Latest reviews by Chris Sosinski

(2021)
"Helping Others Back Up"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

The Back on My Feet Running Festival is something that can help us all! This event helps those who are less fortunate and are without a place to live. Homelessness can strike at any moment. Running a virtual event that helps others is super motivating.

Signing up for this event was seamless! Directions on how to register and fund raise were detailed well on the page.

Through out the month of September, the organization posted helpful reminders that were encouraging in reaching the mileage goals!

The SWAG was great and useful. Participants got a shirt, bib, medal, finish banner, and GU gel!

I personally did not need help, but the organization was ready to help when anyone asked.

Overall I do recommend this event. Back on My Feet is a great event to help others find their way, while others are enjoying running!

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(2021)
"Terrific Return to Racing"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Grandma's Marathon was my first marathon back in 2016. It was downhill and fast I heard. What I did not know is that there were hills for miles on this course. After having a disastrous experience with the marathon, from lack of training, I vowed to return and run faster.

This year, 2021, was the year I was able to return to Duluth!

Due to the pandemic, Grandma's Marathon was operating on a much smaller scale. This meant that the races would sell out fast, but even faster since it was the 45th running of the event.

Registration opened in October 2020. The communications for Grandma's Marathon was fantastic. Every time there was an update, the race company reached out to let us know the new findings. The only issue I had pre race, was that the event did not get permits until early May of 2021. (Also not Grandma's fault :-))

Upon getting permits, Grandma's Marathon Weekend ran as smooth as ever. Each aspect of the weekend was executed to a tee!

I arrived midday on Friday and was easily able to find parking at the DECC for the expo. Be prepared as there is a cost for parking at the DECC. After parking I made my way up to the expo. The signage was excellent and got me to the correct room quickly! In past years the expo and spaghetti dinner were held in the same room. This year they were on separate floors. (I did not partake in the dinner, I did hear it was awesome!)

The expo was really spread out and had a good variety of vendors. If there was something you for got in your travels, you would be covered by going to this expo. Once you find the bib pick up at the very back of the expo, you will be greeted by extra friendly volunteers! Usually there is a long line to pick up your bib, but this time there was not! I was in and out in 5 min. To ensure your bibs are activated, you scan your bibs. I love this aspect, because it ensures that your bib is registered to your name and has the right age!

The next morning I rode the train to the start line. Since I travel with friends, I sat with them. Otherwise, I would have been able to sit socially distanced away from others. The ride is slow and gentle. It is also super fun to see all the area between the start and finish line.

Upon exiting the train, riders were guided off the train to the start line area. Port-a-potties were everywhere! Usually the lines are miserably long. Even though the field was cut down to 50%, the lines were still long, but very organized.

Announcements were made loud and clear for everyone to hear. When the National Anthem was played, it was concluded by fighter jets flying over the crowd. That was a nice patriotic touch to the start of the event.

In the starting coral, there were rows where you moved slowly to the start, It was nice as there was no count down to the start of the race. It took the pressure off, allowed for a relaxed start. After starting the race was smooth sailing.

Regardless of your fitness beware. This is a downhill course. Down hill does not always mean fast, rather that your quads could wear out quickly from the load!

The first 13.1 miles are brutal as there are very few spectators on the course. You have to be mentally ready to run solo and cheer yourself on. There are water stops every other mile with water, gatorade and ice. Each mile has a nice yellow balloon as a marker too! Sometimes you can see the balloon from a mile away. This is one of my favorite parts of Grandmas Marathon!

Once you pass mile 13, there are more crowds along the way. At mile 19, the streets start to be lined with people, cheering you on and encouraging you to the finish. at mile 23, it starts to be all down hill minus an on ramp you take to the finish line. This helps to make fast race finish. I personally had my fastest mile as my last mile this time around.

More people are present to cheer you on once you are in the heart of downtown Duluth. After reaching mile 25, you are escorted by the metal white fence to the finish line! can seem like the end is near. Don't let the fence fool you! There are many steps to go at that point.

After passing the William A Irving museum and boat, you turn a wide corner to reach the finish line. After finishing, in non cove years, you receive a finisher shirt and medal from a cheerful volunteer! (Honestly, the finish line volunteers are my favorite as they are so chipper!) after gather your race swag, you head to the finish area. Usually there is tons of food at the finish, but this year it was very basic. Not a bad finisher area, just more modest that pre covid.

