Latest reviews by Carolyn Gardner

(2016)
"My Rock and Roll tour of San Diego"
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I really enjoyed this race, and taking a running tour through San Diego.

The expo was centrally located, and easy to navigate. Rock n Roll always has plenty of entertaining exhibits at the expo and this one didn't disappoint.
I ran the 1/2 marathon and even though it was quiet humid, I felt the race was well prepared with plenty of aid stations and support.
Since it is such a popular race there are alot of corrals at the start. The corrals were organized, but it took quiet a while to get to the start line and get running.
I loved the course. It took runners through some fun neighborhoods, residential areas, Balboa Park and even snuck in a few coastal views. Typical for a Rock n Roll event the course entertainment was amazing with various bands at every mile, there was even a disco ball. However, my favorite part was the military mile where police and military personnel lined the streets holding flags as runners race by.
The post race party was quiet fun, with plenty of room to spread out and watch great bands.

Only a few thoughts could make this event better: better parking, better post race beer options, and gear pick up being closer to the finish line.

This is definitely an event I will add to my yearly calendar!

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(2015)
"Winter racing made easy"
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A winter 13.1 doesn't get much better then this!
Let me start by saying we got extremely lucky with the weather for this years race (mid 30's, sunny and not too much wind).

Great race to kick off year of running. I ran this race with a group of friends and we all really enjoyed it this year. F3 events moved the location to Solider Field this year, and it made a huge difference in the race experience.

Race pros: easy packet pick-up with multiple times and locations, great swag (hat and gloves instead of usual race t-shirt), easy course to navigate, indoor parking, very cool race medal.

Race cons: aid stations not well managed, no post race "food" just kind bars, start corrals were a bit jammed, clogged gear check post race.

The best part of this race this year was the indoor pre and post race party. Before the race runners met in the United Club at Solider Field. They offered plenty of room to meet others, warm up and prepare for race. Post race you could go back in heated club to relax and enjoy the Goose Island post run beer.
Overall I really loved the changes to this race. If the location stays at Soldier Field I will defintely be back to run it next year.

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(2014)
"If your looking for an amazing marathon experience this is the one for you."
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I have run this race 6 times and every year it gets better. Definitely one to add to your race list if you are looking for a well supported marathon. The entire city comes alive for the entire weekend of this event.
Race weekend begins with the expo at McCormick Center. The organizers make it very easy to get to the location with various shuttles as well as discounted parking. The expo is huge and can be a bit overwhelming to a first timer. There are tons of vendors showcasing the latest running products as well as the leaders in running gear selling shoes, and Chicago Marathon themed apparel. (Nike is the corporate sponsor and offers a HUGE pop-up experience at the expo). There are quiet a few elites who run this course and the race organizers usually offer some sort of personal appearance by some of them at the expo. (Keep your eye on the expo schedule to find out info on great speakers)
Race day is very organized, but make sure you allow enough time to get through security and get to your corral. Corrals and the wave start make the start of the race very smooth, but the corrals are packed, so get there early if you want to meet friends or find a comfortable spot.
The course was well stocked with aid stations and amazing volunteers. You pay alot for this race, but once you see how well it is supported by the organizers you realize it is worth it.
The weather was perfect for the 2014 race which always means amazing crowd support. Since this course runs through the city neighborhoods it makes it easy for locals to come out and cheer runners. This year was no exception, the crowds were every where and sooo energetic.
The finish line chute is the perfect size, not too long, but enough room to not feel crowded. There is a ton of room near packet pick up for runners to stretch and relax a bit before meeting up with family/friends.
If you run this race, keep a few points in mind.
*Don't expect a fabulous race day shirt, they tend to be a good quality but nothing special.
*Don't expect to get cell service after the race, the lines are always jammed.
*Awesome course to run a PR, but weather is unpredictable.

Overall the best marathon in the Midwest, maybe in the USA.

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(2014)
"Nike Women's Half 2014 San Francisco "
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If you are a women who loves distance running, this should be something you experience at least once.
Nike definitely knows how to host a running event and this race is amazing. It is a weekend experience that caterers to women at all types of running levels.
The weekend includes a race expo that is actually called an "expotique". This event doesn't have the typical trade show feel, but instead is a place where you can try out sponsored products (such as Nuun and Luna) while also getting your hair done, or capture that perfect photo opportunity. You also can walk across the street to Nike San Francisco to see the wall of runners names which is a yearly tradition.
The course this year was alot different. Since they only offered the half marathon option (previous years had a marathon route as well) the course was completely overhauled. I really loved the changes. The hills were manageable (other than the monster hill to the Presidio at Mile 10). The aid stations were incredible and stocked with tons of hydration and some had additional options such as Luna bars, oranges, and Clif shots. A good portion of the course runs through the Golden Gate Park, which offers a beautiful scenery. Even though the crowd support is a bit spread out, the race organizers brought in huge cheer stations to keep you moving (cheerleaders, a gospel choir, the November Project, etc).
The finish area was in a park on the Marina and offered a variety of race day events for both runners and spectators. Your race medal was once again the infamous Tiffany s necklace which is a very wearable design this year. After you leave the finishers chute you have numerous photo opportunities, a huge area to stretch, a massage, a boutique of finishers gear to purchase, and a shuttle back to the start line. There is also plenty of room to sit, relax and hang out for a bit before you leave.
One of my favorite features was the race day photos. This year Nike gave them to the runners for free, which is an awesome perk as those pics can be a bit pricey. (Thanks to the awesome Nike photographers I even had a few that turned out great, which never happens).
If you are looking for a destination race, grab your running girlfriends and get to one of these events.

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(2014)
"Bear Down"
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This was low key race, with a very fun after party.
As you can guess from the name it was a race put on by the Chicago Bears, Nike and Fleet Feet to kickoff the 2014 Football Season. Put those three sponsors together and you are most definitely going to have a great time.
The race offered race day packet pick up which is a big plus, especially for a weeknight event. The packet pick up lines were a bit long, but moved fairly quickly.
The course was pretty typical for one in the Soldier Field area, so if you run a lot of summer races evening races in Chicago, this course may be a bit boring for you. What made this race/course different, was the start line. They began the race with a NFL style kick off (think fireworks, mascots, and even a video from your favorite Chicago Bear player).They had staggered start times of every 15 minutes, which was a convient option for the after work crowd.
I would say this wasn't a very competitive race, but more of a fun run style, perfect to run with friends or family. By having staggered starts, the course didn't seem too crowded.
The after party was my favorite part of the evening. There was the typical post run complimentary beer and other stadium style food for purchase. Once you got your food and beer, you could mingle in the tailgate area that had been staged and hang out with your friends. Once the race was over, they showed the football game on a jumbo-tron, which encouraged runners to stay and "tailgate".
Overall great event, fun low key race, and if you like football, you will love the post race party.

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