Latest reviews by Frank Nardomarino

(2018)
"Fort 2 Base amazing 10 Nautical Miler"
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I have fun this race many times and can easily say that it’s my favorite race to run. Not only because of amazing race management but support of our military. This years race proceeds went to the USO and the Navy Ball and I couldn’t be happier! Though the course has changed a bit from the past, the race director had great communication and still made the course enjoyable and scenic.

Registration - easy as always and very clear on the price increases.

Race swag - every year, the tech shirts get better and better. This years is by far my favorite and I’ll wear it proudly.

The course - this race still started in Fort Sheridan and a little more east than the last few years. There was a turnaround to make up for the mileage and changed course and it brought us through the military housing. The course still ran us through the amazing old parade grounds and tower and it is just absolutely breathtaking around the Leonardwood loop! The remainder of the course was the same as years past along the bike trails. We passed by the entrance to the Great Lakes Naval Base where we used to enter in years past. The 10 nautical miler ends up at Foss Park just north of the base to great crowds and military representatives cheering us on and handing out medals.

The Post Race - there was tons of energy at the finish line area with plenty of foods and drinks as well as music entertainment.

The Medal - This is why you run this race!! I’ve always loved the Fort 2 Base medals but the new 3 year series that began this year is even better! There is no doubt that I will complete this series!!

Race Management - top notch with clear communication and such amazing gratefulness to the runners.

I loved being part of this race and want to thank the race management, military, and volunteers for their continued support and encouragement throughout the race. The aid stations were short handed but they still managed to keep up and do it with a smile!

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(2018)
"2018 North Shore Classic Half"
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So, this is probably my favorite race since it's in my home town. While I will retire from racing one day, I will still be part of this challenging and fun race. There is so much to entice runners to run the half marathon with the scenery. Today's race was much cooler than last year yet still no clouds in the sky. I got there pretty early and there are so many available areas to park in so close to the start line. Plus, the parking garages are free!

The race started at 7:00am for the 5K runners and 7:30 for the half marathon. Temps were in the 60s and there was a decent cool breeze. The prerace excitement starts out on St John's Avenue and racers were greeted with the star spangled banner. The course was pretty much the same as last year with a small section of Waverly Avenue added. The scenery along the course shows off Highland Park's beautiful lakefront mansions, the downtown district, Ravinia Festival grounds, Park Avenue beach and the HILL, and the old Fort Sheridan military base with some historic buildings.

The course aid stations as always were filled with enthusiastic volunteers encouraging the runners. They were all ready with the cold water and electrolytes and cheered on runners taking the time to read the bib names.

I can't recommend this race enough as RAM Racing always does an amazing job organizing such a fun run. This year's medal was pretty cool with the spinning logo. I can't wait to sign up for next year!

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(2017)
"2017 Chicago Half Marathon "
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This was my first time running this race and it did not disappoint. I’ve always been envious of the medals from previous years. This was a well organized race with thoughtful consideration for the runners and a fun filled post race area! And free race photos!! Here are some of my highlights:

The Registration: Signing up for this race couldn’t be easier and there were plenty of timely discounts to entice you. I didn’t realize just how many runners raced this event.

The Communication: There were plenty of emails and updates on their social media sites as the race got closer. This was extremely important as the weather wasn’t ideal for planning your PR at this race. The weather was unseasonably hot and humid and the race staff did a great job of giving us tips in the days preceding the big day.

The Expo: Could you ask for a better venue for a Health & Fitness Expo? I think not! Soldier Field was such a fun place to get your race packet. There were plenty of photo ops outside with the ever so cool #chihalf hashtag sign right out front! Plus with the entrance to Soldier Field with the flags above is a memorable pic. The layout seemed a little odd for the flow though. When you entered, you needed to go to the right and through the vendors to get your bib, then back through the area to the other side to get your shirt. If you wanted to peruse the vendors, then you needed to go back. Maybe it’s intentional to get you to see the vendors that took the time to bring their services to share with you.

The Swag: The shirt for the half marathon was great! It’s an orange long sleeve technical shirt that was extremely comfortable.

The Race: This is one big well thought out event! I parked at the Museum of Science & Industry lot which is about a mile north of the starting area. Not a big deal as the walk through the north section of Jackson Park is a good mental preparation. The corrals were well labeled and there was some great motivational music. While I didn’t use the prerace port-a-potties, there seemed to be plenty of them. I met up with fellow BibRave Pro Heather for our prerace selfie and chat! The race began at 7am sharp after the Star Spangled Banner and corrals moved quickly. This is a fun race through the south side with the first three miles starting to get hot as the sun was rising. Weather was definitely hot and humid and the racing staff anticipated this and came well prepared. The energy along the course was amazing as we ran along Lake Shore Drive that was closed to vehicles. The volunteers were incredible and even though they sat out in the heat, they were full of smiles and motivation! The sprinklers and fans were appreciated along the last few miles. The conditions were not easy and the runners safety was taken into consideration by allowing half marathon runners to switch to the 5K! The finish line, as beautiful as it was, was filled with a huge crowd and 2 amazing things: Cold iced towels and popsicles!! I didn’t hang around for the post race festivities but it looks like the beer truck was popular!!

The Medal: This is the biggest and heaviest medal I have ever received! The Chicago Half Marathon series does an incredible job with the race medals! You can tell just how proud they are of this race by the quality put in for their runners.

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(2017)
"2017 Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon"
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I've been wanting to try out the Rock N Roll series for quite some time since they looked fun and the medals were pretty cool looking!  I was happy to get into the Chicago Half thanks to BibRave and run with my fellow pros Mark, Lisa, and Heather!
 
