Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka

"Excellent Communication"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2024 event was on Saturday, April 27 at 7:33 am. It was a breezy morning with humidity.

Registration: Available online. Included was a short sleeve, gender specific tech shirt (each was a different color,) bib with timing strip, and a drawstring bag.

*Many pre-race emails with information.
There is an app available for the race, free of charge. The app is well built. Lots of messaging. Tracker for participants, loaded with information, results, photos. Everything you would need for race day information and more. Easy to navigate.

Expo/Packet pickup: The expo and packet pick up was held Thursday evening and all day Friday at the nearby Rec Center on campus. Bib pick up was first by going up to clerk that was representing the event you were running, you showed them your unique QR code that was sent via email. They scanned the code and gave you your bib. You could pick up someone else's stuff. After you got your bib, you then went to the expo to get a drawstring bag and race shirt. The expo was a decent size with area races, area businesses, running gear, fun games and race merchandise.
There were also speakers throughout the day in the same building.
The Rec Center was also open for working out and their regularly scheduled events. Volunteers and signage was posted to navigate where you needed to go.

*Parking for all events was FREE surrounding the stadium area.

Pre-Race: The start was managed with corrals. A volunteer stood at the entrance checking bibs. There were port-o-potties everywhere, with short lines. The National Anthem was sung live and the wheeler division started, followed by the runners.

Race/Course: The course was around Champaign / Urbana on the streets. The half marathon ran with the marathon until they split just after mile 12.
-Scenery - Ran through parts the college area and residential neighborhoods. Ran through a park
-Terrain - All paved except finish on the turf football field.
-Elevation - This course was flat to me. There might have been short short climbs, but no major hills.
-Spectators - There were family and friends on the course. The residents along the course had some great signs
-Aid Stations - There were many Aid stations, with Nuun first and then water. Near the halfway point there was a stop with orange slices. I believe we also passed a gel stop or two.
-Course markings- No problems figuring out which way to go. All major intersections had law enforcement, and all other intersections had a volunteer. All miles were marked. There were some timing mats on the course too. There were 3 race distances using the course and each split was well marked.
-Photographers - scattered throughout the course *photos sent to email and posted on the app within an hour or so of completing the race.
-Volunteers -So many, every intersection, each aid station. THANK YOU!

Finish: The unique part about this race is the the finish on the 50 yard line at the college football stadium. There is an announcer cheering everyone in. A volunteer is there with a bottle or water, then your medal and a heat sheet. There are some photo backdrops set up in the end zone. There was a PR bell to ring. There were some stretching stations. Runners only on the field.

There was access for spectators to sit in the stands and watch their friends and family finish.

Post Race: The concession stands were the place to go for post race food. There were bananas, Nature Valley Granola Bars, pizza, cookies, chips, chocolate milk and bottled water.
As I left a volunteer said to keep my bib with me and I could come back and get more food. The actual party was on a nearby side street outside the stadium. Runners could get a free beer with their bib. A band played music, food trucks set up.

My race: I signed up for the half I challenge. Run the 5k the evening before and the half marathon.
*Due to protests the 5k was canceled, I did run my own unsupported 5k.
I have run this race a few times before and over 70 half marathons, my goal was to just finish.
By mile 2 I was already miserable. I was struggling with the humidity as I had not had a chance to train in it. (The windchill was 27 the week before.) However, that was about it, I just kept moving forward. I ate a lot of salt tabs, drank a lot of water, took some chews about halfway and mile 10. I enjoyed the signs along the course.
For me the best part was wearing another school's name across my chest. I was actually surprised about all the Go Hawks along the course. Who doesn't love a friendly rivalry.
I was ready to be done and excited to see the 12th mile marker. At that point I could also hear the music and announcements from the stadium. I turned that last corner and hit the field turf, which was super bouncy, and then I crossed the finish line.
I took a bottle of water and got my half marathon medal. I found my husband and we took some photos together. Then we exited the field, climbed the stadium stairs to the concession stand for some post race food. We proceeded to the post race party and snagged a beer and sat and listened to music.
It was then I realized they were handing out the Half I challenge medals. I was conflicted as there was no 5k, but I did in fact run 5k. So I went back into the stadium and onto the field to get that medal. *Since race day there has been communication that they are making plans to host the 5k, or have a virtual option.
I finished with a time around 2:27.

