we could park in the resort parking lot so that was nice. But previously it's been tough to find somewhere to park.

COURSE: The half course is one of the more beautiful half marathon courses I've run in the Tampa Bay area. It takes you from the marina at Safety Harbor through the neighborhoods to Phillippe Park which has a gorgeous view of the bay and a canopy of oak trees to run through. It was really cool and perfect weather this year but even if it's hot outside, there's plenty of shade on a majority of this course with all the trees. Then after the park you get to run along Bayshore, the main road in SH and through a neighborhood to turn into the Ream Wilson trail, a beautiful trail that runs throughout Clearwater and is a haven for cyclists and runners. That part of the course was new this year and I loved being able to run on the trail. I've done some training runs there and always enjoy it. It does have inclines though so if you aren't used to that beware! For those coming from up north it'll be nothing, but to Floridians any type of incline is tough since we are used to running mostly on flat roads. Mile 9 was pretty much an incline the entire race and mile 11 had the biggest bridge which was tough to have towards the end when you are getting tired already. Overall though this has to be one of my favorite courses I've run in this area in half marathons.

AID STATIONS: They had plenty of aid stations. I always forget to bring water with me for half marathons but I didn't feel like I needed extra water. They had water and gatorade almost every mile in the half marathon, port o potties and 2 of the aid stations (I believe mile 3 and mile 8) were handing out Cliff Shots and Gu gels.

POST RACE PARTY: One of the best in the bay area. Hot food (breakfast after the half, Dunkin Donuts, pizza) and all the free beer and vodka drink mixes you want. Also had free massages, Norma Tec recovery and plenty of fun going on in the post race party area. Definitely wins for best post race party, hands down!

OVERALL: This race is definitely an excellent race and I highly recommend a BDR race if you haven't done one. I've done this weekend in Safety Harbor for 5 years now and I love it. Next year I think I'm going to branch out and do a different city just for a change of scenery but I can't say enough good things about Best Damn Race! The name says it all!

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(2020)
"Run A Marathon in Two Days, They Said. It'll be Fun, They Said. "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

St Pete Beach Classic weekend is one of my favorite race weekends in this area. I've run the 10k three times now (and set a PR twice) and this year completed the Marathon Challenge, which consisted of running the 10k, 5k and 3.8 mile beach race on Saturday, followed by the half marathon on Sunday.

EXPO: I've actually only ever been to the expo once, and it was back in 2015, the first year I did the race. Since then, I've always done race morning packet pick up since I usually end up working during expo open hours. Back in 2015 there wasn't much to see at the expo- a couple other local races offering discounts, some food samples and the running company sponsor, St Pete Running Company, with some discounts. It's definitely on the smaller side.

PARKING: This is always an issue in St Pete Beach. The parking fills up quickly, so get to the race early! They also start closing off roads and will not let you onto the beach side after 6am both days so you need to get there before then if you want the good parking spots. I usually park at the beach access lot because it's free until 11am. Do not park illegally here- they will tow you. There are plenty of lots, you just need to arrive early enough to get access to a good one.

RACE MANAGEMENT: They are very nice and accommodating. This year was the first year I encountered them because I actually forgot my bib for the third race, the beach race on Saturday evening. They issued me a new bib for that race and took care of the timing issues for me so I could count it towards my challenge participation. Very nice and easy to work with. Also offered me some extra medals for my IRun4 Buddy. It's always a well organized race as well, I've never had any issues with race organization.

T SHIRTS/SWAG: The race shirt is nice. I was kind of disappointed that you only get one shirt for the marathon challenge as most races offer you multiple shirts when you do a challenge. Not that I actually wear any of them haha, but it's nice to have the option. The bag is lacking in race swag in my opinion. There are a bunch of coupons and discounts from the sponsors, but nothing else except the shirt and a few samples. I've seen better at other races with more swag. The medals are pretty nice though, especially the challenge medals!

AID STATIONS: Plenty on all courses, about one every 1.5 miles. No issues with water or gatorade offerings. The half marathon course could have had some fuel for the participants, but they have plenty to drink and are on both sides of the course so there's no back ups.

COURSE SCENERY: It's a beautiful race with great views! The 10k goes down Gulf Blvd through some neighborhoods and the 5k follows suit. There's one area where you get a nice view of the ocean and sunrise if you're early enough in the race when you hit that area. The half marathon has more scenic sunrise views, with a gorgeous stretch along the water that netted some excellent photos. And the nighttime beach race coincides with the sunset so that was definitely a really cool part about this race.

Overall, St Pete Beach Classic is one of my favorite race weekends because it usually has really nice race weather (50-65ish) and it's a flat, fast course, great if you're looking to set a new PR. It's a smaller race but the crowd is no less supportive and the volunteers are all enthusiastic and encouraging to the runners. After running the same course 4 times this weekend I was kind of tired of it haha, but that's to be expected when you run the same race over and over again. I get tired of Bayshore during Gasparilla too. This is definitely a race to put on your list if you will be in the area though. The prices are pretty good as well! The after party is fun and they have a pretty nice food spread with beer and hot coffee after for the runners.

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(2019)
"Watch Out Gasparilla, St. Pete RunFest is Coming in HOT! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is one of my new favorite races in the Bay Area- with as much as it has expanded and as awesome as it's becoming, I see it becoming a new favorite for many runners in the Tampa Bay area for years to come!

The packet pick up/expo is really well organized, with multiple volunteers helping so there weren't really long lines to wait in. They had many vendors for a race downtown...many races don't have that many options for shopping locally, but this one had plenty to choose from. And they had specific race gear to purchase from St. Pete Running Company which was awesome! I bought the Goodr sunglasses, Bondi Band and a medal hanger plaque.

