Latest reviews by Tia Hedenland

(2019)
"Start with a race, end with a party!"
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This was the first year that I have ran the LifeTime Torchlight 5K. I was excited to get back to running along the river in Minneapolis and experience what it was like to run a race at night.

While there wasn't an actual expo. Packet pick-ups were at multiple LifeTime Fitness locations around the metro. Which really is a great way to do it, and gives runners an opportunity to pick-up their bibs closer to home. Race day pick also available.

Parking was available in the nearby ramps from the Minneapolis Convention Center. While the traffic was a bit backed up as a few roads were closed due to the race. It was within a block from start line and only cost $10. Very cheap for downtown Mpls.

The type of swag that you receive it pretty typical. What made it stand out though is the glow in the dark features on both the shirt and medal! And as you cross the finish line, you are gifted a finisher bag with a few goddies in it from sponsors etc. Near the end of the night as we were enjoying a few beers and the band. There was a gentleman walking around giving out pint glasses. Which was a nice surprise!!

This year the course was changed a little because of construction. And because it was my first year running it. I do not have a comparison to other years. But I enjoyed this course. Its fairly flat. It started at the Minneapolis Convention Center and ended at Boom Island Park. We worked our way through downtown, and then along the river. Not the most scenic, but at along the river are some very nice views. The course follows the Aquatennial Parade route. So it is packed with spectators!

Now my favorite part was the post race party!! Who doesn't love pizza and beer after a hot race? There were a few great spots to take pics. And the band was fantastic. We had alot fun visiting the vendor booths, enjoying the ice cold beer (multiple non-alcoholic options available) and dancing to the music!! This was more then just a regular post race area. It was quite the party in the park!!

Starting shortly after the race ended they started providing free shuttles back to the start line. Because we had stayed until the end of the night. We took the last round of the shuttles running. A bit of confusion as to what time shuttles ran until. Website listed 11pm. Security guards were stating 10pm. As we waited in line we were concerned we had missed the final shuttles. But thankfully we had not. So with a bit of a minor miscommunication, the shuttles were pretty great to have for runners post-race.

I think this race is fantastic!! Running at night, in a great part of Minneapolis, awesome post-race party and the entire race is ran very well! I can't wait for 2020! Easily the best 5K in town!

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(2019)
"A fun way to kick- off your 4th of July!"
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2019 was the first year that I have ran the Red, White & Boom 5K! Often times we travel a lot around the 4th of July. So being in town this year, it worked out perfect to head to Minneapolis bright and early and get in a quick run before the house was even awake!

Right off the bat, the race proves to be a fun way to start off any 4th of July celebrations!! There is something for everyone in the family on race day! A variety of distances, games, great food, music, beer, cool treats and awesome swag!

I wish all packet pick-ups were held at a brewery. That was honestly one of my favorite parts. Heading to Summit Brewing Co. picking race bib, tshirt, additional gear for sale and enjoying a beer at the same time! Kind of genius! Its not always about beer, but its summer and Summit beer is fantastic!

Speaking of summer. I greatly appreciate the early start time to the races as well. Here in MN, the weather is quite unpredictable. And this year the heat and humidity came full force. So being able to start the races before 7am was for sure a plus.

Its safe to say parking in Minneapolis is always a bit of a challenge. And while there are plenty of spaces in the near by ramps to park. Actually getting into them really is time consuming. If you plan to park in a ramp, leave plenty of time to do so. And I'm talking a minimum of a half hour to sit in line to get into ramp. I found a spot a few blocks away on the street for free, that was much easier to get to and didnt involve sitting in line. So if you do not mind walking an extra 3+ blocks, I highly suggest street parking.

The course is great. One steep incline going over the bridge but for the most part its fairly flat. The scenery is great and many parts were shaded. The final part of the race takes you across the Stone Arch Bridge that was lined with American Flags! So fun. And such an iconic feature to that part of Minneapolis. I love when race courses cross that bridge!

While the aid stations were well stocked with water and gatorade. I do wish knowing the temps were high 70’s and very very high humidity that morning, that additional items were considered, (And possibly they were for the half marathon) like ice or sponges. While I realize it was only a 5K. It would have helped immensely to have an additional way to cool off while running. Even setting up a sprinkler near the 1 aid station during the race would have been awesome!

