Latest reviews by Tom
First, here’s quick overview of the Outer Banks Marathon races:
There’s an 8K, a 5K and a family fun run on Saturday morning, followed by a marathon, half marathon, and six mile run on Sunday. There are also challenges available where runners who do races on both days can get extra medals at the finish line on Sunday. According to Lynda and Peggy, the goal has always been to have the event to be open to anyone with any type of athletic ability. I think they did a pretty good job with that with the wide variety of choices available to runners. Proceeds from the races go to two different not for profit organizations (The Dare Education Foundation and The Outer Banks Relief Foundation), so making sure that the event will attract as many participants as possible is great since it ultimately leads to more money going to two great causes.
The Outer Banks 8K has an out and back course with a few rolling hills which are only slightly noticeable. The course starts with a lap around the track at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills. After leaving the track, it heads through some local neighborhoods and then through Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. There’s a turnaround point about a mile and a half into the woods, where runners head back along the same route and finish with another lap around the track in the opposite direction. The stretch that goes through the woods isn’t paved but it’s on packed dirt, which is pretty comfortable to run on. There’s one water table, but since the course is an out and back, runners pass by it twice – first at about mile 1.5 and then around mile 3.5, which is about right for an 8K.
Runners who do the 8K get a long sleeve t-shirt and a cool looking shark medal. (I think the medal design changes every year but it’s always something related to the Outer Banks). Runners who do races on both days also get a bonus medal after finishing their race on Sunday. Another interesting note is that the 8K and 5K times are staggered on Saturday morning (the 8K starts at 7am and the 5K starts at 8:45am). So anyone who’s really up for a challenge can do both Saturday races and then follow them up with one of the Sunday races.
Besides the races themselves, there’s also a big family themed party in the First Flight High School infield on Saturday that has food and drinks, bean bag tournaments, a climbing wall, face painting, photo ops with pirates and a bunch of other activities. The high school is also walking distance from the race expo, making things pretty convenient for runners who need to pick up their race packets for Sunday.
For some more information about this race, check out <a href=http://www.runsandplaces.com/2015/11/race-recap-outer-banks-8k/>my website.</a>
First, here's a little background on the Outer Banks in case you're not familiar with the area:
There's no one city or town called "The Outer Banks". The term actually refers to a set of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. To the east of the islands is the Atlantic Ocean and to the west is a set of sounds that divide them from the mainland.
The Outer Banks Marathon course is point to point and goes through the towns of Kitty Hawk (where the Wright Brothers took their first flight), Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Manteo. The Half Marathon starts in Nags Head and follows the second half of the marathon course. There's also a race called the Southern Six, which covers the final six miles. The times of the three races are staggered so that friends and family members who are doing different races will cross the finish line at roughly the same time and in some cases might even be able to meet up and run the last few miles together.
Outer Banks Half Marathon Start Line
All of the courses are beautiful. Here's a list of some of the things you'll see:
<li>Wright Brothers Monument (Marathon)</li>
<li>Town of Kitty Hawk / Kitty Hawk Bay (Marathon)</li>
<li>Town of Kill Devil Hills / Wright Brothers National Park (Marathon)</li>
<li>Nature Conservancy / Nags Head Woods (Marathon)</li>
<li>Jockey's Ridge State Park (Marathon)</li>
<li>Town of Nags Head (Marathon and Half Marathon)</li>
<li>Old Sound Side Area with historic architecture (Marathon and Half Marathon)</li>
<li>Washington Baum Bridge (Marathon, Half Marathon, Southern 6)</li>
<li>Village of Manteo (Marathon, Half Marathon, Southern 6)</li>
<li>The finish line for all three races is in downtown Manteo</li>
The course is mostly fast and flat. The Washington Baum Bridge is the toughest part. The bridge is a mile long and 82 feet high with a 650 foot climb to the top at about a 4% grade. The climb starts at about mile 9 1/2 for the Half Marathon (22 1/2 for the Marathon) and the hardest part of crossing the bridge isn't the climb itself as much as the cross winds coming off of Roanoke Sound that runners have to deal with as they get close to the top.... but when you do make it all the way up, the view is amazing.
