Latest reviews by Riley Fickett

(2022)
"Race Review: Hilton Head Marathon 2022 🌴"
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Last weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Hilton Head, South Carolina to run in the Hilton Head Marathon with Team BibRave! Hilton Head was set to be my 20th state in my 50 marathons in 50 states journey, so it was sure to be a super special trip. This was going to be a quick 36 hour trip for me, so I tried to pack in as much as I could during my time in SC. I was traveling solo, but luckily I was able to meet up with my sister and two fellow BibRave Pros - Andy and KB - while I was there!

I arrived on Friday afternoon around 2pm. As soon as I landed I picked up my rental car and headed over to the Palmetto Running Company where race packet pick up was taking place. Because this was a smaller race, it didn't host an expo or anything like that, so they hosted packet pick up at a local running store instead. It was actually quite a nice change of pace from my normal race experiences! I tend to run really large city races which basically require you to go to an expo to get your gear. I forgot what it's like to have a simple place to pick up your bib instead of having to build in a trip to an expo! Finding the store was really easy - about a 10 minute drive from the airport - and all I had to do was present my registration to the volunteer to pick up my packet! I was given bib #38 (which really clued me in as to how small the race would be lol) as well as an awesome puffer jacket as part of my race packet. Definitely one of the cooler pieces of participant race clothing I've gotten with a race registration!

After picking up my packet and dropping off everything at my AirBnB, I was able to meet with my sister, Andy, and KB at a local Italian restaurant for dinner called Pomodori (shout out to KB for arranging!). All of us were traveling solo so it was so nice to make arrangements to meet up and spend some time together. The food and company was so fantastic and a great way to start off the trip!

I gave myself an early bed time as I was super duper exhausted from the travel, but not before laying out my traditional flat runner! I love being able to rock BibRave orange for races and this was my first BibRave race of 2022 which made things super exciting! We were looking at a chilly morning (mid-40s), but the temperatures were set to rise to the mid-high 60s throughout the race so I wanted to dress cool and comfortably. It was looking like perfect racing weather so I was looking forward to it!

I woke up around 5:15ish the next morning so I could start eating breakfast and getting ready for the race. I always like to give myself some extra time to get ready in the morning so I'm not feeling rushed and adding more stress to an already nerve wracking day. It doesn't matter how many times I've done it before - I'm always nervous the morning of a marathon! After eating, getting dressed, and giving Brett a call for a little pep talk, I was out the door and on the way over to the start line.

I linked up with Andy and KB again and we all headed to the start line together. It was so great to have folks there with me to chat with and to help calm the pre-race jitters! Hanging out with these two was definitely the highlight of the trip. I always love hanging with fellow BRPs!

After a quick warm up and bathroom break, it was time to line up for the start! Standing at the start line made me realize just how small this field of runners was. I did not find out until later but this marathon had less than 100 runners participating. I'm used to running marathons that have a couple hundred, if not a couple thousand participants, so this was definitely a change of pace for me. I was nervous that I was going to spend a lot of this race alone and I really had to mentally prepare myself for that. I tried to approach this more like a long training run than a race - I do those by myself all the time! 😂 8am rolled around and before we knew it we were off!

This course is double-looped, which to be honest is probably my least favorite course design. It's one of the most mentally challenging designs because not only do you have to do the same course twice, but you also have to run right by the finish line and keep going while all the half marathoners get to stop 😂 Not fun! In addition to the double-looped course, there was quite a lot of highway running which was a bit disappointing. Miles 3-6, 9-12, 14-17, 21-22.5, and 23.5-25 was practically ALL highway. We did have a bridge that went over this really beautiful inlet (which full marathoners got the pleasure of hiking up 4 times 😂) but aside from that one view there was a lot of time spent on a lonely highway. That was probably my least favorite part of this entire experience, unfortunately.

Luckily, I really enjoyed the rest of the course which brought us through some really beautiful park sections! As predicted I didn't spend a whole lot of time around other runners because the field was so small which I thought was going to be a really big obstacle for my mental game, but it actually felt quite peaceful. There were so many really quiet sections of the course which I thought I was not going to enjoy, but it was actually a very welcome change to the craziness of the big city marathons I tend to run.