Post-Race:
Can you really ask for any better way to celebrate America’s Birthday?? Beer, hot dogs, burgers, All-American pops, and a donut eating contest!? Woot woot!
As a vegetarian, it was even great to see the option of a veggie dog as well! I had heard many people did not see that was an option. So possibly better signage or volunteers ensuring all finishers know the options before leaving the food area would be helpful. As you could not reenter once you left. You dont want anyone to miss out! There really are not alot of races that offer vegetarian options so this really should be highlighted! It made alot of runners happy!

Between the games, the misting stations, the cool treats and beer tent. It was such a fun way to spend some time after the race with other friends and family and enjoy the weather and holiday!

The only real negative I must state is the decision to not place porta pottys in the beer tent area. No one was allowed to take beer out of the flagged off area. So having to find someone hold your beer and/or food to use the restroom wasnt fun. Especially if you happened to be there by yourself. It just made sense to place at least one or two porta pottys within the area you could drink so no one had to leave angthing unattended or possibly leave early as they drank what they had and needed to use the restroom and decided to just head out.

But all in all, this was such a fun race! The medal was perfect, the weather while so so hot still made for a great summer day. I would absolutely run this again!!

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(2019)
"An amazing view the entire 26.2!"
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2019 was my first year running the full marathon. It was actually my first time taking on the Great Grandma's Challenge (5K + Marathon). What started out as a sudden change to doing the entire 26.2 vs. the half, ended up being "well lets just run it all!". And it was the best decision.
Lodging can be a bit tricky, and expensive. So book early. The closer you stay to downtown the pricier it will be, and many places require a two-night stay. Like last year I stayed at Black Bear Casino, and while I stayed the entire weekend, you do have the option to stay just one night if preferred. While its a 25 min drive into Duluth, it was a much lower hotel cost!
The 5K start line/finish is right outside the expo, which makes it easy to go from parking lot to packet pick-up to start line in just a matter of minutes. Nothing too difficult about the 5K course. Great race to get the legs moving before the Marathon the next morning.
The expo is exactly what I remember it from last year. Wide variety of vendors. signs easily pointing you towards the Spaghetti dinner, guest speakers and information desk if so needed. If there is anything to note, when picking up packet, you will need your bib number. They do not have a place to look it up for you, nor are they listed by name. Bib number is a must to have on hand. Cell service inside the exhibit hall can be pretty poor. So either taking a screen shot of the email sent to you with all bib numbers or just printing it out can be very helpful, and will save time for everyone.
Parking around the DECC that weekend will be quite a hassle. Even driving in from Minneapolis you come to a stop on I-35. Plan for plenty of time to travel into downtown Duluth both Friday and Saturday (Parking at the DECC is $5/day).
This year with running the Great Grandma's Challenge I got a bit of extra swag. The shirt you receive for the 5K is given out at packet pick-up. But the finisher shirt for the Marathon and Half Marathon are given out after you cross the finish line. I did not sign up in time to receive the nice blue jacket that was given to full marathoners for free this year, but I did receive a very nice navy/bright yellow jacket for running the Challenge. The short sleeve shirts are nice quality and this years shirt was purple! Grandma's also offered an additional opportunity to showcase your big finish with a long sleeve shirt you could purchase after the race online. Limited quantities were available. But just another way to show off the fantastic weekend with a bit of a warmer shirt.
Now onto the Marathon. Starting line transportation is provided via school bus or train. A short walk after you arrive in Two Harbors and you are at the start line, where a plethora of porta potties await, as well as a DJ ready to pump everyone up for a fantastic race. The entire race runs along Lake Superior and this year, with the sun shining, the clear blue skies gave stunning views of the lake. It really was amazing. The course has very little elevation change. The only significant hill is towards the end at around mile 22 and coined "Lemon Drop HIll". While on a normal day this hill may not seem like such a challenge. 22 miles in it does make you work a bit to get up it. But truly the course is fairly flat. The best part of Grandma's Marathon is the amazing community support. Many of the streets are lined with people cheering you on, handing out additional water/fuel options and some pretty great high-fives. And the volunteers are phenomenal! From start to finish they are with you all the way. Always smiling and so helpful!

