Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka
Trek for the Schools 5k. 8:00 AM, 70 and humid, overcast. Riverside, IA The event is part of TrekFest (yes, a festival centered around Star Trek.)
Registration: Available online, until race day, $30. Shirts were not guaranteed after a certain date.
I registered late and still received a short sleeve, unisex cotton shirt inside a drawstring bag with a slap coozie, lip balm, pancake breakfast coupon and letter opener.
Expo / Packet Pick up: There was no expo. You could pick up your bib and shirt before the race. There was plenty of parking in a nearby lot or on a side street. There was live music by Dave Zollo. The port-o-potties were located steps away from the finisher arch and pick up area.
Pre-Race: Participants were told to line up behind the spray painted starting line. There was a short description of the course including there might not be a volunteer at every intersection, but each would be spray painted with an arrow. A child said "go" and the race was on!
Race / Course:
-paved / asphalt
-roads open to traffic
-little to no spectators
-one water stop around the halfway point with plastic water bottles
-Police at major road crossings, most other intersections had volunteers
-no mile markers
Finish / Post Race: An inflatable arch signaled the finish. A volunteer was writing bib numbers down in the order people finished. There was no clock or timing chips. A volunteer was handing each finisher a bottle of water and a banana.
Results and awards were announced minutes after the last finisher. Overall winners and age group.
My race: I was one week post marathon and I can't resist a small town 5k. This one I had never ran before and it fit into my schedule. I arrive with plenty of time to get my bib, listen to the live music and get a short warm up run.
When it was time to line up for the race, I was shocked at the low number of participants. Maybe 50 people? There were at least 3 other area 5ks the same day.
This is a tough race course, while the hills are not steep, I am certain we ran every hill in Riverside! Add in the humidity and I did all I could to keep pushing the pace. At one point I had my sights on catching someone in a white cotton tank top & baggy shorts, but I just couldn't do it.
I came to the finish line and when I looked at the distance on my watch I had 3.03, so I kept running to get to 3.10. I had a decent for me time of 28:xx minutes. This was good enough to win my age group. However, I think there were only 2 of us.
Overall: This is the definition of small town racing. I like these races, you can explore these small towns on foot and get a feel for the community. Despite the course being a tad short, the price was fair and I felt like this was a great little 5k.
Grandma's Marathon. Saturday, June 19, 2021. 58ish degrees, partly cloudy.
Registration: Typically registration for this event opens in October the year before. I was offered a discount for participating virtually the year before. The cost is around $100. Included was a bib with timing chip, finisher shirt (gender specific, short sleeve) finisher beverage, and a pair of socks! You could add in training shirts and/or bib shipping to the cost. This year the race was capped at half or 4000(?) participants and it sold out quick.
There was plenty of pre-race communication via email and social media. The race didn't get a permit to host an in person event until about a couple months or less before the event. Participants were always in the know.
Expo / Packet Pick up: The expo was held in the DECC starting the Thursday before the event and going late Friday evening. The layout of the expo was different this year, they moved the vendors to the bigger space. The spaghetti dinner was moved and bib pickup was in an area all it's own. Everything was definitely spread out. There was also a specific entrance and exit to the building. Parking was available for a fee at the DECC, or you could walk from downtown.
*I paid to have my bib shipped to me. I was uncertain at the time I registered. I did take the time to walk through the expo this year. It felt spacious for sure, but also felt there might not have been as many vendors. Which is understandable as the world returns to in person events.
Pre-Race: This race is point to point, requiring transportation to the start line. There is a train that leaves early or you can take a bus. There is one central location to catch either mode of transportation at the DECC. There were also a few bus stops around Duluth and Superior that would take you to the start.
*With the scaled back participants, there were not as many bus locations as in the past.
At the starting line there were many port-o-potties in the parking lot of the nearby car dealership. There were bins to toss clothes in provided by Goodwill. This year there was no bag drop at the start, bags had to be dropped off at packet pickup the day before.
There was a rendition of the National Anthem, and then the 148th fighter wing performed a flyover (like 3 times.) Then there was a rolling start. There were no corrals, no encouragement to line up according to pace, no pacers. Once you were close to the start, there were ribbons separating people.
