Latest reviews by Cassandra Balzarini

(2018)
"New Castle 10k"
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THE SWAG: All available apparel is not including in the cost of race registration. Although the registration cost was relatively low ($30 for early registration climbing up to $40 by race day) I was a little disappointed to not receive any sort of t-shirt. All runners did receive however a stainless steel pint glass with the race logo on it if they registered by a certain date. Since the race is still relatively new, I imagine that the swag for this race will evolve over time.

THE RACE: THIS COURSE IS GORGEOUS. Beginning at the New Castle Island Common, a waterfront park area located in Portsmouth area of NH and wrapping around the entire New Castle peninsula this course offers numerous opportunities for waterfront views and even features a peek at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Portsmouth Naval Prison, which many say resembles a castle. A course with rolling hills, this is the perfect race for new and experienced runners alike. I had a blast with this race! A relatively new and smaller-sized race, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of vendors featured at the expo and the great crowds throughout the town and along the course.

THE BLING: There was no medal for this race, which was ultimately disappointing. I hope that as the race grows over time that this is something they begin incorporating.

FINISH LINE: This large loop course finishes where it started in the beautiful Great Island Commons. A decent crowd and breathtaking views makes this an exciting and memorable finish. There was plenty of parking located at the start/finish and transportation out of the event was a breeze.

I hope to run this race again in the future!

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(2017)
"Black Bear 10k"
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THE SWAG: Swag for this race including a UMaine Black Bear tank top featuring race sponsors and race information. A fun addition to the expo included the ability to purchase race swag from the other UMaine sponsored races at a discounted price, it was fun to look through some of the older race shirt designs!

THE RACE: Hosted and run by a variety of staff members of The University of Maine, this race definitely has a small-town, family-style feel to it. The course runs through the tiny downtown area of Orono Maine and then weaves along the Stillwater River, before breaking off from the Half Marathon and Marathon tracks. The 10k then wraps back through the UMaine campus (As an alum I may be a little bias but this place is absolutely breathtaking) before finishing up at the track of the UMaine football stadium. If you enjoy nature and wooden scenery, this is absolutely a race for you!

THE BLING: My bias showing again but I am a huge fan of the UMaine race series bling. This particular race featured a large Black Bear face that matched the tank top received at packet pick up. A nice nod to the institution and the theme of the race itself.

FINISH LINE: The finish line for all 3 races (10k, Half and Full Marathon) takes place on the track of UMaine's football field. I've mentioned this in race reviews before but I love a race that ends in a stadium, it gives spectators and place to sit and the crowds are always size-able! I ran this race with two other friends (who are much faster than me) so it was cool to see them cheering from the field as I crossed the finish.

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(2016)
"The Maine Marathon: "The Way Races Should Be""
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THE SWAG: Both years I've run this half-marathon the swag included a long-sleeve dry-tech shirt featuring the logo of the marathon and race sponsors. These shirts quickly became one of my favorite to wear on runs during cooler seasons. The race also comes with a sweet goodie bag filled with a variety of samples and snack, including a can of B&M beans who's factory is located alongside the race course.

THE RACE: This is one of my all time favorite races. A relatively flat course with just a few rolling hills the half marathon course runs through the back bay of Portland and alongside the beautiful Casco Bay. The course is extremely well stocked with Gatorade, water and aid stations - many of which are staffed by the local college's (University of Southern Maine) track and field team. There are never a shortage of fans and cheer groups along the course which adds to the energy and excitement of the race. The out and back course starts and ends on Portland's Baxter Boulevard a water side area of the city with ample views and photo opportunities.

THE BLING: I am never disappointed with the Maine marathon medals. This year, the medal came with a special surprise. It lit up! Appropriately themed with nods to the state of Maine, the medals often feature lighthouses and the Maine state bird the Black-capped chickadee. In more recent years the race has gone through some rebranding and the medals have looked a little different, but are still high quality and flashy!

FINISH LINE: As a middle-pack / slower runner I am always worried that i'll miss the excitement of the finish line. However, since this race is a combination of 5k/Half/Marathon and Marathon Relay, no matter your finish time you can expect a crowd at the finish chute. The finish line includes a variety of vendors and a massage tent, the perfect post race celebration!

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(2016)
"BAA 1/2 Marathon"
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THE SWAG: The BAA has a variety of swag available for purchase before the race that showcases the four races they put on annually (5k, 10k, Half and of course the Boston Marathon). While the swag is a little pricey for a sweatshirt, it is high quality and is super cute. The race itself comes with a long sleeve dry-tech shirt in some combination of the BAA classic colors (Blue, Yellow, Gray etc.) and includes the famous and coveted unicorn emblem.

THE RACE: The day of this race in 2016 was freezing cold and pouring rain. Despite those obstacles however, the race still went on without a hitch. Parking for this race can be tricky, as official race parking is out in Copley Square, with BAA sponsored shuttles (school buses) to the starting line, about a 20 minute ride. Although not the most convenient, this option was very well organized and I arrived to the starting line with relatively no issues and with plenty of time. The course for this race is relatively flat with a few areas of rolling hills along the way. Although a majority of this race takes place along a not-so-scenic highway section, there are several parts of the race that weave in and out of Franklin park and include nice forest shade and views of Franklin Park and Boston's Willow Pond. The highlight of the race course for me was the last mile and a half which weaves in and out of the Franklin Park Zoo, offering views of the animals enclosures and exhibits.

THE BLING: All the BAA medals look relatively the same, the unicorn shield with the BAA race title and the year of completion in the top right corner. Something that might be good to know is that the medals increase in size based on the distance of the race, don't expect a Boston Marathon sized medal at this race! It is exciting however, to have a unicorn of any size in your collection. For those who complete the 1/2 marathon as part of the BAA Distance Medley you can expect to receive the distance medley completion medal along with your half marathon medal.

FINISH LINE: The BAA half marathon wraps up in White Stadium, a sporting venue within Franklin Park. What is cool about this finishing venue is the stadium seating it provides for spectators. Despite the pouring rain there were plenty of fans in the stands cheering on the finishers. Afterwards, the BAA sets up a large celebration with plenty of photo ops and snacks.

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(2014)
"Wolf Hollow 1/2 Marathon "
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The Wolf Hollow Half Marathon was my very 1/2 marathon!

THE SWAG: Race registration comes with a dry-fit t-shirt featuring the race logo. The shirt ran a little small (I ended up giving it away to a friend) this is a really small race and so the swag wasn't extensive or fancy but was still nice to receive a little keepsake.

THE RACE: This is not a large race by any means, with a very small town feel the race starts in the parking lot of Nashua's Stellos Stadium, the football field used primarily by nearby Nashua North High School. While some of the race is on pavement (weaving in and out of two parking lots) a majority of the race takes place on the trails of a nearby wooden area. While you will be dodging some roots and stumps along the journey, the course offers scenic views and plenty of shade. The course is relatively flat but has some small hills here and there (to be expected in the forest). There are a few aid stations along the course but I would recommend bringing along your own hydration and fuel if you are someone who relies on that. I read several reviews that imply this course is just shy of the 13.1 mile marker, I can't speak to that however since I used GPS tracking on my phone only during this time and my phone died just before the end of the race.

THE BLING: The medal for this race was very straightforward, an average sized metal medallion with an identical print as the race t-shirts etched into it. This was a my first medal ever, so I was thrilled to receive it after crossing that finish line.

FINISH LINE: As previously mentioned this is a very small race, because of that the crowds at the finish line were minimal but appreciative and supportive. There was plenty of food available afterwards and a positive energy all around.

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