Race day this year was particularly windy. This actually wan't a bad thing though because the wind was at the runners backs for most of the course. The cross winds on the bridge were still tough but not impossible to conquer. The temperature stayed in the mid 50's throughout almost the entire race and the the sky was slightly overcast, creating almost perfect running conditions.
The Outer Banks race directors always do a great job with their finisher's medal designs. They're good sized, heavy, have colorful neckbands, and always feature something Outer Banks related. In 2014, the medals featured the Bodie Island Lighthouse and this year they featured the Washington-Baum bridge. The 2015 medals also have a Roman Numeral X on them to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the race. Besides my half marathon finisher's medal, I also got a cool looking bonus medal with a shark on it for doing the Outer Banks 8K the day before.
After the race, there's a post race party Festival Park and along the streets of downtown Manteo. There's plenty of food, beer, and live music at the party along with shuttle buses that bring runners back to the start lines (since the courses are point-to-point).
Overall, this is a great race in an awesome area. If you're interested in reading more about it, check out <a href="http://www.runsandplaces.com/2015/11/race-recap-outer-banks-half-marathon/"my website</a>.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20151017_175136.jpg" height="240" width="425">
When I was planning out my races for this year, I never thought Bethlehem, Pennsylvania would end up being the site of one of my favorites. In fact, until this year, I didn’t know that Bethlehem, PA was even a place…
The main reason I signed up to do the Runners World Half Marathon didn’t really have anything to do with the event itself. It was because my friend Mark asked me to run it with him and a few other friends to celebrate his 40th birthday. It sounded like it would be fun so I was in. Both the event itself and the rest of the weekend’s activities definitely did not disappoint.
The Runners World Half is part of the larger Runners World Festival, which an annual three day event that features multiple races. There’s a trail run, a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon. Runners can do any combination of them or all of them. There are also seminars given by running experts and a few other activities available to runners throughout the weekend. Sadly, I was only able to make it to Bethlehem in time for the Half Marathon on Sunday morning. I had a prior commitment on Friday and my flight got delayed on Saturday. The half marathon course was great though. And from what I heard, the rest of the weekend’s events were just as awesome.
<b>A Little Bethlehem History</b>
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20151018_143219.jpg" height="240" width="425">
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a small city that’s next to Allentown, and also just over an hour north of Philadelphia and an hour west of New York City. If you want to travel there, Allentown is the most convenient airport to fly into, but if you don’t mind doing a little bit of driving, flying into Philadelphia or Newark will save you a few bucks.
Bethlehem’s economy was driven by the steel industry for almost 150 years. Bethlehem Steel Corporation opened in the mid 1800’s and was one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world until it closed its doors in the mid 1990’s. The loss of the steel mill caused the city’s economy to dip, but things picked up about 10 years later when the Sands Corporation purchased the site and began a massive redevelopment project. The result is a re-designed section of the mill that includes casino gambling, retail outlets, restaurants, hotels and multi-use areas. The project is currently classified as the largest brownfield redevelopment project in the United States and in addition to reviving the Bethlehem Steel site itself, it’s also led to a resurgence in businesses opening throughout the city’s downtown area. All of this helps to make Bethlehem a fun place to visit today.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/G3013162.jpg" height="303" width="405">
The Runner’s World Half Marathon Festival started in Bethlehem in 2011. The old Bethlehem Steel site is the location of the start and finish lines of most of the races along with the seminars which are given by Runners World Editors, Subject Matter Experts, and Running Legends like Bart Yasso and Deena Kastor. The seminars have a variety of topics that range from nutrition to gear to running techniques. Some of the weekend’s other events include a dog run, kids races, and a pre-race pasta dinner with the Runners World Editors the night before the Half Marathon.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/G2632782.jpg" height="303" width="405">
