Latest reviews by Chris Sosinski

(2019)
"The Best Tour of Wisconsin's State Capital City"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The 2019 Madison Marathon and Half Marathon was held on a blustery Sunday in early November. In Wisconsin the weather is unpredictable making a later marathon or half a risky choice.

To start with I did not attend the expo because I had to work on Saturday and could not get to Madison from Milwaukee. Parking structures are everywhere in the city. It was my lucky day and I found prime parking right outside the finish line by the Madison Concourse Hotel. Parking cost $8 at this structure. After parking, I headed over to bib pick up. I chose the day of packet pick up a for $30. Some races are now making this a free feature. Having helped out in the past, with day of pick up for other races, I know the difficulty that comes from day of pick up. I am torn about how much should be charged for this feature as not everyone is able to make it the night before to the event. The packet pick up for day of was smooth and easy.

Between the start of the race and packet pick up I was able to spend time in a heated tent for pre/post-race, but chose to go to one of the many coffee shops in the square. It was nice to have a place to relax and prepare for the race.

Since it was 35 and super windy I waited until 10 minutes before the 13.1 started to take my warmup clothes off. Gear check was easy for those who used it, but I had a friend take my clothes instead of the event provided option. The starting line was extremely crowded. If athletes want to get closer to the front, get there a little early because people did not budge to allow for movement to the front. To mark the start of the race the event used an airhorn rather than a gun. The start was very smooth and well managed.

On the course it starts out in the city of Madison moving to the outskirts of town. There are some nice long rolling hills on this course. If a participant did not train for the event, the hills will take a toll on the individual. The 2 largest hills are at miles 9.25 through the beautiful Maple Bluff neighborhood and mile 12.5 as athletes head back to the Capital Square. The course itself has plenty of room for you to make a move and race other competitors. The markings ensure participants do not get lost and the volunteers are great and directing.

The aid stations were cheerful and ready to help. They were prepared and alert. This was great on a cold day because sometimes the aid stations are a little lifeless when it is chilly. It is a hard cold job. So thanks for being so enthusiastic!!!

After making it all the way back to the Capital, athletes are welcomed by crowds of people who line the streets. It is an energizing environment. Racing through the downtown streets the momentum builds and then suddenly participants turn the corner and are at the finish looking at the State Capital building. Then finishers are greeted by wonderful volunteers and some great food options.

The post-race food selection was very hearty. There was mac and cheese, chili, bratwurst, cookies, chocolate milk and Michelob Ultra beer. Runners can eat their food in the heated tent, but since I was cold I decided to go back to the car and in alone.

Overall, yes I do recommend this race. It is a challenging, but fast course. The only concern I have is making it a goal race since it is in Wisconsin in November. Just make sure to be prepared for any kind of weather and have fun.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"A unique fall run with a great running atmosphere"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Run of the Dead Elimination Run was an energizing experience. There were three distance options to run in loop fashion, 34 mile, 17 miles, and 8.5 miles. Each loop began at the top of the hour starting at 8:00 AM and went until 3 pm. Personally I did the 8.5 miles, or 2 loop challenge.

The event had a packet pick up on Saturday but since I live in Milwaukee, I chose to pick up my packet on Sunday. I am sure the packet pick up was kick butt just like the rest of the day was for the Run of the Dead Elimination Run. Packet pickup was very easy on event day. It was literally under the main pavilion by the starting line.

Upon arriving to the park participants are able to follow signs for the Run of the Dead Elimination Run event. It directs runners to the main parking lot and secondary lot. Both of which are pretty full by the time the 2 loop challenge begins. Do not fret because there are plenty of spaces available at Old School Forest Preserve.

While waiting for the start of the 8.5 distance there were snacks and drinks for runners, including fresh and warm crepes. Competitors that were in the 4 and 8 loop challenge set up camp, making it look like a cross country meet. Music was blaring and the atmosphere was totally runner filled. Since it is the Run of the Dead, there was a ton of people dressed in costume too.