Registration is a piece of cake and Rock N Roll Marathon Series is definitely on top of things with their communication via emails.  Every week, we received some important details or motivation in the emails about parking, sight seeing, hydration, or training tips.  There were plenty of notices on the packet pickup process at the Health and Fitness Expo.

The Health and Fitness Expo was amazing.  It's very similar to the Chicago Marathon expo but a little smaller.  It was well organized with plenty of volunteers to guide you through the process.  The signage was big and bright as you entered the expo and the order of bib pickup and t-shirts was well organized.  Then, you were directed to the shopping area with so much to offer.  Besides the usual trademark gear from the Rock N Roll series, there were plenty of vendors in the health and fitness industry selling their goods or services.  

As for the race itself, everything is so bright and bold for this series!  I always arrive way early to any of my races since I'm usually paranoid that I'll be late.  It gives me time to wake up, stretch a little, and take in the sights.  I walked around the start and finish lines as well as some of the post race festivities area.  The energy and excitement was pretty prevalent and I awaited the arrival of my fellow BibRave Pros for our pictures and chatting.  None of us were in the same corrals but we always manage to meet up beforehand to motivate each other and share our goals. 

The corrals were well labeled though I didn't see any pacers for my corral.  I was in Corral 7 which is one of the early ones to start and it was exciting to hear the first few corrals begin their race!  The announcer did an amazing job to scream and motivate the runners during the early morning hours.  This gave the following corrals time to get their energy pumping and cattle herd towards that awesome starting line.

The course itself is very similar to many of the pristine Chicago races around Grant Park.  The best part of experience was by far, Adams Street!  The photos of soldiers sacrifices and the tons of American Flags being held by volunteers was utterly awe inspiring.  It definitely got me pumped up!  The energy was pretty heavy through the Loop by fans and their motivating and sometimes funny signage!  As the course headed south for a stretch, the crowd wasn't as dense as near the finish but still pleasant.  The only part of the course I disliked was the McCormick Place tunnel.  Most of the races go through it and I just think it's really an unsafe and unappealing section for any race.  I did enjoy the plethora of bands along the course that really did a great job to energize us as we passed by.  Oh, the cold wet sponges handed out in the later miles of the race hit the nail on the head!

The finish line as with any race, is big and bold with tons of crowd support.  The crowds roar could be heard a mile away and seeing that finish line from a ways back was exciting.  Crossing the finish line to huge crowds cheering you on is absolutely incredible.  The post race goodies like the cold chocolate milk and ice cold towels were perfect!!  The medal of course was top notch and I had to follow the crowds to get a photo of me, the medal, and the real Bean!  The crowds were pretty heavy at the post race festival with cold beer and a great ambience of music!

All in all, I'm very happy with the experience I had in this race and the Rock N Roll Marathon Series really does a good job with high energy and going all out with music and runner treatment.  I hope to run a few more of the series in other big cities!

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(2017)
"2017 North Shore Classic "
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The North Shore Classic half marathon has always been my favorite race for a few reasons.  I grew up in Highland Park and it always has a place in my heart.  Aside from the great reputation that this race has, the scenery from the Ravinia area up to the old Fort Sheridan army base is just awe inspiring.  Here are some of my reasons broken down by category.

The Registration: RAM Racing has always made it easy to register on their website and having an account makes filling in the registration easy.  Plus, you can see past races and results as well as your current and upcoming race information.  The email confirmation is quick.  

The Packet Pickup:  I love how RAM Racing has a few packet pickup dates and locations for this race.  It's very convenient to stay local for me and not drive down to Chicago for the packet.  The North Shore Classic uses Fleet Feet Sports in Old Town and in Deerfield for convenience.  I went to the Deerfield store since it's close and I needed a few extras from the running store.  I went on the last day (Saturday) and there was no line at all at 10am.  The pickup was extremely quick and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes!

The Swag:  This year, the North Shore Classic gave us a great tank top.  I like the colors and the sizing was spot on.  I've amassed quite a collection of race shirts and the best quality shirts always are from RAM Racing with some of the most bold colors.

The Prerace:  The start line energy is always intense at this race and the communication and words from Fleet Feet owner David Zimmer are always inspiring.  They are truly energetic and wake you up with their positivity.  As always, the Star Spangled Banner being played before the race begins gets me every time and this years singer had such an amazing voice.  The corrals were perfectly sized and well designated.

The Course:  What can you say about a course that runs through downtown Highland Park?  The race begins in the downtown district with tons of energy and crowd support.  It heads south towards the southern most end of the town in the old Ravinia district passing the Ravinia Festival grounds.  Then you head north through plenty of smaller neighborhood streets with lots of support from the residents.  As always, the Park Avenue Beach hill after mile 7 is always on everyone's mind but we like that!  It's a great challenge in the middle of a half marathon.  After that, it continues north towards the old army base of Fort Sheridan that had plenty of historic buildings and views of Lake Michigan.  The course gives runners some tremendous views and some hills to test out your legs.

The Finish:  The crowds of the finish line are always huge with overwhelming support from families, volunteers, city employees, and race finishers.  It's a lot of energy and a warm feeling seeing that last 1/4 of a mile.  The cold water bottles, misting fans, ice cold wet towels are icing on the cake!  This comes after this years race was super hot and humid.  

Overall:  The RAM Racing North Shore Classic will always be the first race I sign up for every year and as long as I'm able, I will run it.  The race directors are top notch and the volunteer support is the best around.  Every water station had Nuun or water with plenty of friendly faces who truly care and are supportive.  I can't thank them enough for everything that they do for the runners.

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