The Half Marathon course starts in front of the entrance to the Sands Casino and heads past the old steel mill site before crossing the Lehigh River and heading towards downtown Bethlehem. From there, runners head down the city’s main business district and through a number of different residential neighborhoods where they get to see fall colors on trees in front of Victorian style houses. The second half of the course goes through the site of the original Bethlehem settlement from the 1700’s, passes by Moravian College and then heads back across the river and finishes inside of the old Bethlehem Steel site. Anyone who does this race gets to complete a half marathon and get a live history lesson at the same time.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/G2832981.jpg" height="303" width="405">
The half marathon course is mildly challenging. There are a lot of rolling hills with inclines of various grades, along with a long steady incline that covers most of mile 8. If I had written this post a year ago, I probably would have said that the hills were brutal, but compared to some of the other places I’ve run this year and given the fact that this was the first time in over six months that I’ve done a race at sea level where the heat index wasn’t over 100 degrees F, I have to say that I didn’t mind the hills at all and actually found the course to be really enjoyable.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20151018_104457.jpg" height="240" width="425">
The race medal design has historic roots as well. It’s in the shape of the Moravian Star that’s stood on top of Bethlehem’s South Mountain since the 1930’s and helped to earn the city its “Christmas City” nickname. 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon runners all get medals, so anyone who attends the entire event can go home with three medals at the end of the weekend. I was a little surprised that people who did all three races (called the hat trick) didn’t get a bonus medal, but nobody really seemed to be too upset about it.
<b>Good Food and Fun Times</b>
Like I mentioned earlier, the reason I went to the Runner’s World Half fest had more to do with my friend’s birthday than the actual race itself. I already crossed Pennsylvania off of my 50 states list when I did Rock n Roll Philadelphia last year so I had no goals in mind for the weekend whatsoever other than taking a trip to meet up with people and have fun.
From the pre-race pasta dinner at The Brick in downtown Bethlehem to the post-race brunch at the casino buffet (which came with free mimosas) to an awesome Cajun-style shrimp dinner at The Bayou later that evening, it didn’t take long to see that there are plenty of places to go for good food and drinks in Bethlehem. That doesn’t even count the homemade chili my AirBnB hosts shared with me after the race. Better than the food though was the fact that every time I went out to eat, I got to hang out with a lot of new running friends who were also in town to celebrate Mark’s birthday. If you guys are reading this, you know who you are and you all rock.
One of the best parts of the entire trip was after dinner Sunday evening when a handful of us went out to sing Karaoke. Apparently it’s not easy to find Karaoke bars in Bethlehem. The only place we could find was a bar on the West side of the city called Diamonz Nite Club. Diamonz meets pretty much every definition of a dive bar. It smells like smoke, has a few ratty old game tables, graffiti covered bathrooms, and the jukebox ate someone’s credit card. Spending a few hours there brought back memories of the old biker bar I used to hang out at on the south side of Chicago where they had to replace the plate glass window on the front of the building with glass blocks after too many people had gotten thrown through it. The drinks were nice and strong though and there’s always fun to be found in the most unexpected places.
The Karaoke DJ arrived at 10:00 pm and Mark and a few of our other friends went to pick out their songs. There was only a small handful of people in the bar and besides one other lady, the people in our group were the only ones singing. So for close to four hours straight we got to pick almost every song and had different combinations of people getting up and singing songs by everyone from The Doors to The Spice Girls. I’m not a huge Karaoke singer (mainly because I suck) but they did get me out on the floor for a couple songs including a re-worded (and quite raunchy) adult version of Summer Lovin’. We all stayed until the bar closed at 2:00 am and then we said our goodbyes and headed out. I had an early flight the next morning and I was afraid that if I laid down I would oversleep, so I stayed up all night and just went straight to the airport and tried to sleep on the plane. I was exhausted the next day but it was totally worth it.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20151018_104424.jpg" height="240" width="425">
Overall, Bethlehem is a really nice city and the Runners World Festival is a really well put together event. I’d love to go back again when I have more time and hit up some of the seminars and other races. What really made this trip stand out though was all of the new friends I made. And when I think about the races I’ve done so far in 2015, even though I ran through two national parks, alongside the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and through portions of the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Colorado, this half marathon in a small steel town is going to end up standing out more than any of the others because I ran it in such great company.