Upon the start of the loop, the RD did a countdown to finish the previous loop. Then he would actually say GO. No gun, air horn or noise maker of any sort. Then everyone took off. This year the course was super muddy. The grass had been trampled for 6 previous laps and the landscape demonstrated it. This mud hole was for about the first 400 meters, which included going up and down some gentle hills. Runners then were directed to a gravel path, for the majority of the loop.

While running, the landscape was just breath taking. Trails twist and turned through the fall wooded landscape and the terrain was flat. There was standing water in numerous spots, otherwise the trail was well groomed and marked. As for getting lost, do not even worry. There were signs everywhere. On the loop there is one aid station you see twice. It has food and drink along with some fantastic volunteers.

Upon finishing the loop competitors are challenged by a hill. They can go up it once or as many times as they would like with the time left in the hour. The best part is that atop the hill there are margaritas and jalapeño lager. Hill toppers also get a patch. Note that this hill is not for the faint of heart. The steep incline turns into a vertical grade. To put it in perspective there is a guide rail along the path you run. Some runners were not bothered by the grade of the hill. Run of the Dead has another challenge the King and Queen of the Hill. This year’s champion did 136 hill repeats in addition to his 34 miles. I only did one hill since it was so steep and was not great for a hill work out. Since runners can do as many hills as you would like, that is why I rated the course as a 3 star hill course.

After finishing the hill(s) it shoots participants back to the finish line. There runners are greeted by the RD and his crew. With the remaining time, participants are able to change clothes recover or plot for their next loop.

This cycle repeats until the final victory lap where each distance competes for the final fastest lap. This means each male and female from the 8, 4 and 2 loop challenge can win a prize for their fastest last lap. There are no chips, so upon crossing the finish line the RD asks runners what event they did and determines their place from their answer. Volunteers mark bibs as a finisher, so participants can get their unique custom mug.

After the race has concluded there is an after party at Half Day Brewery in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Tickets are required to attend and cost $10, getting visitors unlimited pizza and wings. Prizes are awarded, raffles for gift cards and fat bikes happen too. This year, the event sold past year’s swag. Just like the event, the swag was pretty wicked including sugar skull drinking vessels, Patagonia shorts, fanny packs, screen shirts and this year’s custom Goodr sunglasses for those who did not get a pair.

Overall this event is fantastic and I would suggest everyone to try out this event. There is nothing like it out there. The people are great and so are the trails. Thanks Libertyville Running Club for making this event possible.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"A unique fall run with a great running atmosphere"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Run of the Dead Elimination Run was an energizing experience. There were three distance options to run in loop fashion, 34 mile, 17 miles, and 8.5 miles. Each loop began at the top of the hour starting at 8:00 AM and went until 3 pm. Personally I did the 8.5 miles, or 2 loop challenge.

The event had a packet pick up on Saturday but since I live in Milwaukee, I chose to pick up my packet on Sunday. I am sure the packet pick up was kick butt just like the rest of the day was for the Run of the Dead Elimination Run. Packet pickup was very easy on event day. It was literally under the main pavilion by the starting line.

Upon arriving to the park participants are able to follow signs for the Run of the Dead Elimination Run event. It directs runners to the main parking lot and secondary lot. Both of which are pretty full by the time the 2 loop challenge begins. Do not fret because there are plenty of spaces available at Old School Forest Preserve.

While waiting for the start of the 8.5 distance there were snacks and drinks for runners, including fresh and warm crepes. Competitors that were in the 4 and 8 loop challenge set up camp, making it look like a cross country meet. Music was blaring and the atmosphere was totally runner filled. Since it is the Run of the Dead, there was a ton of people dressed in costume too.

Upon the start of the loop, the RD did a countdown to finish the previous loop. Then he would actually say GO. No gun, air horn or noise maker of any sort. Then everyone took off. This year the course was super muddy. The grass had been trampled for 6 previous laps and the landscape demonstrated it. This mud hole was for about the first 400 meters, which included going up and down some gentle hills. Runners then were directed to a gravel path, for the majority of the loop.