Race / Course:
-paved / asphalt
-roads were closed to traffic
-Spectators were they had access to the course. Some spectators with aid stations offering pancakes, orange juice, candy, pickles, Advil.
-Marathonfoto was on course, in the starting corrals and at the finish line
-There were many aid stations all of them had water in paper cups, blue Powerade in paper cups and ice in paper cups. There were water refill stations and small plastic water bottles this year too. There were a couple of stops with energy gels and fruit. Port-o-potties at the aid stations.
-Medical stations were near most aid stations. Vaseline available here.
-Relatively flat. There is Lemon Drop hill at about mile 22, but there are no steep climbs.
-Police at all major road crossings
-Every mile is marked with a balloon and spray paint.
-Views of Lake Superior
Finish / Post Race: An arch an timing mat greeted you at the finish. A volunteer handed you a medal, a beer ticket and a heat sheet. There was an option to grab a bottled water and take some photos. Then you walked through the post race food area - I was given a leftover gear check bag. I passed on the banana, but grabbed a Nature Valley granola bar, bag of Old Dutch Chips and a can of chocolate milk. There were also bagels with peanut butter and yogurt.
The post race area was a short hike to Bayfront Park - just under another mile. This is where there was a band, the post race beverage and a place to meet back up with your friends. Festivities went on until 10pm.
*The finisher shirt was handed out this year only with your bib. Usually you earn that at the finish line.
My race: My training had not been the best, I ran an endurance event as my long run and battled a shin splint. I was looking to finish and feel good.
It was good to be back at the start line of a big race again, I was worried as a slower runner and with registration capped it would feel lonely out there. However, from the start to finish, I never felt alone. The port-o-potties and corrals felt just like a normal race day, but more relaxed. I even started with my husband.
The miles passed by quickly. By mile 3 I was chatting to the guy who runs to the start from the finish line. At mile 5 I was starting in with the chews I brought with me. Maybe at mile 10 the chaffing started, I was on the look out for vaseline. At mile 13 I used a port-o-potty. At Mile 17 I was looking forward to the fruit stop, but instead was surprised to get a pickle. I was happy to see the Jolly Rancher stop at mile 18. At mile 19 I was stopping to walk through each aid station to grab a water. I carried Tailwind with me as I do not really care for Powerade. I made sure to take notivce of the troll dolls. Around mile 21 I grabbed pickle juice. Then just before mile 22 I snagged a watermelon slice. I crested Lemon Drop hill and shuffled past businesses in Duluth. There were orange slices and more water and ice stops. I really wanted a Coca Cola. The last hill after mile 25 I remember chatting with a spectator who was going to the finish line. Then it was the last few turns (the only major turns of the course and it feels like there are 65 of them.) I was in the finisher chute, I heard my friend cheering me in, then my husband. Next thing I knew I had a finisher medal around my neck.
The finisher area really kept you moving this year, no place for gathering. I wasn't too interested in the post race eats, but I did try that chocolate milk in a can, it wasn't bad.
I met my husband and friend at our traditional post race venue, Little Angie's I felt really good with my 5:22:XX finishing time and celebrated with all the salty foods (chips and french fries) Colas and of course fried ice cream.
We really lucked out with the weather, the day before it was 80+ degrees and the day after it rained all day.
I didn't make it to the official post race party until later that evening. I really like the venue for the post race, but it's really not the same so far away from the finish line.
Overall: I love this race! You get a closed course, lots of support and excellent views (on a clear day.) I will always try to run this race. I also appreciate the communication that was provided in a year filled with so much uncertainty.
This is my 8th year participating in a Grandma's event in some capacity. I have run the half and have participated virtually.
Red Shoe 5k. Sunday, May 2, 2021. 10:15 am. Sunny, 70 plus degrees. Location moved to City Park
Registration: Available online, then closed the day before the race. However you could register on race day. I think the price remained a flat $35. I registered a couple of days before race day, as the wording on the registration page still said it could go to a virtual event. The shirt option was sold out. I could add a pair of socks to my registration for $7.
Expo / Packet Pick up: There was no expo. You could pick up your packet days before at Scheels and on the day of the race at City Park. I received a bib with timing strip and a plastic bag full of items - including a drawstring bag, hand sanitizer, race map, notepad.