<p>Let's start out with a few things you should know about the first mile and a half of the Golden Leaf Half Marathon Course:</p>
<li>The course starts in Snowmass Village where the elevation is just over 8500 feet.</li>
<li>The start line is on a service road near the top of a ski slope and runners literally stand at an angle in their corrals and immediately start running uphill as soon as they cross it.</li>
<li>There's an elevation gain of just over 860 feet within the first 1.5 miles, which works out to a grade of roughly 11%.</li>
<li>I have a friend from another part of Colorado who is used to running at an altitude of close to 5000 feet and even he struggled with it. I'm from Chicago, which is pretty much at sea level, so running on that steep of an incline at that altitude was an exercise in brutality.</li>
As I suffered through the beginning of that race, my quads burned, my heart pounded against the inside of my chest and my lungs strained to take in as much oxygen as they could from the extremely thin air that I was attempting to run through. For the first time in my life, I actually contemplated saying "screw this" and giving up.
Then things started to get a little bit better.
About a mile and a half into the course, there's a water table. Most runners stopped there for a welcome break from the insane climb they had just finished. At that point, the course changes from a service road to a single track trail and takes a downward turn. So I grabbed some water and started running downhill. It was an amazing change. I felt my breathing and heart rate start to level off and as more oxygen entered my lungs, I suddenly went from not being sure if I was even going to be able to finish the course at all to running fast and feeling like superman.
The first mile and a half is definitely the hardest part of this course, but the rest of it isn't necessarily a cakewalk. There's a lot of up and down through the first 7 miles and with the exception of the first 1.5 miles, almost all of it is on single track trails that have a variety of rocks, tree roots and other obstacles. The total elevation gain for the course is 980 feet. The highest point is just below 10,000 feet. There are also a few spots along the course that run alongside cliffs where falling is a real danger for anyone who isn't careful.
After about 7.5 miles, the course heads downhill and then levels off around mile 11 and finishes in downtown Aspen. That part doesn't sound so tough.... except that it is. You see, after the 980 foot climb, the descent is over 1,700 feet (-8% grade)... still on a single track trail.... with just as many rocks, roots, streams, branches, twists and turns as the first half of the course. I saw people fall. I saw people limping off to the side and nursing bloody knees and legs, and I saw a number of other near misses. By the time I hit mile 11, I was happy that the course had leveled off and was at its lowest elevation, but at that point, the downhill had taken such a toll on my knees that I felt like someone had spent the previous hour and a half pounding on them with a hammer. The last two miles were nice and flat, but they were also pretty slow because my legs were hurting pretty bad.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that not only was this the toughest race I've ever done, it was probably one of the most physically challenging things I've ever done, period.
So why would someone do a race like this?
Because even for as tough as the course is, the scenery makes it totally worth doing.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150927_092942.jpg" height="169" width="300">
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150927_102236.jpg" height="169" width="300">
If you're planning to do The Golden Leaf Half Marathon, here are a few tips to prepare for it:
<li>Make sure you do your training on trails. If you're used to running on paved roads, a course like this will be exponentially more challenging for you both physically and mentally. You'll also have a higher risk of getting injured since your ankles won't be strong enough to handle the uneven terrain.
</li><li>Get a good pair of trail shoes and break them in about a month before the race. This is kind of an extension of my last point. I saw some people doing this race in regular running shoes... and not coincidentally those were some of the same people I saw slipping and falling and getting cuts and bruises all over their legs. Trail shoes are simply better designed to handle the type of terrain you'll encounter during this race.
</li><li>Train at altitude if you can. This was a tough one for me and if you don't already live in an area that's at a high elevation, I don't really have a good suggestion for how to handle it. There are elevation masks that runners can wear that limit the amount of oxygen you can breathe in to simulate running at altitude, but they aren't the same as the real thing. Plus they make you look like a Batman villain. If you can swing a few weekend trips to a higher elevation to run or do another race, that would be ideal.