In addition to having some nice, quiet miles, ALL of the volunteers on the course from race staff, to police detail, to every one at the water stop, were SO friendly. I'm sure it wasn't the most exciting event to volunteer for considering how few runners there are, and I'm sure it was especially boring for the folks who were volunteering in the later miles where I'm sure large chunks of time went by between each runner. However, every single person I encountered on the course had a huge smile on their face and cheered me on. I definitely appreciate everyone that volunteered that day!

As far as my race went, I had a FANTASTIC day of running! I was feeling nervous about how I would perform (as I always do) because to be honest, running had definitely taken a back seat once the semester got started. I was not very consistent at all with my work outs just because of how stressful work has become in the last few months. However, I felt fantastic through almost every mile of that race which I was totally surprised by! I think the weather conditions had a lot to do with how I was feeling. It was honestly a perfect day for running - mid-60s and overcast with low humidity. It felt so fantastic to be out there and cruising through the miles!

This race definitely presented an interesting mental challenge with the way the course was laid out, so my main focus of the day was to stay calm and collected which really played to my benefit in the later miles. I remember thinking how great I felt at mile 18 and 19 and I don't think I've honestly been able to say I felt "great" at that point of any marathon! It really wasn't until mile 24.5 that I felt truly gassed out and ready to be done. I think it's incredible that I was able to feel so great for such a long period of time, and it's encouraging to know that I can feel that way during a marathon! It just makes me want to work harder in training just to see how much further I can go!

My absolute favorite part of this race was the finish line. Not because I was excited to be done (which believe me, I was), but because of how hyped the finish line volunteers were for every single finisher that came through the chute and across the finish line! There were large gaps between each finisher, which allowed the volunteers at the end to really cheer hard for each runner who finished and make each runner feel special. I know I certainly did! I crossed the finish line, they handed me my medal, a water, and a shot of Nuun, and made me feel so proud of my accomplishment. 🥰

Again, I just missed a sub-5. Similarly to my experience at Rock n' Roll Arizona, it was definitely in the back of my mind that I could shoot for a sub-5, but I didn't want to get my hopes up too high during the run and ultimately disappoint myself if I didn't accomplish that time goal. I had gone into the race with the sole goal to finish so I did my best to stay focused on that. I know that I'll get sub-5 again, and very likely I'll get sub-5 again SOON. I just gotta do all the right things to get there. For now, I'm just pumped that I finished STATE #20 BABY!!! 40% done!!!

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE HILTON HEAD MARATHON: The volunteers! Everyone was so stinkin' friendly and made me feel so supported on the course. I so appreciated every single person who spent their Saturday supporting me and the other runners working to accomplish their goal of finishing!

LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE HILTON HEAD MARATHON: The course design. I'm not personally a fan of the double-loop, and I really wish we were able to get some more ocean views and less highway miles on the run. We were on an island, after all! I understand it's tricky to block off 26 miles of traffic though, so even though it happened to be my least favorite part of this race, I know the organizers did the best they could to come up with an interesting and scenic route for us. It's definitely not a deal breaker in my opinion!

If you're looking for a smaller race in a scenic location, or looking to escape the harshness of winter in your area for a racecation, the Hilton Head Marathon might be just the race for you! I honestly think that the volunteers really made this experience special for the runners. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging and kept me in great spirits through all 26.2 miles. If you decide to sign up for this race, you will absolutely feel supported the entire way through. Definitely give it a go!

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(2022)
"Race Review: Atlantic City Marathon 2022"
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I had the privilege of running the 2022 Atlantic City Marathon in October - the country's third-oldest continuing marathon! This was marathon #24 for me in my 23rd state, and I was excited to check out all that AC had to offer! I arrived on Saturday afternoon, which was the day before the race. I was able to park at the hotel I was staying at and walk down the boardwalk to Bally's where the expo was hosted. The expo itself was fairly small, but all of the volunteers were so friendly, the line for bib pick-up moved quickly, and they had a solid selection of merchandise. I was able to pick up a finisher's shirt and a magnet from the merchandise shop which I was very excited about, but I think my favorite piece of merchandise was the quarter zip runners got with registration. I think the quarter zip is among some of the best swag I've received with my registration among almost any race I've done, so I was very happy with that!