Pre-Race: There were 2 events taking place, and each race was at a different start time. So as each race started there were announcements and music on a loud speaker.. The kids dash started at 10, with the 5k following at 10:15am. There was plenty of free parking in the nearby lots, but the road to access them was never closed.
Participants were told to line up, encouraging walkers and those pushing strollers to the back of the pack. Social distancing was encouraged, but the race started on a sidewalk and not the road. The National Anthem was sung.
Race / Course: The 5k starts at City Park, then loops through a neighborhood and finishes back up in City Park. While the course is marked with some arrows, signs and chalk on the cement, I was never certain if the marked course was to be on the sidewalks or the roads.
-paved / asphalt
-roads were open to traffic
-a few people were outside their homes cheering
-appeared to be a photographer at the start/finish
-one water stop, plastic bottles with a recycling receptacle near by
- there were hills
-Police at road crossings
Finish / Post Race: An Arch, timing mat, clock and announcer greeted people at the finish. The post race food was near a shelter: paper sacks filled with a banana, clementine and a granola bar. Bottles of water were set on a table. There was a tub of hard boiled eggs on ice. McDonald's provided apple slices, chocolate milk and I believe a juice box. There were containers marked for recycling or trash.
Results were posted on a TV screen from the race timing trailer, awards were available to pick up.
My race: While I am a little nervous for my first in person race in over a year, I have run this race or volunteered for this event throughout the years. I should be training for a marathon, so I ran to the event. This also meant I carried a hydration pack. I arrived with plenty of time to spare. I walked up to get my bib, which was super quick and easy. This area was not crowded at this time. It was encouraged through all pre race communication to wear a mask when in the park. I stuffed my bag of crap in my pack, and went to get away from the gathering crowd to log more miles. Well that didn't go as planned as I ran into a running friend and we started chatting, and before then it was time to start the race.
As we stood around listening to the announcements, it was hot! I tried to keep my distance from others while finding shade to stand in. This is when I felt a little uncomfortable, there were so many people and not many masks. We are all outside, but being my first crowded event, it was just weird. Starting on a narrow sidewalk didn't help and no matter how many times you tell slower paced participants to get to the back, it will never happen.
It was go time, I had a BUFF on my face to do my part, but the heat was tough, plus the start was a slow uphill. I did my best to keep going, and eventually lost my mask.
The first mile was also tough because the road we were running along side was not closed, but the sidewalk was soooo narrow and congested. Then we crossed a street and into a neighborhood with less busy streets, but again I wasn't sure if the marked course was on the sidewalk or in the street. I tried to follow the turns and what not so I could make sure to get a more accurate 3.10 measurement.
After I hit mile 2, I was toast. It was too hot for me and I had started way too fast. I was glad I had water with me. I slowed it down and took my time so I could make it to the finish.
I approached the finish and put my BUFF back over my face, the announcer even made some comment about it - well that is the rule around a crowd.
It was not my best time, but it was nice to be at an in person event again. I had a 31:17, which had me at 6th in my age group.
I did like that the finishing food was pre-packaged, except the hard boiled egg, which I passed on.
I did see more running friends afterwards and chatted with them. This is the part of these events I miss the most, and I need to be careful not to get to wrapped back up in that and keep my distance.
My biggest take away as in person racing returns, people are going to do what they want. I just have to stick to what I feel comfortable with. (this is no reflection of the race)
Overall: Great charity to support, but not a bucket list event. I really think this event feels so different year after year as the RD position changes hands so often.
Virtual racing is not my favorite thing, but the Elf Virtual Run looked like something fun to look forward to. The race is themed from the movie titled "Elf."
Registration for the 5k or 10k distance was available online for around $40. Included was a zip up red sweatshirt hoodie, a stocking hat, personalized bib and a finisher's medal. All items had the race logo. Proceeds from the race go to support the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
There were many emails from the organizer, Ram Racing. I knew when my registration was confirmed and when my swag was shipping. I was even informed about a issue with medals being held up in customs.
As per usual, virtual racing can be done anywhere, anytime. I received my sweatshirt, hat and bib and it was dated December 25th, so that is when I decided I would run the 10k distance.