</li><li>Arrive a few days early to allow your body to adjust. Like I said earlier, I have a friend who lives in a different part of Colorado and is used to running at 5000 feet elevation and even he struggled with this one. Your body needs to get used to breathing extremely thin air before you should attempt to do a race like this.
</li><li>Be creative with your lodging. The course is a point to point that starts in Snowmass Village and finishes in Aspen. Public transportation between Aspen and Snowmass is free so you can really stay in either location and be ok. The only problem is that hotels in Aspen are extremely pricey, and hotels in Snowmass aren't much cheaper. I stayed at an Airbnb in Woody Creek Canyon, which is halfway between the two so I had an easy time getting to both towns. I paid less to stay there for the entire weekend than I would have paid for a single night at a hotel in Aspen or Snowmass.
</li><li>Bring your own water for the race. This is designed to be a back road course and it intentionally doesn't have a lot of services. There are only three water tables and two medical stops throughout the entire course - mile 1.5, mile 6, and mile 11. So use a belt or a camelbak or whatever you prefer, but make sure you have a way to hydrate during the run because you're going to be spending a long time between water stops.
</li><li>Pay attention to the weather. There have been a few rare occasions when there's been snow in Aspen in September but the average high is in the low 70's. Here's the thing though - the average lows are in the 40s. The temperature tends to warm up really fast as soon as the sun comes up though so I wore long sleeves to start the race and felt quite comfortable at the start line but halfway through the race I ended up wishing that I had worn something lighter.
</li><li>Have fun. If you're not used to running at altitude and dealing with all of the challenges that come along with doing a trail run, you're probably not going to get a PR in this race. And that's fine. Like I said, the scenery makes it worth it. The course literally goes over the top of a mountain and is scheduled specifically during a time when the fall colors are at their brightest. It's stunningly beautiful so make sure you take a few minutes to look around and enjoy it.
A couple other notes:
There are two ways to get to Aspen. The fastest (and probably most expensive) is to simply fly into the Aspen airport. This is a small regional airport and I'm guessing that most flights into it require a stopover in Denver along with a plane change. Your other option is to fly into Denver and drive from there. This will take a few hours but it will be a nice scenic drive that takes you up into the mountains and through towns like Buena Vista and Twin Lakes. It also takes you across the continental divide (where you can stop and walk around for a few minutes). The mountains in the area are covered with a mixture of spruce trees and aspen trees (which is how the city got its name). During mid to late September, the leaves on the Aspen trees turn from green to bright gold and the contrast of the aspen leaves next to the dark pine needles on the spruce trees is stunningly beautiful. So if you have enough time, opt for driving instead of the flying. You won't regret it.
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150925_164526.jpg" height="169" width="300">
Lastly, this race does not have finisher's medals. I'm not sure why and I know that the race directors used to give them out a few years ago, but for some reason they stopped. I know some people who don't care about race bling at all, along with other people who like to collect finisher's medals and display them on their walls. If you fall into the second category, be ready for the fact that you won't be getting a medal when you cross the finish line in this one. Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I get it - the race directors want this to be a stripped down back country run, which means that runners do it purely for the joy of running through the mountains and it shouldn't include anything fancy like race medals. On the other hand, this is probably the toughest race I've ever done and damnit I want something to show that I finished it. Ultimately though, I found myself not really caring either way. It was a great race.
For a slightly longer version of this review with more pictures and info, check out my <a href="http://www.runsandplaces.com">website</a>.</p>
<img src="http://www.runsandplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/IMG_20150824_113419-1024x1024.jpg" width="300" height="300">
Sometimes you sign up for a race so far in advance that you almost forget about it right up until race day. As much as I hate to admit it, that was the case for me with this year’s Fort2Base Nautical 10 Miler.
