Latest reviews by Linda Juretschke

(2019)
"2019 Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon"
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I love everything about Las Vegas - fabulous restaurants, great shows, good weather, and yes, gambling! Throw in the opportunity to run the Strip at Night, and I am ALL IN! We arrived at the expo early on Friday afternoon and it was not crowded at all. Everything was clearly marked and easy to navigate. The expo wasn't super-crowded and was nicely spread out, so even with more people, it wouldn't be an issue.

I ran the 5K on Saturday, but the course did not involve running on the Strip. The 5K was definitely chill and seemed to cater more toward the walker/casual runner, though I'm sure there was a competitive field. Running the 5K the day before the half was a nice preview of running in the desert air, which really helped me plan for the half marathon distance.

We stayed at Paris Las Vegas which was perfect, since the half/full marathon pre-race staging was directly behind our hotel. I walked over about an hour before start time, which was more than enough time. I cycled through the porta-potty line twice since it was moving so quickly. I didn't check a bag, but would have had plenty of time to do so if I needed to. There was a stage with a band playing, so I listened for a while before heading to the start gate. We probably walked a good quarter to half mile to the actual start line on the Strip.

We headed south on Las Vegas Boulevard (AKA the Strip), past the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. There was a band playing and many people stopped and waited in line for a photo in front of the iconic sign. We looped around and headed back north. There's not much to see at that end of the Strip. Once we approached Excalibur, New York, New York, and the surrounding venues the bright lights appeared and it with it now being dark, it finally felt like we were running the "Strip at Night". We ran the length of the Strip all the way downtown to Old Las Vegas and Fremont Street. We spent very little time in that area which was fine given the fact it seemed a little more remote and off the beaten path. We headed back south on the Strip and the lights once again appeared. Full marathon participants veered to the right while those of us doing the half veered to the left.

Around Mile 11 we were told there was no more water at the aid station, but were assured there would be plenty just a few hundred feet ahead (there was). I brought three Gatorade Endurance gels and decided to take my third at that point. Because my throat got so dry at the 5K the day before, I brought a bunch of cough drops with me and I pretty much had one in my mouth the entire time, which was my saving grace. I hydrated like crazy the day before and the morning of the race, but that desert air is no joke.

The finish line was located in front of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, but we had to walk for what seemed like forever to be able to exit the course. Because I participated in races two days in a row, besides the individual race medals, I also earned the Remix medal, which is shaped like an old boom box to match the Rock 'n' Roll theme.

This was a fabulous race weekend and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was especially fun to be with great friends, old and new. The expo was average - not too small and not too big, nicely spread out with plenty of vendors to visit. The 5K race was a bit chaotic at the start with people self-seeding in obviously incorrect corrals. The course was quiet but the fest at the end of the race made up for all of that. The half/full marathon start was much better organized and the pre-race festivities/band were great. The course was mostly fun with just a few dead zones. There were spectators along the course on the main area of the Strip, but it seemed as if the majority of them were there for Vegas and not necessarily interested in seeing a race. I'm sure many of them didn't even know a race was going on until they came across a Strip that was closed to traffic.

As far as swag, the participant shirts were nothing spectacular but the finishers' medals were awesome. This is a fun race weekend and while there are serious racers out there, I'd say the vast majority of runners/walkers are out there for a good time. Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to vacation, so adding a race to an extended weekend visit gives me one more excuse to visit. I would definitely do this race again and would make it a part of a fun weekend in one of my favorite vacation spots.

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(2019)
"2019 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon: Come for the Race, Stay for the Bourbon!"
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From start to finish, this was an absolutely amazing race! Louisville is one of my favorite cities, but I have never run a race there. The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon fit nicely into my schedule so I jumped on the chance to run it.

The expo was held at Louisville Slugger Field, with convenient free parking at the venue. The expo was small with just a Fleet Feet booth as well as a small table where additional race swag was sold. I bought two beautiful etched bourbon glasses to help commemorate the experience. Volunteers at the expo were extremely helpful and enthusiastic, which made for a great initial impression. Samples of Jim Beam were available and though I am not a huge bourbon drinker, I really enjoyed the offerings. The long-sleeved race shirt was a beautiful brick-colored dri-fit material. Aside from bourbon, Fleur de Lis was the theme and was nicely patterned on the shirt, featuring highlights of the race itself. I appreciated the ability to exchange my shirt at the expo for a better-fitting size.

One fun feature of this race was the Urban Bourbon Walk, where race finishers can visit up to seven different establishments after the race on Saturday and receive a special Fleur de Lis cloisonné pin. I was able to obtain all seven pins, and have them attached to the ribbon of my race medal as an added memory of this fantastic race experience.

The race started in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse and headed around town in a gradual decline for about 6-1/2 miles until we entered Cherokee Park. I had been forewarned about the hills in the park which would last for around 3 miles, but they honestly weren't as bad as I expected. Once we exited the park, the course was mainly flat until the finish.

