Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka
The Virtual Criss Cross Challenge was created by the Illinois Marathon. There were various options to register for. There was the west to east route, covering 224 miles. The North to South Route, covering 435 miles. The double route, going both directions for 659 miles. There was also a team option.
Participants had months to cover the distance, beginning on November 5th. When I registered the ending date was the beginning of May, with registration closing in April. While registration has closed, the ending date has been extended through June.
While I was feeling "over" virtual races, I thought hey why not have a place to log all my miles over a period of time. I chose to participate in the 659 mile distance.
The event was very straight forward and easy to participate. Through the website and Race Roster you simply just entered the date, time of day, miles and overall time. If you wanted you could also submit a photo. This system kept track of all the miles you logged, walking or running. This system also had a leaderboard so you could see how you stacked up against the competition and a map so you could see where you were on the route.
The event also had webinars and informational live sessions on their Facebook page. This information was sent via email, so you knew when they were.
Swag was different for each challenge distance. For the double I received a pullover, a facemask, a beanie hat, a challenge token coin and a sample Nuun tablet. It shipped at the end of January.
The other highlight of the event was the very detailed guidebooks. There was one for the west to east route and one for the north to south route. These included tidbits of information about every town you would virtually run through. This guidebook was very thorough, all the history and pertinent information. It makes you actually want to go see these places in person. The state of Illinois should be proud, these guides would be great to pick up at a rest stop.
The challenge for me went by quick. I easily hammered out the west to east route in the month of November. I was doing another challenge at the time, so I was double dipping. I think I was one of the first to finish this distance on the leaderboard. (The leaderboard doesn't account for those who log more than required miles, and puts them in first.)
Then with the brutal winter that would never go away, it took me a while to finish up the rest of the challenge with the north to south route. I did finish the entire challenge on March 22nd. I did not finish first in this one, but I do believe I was in the top 100. It's nice to have the virtual competition.
This was a nice virtual challenge that honors the intentions of the Illinois Marathons. It's a great event and I am happy to take part and support them. While it would be nice for the challenge to sync to my Garmin, I could back log miles at any given time.
Now, maybe it's time to road trip to the places I virtually ran.
Sunday, November 14 at 7:10 am. (The full marathon started at 7am, and the wheelers started 5 minutes before each distance. There was a 10k and 5k that would start after the half.) It was overcast, temps in the 30s and it was windy, rainy, snowy.
Registration: This is available online, and closes a few days before the race. However, you can register at the expo the day before the race. The price increased as race day approached. Included with my registration was a personalize bib with timing strip, a long sleeve gender specific shirt, along with a reusable bag of are specific flyers. Race day pickup was available for a $30 additional charge, which you could add to the runsignup registration at any time.
Expo/ Packet pick-up: The expo was held the Friday and Saturday before the race at the Monona Terrace. Someone else could have picked up your bib if you had a copy of their ID. Times were posted on social media and in pre-race emails.
*I was not able to attend the expo this year.
Pre-race: The race starts and finishes at the Capital, which is the heart of Madison. Surprisingly enough on street parking is free, just blocks from this area, but arrive early before the roads are closed. Gear check was set up, just had to attach the number from the bottom of your bib. This was located near the start/finish just by the information tent. The information tent was also where you could pick up your bib on race day (if pre-paid.) There were a long line of port-o-potties set up, with minimal wait.
The starting corral was fenced off and back fed, so if you wanted up towards the front, you had to walk through everyone. There were pacers available to line up according to your pace. The marathon started first, with the half 10 minutes later, so you had to pay attention to what you were lining up for and where you were seeding yourself, as the corral system was the same for all races. There were some announcements and singing of the National Anthem. The announcer made sure to inform runners what race was starting and when.
-Terrain: The entire course is on pavement. There are spots that are new smooth asphalt, but other areas with potholes, nothing major, just pay attention. I also noticed some banked roads.
-Elevation: Madison has hills, they were on this course, the biggest hill is at mile 8-9 and for fun near the end.
-Photographers: on the course, and photos were posted the next day online FOR FREE!!
-Aid Stations: There were plenty of hydration stations on course, each had Gatorade- lemon lime, and water. The Volunteers were vocal as to what they had to offer, which was good as some stops had the same cups. There were some stops with Gu gels.
-Spectators: There were a few here and there, some fun signs.
