Latest reviews by Andrew

(2018)
"Apparently Ramen is my new Pre Race Meal"
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I earned my 6 star medal at the Tokyo Marathon in 2018. As with my experience with all the other World Major Marathons, I came out of this race looking forward to finding a way back to it again in the future. I was excited to experience a race in a new country where running is so highly regarded. Entry into this race is not an easy task for runners from the US. I was able to get in their Run as One program that sets aside 300 entries for the fastest, non professional men and woman international runners. I felt really fortunate because the entry for this race was half the price as some of the majors in the states opposed to the cost that come with a tour program. One thing to note if looking to get an entry through Run as One is that there is a limited number of races that count for the entry. Most major city marathon are included but smaller races, even if fully verified may not count.

The expo overall was a nice experience. It is in a massive building tucked away from some of the busier parts of the city. Getting your bib was slightly confusing as there multiple international groups pick up locations however there were many english speaking volunteers that make this maneuverable. The t-shirt provided had a nice design and there were plenty of options for additional swag to buy. I feel like I ended up with one of everything...

The start of the race was pretty well marked out. I entered the "runner only" area a little more than an hour before the start and had plenty of time to drop off my bag and get to the corral. Corrals are kept separated until right before the race begins, there was space to sit or stretch out within your corral while you waited opposed to needing to stand in a crowded group for uncomfortably long.

Overall the course is awesome for racing and chasing a PR. The course is flat with some very minor rollers throughout which I think helped keep my legs rolling. There are 3 180 turns along the course which sounds less than ideal but were not as bad as expected. If anything I really enjoyed turning 180 and looking for friends or zoning out staring at the people running the opposite direction. Anything lost in taking those turns was easily outweighed by the mental boost received from looking for friends and at other runners once you make the turn. For as beautiful as Tokyo is, you do not see a lot of it close up during the race. However, what it lacks in visually interesting sites along the course it makes up for it in how well the race is managed and the great opportunity there is to having a fast race.

I cannot speak highly enough about the volunteers at the race. The volunteers did a fantastic job of having food and drink available along the course at the different aid stations and I was amazed at how efficient they were at clearing the streets of garbage and debris. I wouldn't be surprised if you ran the course an hour after the last runner finished that you wouldn't be able to tell a marathon just had been run.

The finish takes you through what felt like a more narrow street relative to what you had been running where the crowds grow louder before one final 90 degree turn before a last 200m sprint to the finish line. After finishing, you're taken through the typical maze of food, drink, medal and gear bag pretty quickly. One thing I was not expecting was that you are not allowed to change your clothes along the streets. It is pretty strictly enforced that you proceed to a changing room, ours was on the 4th floor of a building a few blocks away before being able to put on a different shirt or pants.

The medal for this race is AWESOME! Easily my favorite of any of the majors. Very olympicesque.

This was such an incredible race and so well organized. I cannot recommend this race enough. As unique as this race is and Tokyo is as a city, I am really happy this was the race and the experience I had as I became a Six Star Finisher.

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(2016)
"Marathon Shake Out Race"
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2016 was the inaugural running of the International Chicago 5k. Aimed to bring together people from around the world that come into town for the Chicago marathon, this race provided a nice opportunity to run the streets of Chicago and along the lake front the day before the marathon.

This "race" seemed to be chicago's version of the breakfast run at the Berlin marathon that encourages you to represent your company and be around and meet people from around the world there to run the marathon the following day. Some people were definitely there to race but it seemed like the majority of people were there to enjoy a morning run through the loop.

There was one aid station along the course and the combination of running through the streets of the loop and the lake front path were fairly seemless. The finish was only a few hundred feet before the marathon finish which was a cool choice.

This years swag was a pretty awesome stocking cap that had the Chicago flag stars on it.

Definitely a fun race and a nice opportunity to be around fellow marathon runners.

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(2016)
"Oktoberfest Warm up"
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As with all Major marathons the expectation for Berlin was very high and it definitely lived up. In typical German fashion I felt the entire race experience was run efficiently and allowed for the runners to take full advantage of the experience.

Sign up was simple. I was fortunate enough to have a time that allowed for automatic entry which removed the stress of the lotto system. The overall cost was much lower than the other major marathons. Part of that was a race shirt was optional with sign up. I liked having the choice of purchasing some 'swag' ahead of time. During packet pickup you can avoid the mess of the official gear tent and pick up your items easily in another location. However, it felt wrong having the choice to buy the FINISHER shirt beforehand. I wouldn't want to jinx it.

Entrance to the corrals the morning of the marathon couldn't have been easier. I was able to jog straight to my corral, hang around outside of it until about 10 minutes before the gun went off then easily walked right in and took off. I'm still trying to figure out how it was so easy for a race of 40,000. I could never image that happening at the Chicago marathon.

The start of the race was awesome, running through the Tiergarten. Overall, I thought the scenery was nice. It provided a nice tour of the city. It was quite an experience when you would realize you're crossing where the Berlin wall once stood. For a Major, the crowds were a little thin but I thought they were consistent along the entire course. Although they might not have been as deep ever as a Chicago or New York I thought the crowd support was present the entire race which can't be said for those previously mentioned races.

The sports drink was very salty and not very pleasant, on top of that it was always offered after water so if you drank it the taste was stuck with you until the next station. That would probably be the only complaint I have for the race.