If you are looking for a fun weekend packed and big races with a small town feel, this is the race for you! It gives you a taste of the beauty the North Shore has to offer and a small town charm you cant find anywhere else but MN.

Yes I would recommend it! And yes I will be back in 2020!!

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(2018)
"Most amazing expierence! "
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This was my first Marathon! I chose Chicago based off info from others who have ran it and the fact the course is flat.

This race was everything and so much more from what I have heard! It was an expierence of a lifetime!

Book your hotel early. Plenty of options near near course start/finish. Easy walkable distance to corrals.

The expo was great. Alot of booths to visit and putchase swag. Fun free stuff to check out as well. Lines are long and gets busy at times. I planned two afternoons there so i could see everything and find all the stuff I needed.

Meeting snd being able to talk with the pacers at the expo was a major plus. Tons of great advice and you get a feel for what race day will look like and which oacer group you will follow if you choose too.

The entire race deserves more then 5 stars. Not just because of how well its managed. But because of the spectators. I truly believe every one standing on those streets...spectators/volunteers/police/fire dept are what make this race so amazing. Music on every block! Tons of people cheering for you (no matter what the weather is like)! The positivity and encouragment you will feel from complete strangers is enough to make me tear up just writing this! When you are at mile 20 and think you can go no further. There will be a rally of people telling you can, how awesome you are and to keep pushing! The snacks/food/drinks that are handed out by the spectators is also great. You never know what happen in 26.2 miles, but there is someone there willing to offer you additional fuel of somesort to make sure you can keep going!

There are not enough words to truly describe all Chicago has to offer. The views, the course, the people, the post race party, the companionship of runners from all over the world! Its all there.

The course is flat. There is a small incline as you round corner from Michigan ave to head into final 400m. After 26miles it looks like Mt. Everest. But its really not that bad. You can do it. The course is as promised. Flat and fast.

Even if you will not run the marathon. The expierence as a spectator will be worth it as well!!

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(2018)
"A crazy journey! "
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I think once you run Ragnar, you either have the bug for more or you dont! I do. Not entirely off of this race itself, but more of the expierence through the 36hrs with 5other stinky runners in our van.

Great River lived up to what I expected. There were a few things I wish were different. While you have legs your van could support you, some you dont. Yes there were water stations(well wait a minute, were there?), they were not clearly marked and honestly I didnt see the two that were on one of my legs. If you do run legs with little/no support. Bring your own hydration!!

With Great River changing over to Minnesota this year. I dont want to entirely list off the things I didnt like about the course. As that will be new and changing anyhow. My biggest issue running this summer was not having service on my phone. I know, I know. I sound silly. But being a small female, in a remote area I do not know, in the dark. Mentally knowing I could call for help if I needed it would have been great. I do like the fact they let those who ran night legs run with a partner if they wanted too. But again. It still leaves you with no way to look up your route, call the van or have them track you if you dont have cell service. Hopefully the new route will not have multiple legs with little to no service like the ones in WI!

As far as the expierence of the race. Its managed very well. But can have its hiccups. (Only a few port-a-pottys at a major exchange, made for extremely long bathroom lines.) But they do make up for it in other ways and offered smores to everyobe, with the candy bar of your liking!

If running at all hours of the day/night, taking short naps in a van with 5 other runners is your thing...then Ragnar is for you! While it was completely exhausting. It was so fun. Tested the limits of every one who ran including the veterans! We laughed, we cried, we ran a ridiculous amount on very little sleep. And then enjoyed beer and pizza after we crossed that finish line as a team.

The best part of Ragnar is knowing you cannot complete it on your own. You share that journey with your team and its a whole team effort to complete that 200ish miles!!

I will for sure run Ragnar Minnesota in 2019. I cant wait actually. Takes me outside my comfort zone, lets me enbrace all the ups and downs running has to offer and in the end I get the chance to spend time with other runners who are as crazy as I am about traveling by foot...one in front of the other! Its an experience thats for sure!

P.S. Always pack extra toilet paper 😉

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