-Volunteers: Friendly people on the course, there were law enforcement at the major intersections helping cars across the streets.
-Course markings: Each mile was marked with a sign. There were cones on the roads that were open to traffic, closing off just parts of the roads. Arrows were taped down to the roads at the turns.
-Race tracking - App available to download to track runners
-Scenery- This course is near the lake and through residential neighborhoods.
Finish/Post Race: The starting area is the finish chute, so the arch with a timing mat are easy to spot. Once across the line, a volunteer handed you a medal. Then you were handed a bottled water. If you wanted a foil blanket you could get one. Then a photo backdrop. The food options of stew, mac and cheese or brat and potato salad were next. Then a cookie, banana and chocolate milk. Then there was the post race beer tent, you could exchange your bib ticket for a Mich Ultra, Sprite or Coke. There was a merchandise tent set up and tables with chairs to enjoy your post race food.
My Race: I was undertrained and just wanted to complete my 4 year medal series. I actually had 2 entries into this event as deferrals piled up. I got that clarified and added the $30 race day pickup to my registration as I wasn't able to get to the expo. I woke up at 2 am and drove to Madison. I was super early to get my bib as I wanted to make sure to get a shirt - which isn't guaranteed on race day. (The shirt seemed too big for me this year, but it's a nice soft material.)
This was my 3rd time on this course, so once I had my bib and used the bathroom, I wasn't too nervous or excited, I just wanted to make it to the finish line. I lined up and just kept moving through the race course. Nothing too exciting happened. I made it to the mile 8-9 hill and walked up that. Then I walked again at the hill near the finish line.
I was sooo happy to get to that finisher's medal. It completes the medal series I started in 2017. After I chose the post race brat and potato salad, I stopped at the information tent to ask if there was an additional center piece to the medals - and there was!! I gave them my name and they gave me the center circle coin thing.
It was cold! I walked back to my car, parked for free on a nearby street, and enjoyed the post race food in my car, on the heated seat.
I say this every year - I really do not care for this course. There are a lot of things to see in Madison, and this course lacks those things. However, this is at least the 3rd half marathon in Madison and I do appreciate that they are all different courses for each event.
Overall: Madison is a great place to run and visit - unless it's game day. I might take a break from this event, but I do recommend it. While I think I caused my own headaches with my registration, they did a good job with management - especially with the Covid year in the mix and making sure race day felt the same as it has in the past.
September 26, 2021. Normal Late summer early fall temps, got warmer as the day went on.
Pre-race / expo: The expo was held the Saturday before the race from 10am to 6pm. This was your only chance to pick up your packet. However you could have someone pick it up for you.
Registration (approx $55?) you received a short sleeve gender specific tech shirt, bib, chip for timing on back, post race food, post race beer, and a poster .
Pre-race: No issues with parking Just need to make sure you have enough time to maneuver through the area as the main streets are closed for the race. Lots of parking in the lot adjacent to the Tax Slayer Center. Plenty of port-a-potties lined up before the race. Hand washing stations were also stationed near them.
Race: The full marathon and half marathon started at the same time, the 5k started 15 minutes later. It was also the finishing shoot, which was set up with tents on either side. The race is chip timed so not a huge problem with timing, lots people in one spot. It was nice the 5k runners didn't start at the same time.
There were some announcements and a live singing of the National Anthem, then a cannon was shot.
Course: The half sticks with the full until mile 8, crossing the Mississippi into Bettendorf, IA, then to Davenport. When the full splits and goes into Rock Island, IL, the half comes back to Arsenal Island.
-Terrain is all surfaces, pavement, asphalt, bridge grate – pay attention to not get tripped up
-Aid stations, water and lemon lime Gatorade stops along the course, Gu stops, there were some orange slices if I remember correctly. (Didn't seem like there were as many as in the past.)
-Port-o-potties on the course
-Spectators along the course, except on Arsenal Island
-Bands, live music, singers, DJ’s on the course
-Each mile was marked
-There were volunteers at every intersection
-The course is pretty flat, bridge crossings and one hilly area
-Photographers on the course, free downloads
-Participant tracking was available via app
Post Race: After crossing the finish line a medal is handed to you. Tubs of ice with bottles of water available. Chocolate milk at another location. There was a food tent with fruit, chips, granola bars, cookies and bagels. Hot dogs and pizza if I remember correctly. Massage tents set up. Then there was a stop with Pepsi and tent with Michelob Ultra. At the end of the finishers area was the stage for awards and a band playing live music.