The race finished on Liberty Street, just a block or two away from Fourth Street Live!, where the post-race party would be held. This is hands-down the best post-race event I’ve ever experienced! Race participants were treated to food, beer, and samplings of bourbon from around the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Entertainment was provided by the band The Crashers, who had everyone dancing in the streets. The party lasted until 12:30 p.m., which allowed plenty of time to get something to eat, sample some bourbon, and enjoy the band before heading back to my hotel to shower and get to the airport in time for my flight home.

The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon was a fabulous race and I loved everything about it. Held in one of my favorite places, I will definitely run this race again. The swag, the post-race party, and the race itself were second to none. I would highly recommend this race to anyone interested in a fun yet somewhat challenging race!

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(2019)
"2019 Chicago Half Marathon I'd Do it Again in a Heartbeat"
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What a fabulous race! I ran this and the Chicago Spring Half Marathon in May, so I earned a special medal for doing both. Communication about the race was excellent leading up to the day. Because of severe storms in Chicago the two days before the race, I opted not do drive the 35+ miles into the city to pick up my packet and instead had my son, who lives just a few miles away from the packet pickup area, pick it up for me. He said it was very crowded but the lines moved fairly quickly, so that's all I can comment about there.

The race started and finished in Jackson Park in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago's south side. If you know the area, it's not great, but everything felt completely save throughout the day. There was an option to take a shuttle or find one's own transportation, but the Metra Chicago Electric line added a special train just for runners that day. That was the option I chose, which I am glad since because of the rain, the shuttles were delayed while a decision was being made about the race.

I drove in during a torrential downpour but by the time I arrived in the city, the rain started to slow. I parked in the Millennium Plaza Garage. As they themselves warned, it was difficult to find the entrance and I was under the bowels of Michigan avenue and the area is very sketchy. I pulled into the wrong garage at first but eventually found my way, hopping onto the train with just 2 minutes to spare. The train announcer was awesome and was encouraging and congratulating the runners along thew 20-minute ride. It really was a nice, encouraging boost.

We departed the train and had to walk about 2-3 city blocks to the start area. I rarely check a bag, but given the weather I wanted to have dry clothes after the race. Gear check was on the far end of the park and it was an absolute mud pit. Luckily I thought to wear flip-flops and didn't put my running shoes on until right the start of the race. Unlike the vast majority of participants, my shoes, socks, and feet were warm and dry at the start of the race.

It rained pretty much the entire race, but the temperatures were in the 60s so it wasn't too bad. I heard thunder in the distance with 5 miles to go, so I really motored to finish before the race might get called.

Gear check pickup at the end of the race was pretty chaotic and the park was even muddier and sloppier than at the start of the race. Luckily I grabbed my gear bag fairly quickly. I was excited that my favorite pizza, Home Run Inn (I grew up walking distance to the original) was being served at the post-race party, but I didn't want to slog through the park to get it so I skipped the pizza and the beer and headed to the tent to pick up my extra half marathon series medal. I spent about 10 minutes talking with the very nice people from the race and then headed to the train station for the ride back to where I parked. I had to wait a little over an hour for the train which was a bit of a drag. Had the weather been nicer, I would have spent that hour at the post-race party.

Overall this was a great race, well organized with a beautiful course along the lakefront that we unfortunately didn't get to enjoy due to the weather. Except for the bit of chaos at gear check after the race (it is very possible some volunteers didn't show up due to the weather), It was a great time and I would definitely do it again. I only gave the Expo Quality 3 stars since I didn't personally attend.

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(2018)
"Grandma's Marathon is a Winner in my Book!"
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I signed up for Grandma’s Marathon after so many of my blogging friends raved about what a great race it is. While the weather was less than ideal, I loved this race and would consider doing it again.

Race Registration: Registration is online through RaceRoster.com. I registered for this race on December 31st, the last day to register and receive a free fleece-lined, full-zip jacket. I also received 10% off of my registration through being a Marathon Maniac.

Pre-Race Notifications: E-mails about the race and its logistics started coming in March, with several updates in the two weeks preceding the race.

Parking/Hotels: This is a point-to-point race, starting in Two Harbors, MN, and finishing in Duluth, MN. The race website gives a long list of options for area lodging, all of which fill up fast, and most of which are very pricey. We stayed at the Radisson, about ½ mile from the race finish. The hotel itself was decent, but the prices were jacked way up because of the race.

Race Expo: The expo was held just a few blocks from our hotel, at Paulucci Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in Downtown Duluth. The expo was very nice and of considerable size. There were lots of exhibitors, with packet pick-up at the back of the hall. We picked up our race packets which included our bibs and a few other things, but surprisingly, no race shirts. We found out later that finishers would receive their shirts at the finish line after being awarded their medals.

Race Swag: The free zip-up we received for registering by December 31st is very nice. It’s very good quality, and the fit was perfect. Runners receive race shirts only at the finish line after being awarded their finisher’s medal. The volunteers handing them out kept telling everyone they run small, but I picked my usual size and it fit great. I was at the back of the pack of finishers, and there were still plenty of shirts available in all sizes.