The expo being outdoors is nice except when its cold. Eventually I think I'd like to see them bring the expo inside the Mahaffey in order to have people enjoy it and the post race party if the weather isn't good. This year the weather was great for running, but not so much for enjoying the afterparty. I know the race isn't in control of the weather. But it would have been nice to be able to enjoy the post race party more because they had a lot to offer.

Elevation wise this course is mostly flat except a few very small bridges. One such bridge at mile 10 of the half which was challenging on tired legs. It does have a lot of turns, which I'm not entirely a fan of but overall the course is a beautiful mostly waterfront and downtown course with a lot to see. Aid stations were plentiful and had lots of options for runners.

Parking is in the downtown garages which can get crowded quickly. I think next year I'd pay in advance for parking at the Mahaffey and save myself the time and walk. I ended up parking in the furthest garage on the first day (the 5k) because I couldn't get to the closer parking areas by the time I arrived on site. The second day I managed to get to the closer garage. Definitely arrive early though because roads close and close fast.

The SWAG and afterparty is where this race nails it! The medals are GORGEOUS and BIG. The swag is amazing- in addition to the t shirts, we got plenty of samples from the race sponsors, my team got the biggest team, so we had extra beer glasses, tervis tumblers, water bottles, towels and more for us! It was so cool to get so much FREE stuff! For that alone I'd definitely do this race again next year.

I definitely recommend this race. It was an excellent experience, start to finish, and I already am looking forward to being able to do this one again next year!

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(2019)
"Arrrrrgggghhh You Ready to Run for Bling?"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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I did the Ultra challenge (all 4 races) and it's a rocking good time! The theme is super cool- pirates and it's really fun to have the medals and the pirate ship and all the pirate themed stuff at the race. The options are endless...you can run just one of the distances (4 to choose from 5k, 15k, 8k and half marathon) or you can participate in one of their challenges (Ultra (all 4), Amber (3 races), Gold (15k/half) and Lime (8k/15k)) so there's literally something for everyone.

This race is so well managed (as it should be having been around for so many years). I've never had an issue with race management or the course, or aid stations or anything. There's plentiful aid stations, many volunteers, lots of spectators and fun people along the course, the expo is amazing with lots of vendors and cool things to see and do and the after party is pretty fun as well.

The only issue I have had is that in the later/shorter distance races, not only is it really crowded (pretty much everyone runs the 5k) so it's really hard to maintain any kind of pacing unless you get in the very front corrals, but it also can get really hot. Thankfully I did these as part of a challenge so the only two races I was concerned with getting a time goal on were the 15k and half and I PR'd both so it didn't bother me to run/walk the 5k and 8k.

Definitely would recommend doing this race at least once if you live in or visit Tampa. It's awesome and deserves a place on every runner's list. The only other thing that sucks is it's the same weekend as Disney Princess. I'm not sure which race started first, but I wish one of them would change the weekend lol. I always have to choose between the two! So far I've been doing odd numbered years at Gasparilla and even numbered years at Princess.

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(2019)
"Where y'at N'Awlins?"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Rock n Roll New Orleans was my second rock n roll race. Originally I was registered for the full marathon, but after having a bit of a challenge mentally with my training I opted to drop down to the half marathon because I wasn't in the mood to train for a full. The weather was gorgeous on race morning and it was a rockin' good time!

EXPO QUALITY: For such a big race, Rock n Roll expos have always left me a little underwhelmed. They have some vendors, but not many. And many of them don't offer that good of a discount. I picked up a few things here but nothing to write home about. I don't have an opinion on parking or access because we stayed in a hotel in the Central Business District and were able to walk to the expo (and everywhere in New Orleans honestly) which was really nice. Everything in that area is within walking distance of most of the major hotels.

I do enjoy that they moved the race date. In 2018 and previously it was the same weekend as Mardi Gras, which I'm sure caused one heck of a cluster in terms of how many people were flooding the city. Since they moved it to early February there is nothing conflicting so its easier to find hotels and food without having a long wait or really hefty prices in my opinion.

SWAG: I don't remember there being that much swag from this race, which again, for a bigger race was kind of disappointing. The full marathoners received a jacket, but it was a lightweight rain jacket which honestly I'd have no use for. The t-shirts are grey and tech material which I never wear so it literally sits in my closet unused. Other than that I don't remember getting much else from Rock n Roll races.

COURSE: I loved the course, I thought it was a nice tour through New Orleans, showcasing much of the city's charm. The most notable parts for me were miles 4-6 which went through some gorgeous tree lined streets with beautiful huge southern homes on them. This was also the stretch where spectators set up aid stations of their own with shots and King Cake so that was a fun part. Also around mile 9 as you're going through the market area they had a huge float and someone dressed up as an alligator so that was fun. Lots of cobblestone on the course so you have to watch your footing but that's the old south. Many southern races have cobblestone as many southern states have an abundance of cobblestone streets.

ELEVATION: I think it was a negative elevation gain haha, New Orleans is actually below sea level so it's super flat. I only remember one mini hill and that was at mile 9 as we went up to the market area.

Rock n Roll is a solid company that puts on good races. The course entertainment is on point and the races are usually a really good event. There are things that could of course be improved upon, most notably the expo and swag (the medals are cool though, although a bit small for what I'm used to in half marathon medals). But the city is charming and it was really nice to be able to get a tour of it on foot! I'd do this one again.

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