While running, the landscape was just breath taking. Trails twist and turned through the fall wooded landscape and the terrain was flat. There was standing water in numerous spots, otherwise the trail was well groomed and marked. As for getting lost, do not even worry. There were signs everywhere. On the loop there is one aid station you see twice. It has food and drink along with some fantastic volunteers.

Upon finishing the loop competitors are challenged by a hill. They can go up it once or as many times as they would like with the time left in the hour. The best part is that atop the hill there are margaritas and jalapeño lager. Hill toppers also get a patch. Note that this hill is not for the faint of heart. The steep incline turns into a vertical grade. To put it in perspective there is a guide rail along the path you run. Some runners were not bothered by the grade of the hill. Run of the Dead has another challenge the King and Queen of the Hill. This year’s champion did 136 hill repeats in addition to his 34 miles. I only did one hill since it was so steep and was not great for a hill work out. Since runners can do as many hills as you would like, that is why I rated the course as a 3 star hill course.

After finishing the hill(s) it shoots participants back to the finish line. There runners are greeted by the RD and his crew. With the remaining time, participants are able to change clothes recover or plot for their next loop.

This cycle repeats until the final victory lap where each distance competes for the final fastest lap. This means each male and female from the 8, 4 and 2 loop challenge can win a prize for their fastest last lap. There are no chips, so upon crossing the finish line the RD asks runners what event they did and determines their place from their answer. Volunteers mark bibs as a finisher, so participants can get their unique custom mug.

After the race has concluded there is an after party at Half Day Brewery in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Tickets are required to attend and cost $10, getting visitors unlimited pizza and wings. Prizes are awarded, raffles for gift cards and fat bikes happen too. This year, the event sold past year’s swag. Just like the event, the swag was pretty wicked including sugar skull drinking vessels, Patagonia shorts, fanny packs, screen shirts and this year’s custom Goodr sunglasses for those who did not get a pair.

Overall this event is fantastic and I would suggest everyone to try out this event. There is nothing like it out there. The people are great and so are the trails. Thanks Libertyville Running Club for making this event possible.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"New Finish. Same Great Small Town Feel"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The 39th Annual Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon brought a new finish line to the game for participants. For the first time in many years the finish line was at Summerfest rather than Veteran's Park. Let's talk about that journey to the finish.

The first step in the journey to the Summerfest Grounds started at UW - Milwaukee's Student Union. Everything about the Expo was fantastic. Pickup goes smoothly and there are a variety of local running vendors. The expo is well worth your time. The only issue I have with the expo, is finding the exact location in the Student Union. The past two years, there were no signs on the ground floor, so it made finding the expo difficult. Other than the signs, I have no complaints.

The next morning at runner pick up, there was ample parking and numerous buses to bring you from Summerfest to the start line at Grafton High School. Upon arrival at the high school, there are indoor bathrooms and porta potties in the parking lot. I suggest you use the restrooms early to avoid the lines.

In 2019, there was a different set up for VIP and Elite athletes. This made the area for regular athletes smaller, meaning a more crowded pre race wait. Since it was not raining, this was not a problem because athletes could go outside and watch the sunrise if they chose. There was also coffee, water and gatorade available for participants.

While waiting, the race crew made announcements over the school's intercom to keep athletes informed. Announcements continued up until the time of the start. Prior to that point athletes were directed to the start line. Bag check was on the way to the start line. The line grew long because people did not tie their bags and or write their bib numbers in the the designated place. Come prepared and follow directions.

The start line was full of energy. People who were competing and those who were spectating alike stood and waited in anticipation for the start of the race. Pacers held their signs high, while there were also pace signs for starting line placement. With a short count down, the race then began.

The course is set in a rural turning urban setting, with minimal hills. There are water stops about every two miles. People tend to gather at the major intersections on the course. Signs are everywhere to make sure you do not run an ultra instead of a marathon.

Below are a few highlights of the course and what to expect.

