Latest reviews by Will O’Keefe

(2020)
"Communication Is Good...Follow Through A Little Less So"
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The most memorable things from running the Maui Oceanfront Marathon are by far the beauty of the course and the Race Director emails. They were both a treat in their own right. In the days leading up the marathon the RD sent a really long email with 41 reminders on it - one of the last ones was a reminder that this is not the Boston Marathon, nor is it the NYC Marathon. It's not, the Maui Oceanfront Marathon is charming but it also could have benefited from a little more organization and execution. Still worth doing, but it's important to understand what you're getting into.

Course: For the most part the course is pretty flat - there are two sections with some decent size hills but nothing major. The race starts at 5am for the majority of runners and that means you need to have a head lamp. Not a big deal but I would say that I really didn't get to see the beautiful scenery until close to the halfway mark. Seriously though, it is so beautiful once the sun comes up. The crowd support is pretty sporadic but the aid stations are staffed by all different community groups and they really show up.

Lodging: We stayed at the Westin. The course is point to point. The Westin was close to one of the shuttle locations but I would think as long as you're on that side of the island it's probably okay to stay wherever.

Food / Drink: Star Noodle was really good. As was the Farm Tour and Lunch at O'o Farm. There was amazing poke at Tamura's Fine Wine and Liquor - yes, it is a liquor store with a poke counter but it was so good.

Gear: The shirt was fine. It's probably not one I'm going to wear very often. Medal was big and glittery - very Hawaii.

Race Management: This is where they lost me. For all the emails and general communication there were a couple of big misses. The Friday night before the race they notified all runners that there would no longer be Gatorade on the course and it would Ultima Replenisher instead. There were also numerous reminders about being sure to wear a headlamp and that there would be drop zones for it. I ran through both locations where they were supposed to be and saw no signs of a drop bucket for the headlamps. This was a topic of conversation out on the course from other runners that were puzzled looking for a spot to ditch the lamp. I guess the final thing relates to the proximity to traffic - this was made clear the whole way that you share the road for the vast majority of the course with the vehicle traffic. For the most part that was okay and pretty well managed. There were cones, the occasional traffic officer to support, but the last stretch of the race was a little frustrating because it went from the marathon runners, to adding in the half marathoners, and some of the walkers from the 10k. This created a number of challenges trying to run safely while also continuing to make progress towards completing the race. I would think there would be some ways to help alleviate the pressure of everyone trying to run on the shoulder of the road together.

Overall: All in all it is a good race. It's not the Boston or NYC Marathon. But it is really nice - the course is beautiful, it's not too hard, it's great to get away from the Minnesota winter. There are definitely a few things I'd love to see them improve on but it's a good race as a whole.

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(2019)
"Fun Crowds and Lots of Dogs"
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The Memorial Marathon is a nice race - first time running in Oklahoma and 21st marathon overall. Coming from Minnesota it was a little hot and humid for my tastes but the wind helped.

Course: Rolling hills - nothing crazy. We went through a lot of different neighborhoods which was really nice but the crowds were pretty sporadic. There were long sections of light industrial or strip malls which was not the most engaging. This was a new course this year and I think that if the course remains the same moving forward there will be more residential neighborhoods that engage as well.

Lodging: Stayed at the historic Skirvin Hotel - our room wasn't haunted hah. It was one of the race hotels and convenient to everything.

Food / Drink: We had a bunch of good meals in town. Jones Assembly and Hatch stand out in particular. Prairie Artisan Ales has a great set up. Film Row and the Automobile Alley were really cool neighborhoods.

Gear: You get two shirts (Participant and Finisher) but I would rather receive one high quality shirt than the two we got. The medal is simple but very nice.

Race Management: Only complaint is that the last .5 miles were filled with all the 5k'ers and it was a mess. We were weaving in and out of people walking, holding hands, etc. Would have been better if there had been a split.

Overall: It's a nice race. Crowds were sporadic but when they were there they were really good. The course isn't terribly interesting and there's a lot of strip malls / light industrial sections along the way. If you're looking for an Oklahoma marathon this is a good one.