I have a bunch of interesting races coming up over the next few months, which include a trail run at 10,000 Foot Elevation in Colorado that’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful half marathons in the world, the Runner’s World Half Marathon, my daughter's second 5K, and the Honolulu Marathon.
So a small local race in the North Chicago suburbs at the end of August that I signed up for at the Shamrock Shuffle Race Expo way back in March when it was still freezing outside kinda took a back seat on the priority list. What the hell is a Nautical 10 Miler anyway? (I’ll get to that in a minute…).
With all of the other training I’ve been doing, I knew I’d be able to get a fairly decent finishing time for this one, so I never really put much thought into it. Fort2Base turned out to be an awesome race though. If I would have known how much fun it was going to be, I would have reached out to all of my Chicago area running friends and told them to join me.
It turns out that some of them were there anyway. I ran into a few friends at the start line and a few more at the finish line….
So what exactly is a nautical mile? Here’s the long answer:
<ul><li>A mile (also called a statute mile) is 5280 feet and it’s based on some random number that someone decided would be a good way to measure “a thousand paces” during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in England.</li><li>
Nautical miles were developed to aid in navigation and are based on degrees of latitude around the equator.</li><li>
The equator as a giant circle. All circles have 360 degrees, and each degree can be divided into a 60 minute arc. (Remember high school geometry? Never thought you’d use it again, did you?). In the case of the Earth, each minute represents one nautical mile, which is about 6076 feet.
</li><li>To travel around the circumference of the Earth, you would need to cover 21,600 nautical miles (360 * 60) or 24,857 miles.</ul>
If you’re still awake after reading all that, the short (and much more straightforward) answer is that a nautical mile = 1.15 miles. So 10 nautical miles = 11.5 miles.
So in not so fancy sounding terms, Fort2Base is an 11.5 mile race. There’s also a 3 Nautical mile course, which is 3.45 miles.
Now that we have that out of the way….
2015 was the 5th year for Fort2Base. The event attracted just under 1800 runners total (1236 for the nautical 10 miler and 558 for the nautical 3 miler). It’s held in the far North Chicago Suburbs (almost near the Wisconsin border) and is a point-to-point course, which passes through two historic military facilities:
<li>The first two miles of the course go through Fort Sheridan. Fort Sheridan was built in 1887. It was used as a training center during the Spanish-American War and was also used to help wounded soldiers return to civilian life after World War I. A number of well known officers, including George Patton, served there at one point or another during their careers. The fort was closed in 1993 and other than a small area that’s still owned by the Army Reserves, the grounds have been converted into neighborhoods and forest preserves. A lot of the original buildings from the fort are still standing though and it’s a very cool place to run through.
</li><li>The last two and a half miles go through Naval Station Great Lakes. Great Lakes opened in 1904 and is the home of the United States Navy’s only boot camp. The base is essentially it’s own small city with over 1100 buildings, a fire department, a police station, a museum and its own public works. About 40,000 recruits are trained there every year. Runners enter the base just before mile 9 and do a loop around the Clock Tower Building (which includes a massive hill at mile 10) before crossing the finish line.
