Latest reviews by Ciara Doll

(2018)
"My First RunDisney Experience was a BLAST!"
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What a fantastic weekend! This was my first ever RunDisney event. Beautiful course through the park, wonderful character photo ops and interactions and a fun supportive atmosphere all thanks to the absolutely astounding team of volunteers and cast members! Of all the races I've run, this was the most organized and attentive experience I've had. Disney does a fabulous job to make sure that you are well supported both before, during and after the races. Disney also does a fabulous job with runner safety as well, so expect plenty of aid stations and on-course assistance if you need it!

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(2018)
"Cold and Fast!"
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This was my first half marathon! If you're running in NYC, you simply can't beat Central Park, rain or shine! The elements were very much against us that morning, as not only was it VERY cold, but it was sleeting the entire race! At first this sounds like a horrible running experience, but the less-favorable conditions made me run FASTER which helped me get a better time than I anticipated! The course was 2 loops around central park followed by a final stretch to complete the 13.1 miles (for reference, a loop around CP is pretty much a 10k, or around 6.2 miles). The course has a mix of small hills and dips with a larger more challenging hill toward the north end of the park (but you're rewarded with a longer downhill stretch along the western side!) At the finish, they had plenty of nutrition and foil blankets for everyone to recover. Race support throughout was spot on despite the elements. Registration included a long-sleeve tech shirt and a medal (this year's medal was themed to the Central Park Zoo!) This is not a huge race, but the NYCRUNS community is so welcoming and friendly that I felt like I was running with friends. Would highly recommend and would run again!

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(2017)
"First Major "Fun" Run -- Absolute Blast! "
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Do you like to have fun? Who doesn't? This race is an absolute PARTY! From the amazing pre and post-race parties, running Citi Field, to the color blast stations, you are in for one of the best 5k races of your life!

Pre-Run:
There's only one race to sign up for here and that's the 5k. Online registration allows you to customize your swag bag through levels -- the most basic being a shirt and medal, all the way up to bundles of merchandise from the race store. The mascot of the race is a unicorn, but usually each race has a slightly different theme -- superheroes, flower power, etc. The site highly encourages you to come dressed in clothing you don't mind staining -- I can't speak for all fabrics, but I will say that I've run multiple color runs before, and I've never had anything permanently stain. (Don't come at me in the comments if your shorts are ruined!) This race is located in and around Citi Field, home of the Mets. There's a SUPER convenient subway station that drops off steps from the start/finish, but you can also Uber or drive if you're coming in from outside of NYC. The pre-race party featured various fitness instructors leading dance warm-up stretches, a DJ, and various booths of sponsors and Color Run merch vendors selling products and offering freebies. Love free stuff? THIS IS YOUR RACE.

The Race:
This is an untimed race. There are no official corrals and you line yourself up. The hosts are super energetic and blast music and confetti at the start of each wave of runners. Expect the waves to move pretty quickly. The best part of this course is the start -- beginning INSIDE Citi Field in the main hallway behind the lower stands. The course leads you down the back halls of the stadium and out onto the field, where you run around the outer edge of the field before heading out and doing numerous S turns through the parking lot. Once you get through the stadium, this course really has nothing to look at, but the directors do a great job of placing the color blast zones and bubble machines around so that you aren't constantly reminded you're doing donuts in a parking lot. You WILL get color powder on you. This is unavoidable. But DO NOT OPEN YOUR MOUTH OR SMILE IN THE BLAST ZONE. You will get a mouthful of powder that tastes like chalk and cannot be washed out of your tastebuds for hours. This is literally my most important tip for this entire event. Wear a buff or bandana and you will have a much better time!

Post-Race:
At the end of the race, volunteers give you your medal and a packet of color powder. There's a massive stage set up with a DJ blasting music -- on a countdown cue, you're encouraged to rip open the packet and toss it into the air, creating a giant color powder wave that is SO MUCH FUN! I think this is the longest I've ever stayed at a post-race party!

Tips:
- COVER YOUR MOUTH. COVER YOUR MOUTH. COVER YOUR MOUTH.
- If you're running with your phone, watch out for color powder getting in the tiny cracks too. If you have one, a waterproof case has a great unconventional purpose here!
- Wear clothes you don't mind getting messy in. (If you are all about Instagram photos, wear white and the powder will really stand out.)
- Make time to arrive early and enjoy the pre-race party! It's a great way to get into the spirit!
- Don't rush off after the run! There's always a SUPER fun post-race party!

Final Thoughts:
They aren't kidding when they say it's the "Happiest 5k" -- don't miss this race if you love a good fun run!

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(2016)
"The Start of a Fun Family Tradition"
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Located on Roosevelt Island in NYC, this popular NYC tradition offers great views of Manhattan, a festive race atmosphere, and a race experience perfect for families, novice runners, and speedy racers alike!