Race morning was unfortunately rainy and gray, so I knew we were in for a long day. Luckily the start/finish area was in a fairly central and easy-to-access location on the boardwalk, so getting there was super easy from the boardwalk hotels. I did my warm-up run from my hotel to the start line, so that worked out perfectly! Gear check was also super straightforward and efficient, and runners were able to utilize any bag they felt comfortable leaving behind instead of having to stick to a specific race-issued bag. I don't typically utilize gear check, but since I was traveling alone, I ended up using the gear check and was very happy with how it was run.

The race itself kicked off at 8:00 am and I was off on a 26.2-mile journey with 1,100 of my closest friends! The first half of the course was with the half marathoners, and I enjoyed this part of the race! The course itself did a lot of looping and doubling back among the neighborhoods of Atlantic City which I enjoyed. It was so fun to take so many turns and see what was around each corner, and it made the miles in the first half just melt away!

We got back to the boardwalk around mile 8 and that's where the wind started to pick up. Some of the gusts were around 15-20mph and we were all getting pushed around. Luckily the rain wasn't all that bad (more drizzle than anything at that point), but it was a preview of what was to come. At mile 11.5 or so, the marathon split from the half marathon and we kept chugging our way down the boardwalk. We stayed on the boardwalk until about mile 13, but as we got onto the roads, we kept moving in a straight direction. The back half of the marathon course was largely an out-and-back on one road which had a huge impact on my mental game. Seeing the same thing for miles on end was a mental challenge, so I had to fight to stay focused on ticking the miles away.

We turned back around at mile 16 or so and went back the way we came. It was cool to be able to see the runners on the other side of the course coming back, and I even saw my fellow BRP Vanessa! However, heading back in the direction we came from meant we were dealing with a MASSIVE headwind that did not relent for the entirety of the rest of the race. We did have a little bit of respite around miles 17.5 - 21 as we did a bit of a loop in a nearby neighborhood to get those extra miles in, but as soon as we popped back out onto the road to head toward the finish, the headwind was still there. Such a huge mental and physical battle to fight against the wind like that!

On a personal note, I started bonking pretty hard around mile 17.5 and basically didn't recover for the rest of the race. Reflecting on it, my pre-race and in-race fueling was nowhere near what it needed to be (I was VERY under-fueled!), so I'm not surprised that I felt so terrible. Add that to the list of mental and physical challenges for this race! I kept fighting, though. I needed to finish this race!

We got back on the boardwalk around mile 23 and started to make our way down the final stretch toward the finish. With the headwinds still raging, I took a look at my watch and saw that I was on a pretty similar pace to my time in Chicago two weeks earlier. Because of this, I got it in my head that I could potentially try to beat my Chicago time, and that kept me motivated to keep pushing forward as quickly as I could. Around mile 24 or so the rain started to pick up, and it felt like all of the elements were working against the runners that were still out there on the course! I kept my head down and kept pushing, and when I hit the mile 26 marker, I had about 4 minutes to beat my Chicago time! I knew it was going to be close so I kept at it, dug deep, and finally crossed the finish line in 5:09:41, which was a minute and a half faster than my Chicago time!! So proud of myself for fighting through this race.

Atlantic City was a tough race for me for several reasons, but the organization of the race, the staff, and the volunteers were so fabulous the whole weekend. Their communication was great, everyone was so cheerful and friendly even though the weather was less than ideal and they put on a great event for the runners that participated. I'm hopeful that future race weekends have some better weather for the participants because this was truly an awesome race. Thank you to the Atlantic City Marathon organizers and volunteers for making this race so special for all of us!

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(2022)
"Race Review: Inaugrual Run Medford 8K"
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In September I ran the inaugural Run Medford 8K in Medford, MA! This race is organized by Dave McGillivray and his family as a way to give back to the community that they grew up in. There are three different distance options runners can choose from - 1 mile kids race, 5k, and 8k. I decided to opt for the 8k because of course I always go for the longest possible distance!

This race was truly a love letter to the community of Medford. There was a "Celebrity Mile" where local Medford celebrities competed, so many community members volunteered, and there were even neighbors out on their lawns cheering for all the runners! It was a particularly warm day in Medford, so some community members were even spraying their hoses for runners to run through which was MUCH appreciated! All of the volunteers were in such fantastic spirits from the moment I picked up my bib to the moment I crossed the finish line, and this of course made the experience so much better.

Bib pick-up was quick and painless. It was only a short walk from the starting area and where I parked for the afternoon. In your race packet, you received your bib and safety pins, a t-shirt, a rubber bracelet, and the race t-shirt. The t-shirt was a plain white t-shirt with a blue race logo on the front so it's not the most incredible swag in the world, but for an inaugural race to be able to offer anything with an entry is always a huge perk!