Race Morning: Since we stayed near the race finish, we needed a way to get to the start. Besides driving on our own, the race offers two (free) options: Buses or train. We opted for the train, as people recommended it as ‘part of the experience’. We were advised to arrive by 4:30 a.m. to get a seat. We arrived at 4:45 a.m. and were some of the first to board. That made for a very long day, as the race doesn’t start until 7:45 a.m. The other option was school buses, but I can’t comment since we opted for the train.

The Race: The entire course runs along the coast of Lake Superior. There was a heavy fog for the first 14 or 15 miles of the race, so much of the view was obscured. We drove the route the following day, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Porta-potties/Aid Stations/Security: There were Powerade/water stations and porta-potties every-other-mile on the odd-numbered miles. Medical tents seemed to be positioned about every five miles. There wasn’t a huge police presence, but there were security officers on motorcycles riding up and down the course for the latter part of the race.

Spectators/Fan Support: There is very little crowd support except for the last two miles, though there were people scattered along much of the course cheering us on and offering anywhere from water, to fruit, to ibuprofen and pickle juice! There were lots of spectators at the final mile or two, giving runners that extra boost of energy!

Post-Race: There were a few photographers at the end, and we received water bottles (that the volunteers so nicely opened for us!) as we came through the finish. Along with our finisher shirts we received a ticket for a free beer at the beer tent, where a band was playing and people were dancing.

Race Management: The race seems very well-managed and communication was excellent. This was the 42nd annual running of this race, and everything seemed very organized and ran very smoothly.

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(2018)
"Beautiful Race Through the Streets of NaperTHRILL"
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I ran this inaugural race in 2016 and absolutely loved it, but I had to skip 2017 because of a family wedding out of town. I ran again in 2018 and I am already registered for 2019. Held the third week in April and just minutes from my home, I’ve decided to make this my kick-start race for the running season each year.

Race Registration: Race registration is online through active.com. Registration opens at $1.00 (they don’t really say how many spots are available at this price, but I suspect there are very few), and then goes to $5.00 and keeps increasing in $5.00 increments as the lower prices sell out. I got in for 2019 at $30.00. The current price is $50.00, and the final price closest to race day is $100.00. If you are thinking of running this race, register sooner than later to get in on these great prices!

Pre-Race Notifications: Not much is received after the confirmation of registration via e-mail. There are a few notifications in the weeks before the race, but not much between registering and this later time period. This is not a big deal for me since I live very close to the race venue, but I can see where this would be frustrating for people traveling for this race.

Parking/Hotels: The race is held on a Sunday morning, so ample parking is available in and around downtown Naperville, Illinois. My dentist’s office is just two blocks from the race start/finish, so I get to park there for free, which also means I get to arrive just minutes before the race starts. There are a couple of hotels in the immediate area, but I can’t comment since I live so close to the venue.

Race Expo: There isn’t one! Packet pickup is in the basement of Naperville Running Company (a running store) in downtown Naperville. No frills here—just arrive with your ID, pick up your packet, and be on your way. That is fine by me. Packets can be mailed for a fee of $25.00, which seems a little pricey to me, but for out-of-towners, that may be the best option.

Race Swag: Runners receive race shirts and a free pair of Belaga running socks (at least during packet pickup at Naperville Running Company—I heard from some ladies at the race this year who did morning-of packet pickup that they did not receive the socks, but maybe they were just out by that time). Runners also receive a nice little drawstring bag. Shirts can be exchanged for size, but only after the race and in limited numbers, which is not very practical. I ordered a size S in 2016 and it fit perfectly. My size hasn’t changed, but the 2018 S is much too small for me. There were no Ms or Ls left when I came to exchange, so no 2018 race shirt for me.

Race Morning: The race starts and ends in Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium at North Central College in downtown Naperville. It’s a small race so there is not much pomp and circumstance—just a few exhibitors and some music and announcements before the race starts.

The Race: The course runs through many beautiful neighborhoods throughout Naperville, where you can spot some pretty amazing homes and landscapes if you are into that sort of thing! Participants also run on Chicago Avenue and Washington Street at different points of the race, both of which are main streets for the town. One side of Washington (the main drag) stays open to traffic, but because the race is held on a Sunday, that isn’t much of a problem for runners. The final two miles take the runners on a trail along the DuPage River. Beautiful and scenic, it is a narrow path, but with a race of this size, it’s not a big deal.

Porta-potties/Aid Stations/Security: There are plenty of water/aid stations along the course, typically manned by high school volunteers. There is a good police presence as well as enough scattered porta-potties along the route.

Spectators/Fan Support: Depending on the weather, there may or may not be too much spectator support. Since most of the race runs through neighborhoods, it is a pretty quiet race, but there are a number of people sitting at the ends of their driveways along the course cheering runners on. The final stretch of the race is lined with cheering spectators, which is a nice boost at the end.

Post-Race: There’s not a lot of hoopla to this race. It’s a small race, but I suspect it will continue to grow over the years. There are some snacks offered to finishers and music playing in the background, as well as the same vendors who were there at the start of the race, but that is about it.

Race Management: The race seems well-managed and I haven’t run into any bumps the two years I have run it. There is not a ton of communication from the race organizers, but I didn’t think that affected my experience. I can see where out-of-towners would need more communication between registration and race day.

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