Overall: This is a great race, you do not have to worry about any extra logistics. It has all that would need to run and a fun finish line.
I can't say enough about the race organizers and communication. There was a developing situation and I kept getting emails and updates. The runners safety was always the number one concern. There are so many moving parts that go into planning a race and I felt they did the right things.

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"Fantastic Iowa Half"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Saturday, April 16, 8 AM. (5k/10k/half all started together at the same time.) It was sunny, a little wind and about 30 degrees.

Registration: This was available online, and closes a few days before the race. Might have been able to register on race day. The price increased as race day approached. Included with my registration was a bib with timing strip, a short sleeve unisex cotton shirt. Race day pickup was super easy and organized.

Expo/ Packet pick-up: There was not a true expo, but could pick up your bib the night before or on race day. On race day there were some other tables and tents set up with area organizations.

Pre-race: The race starts and finishes near the square. Plenty of nearby, free parking. Unsure if there was a gear check, but there was a tag on the bib for it. There were a bank of port-o-potties set up, near the start/finish.

The starting corral was flagged off and there were pacers available to line up according to your pace. Even though all events started at the same time, it wasn't too congested. There were some announcements and a version of the National Anthem.

-Terrain: The course is run on a variety of surfaces, from cobblestone bricks, pavement and crushed limestone trail
-Elevation: The majority of the race is on an old railbed trail, but there are some small hills in town
-Photographers: on the course, and it's announced they will be free
-Aid Stations: There were plenty of hydration stations on course, each had something different. Just needed to pay attention to what was offered (Gatorade, water or pickle juice) There was one candy table set up along the course as well. The half turn around had a "bar."
-Spectators: There were a few here and there.
-Volunteers: Friendly people on the course, lots of excitement at each aid station. (sidewalk chalk messages, bubbles) There was law enforcement at the major Highway 1 crossing.
-Course markings: Each mile was marked with a sign. There were cones on the roads and they were closed to traffic. Arrows were on signs at the turns.
-Scenery- Starts in town, then trail views of cornfields. Was lucky enough to see farmers putting in tile.

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. The food options of granola bars, bottled water, bottled Gatorade, breadsticks, cinnamon rolls, apples, chips. Then there was the post race beer, you could exchange your bib ticket for a Mich Ultra. Easy access for family/friends to watch the finishers. Awards were announced off of a 5th wheel trailer.

My Race: I was using the race as a training run for a marathon. I was going to try to my best and push it. I started out trying to get into a good position, I had the 10:30 pacer in my sight. I caught up with Ryan, the 10:30 pacer around mile 1.5 and vowed to keep with him. I didn't want to start too fast and then have the pacer pass me later. So I did it, I held on with the pacer until just after mile 11. It was nice to have someone to chat with, it was his first gig, so I hope I wasn't too annoying. After snagging a Jolly Rancher, I pushed the pace a little more and ditched the pacer. I knew it was going to be hard as the last mile or so was back in town with the hills.

I came to the finish line in 2:16:18, which was only 2 minutes faster than the pacer, but I was sooo happy. I had a plan and it worked. Probably the fastest race I have run in a long time.

Overall: I really enjoyed this race. I have known about it for years, even came to spectate one year. I am glad I chose to run it. It's organized well, small town feel, and has everything a big race has without the hassle.

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"Explore Illinois Anywhere"
Race Management
Virtual Support

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.

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"5 years to get that 4th medal"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

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.

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"Back running "with" Carl"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

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.

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