<b>Best things about Fort2Base</b>
<ul><li>The location. Words can’t even begin to describe how happy I am that this race wasn’t on the Lakefront Path. First, let me say that there’s nothing wrong with races on the Lakefront Path and the path itself is one of the best benefits of being a runner in Chicago. That said though, I’ve done so many races there that they’re all starting to feel the same. Regardless of whether they start on the South side of the city in the Soldier Field parking lot or on the north side at Montrose Harbor and regardless of whether they’re 5Ks, 5 Milers, 10 Milers, or whatever, I’ve done so many races on those same two sections of the Lakefront Path that I can probably do the next one blindfolded. In fact, the next time I sign up for a race on the Lakefront Path, I might actually try that just to mix things up a little bit. Fort2Base is close to Lake Michigan, but it’s so far north of Chicago that the course doesn’t touch the Lakefront Path at all. Instead, it’s on the Green Bay Trail… which I had never run on before. It was a welcome change of scenery.</li><li>
The start and finish lines. Being able to run through two historic military facilities is awesome, and the fact that Great Lakes is still open is even better. There were Naval Officers, Marines, and other military personnel scattered throughout the course directing traffic and cheering on runners, and some of the buildings we got to run past were awesome looking.</li><li>
Hero Hill. At mile 10, there’s a massive hill (like 12% grade) called Hero Hill. The hill is only about a quarter mile long but it’s extremely steep, and after you’ve just finished running ten miles, it’s not exactly something you’re looking forward to running on. Some people might list a hill like this as one of the ‘cons’ and in any other race, I might also. Honestly though, in that particular setting, it was one of the coolest things about the course. Sure it was tough, but there were also naval officers standing alongside the course shouting out words of encouragement and in some cases even running up the hill alongside runners who looked like they were struggling. It was a cool thing to see and getting to the top was a great feeling.</li><li>
Awesome medals handed out by marines. For a race this small, the finisher’s medals are seriously awesome. They’re about four inches around and have an engraving of the Fort Sheridan Quartermaster Tower on one side and the Great Lakes Clock Tower on the other. This is one of the coolest race medals I’ve gotten all year. The 3 nautical mile medals are similar to the 10 nautical mile medals but just a little bit smaller. The neck bands for both medals have an American Flag on one side and the five U.S. Military logos on the other. The best part of it is that there are Marines standing at the finish line handing them out.</li></ul>
<b>“Take it or leave it” things about Fort2Base</b>
<ul><li>The narrowness of the Green Bay Trail. This really didn’t bother me but I overheard a couple other people talking about it so I figured I’d mention it. From the start until about mile 2, the course goes through Fort Sheridan and it’s on roads. From Mile 9 until the finish, the course goes through the Great Lakes grounds and it’s also on roads. But the 7 mile stretch between the two is on the Green Bay Trail, which is a paved bike trail. The trail is pretty narrow. Its entire width is about the width of one lane of a regular road. This makes passing people a bit difficult. The trail is also open to the public during the race so there were bikers and other runners at some spots along the course. Luckily the race started early enough that there really weren’t very many of them. Like I said though, this really didn’t bother me. There were a couple times when I had to get a little bit creative when I wanted to pass someone, but overall it wasn’t a big deal.</li><li>
Shuttle Buses. This isn’t about the buses themselves as much as me having to get up at 4am to make it to Rosalind Franklin University in time to catch a shuttle bus to the start line. Logistics are always a bit rough on a point-to-point course and I’ve seen race directors solve the issue in a variety of ways. In this case, there really wasn’t enough parking at the start or the finish lines to accommodate all of the runners, but there were plenty of spots available at the university, which was about a mile away from the finish line. There were shuttle buses that ran from the university to the start line in a continuous loop from 5am until 6:15 (the race started at 7:00) and then from the finish line to the university after the race. Like I said, this was a fine way to handle the logistics of getting runners from one place to another. But since I live in the far south suburbs, it took about an hour and a half to drive to the far north suburbs (big city problems). So I had to leave my house pretty early. This obviously wasn’t the race directors’ fault. A friend of mine who also lives in the south suburbs mentioned that she had gotten a hotel room close to the start line the night before the race so she could sleep a little later in the morning. I might have to steal that idea next time.</li></ul>
<b>The one “bummer” thing about Fort2Base</b>
<ul><li>No photography allowed at Great Lakes. This was really the only downside of the race. Again, it’s not the race directors fault – it’s Military Policy. The US Government (understandably) doesn’t want people running around one of its active military training facilities taking photos of things that could potentially be sensitive to national security. This wasn’t just for the race. Even regular visitors to the academy aren’t allowed to take pictures.</li></ul>
I honestly can’t think of any other bad things to say about Fort2Base. I thought the race was a lot of fun and really well organized. I also loved the military theme, the medals and the course. I’m not sure how I hadn’t heard of this race before but I’m glad that I know about it now. I’ll probably run it again next year. And when I do, I’ll make sure to make a bigger deal about it and bring more friends with me.