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(2018)
"Perfect Weather and a Great Course"
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I love Grandma's Marathon. This was my 4th Grandma's and my 20th Marathon overall. After the last two years of hot and humid weather it was awesome to have some good weather (foggy and cool for most of the race) - unfortunately I was really struggling with plantar fasciitis and had not been able to train appropriately for seeking a PR.

Course: Rolling hills. Beautiful views of Lake Superior (at least when the fog clears up enough that you can see the lake. Last 6 miles are run through Duluth. One change for this year's race was the path downtown - Superior Street was ripped up so they had us run down one block over which had spectators a little more restricted.

Lodging: First time staying in the dorms. It was actually a really nice set up - we had a 4 person apartment and far far cheaper than staying in a hotel in Duluth.

Food / Drink: Hoops Brewing and Fitgers Brewery for dinner.

Gear: The shirt was a little disappointing this year - weird texture. Medal is good though - heavy.

Overall: One other thing I'd feel terrible about if I didn't mention - the city of Duluth goes all out for this race and it is an awesome community. Good food, better beer, and really wonderful people.

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(2018)
"Not One of my Favorites"
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I'm still not sure how to judge this race - there are parts of it that are really cool and others that were disappointing. When I think about picking one race in each state to run towards my goal of 50 states I'm not sure that I would pick the Asheville Marathon again. I don't have experience with other races in North Carolina but I'm not convinced it was the right race for me and my family.

Course: The course winds all throughout the Biltmore estate. The first 10 miles or so are very hilly and on asphalt; after that you get a variety of surfaces beneath you - crushed rock, wide dirt path, asphalt, and utility roads in the winery section. The last of these were particularly problematic for me - the rocks were uncomfortable and unstable to run on and it was a rather hilly section of the race - all around just not great for my plantar issues.

Lodging: We stayed in Asheville in a small hotel. Good set up overall because the race was at the Biltmore and we were more interested in what the city had to offer it worked well for us. Also much cheaper.

Food / Drink: We ate and drank real well in Asheville. Biscuit Head was awesome brunch and Buxton Hall BBQ was an amazing experience. We asked the waitress to surprise us and the food was really really good. As for the beer - Burial Beer Co and Catawba were our favorites.

Gear: The shirt is pretty standard. The medal is a stamped piece of wood and they also gave out fleece blankets. Pretty good overall.

Other Notes: A previous reviewer mentioned that this is a Biltmore Marathon rather than an Asheville Marathon - that is 100% correct. Asheville is a really cool town and one I would go back to again. The Biltmore is beautiful and really interesting - made better because we spent the $60 admission fee to tour the home the day after the race. The expo is small but easy to get in and out of. You have to buy a pass ($20 each) for spectators to be able to watch the race and even at that point they are only allows to spectate from 2-3 points on the course.

Overall: It's a nice race but it's kind of absurd that spectators have to pay to get access to the course and you better enjoy out and backs.

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(2017)
"Hills and BBQ"
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This was my 3rd marathon in a period of 9 weeks and it was a struggle-fest. For better or worse I signed up for this race just to check off another state before our son was born and ultimately my body wasn't ready for the toll of the 3rd marathon in such a short window.

Course: It's hilly. I didn't realize that fully until I got into town the evening before the race. But the crowd support was pretty solid throughout most of the race and you see most of the big landmarks along the way.

Lodging: Stayed at the Westin downtown. It was one of the race hotels and a perfect option. You can walk out the door and you're right at the starting line (and finish line).

Food / Drink: It probably goes without saying but the BBQ is fantastic - I hit up Gates (night before the race), Joe's and Q39. Q39 was the best BBQ I've ever had in my life. Boulevard Brewing was also a hit - huge space with a lot of great beers.

Gear: You get a t-shirt (i.e. not a running shirt) - but it is a nice one and the logo is good. The medal is pretty ugly. It is huge and just a big KC with 26.2 on the inside all over it in different sizes.

Other Notes: The administration left a little to be desired - I had participated in a survey that was supposed to get me access to some VIP benefits, when I arrived at Packet Pick Up I was informed I wasn't on the list and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I followed up after the race was over and never heard anything back.

Overall: It's a really nice race. I wasn't fully prepared physically / mentally for all the hills but Kansas City is a cool town and the course covers a lot of the city.

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