Pre-Run:
Registration was simple and offered a race-day packet pickup. This was all pretty standard, but the big thing to watch out for is transportation. To put it plainly, Roosevelt Island a pain in the butt to get to from Manhattan. If you're lucky, a cab or Uber will take you (expect to take longer than anticipated, and to pay more than you'd expect for a normal ride!) We took an Uber and planned to arrive an hour in advance -- instead, our driver got VERY lost and we ended up arriving with about 15 minutes to get our packets and head to the start, which made for a super stressful morning. Lesson learned! The most straightforward way is to take the tram from Manhattan over to the island -- there are a few issues with this, so plan accordingly! 1) Unlike the subway, each tram car holds significantly fewer people and has to cross to the island, swap loading, and return, compounded with 2) Everyone will be using this as a primary mode of transit. So expect a LONG wait. Also, if you're afraid of heights -- SKIP THIS and grab a cab! Upon arrival, check-in was a breeze, and people were spread out everywhere due to the unique layout of Roosevelt Island not having any major roads.

The Race:
Due to the casual nature of the race, we didn't have corrals, and instead, we had general waves -- fast, mid-pack, and walkers/families. All bibs were timed. The 5k course is one giant loop around Roosevelt Island. the first 1.5 miles are where the money shots are at for views -- you can see the entire east side of Manhattan running northbound on the route. As you reach the northern point of the island, there is an aid station with plenty of water. The latter half of the run takes you south back to the start as you run in between multiple industrial buildings. It's a major 180 from the first part of the run. Once you head back south, the course returns to the start for a full loop.

Post-Race:
One of the most beloved traditions of this race is the famous post-race GIANT cinnamon rolls! Definitely a can't-miss treat if you have a sweet tooth! Since it's a family-focused event, expect to see many people sitting out, eating cinnamon rolls, and enjoying the morning! All runners receive medals and sweatshirts. The sweatshirts aren't the most amazing quality compared to other races. (Looking at you, Coney Island Turkey Trot!)

Tips:
- Transportation to this race is no joke. If you're not a NY resident, plan accordingly!
- Our day was sunny and surprisingly warm, but with NYC, a warm November day is rare, so watch the weather and remember layers!
- If the day is nice, take your time after the race and hang out on the island - not only is it an interesting, rarely-explored part of NYC, but it will allow you to kill some time and wait for the tram lines to ease up!
- Northbound route is a bit tight in some spots -- if you're trying to get around a group of people, you may have to cross into the grass or simply wait until there's a wider opening.

Final Thoughts:
I brought my family to this race and they had such a good time it became a family tradition! Love the holiday atmosphere!

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(2016)
"My First Ever Race! "
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This race holds a special place in my heart as the first-ever race I've ever run! This was a simple out-and-back 5k course, however, they also offered a 10k and half option as well. Beautiful bridge views are the highlight of this neighborhood-friendly race!

Pre-Run:
I attended this race coming from my neighborhood in the Upper West Side, and due to the distance and busy schedule, I opted for race-day packet pickup. I arrived earlier than I should have (rookie mistake!) but it was a good thing I did! I accidentally misread the email and thought the packet pickup location was the same as the race day starting line. My bad! My early arrival turned into perfect timing by the time I arrived at the start. Packet pickup was so fast and simple that I had about 20 extra minutes to stretch and take in the waterfront views!

The Race:
This was a smaller race that felt like running with friends instead of being part of a giant moving heard. We were all chip timed, but there were no individual corrals and those who anticipated a top finishing spot were encouraged to head upfront, while walkers and joggers went to the back. I was pretty nervous, so I stuck to the back and very quickly found my pace group. There were plenty of aid stations for all the races, and numerous medical staff on bikes roaming to make sure everyone was taken care of! The course was super simple for the 5k -- an out and back under the Verrazano Bridge. We had beautiful views of the water and bridge heading out, followed by the Manhattan skyline on the way back in! Even as a local, I loved getting to see this new point of view of my city.

Post-Race:
Swag included a medal and nice tech shirt. I wasn't able to get the shirt in the size I wanted, but I suspect that if I had been able to go to the packet pickup the day before, that wouldn't have been an issue. Finish line had lots of volunteers, a smooth bag check, and a variety of post-run snacks available.

Tips:
- This raceis a straight down and back, so bring sunglasses -- you will be running straight into the sun for half the race!
- Know your pace, and slot yourself in accordingly. It will shake out on the course, but at the start, stay further back to avoid getting trampled!
- This is a low-key race, so anticipate a good number of walkers and families.

Final Thoughts:
This race was not only the first event that sparked my love (read: obsession) with races, but they NYCRUNS community made a novice runner like me feel so welcome! It was only fitting that I ran my first-ever half marathon 2 years later with this same group! These guys know how to host wonderful events!

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