Finishing running under the Brandenburg Gate was great and the post race snack bag had everything you needed. The medal was also pretty cool with the german flag colors for the ribbon.

Overall this was a great race and lived up to the high expectations that come with being a Major. The race is as flat as advertised and on our day the weather nearly perfect. I can see why fast times are typically run here. I will be back!

Prost!

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(2015)
"A Must Experience "
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2015 was the first time I've run the TCS New York City Marathon. Going into the race I had heard two things over and over, that the crowds are great and that the course is difficult. Both proved to be correct.

Marathon weekend started by going to the Expo which reminded me very much like the other Major Marathon Expos. Getting your number proved to be a pretty easy task, even on Saturday morning when I went. After grabbing your number you pick up your shirt. Different then most you were not locked into a shirt size when signing up. There were designated areas where a person was holding many sizes of the free shirt to try and determine what size was right for you. The shirt had a cool design although I thought the asics shirt material isn't as nice as Adidas's for the Boston or London marathon.

Getting the race was a fairly intense process. I stayed in midtown manhattan and had to take the subway to the ferry at the south edge of manhattan, ferry to Staten Island, and a bus from the Staten Island Ferry to the athletes village. All in all it took about 2 hours. I look the 6:15 ferry (even though I was assigned to the 5:45) and got through the travel process without too much delay. I had a friend take the 6:30 ferry and had to deal with significantly more travel delays. Seems like 6:15 is the sweet spot before lines and bus times get too long.

Starting on the Verrazano Bridge provides one of the greatest race start views imaginable. Overlooking Manhattan from this perspective is amazing, one of the most memorable moments of the race. Maybe thats because thats the best you feel all race...

Brooklyn has great crowd support for the majority of the borough. There are rolling hills but they pretty much even out with the up and downhill. The Queensborough Bridge hits hard with the uphill at mile 15-16. The bridge leads to Manhattan where the crowds a massive and provide a much needed boost. Running up 1st Ave. and down 5th Ave provides an incredible tour view of Manhattan.

Finally, finishing in Central Park is the perfect way to end this iconic race. The grandstands are full with people cheering you through the end.

After finishing they provide great finisher medals as well as a drawstring backpack with gatorade, water, energy bars...This is the second race I've been apart of that give you a bag filled with all the food and drink that is typically handed to you. This seems like the biggest no brainer for any race. It keeps things moving at the end and makes it much easier to have all the nutrition necessary after finishing. The worst part about the end is the walk to get your checked bag and out of central park. The walk is about a mile, it can be shorter if you choose not to check a bag but not by that much. Its a slow walk to get your bag but the entire route is full of "spotters" making sure you're ok and willing to help.

Overall I was very impressed with this race. It was everything I expected from the biggest marathon in the world in one of the biggest cities in the world. Highly recommend this race to anyone. For the size I thought it was very well run and provided a great experience for its participants as well as spectators. It is a race I definitely plan on coming back to in the future.

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(2015)
"Fantastic Marathon, Just Mind the Gap!"
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I had heard great things leading up to the Virgin Money London Marathon and had set the bar high with my expectations. The race and the experience of this marathon did not disappoint. Although it is one of the World Marathon Majors, this is a very difficult race to get an entry for international runners. My friends and I had to not only join Marathon Tours but pay extra to be apart of their 7 Continents Club to get first dibs of their limited amount of guaranteed entries. Although it was more expensive then signing up through the lottery, which I did and got denied with, overall the price wasn't terrible when comparing it to hotel costs for races like the Boston Marathon.

The expo was pretty typical of any major marathon. You can get lost in there for hours and sometimes need to get dragged out of the official apparel area before spending my life savings. The actual packet pickup was easy to get through and there were a lot of areas to take cool photos. A few surprising things I noticed with this race were that the race numbers didn't have holes to put the pins through, you just pinned through the piece of paper and that instead of a tracking device on the bib you had to zip tie a chip onto your shoe.

The actual race was a pretty incredible tour of London. Regardless if you've been there before or not it is easy to get lost in the sights. Overall the course is pretty flat, a few up and downhills but nothing too significant. You run over tower bridge, through small neighborhoods and finish in front of Buckingham Palace. One of the most unique things I found about the race was how loud the supporters could be. On top of the race being well attended by London residents the streets are much narrower and therefore the fans are closer to the runners and create a much louder and exciting experience!

One aspect of the race that differs from typical marathons in the US is that at the water and 'Lucozade' stations bottles were handed out to the runners. These bottles made it easier to get the drink you were looking for and carry for longer distances if needed but felt like such a waste when you are only looking for a quick sip.

Finally, the finish line is one of the coolest finishes I've experienced. You turn the corner and run right out front of Buckingham palace before racing down the mall a final 200m and crossing the finish line. Here the crowds are especially loud and help bring you home. One you finish you receive nice medal and pickup a bag with your finisher tee shirt and other drinks and snacks. I liked the idea of receiving the shirt after finishing the race but I especially loved that the water, lucozade, and food were in an easy bag to carry opposed to trying and hold 8 different things while waddling away from the finish line.

Overall, I thought this was a well organized and exciting marathon. Although difficult and expensive to get into and travel for it is worthy of being on any runners bucket list. The race exceeded my expectations and will look for any excuse to go back and run it again.

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