Latest reviews by Cass Gunderson

(2016)
"Lincoln Half"
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Awesome little themed race in Springfield, IL!

Pros:
+ race day packet pickup!
+ smaller race, so easy to park and use bathrooms before race
+ fun theme and race course around Abe Lincoln's legacy
+ great post-race local beers (Abe's ale was delicious!) - no tickets/limit and small cups so you can try a few!
+ loved the post-race live music
+ Abe and Mary Todd were available for inspiration (and photos!)
+ Management sent very helpful e-mails with all the info I needed leading up to the race
+ Very active on Twitter if you have any questions (they recommended local pizza places!)

Cons:
- no gear check, but this isn't a big deal as there's plenty of parking close by so you can easily leave things in your car!

Despite the bad weather, I had a blast and would definitely recommend this race.

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(2016)
"Great, small Chicago winter race"
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The F3 half is a total race made by runners, for runners. It's a no-frills, small Chicago race to help get people out and running when they want to stay inside under the covers.

Pros:
+ Great race for anyone training for a spring marathon (or spring races in general).
+ For people not training, it's a great reason to keep up with your winter running regimen
+ Relatively low-cost for a Chicago half marathon
+ Plenty of water stations
+ Officially timed
+ Fast and flat course
+ A huge feeling of camaraderie with the other runners who sign up for this type of race
+ Indoor gear check, bathrooms and pre- / post-race in the United Club
+ Strong charity ties (this race donates more to charity than many non-profit races do)
+ Focus on the running (and beer) and not on the frills and swag (honestly, I have so many race shirts and medals that I do nothing with, I think this is a good thing)
+ Multiple places to pick up your packet over the span of two weeks
+ The medal is a beer bottle opener, which means this is one of the only medals that I will do anything with. I love it.
+ Free race photos. Always awesome.

Could improve:
- The post-race party is off-site, though there is free transportation to get there
- This year, there was a snafu with getting the race swag in, so a lot of people will have to go to running stores next week to get their race shirts/hats. I did like the beanies they have had in years past over the technical beanie they gave out in 2016. But, like I said, I'm not a huge swag person anyways so it doesn't matter much.
- The route is a simple out and back on the lakefront path, so nothing too new if you are from the Chicagoland area. It's still more fun to run it with 2,500 other people though!

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(2015)
"Holiday fun run!"
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I love themed races around the holidays. By the time that the Turkey Trots roll around in late November, I'm a little burnt out from training all summer and spring and racing in the fall and I'm ready to get back to taking it casual again - and races like the Santa Hustle are perfect for just that.

Themed runs like this are good to invite your non-runner friends to that want to try it out (and slowly but surely get them to join the running cult... I mean, community). It's a casual event and race atmosphere but still enjoyable even if you're a more serious runner.

Pros:
+ Virtual goodie bag (pro in my book anyways)
+ Super quick and easy packet pickup
+ Management was active and responsive. I felt very informed pre-race.
+ Great swag! Loved the quarter zip, it was honestly way better quality than I thought it would be. And who doesn't love getting a beard and santa cap to run in?
+ Fun theme - candy canes, holiday music, can't beat that kind of atmosphere!
+ Proceeds from the race go to charity!

Cons:
- Wish there was a half marathon option for Chicago! Maybe in the future!
- Swag was unisex (which I liked but I can see people not liking that as much)

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(2015)
"Sweet, fun race"
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If you are looking to add this to your personal racing calendar as a course to PR, this isn't the race for you. If you are looking for a fun, themed race to run with friends - this would be that sort of race. In my opinion, this is the perfect race to convince your friends who "don't think they could ever do a 5k/15k" to do. It's a huge race - 40,000 runners (as big as the Chicago Marathon) - but the runners in this race's target market tend to not take themselves too seriously.

That said, for the 15k course, it spreads out a lot once the 5k breaks off, and you can certainly get a good time if you are going for one.

I've ran this 15k before and my friends have ran it several times between 2012-2015, and I will have to say that this year was the most seamless event they have had. I think that management is improving greatly on this race every year.

Pros:
+ Way better packet pickup experience this year than at years past. VERY quick and easy once you are in.
+ They did a good job with the corrals this year (years past, not always the case)
+ I loved how well the theme was spread out in the race
+ They gave out chocolate during the race! This time it was M&Ms instead of pieces of chocolate, which I thought was easier to run + eat (yes, I did take some of that)
+ Great post-race food. I just love the fondue/dipping concept.
+ Always some of the best swag of any race in Chicago

Cons:
- I could see that people didn't like the location - as it is downtown - it's much easier for people who live in the city to swing by and grab their packets than it is for people driving in from the suburbs. Easy fix for them... just move to the city ;)
- If you did go through the expo to visit brand tables, it was a little too crowded / packed in.
- I'm not a huge fan of out & backs during a race, and there was one between miles 5 & 6 which wasn't very scenic. But, it works I guess.

Overall, fun race to run with a group of friends and it's a very sweet theme. They are really working to fine-tune this race and it shows.

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(2015)
"Scenic trail half"
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This is likely the most difficult half marathon I've ever done, but that's mainly because I tend to run the very fast and flat road races in Illinois.

This is also my very first trail race and I went in with minimal expectations (though I wish I would have prepared more... like, realizing that having many water stations on a trail run isn't very feasible for race management logistically). Overall, this was an awesome experience and I LOVED the atmosphere that TNF helped create.

Pros:
+ Scenic trails (fresh air! smelt great! felt great!)
+ Well-managed
+ Fun atmosphere with a ton of experienced and adventurous runners (everyone was so inspiring)
+ A real challenge with some of the inclines on the trail
+ Great beer options afterwards (always a plus)
+ Nice tech tshirt for swag, good medal, no-nonsense goodie bag (delivered virtually, yay environment and not having to sift through a ton of pieces of paper / coupons manually)
+ Easy to find (I was worried it would be a lot more difficult with it being in the middle of a state park) and really simple parking/access.
+ Great race for Chicagoans (or anyone, really) looking to try out a trail race / challenge themselves with some elevation (Milwaukee, feel free to let us borrow a few hills once in a while)

Cons:
- No water until ~6 miles in - runner would just need to be more prepared for that than I was going in (it was a mental trip for me)
- Downhills were a little dangerous and something to watch out for (I was worried I would trip or roll an ankle, rendering me injured before a marathon this month -- thankfully that didn't happen! But something to think about if you have a big race coming up)
- Due to narrow trail, hard to pass sometimes - just have to be strategic

Would definitely recommend this race, especially to my friends who are growing bored of the same road race routes in Chicago or looking for a trail race.

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