The race was actually held in the afternoon which was an interesting approach, especially on a Sunday in the fall when lots of folks like to spend it either with family or watching football. I kind of wish it was a morning run like most races as it felt like I had to plan my whole day around the race, but it was kind of cool to run a race at a different time of day for a change!

The course for the 8k was nearly a double-loop of the 5k, which I think was actually really fun. There were some rolling hills throughout the course but there were plenty of turns and on-course cheering to make it an enjoyable race. There was a water station roughly every 1.5-2 miles which was the perfect cadence as well. I don't remember seeing any port-a-potties on the course, so that's something to consider as well.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that all finishers got a finisher's medal! It is a very simple medal with the Mustang race logo and a white and blue theme to represent the Medford colors. Being an inaugural race, I was very happy with the amount of effort they put into giving runners some mementos to take with them when they were done with the race. I can imagine that swag will continue to get better and better each year!

Ultimately this was an extremely enjoyable race, especially for it being the first time it has ever been run. I have a feeling this is going to turn into a POWERHOUSE of a local race, and I feel so grateful to be a part of it for its first year. Looking forward to joining in in the years to come!

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(2022)
"Race Review: Missoula Marathon 2022"
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Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Missoula Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave to review find and write race reviews!

I had the opportunity to run the 2022 Missoula Marathon and it is hands down the most beautiful marathon I have run to date! I am so glad I made the trip out to Missoula this summer. I've heard so many fantastic things about this race and they're all true. If you ever have the opportunity to run this race, definitely do it!

My day started bright and early - like 3:15 AM early! All marathoners and half marathoners have to head to the University of Montana campus be bused to their start lines, and each start line is different. I was told ahead of time to pay extra attention as to what bus you're getting on because if you got on the wrong bus there wasn't much that could be done if you ended up in the wrong location. One thing I would suggest for the future would be for there to be more signage or direction as to what was a marathon bus and what was a half marathon bus. While there was one or two volunteers directing runners to the correct buses, I think having that extra reassurance for which bus was which would have been so helpful!

I walked right onto a bus and there was really no wait before we were off to the start line. We had about a 15 minute bus ride to Frenchtown, MT where the start was. I arrived around 5:15 AM so had a good 45 minutes or so to wait. Luckily the area that we waited in was full of port-o-potties and plenty of space to complete a warm up. They were also giving out plenty of cups of water at the start, which was a nice touch. Every 15 minutes or so they would light off a firework to remind runners the time was getting closer to the start which also added to the atmosphere! Before we knew it, it was 5 minutes until the start, so I dropped off my gear bag and got in line!

One of the coolest parts of the start was that they set off a full blown fireworks show at 6 AM when the horn blew to start the race! It was still dark enough where we could enjoy the show and it was such an exciting send off for all of the runners. I loved that!

The first 10 miles or so was straight up farm land which was so beautiful. It was so pretty to see the sun rise over the landscape and to see all the cows and horses as we ran by. One thing to note that this section was particularly challenging for me to get into a good mental groove. The scenery stays consistent for all 10 miles, there's very little crowd support (if any!) and water stops are fairly infrequent (I believe the first one was mile 3ish). For this section I highly recommend ensuring you have plenty of your own nutrition and hydration, and be ready to get yourself in a good mental headspace to get you through those first 10 miles.

Once we hit mile 10, we saw more of the neighbors come out and aid stations became more frequent. This is also the part where we started to get some serious mountain views which were so breath taking. I think my favorite point in the race scenery-wise was miles 13-16. This is actually also the only hill you really experience the entire race as well! However the landscape you get to take in at this point makes the hill so worth it. You can look out to your left and see the M on Mount Sentinel from miles away which was so incredible. You just knew that in a matter of a few more hours you'll be right there in Downtown Missoula, celebrating your finish! Super motivating. I took so many photos and videos, but they just did not do the scenery justice. I would 100% do this race all over again solely for these views.

I think the hardest section of the race for me was miles 16-18. After we came back down the hill, my legs felt like they were in shambles. Not the way you want to feel when you have 10 more miles to go! However I took this as an opportunity to try to enjoy the scenery as much as I could and try to focus in on my fueling. There was also a piano player at mile 16.5 which was so cool to see in the middle of such a wooded area!