Overall: I like this race, it’s well organized, decent course and decent price. It's also on a Sunday, so I can attend the Hawkeye football game.
My Race: It was the 10 year anniversary of my first half marathon at this same race, a friend from IN was running, and it was the last year we could run the I74 bridge. It was another busy weekend and I really hadn't been training for a half marathon, but I couldn't not run it. I didn't run my best race, but I didn't run my worst race. There were no surprises on the course, except for seeing friends cheering me on.
September 6, at 8:15 am, It was a sunny start, great temps! The kids runs are before the 5 miler and the 5k starts after the 5 miler. (Always the Monday of Labor Day Weekend.)
I've run this event many times, the review is usually the same.
Registration: Available online and on race day. Included was a long sleeve, technical shirt. There was a timing chip on the back of the bib.
Expo / Packet Pick up: There was no expo, but packets could be picked up at the fitness center the Saturday before, however no pick up the Sunday before the race. Could also pick up your packet on race morning. Someone else could pick up your packet.
Pre-Race: There was free parking at the nearby Middle School, on street or at the park where the race started. There were port-o-potties, back behind the set up area. There is also a toilet at the rec area by the middle school.
At 8 am there were some announcements. The National Anthem was sung, and the participants were walked to the starting line.
Race / Course: the course was through the residential parts of the city, including a bike path
-Terrain: all paved, some cracks in spots to watch out for
-Aid Stations: water only stops, all in paper cups. I believe there were 3 or more, plenty for 5 miles.
-Course Markings: Each mile was marked, there are some permanent markers on the bike path. The course was on roads open to traffic, the running lane was partitioned off with cones, always running against traffic (The last stretch is moved to a wide sidewalk)
-Volunteers: they were all over the place, law enforcement at all intersections, and along the route
-Elevation: some hills, but nothing too steep, but I always forget about them, making them a challenge
-Spectators: people sitting in their driveways in the residential areas
-Photographers: no photographers on course that I can remember.
Scenery: nothing great to see, unless you like a small creek and houses
Post Race: Finish was marked, with a timing mat, clock and an announcer trying to get as many names announced as possible. There were apples, bananas, popcorn, snow cones, bottled water. (probably something I am forgetting.) Room to cheer on finishers too. No finisher medals. Awards ceremony for overall and age group winners.
Overall: This is a great race at a great price. Always professionally organized. A labor day tradition.
My race: I just wanted to finish. It was my first race after having Covid, I like the event, so I was just happy to be there. I actually surprised myself and averaged a 10:04 pace, race day is just always something else. I felt good when I was done!
Overall: I will continue to run this race as long as it works with my schedule. A great organization to continue to support and well organized.
*This race has a great history. Over 20 years ago, Carl Schilling, at age 15, lost his life in an car-pedestrian accident. He was a cross country runner. The race went on in his name to raise money for scholarships for area schools. A few years back the family put on the last race, however with help from a title sponsor the race goes on today.
August 7, 2021 - Summer temps, humid
Registration: Available online, maybe around $25/$30. Included was a short sleeve cotton shirt. Could register in person on race day.
Pre-race: Parking was not available at the start, but in lots nearby on the same grounds. (Race takes place in the Herbert Hoover Historic Site, Prairie.) No port-o-potties. Announcements were made about the course, lots of turns!
-Various terrain, asphalt, grass, prairie
-run through the gravesite of Hoover, prairie views
-volunteer at every turn, signs along the course marking the turns
-aid stations with water
My race: I ran this event the first year and was excited they were going to host it again. The prairie is a challenging place to run, and I still wasn't prepared. We started on the paved area then turned into the prairie, immediately climbing a hill. The grass was also dewy, glad I wore trail shoes. I never felt lost, there was someone at every intersection or turn. Besides the tougher course, I had a decent race and came to the finish line with no issues. A volunteer snagged my bib number and wrote down my finish time.
Post Race/Finish: Bottled water and bananas were available. After all participants were back (there was also a mile walk.) Awards were announced. I won my age group!!
Overall: This race coincides with the weekend festival - Hoover Days. Over the years there has been a race associated with the festival, then it went away, so it's nice the Lions Club brought it back and made it more challenging, highlighting the features if the town. I will try to continue to support this as the Lions Club gives a lot back to the community and do it if it fits in my schedule.