After the first 6.5 miles of country and picturesque settings, you arrive at Concordia University, in Mequon. There you are greeted by their marching band and large crowds of people. This was a great time to feed off the energy of the spectating crowds. The next major spectator stop was around mile 10. People line the streets waiting for you to run on by. Mile 13 was a treat since Tri Wisconsin hosted this water stop. Athletes serving athletes was a spectacular experience. Near mile 15 you begin to see a more rapid change in the scenery. Houses are closer together and the setting is by far more urban, but very residential. Spectators become more regular along the course.

The 18th mile brings you into the heart of Milwaukee's North Shore neighborhoods. If you love older luxury homes, you are in for a surprise as these homes are jaw dropping.

Mile 20 is home to a new marathon feature, a jumbo tron with a live stream of the finish line. As of 2019, the LFM is the only marathon in the United States to have this form of encouragement. From this point on in the race, geographically, it is all down hill to the finish line.

The last 4 miles consists of a bike path along Lake Michigan that feeds into Summerfest. Mile 25 is where the old finish line used to be, so this was a mental barrier for me trying to pass the old finish with another 1.2 miles to go. Further down the bike path, the finish becomes visible along with Discovery World. Before you know it you are in the finish with spectators cheering you on while your name is announced.

Crossing the finish line is a great feeling at the LFM. You are greeted by volunteers and other runners. then you are given a bag of food and some drinks. Then you exit the finisher area to grab you gear check. The new set up was not finisher friendly. Spectators crowded the gear pick up area, and there were no places to sit. As a tired athlete, I was disappointed.

If I were to give one suggestion about the race, it would be to create a finish area for athletes only to have their gear and recover.

Overall this is a perfectly run race. The aid stations are consistent and filled with happy volunteers. Miles markers and the final distances are accurate too. If you want a low key, but energetic marathon, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is your race to run.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"A Great Feel Good Run"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The DC Wonder Woman Run in Chicagoland was a first of its kind as it started and finished at Gurnee Mills shopping Center. There was ample parking so this was an ideal starting location for the race. Upon arriving to the starting area there was a huge pre-race party going on. A stage with music, a variety of places for photo opps and many merchant tents were available. On stage they had entertainment and contest for runners. When there were no contests they had music playing and scenes from various Wonder Woman films. At 20 minutes before the start, they alerted runners that we would be headed to the start line by taking a field trip.

Upon arrival to the start line, most participants were wearing their #iamwonderwoman tanks and sparkly tutus. Race decorations were extravagant, almost like this was a major marathon. The race announcer gave us special directions for how to pose for photos and at the finish line as participants waited. We were at the start line listening to directions and music at the same time. It was almost impossible to hear the announcer. The sound team needs to be more organized in Gurnee for future races. They had the original Wonder Woman on screen countdown to the start. Once started, there was no gun or alarm, just people shouting go. It felt strange without having an official starter.

The race went well until we got to the famed amusement park, Six Flags. In the park there were no markers at all. It would have been so easy to get lost. Luckily the pack I was with could see people far ahead to take the right path. Once we exited the park, the course took a nice bike path through an industrial park. At the exit of the industrial park at mile 6, the 10k and the 13.1 split off. There needed to be signs to let runners know about the split. By mile 7, I saw participants from the 10k who took the wrong turn. This is not acceptable when runners are not alerted when to split off.

After the course fiasco, we kept running on a bike path and through neighborhoods. Then around mile 8 we went to a gravel bike path until mile 11. This was my favorite part of the race! Mile 11 brought us back to the roads and eventually back to Gurnee Mills.

In the final steps of the race, it was lined with crowds and filled with music. It was unfortunate that spectators were running in front of the finishers. This ruined the finish experience for many. Then the final disappointment of the day was that the course was half a mile short. When advertising that a race is s certain distance, make sure to get it right!

Overall this race is 100% for fun. The roads were safe from traffic and the law enforcement was incredible! If you are looking for a good lighthearted time, then this race is for you! If you are looking for something a little more competitive this is not the race for you. The critiques I mentioned are to help improve the race continue to grow. I am not too upset with the race as I did this event for fun as a leisurely long run.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.