Overall, yes I do recommend this race! I also recommend that you bring friend with you to help you get back to the hotel! The little hills in Duluth make it hard to walk. Grandma's Marathon is a wet organized and executed event. Please consider this event as it is amazing.

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(2020)
"Great day to get some speed"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Silver Circle Sports is a great company that has races nearly every weekend for all different skillsets. The Great Milwaukee Pie Run was hosted at Boerner Botanic Gardens in Hales Corners. At the park there is ample parking and an indoor shelter. Thus there are plenty of indoor bathrooms too.

Packet pick up was easy as it was in the indoor shelter. This company is very organized, as they now use a QR code to identify your bib number.

The start and finish lines are usually the same location. This time it was located right outside of the shelter. Silver Circle had signs and music to cheer the environment. Up until the start of the race, they had announcements to help keep participants up and moving. Once started, the course was well marked! Mile 1 was perfectly synced to my GPS. Miles 2-finish were off. The course was slightly short. So there was a little bit of a fake out when I finished haha. All was good though because the race was well marked and it was impossible to get lost. The scenery was fantastic and there were rolling hills to add a challenge to the course.

Coming up to the finish there was a nice hill. This was fun to challenge those around you to finish strong. Upon finishing, the volunteers cheerfully provided medals and congratulations on the successful run.

The swag was good at this race. There were AG awards and OA awards for the winners of each race. Also there were shirts and mini pies! Personally I opted out of a shirt, but ate the pie. When you opt out of a shirt, you save $5! I did earn an AG award, but had to leave early for work so I did not receive the award. Silver Circle has an option to allow you to have the medals mailed to you, or pick it up from their Oconomowoc office.

Besides this race being slightly short, I do recommend this race for other to run. Silver Circle is always kind and provides a well run event.

P.S.
Since I had to work I don't have a photo for this review. If I acquire a good photo, I will add it to the posting.

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(2020)
"Auto Show Adventure"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Honda Miles Per Hour Run did not have an expo. There was day of pick up and also several times at Fleet Feet stores in the Chicago area. I decided to do day of packet pick up.

Getting to McCormick Place was smooth sailing. I parked in garage C. Once parked, there were no signs telling you how to get to the Auto Show. After walking a mile to the north building for McCormick Place, there were signs telling you how to access the Auto Show.

Using the signs from the Auto Show, I was able to navigate to bib pick up and gear check. Both booths were very easy to get through. The volunteers were kind and helpful. No ID was needed to get your bib. For gear check, volunteers were handing out zip ties for marking your check bag.

Warm up was seemingly going to be easy. Little did I know that the actual Auto Show was closed until after the start of the race. This caused some difficulty in getting the miles I needed prior to the race. The actual course was well marked with cones, ribbons and arrows. If you got lost it was because you literally walked off the course.

The start line was not well marked. The announcer herded everyone to the start line. A start sign would have been helpful. As mentioned previously the rest of the course was very well laid out. Since it was inside there were lots of turns. None of the turns were too sharp. I was reminded of a looped XC course from my high school years. Surprisingly there were hills inside! There was a skywalk that runners covered and it was an actual hill. Otherwise, the course was flat.

The course consisted of tile flooring, carpet and cement. The carpeting was difficult to work with because it was slippy. Otherwise the course footing was satisfactory. The course scenery on the other hand was not great. Over half of the loop did not have cars. We ran in a large Honda test drive room with no cars. In the future I would like to see the majority of the course go through the Auto Show even if that means more turns.

Water stops were great. They were long enough to where there were not traffic jams. All the volunteers were super cheery too! As the event went, on the course got harder as there were participants lapping each other. This made it hard for the faster runners to get though the course.

Swag was okay. The shirts were cotton, and I can't say I earned a medal, but instead a rubber. The participant gift was like a medal, but rubber. I think they were trying to have a car tire like feeling of the award. Food after the race was very minimal, a banana and RX bar to be exact. Age group awards are still being calculated. The RD said that later in the afternoon, results would be available. Received an update about unofficial results at 3:00 AM. It is the event's first year, so I understand that things don't always go perfectly, but please keep your word.

Overall I would not recommend this race to a friend looking for a serious run. The terrain is hard to work with as there are so many unnatural surfaces. Travel logistics are a nightmare too. If you are coming from afar and don’t know Chicago, it is hard to navigate. If you don't live close to Chicago, or love cars, I would say risk the weather outside. This race gets a 3.5 total rating from me because it was well run by CARA but was not ideal for speedy conditions.

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(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.

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