Around mile 18/19 the volunteers were handing out cold sponges which was so great. While it wasn't sweltering hot, the sun was out in full force which is always a game changer when it comes to racing. I stuck a sponge under my hat which felt really nice for a few miles!

Around mile 20 we started getting into the neighborhoods of Missoula which was so exciting, and definitely more my speed when it comes to races. I really feed off crowd energy, and the neighbors came out in full force to cheer on the runners! It was at this point in the race that I really perked up, and I felt the best I had felt all race starting from mile 21 through the rest of the race!

Coming into downtown Missoula at the finish was so incredible! Everyone was cheering so hard for every runner. As a more back of the pack runner, it's so nice for folks to bring the same energy to the folks that take longer to complete 26.2 miles. I hope those folks know how much they're appreciated!

When I finished I was able to grab my medal from my mom who was volunteering at the finish! That was such a special moment to get my medal from her. I so appreciate that she joined me on this trip and that she was a part of finishing this marathon. I will never forget that!!

Overall, the Missoula Marathon was an absolutely incredible experience. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to run this race and I would absolutely love to run it again sometime in the future. If you ever have the chance to run Missoula, I would HIGHLY recommend that you do!! Thank you to the race team at the Missoula Marathon for making this such an unforgettable experience, and to BibRave for making this day possible for me!!

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(2022)
"Race Review: 2022 Providence Half Marathon"
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Early in May, I had the opportunity to run the 2022 Providence Half Marathon! I've been wanting to run this race in person for several years, but due to COVID and scheduling issues I hadn't been able to make it happen until 2022. I'm so glad I did this race because I had an absolute BLAST!

Right off the bat, the Providence Half Marathon has a huge check mark in the "positive" column for me. This race offers to have your bib mailed to you ahead of time which was so fantastic for me because this race just so happened to fall on the busiest week of the year for me at work. There was absolutely no way I would be ale to make it to the expo during the allotted times, so having that assurance that I would be able to have my bib for race morning and not have to coordinate with someone to pick it up for me was such a weight off my shoulders. I received my bib on the Wednesday before the race, so plenty of time before the race to have some peace of mind! While it was an extra charge to send the bib through the mail. the convenience far outweighed the extra few dollars. I really wish more races offered this for folks who are busy around race weekend and can't make it to the expo for one reason or another.

This race was a lot larger than I expected, which I loved! There was such great energy at the start/finish line to get you pumped up for the race ahead. They sent the full marathoners out about a half hour before the half marathoners, which made the organization of the morning much smoother. Everything was so well run at the start/finish area, so hats off to the race management team!

The race itself was such a blast. The course brought you through so many different areas of the city and really gives you a great feel of what Providence has to offer. There were also so many cheering spectators throughout the course, and you never really felt like you were running by yourself at any point of the race which is what I prefer for a race atmosphere. The volunteers on the course were all so friendly, and I appreciated that there was both water and Nuun offered at nearly aid station.

One thing to be aware of is that even though Rhode Island is the Ocean State, this course is particularly hilly! There's specifically one killer hill right before mile 13 (and right before mile 26 for the marathon) before you turn to a downhill for the finish, so make sure you're mentally prepared for that! Even though there are a significant amount of hills, they're totally doable and they never last for too long which is nice. There's also plenty of downhill and flat sections to make up for it! Coming down too the finish line was so exciting -- there's a great crowd there and everyone is cheering so loudly for the runners. It felt like the finish of a much larger city marathon! Providence gets a big boost in my opinion on the crowd energy alone!!

I think the only thing that I didn't enjoy about this race was the swag and the medal. It seems like there are a series of races managed by the same company that are offering the same exact swag and medals at every race they manage, and Providence was included in this batch of races. I ran another one of these races in February and I have the same medal, but with he different race's logo on it. Same thing with the swag. While I understand it's easier on the companies managing these races, it makes the experience a bit less special for the runners who may be participating in multiple of the same races. I hope this is the only year they take this approach and they put a bit more effort into the medal and swag designs so they're more unique to the race they are commemorating.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time at the Providence Half Marathon! It's so great to find a race that is local that is as much fun as this one is! I can totally see myself making this an annual race for myself. I highly recommend this race to anyone who might be seeking out a Rhode Island race, or is local and looking for something to do on a spring weekend!

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