As I mentioned I was looking forward to this event as something fun to do. I like the movie "Elf" and I thought it would be fun to dress the part. I made a hat, found some yellow tights, and dressed up a green hoodie.
I talked my husband into running this with me. We had our eyes on the weather as the wind chill was below zero. When it warmed up to zero, we headed out the door.
We decided to go downtown and back. This was a great decision! We hopped through the crosswalks and took photos next to Santa inflatables. As cars passed they honked, waved and even rolled down their windows and shouted "Merry Christmas!!" This was sooooooooo much fun!
I had a watch situation, so we used my husband's watch to make sure we hit the 6.2 miles. I have logged my time into the results page, and I can choose to get a finisher certificate and I can check the leaderboard through the post-race experience.
As I mentioned virtual events are not my favorite, but they are also what you make of them. There was nothing complicated about this, it had good swag, supports a charity and I had a great time!!
It can be hard to write a virtual race review, everyone will experience a different race day, however each race has something different to offer.
I registered for the Des Moines full marathon in late February. I was going to take on the full I-35 challenge. In early August, the race director made the decision to cancel the in person event.
An email was sent and the options to move forward were simple; defer to 2021 or run any 2020 event virtually. These could all be done through the registration page. If you selected to run an event virtually the window to do so was two weeks – October 16 – October 31. Then swag would be sent after that date.
The race provided many emails with all the information and instructions necessary. I opted to run the virtual event, however I transferred my entry to the half marathon. *I miss in person races, but if we don't support them when they have limited options, there may not be an in person event in the future*
The race also has an app to download for your phone. In addition to taking selfies or getting Motigo cheers, there is a place for virtual events, they kicked off the celebration with a virtual dance party. This is a fun way to engage participants.
I have run this event twice before. In 2018 I set my marathon PR and last year I took on the half marathon. The full marathon is a great tour of the city, the half just doesn’t cover as much real estate. I considered driving to Des Moines to run my virtual event, but the drive and getting lost had me stick close to home.
The night before the race I prepared all the things I thought I would need, however it’s that time of the year the weather could change at any minute. So who knows by the time I set out to run what I was going to need. I was also not feeling super motivated, so going through the motions to lay out my gear helped.
On Sunday, October 18th, which would have been the in person race day, I woke up early and checked the weather. It did not look good, but I like to run the virtual event on the same day the in person event should have happened. That’s what I registered for. I also eventually needed to get to work that day, so my window was small. The radar had some rain with snow behind it. I had my coffee and a toaster waffle while the rain went through, I would rather run in the snow. It also gave me more time to finalize my route.
I made a route that omitted some hills, but included a few things I wouldn’t mind running past. There was the George Floyd mural, the river and checking out Kinnick Stadium.
Nothing too exciting happened during the run. There were not many people out. I ran this event solo. I usually run alone, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I had to take all my own photos.
I was keeping an eye on my watch, and because all my devices are different I wanted to make sure to run just a tad over 13.1. It just so happened that the finish line was marked with an inflatable snowman, which made me smile.
I walked the remaining distance to my house and that was it. I did pick up a donut to celebrate.
*I rated the swag at 3 stars because I don't actually know what it feels like. Included with the virtual option I am to receive a short sleeve shirt, a finisher's medal and a neck gaiter. I am looking forward to it arriving*
I entered my results easily on the link provided. I was also able to enter my stats for the I-35 challenge. So, now I wait for the virtual window to close and my swag to arrive.
I wish I had something more exciting to share from my race day, but it really just felt like I went out for a 13.1 mile run. I did try to keep moving the entire way and with a half the day before, ran a respectable time. (around 2:29)
The organizers have done a great job in keeping participants informed and providing what they can through the app. It’s nice to have to prove you ran the race by submitting the results. I like this event, but I hope I am able to compete in person next year.
To leave you with a positive note, the organization was still able to honor their commitments. They were able to present a check for $25,000 to Special Olympics Iowa to support Special Olympic Iowa athletes, programs, and activities on behalf of IMT Insurance, all of sponsors. These are the things that are at stake when you opt to defer or ask for a refund. I am happy they were still able to make this donation.