Latest reviews by Julia Montag

(2014)
"Fast and Flat, until mile 23"
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First off, I'm a little bias when it comes to my review, since I BQ'd this race and will forever love it for that reason. However, here is my critique!

1. Pre Race - The layout, maps, directions were a little unorganized and confusing. I was staying at the Holiday Inn, and shuttles were offered by Christie Clinic to pick us up at 5, 530, or 6. The race started at 7, so I planned to be on the 5am Bus. However, while standing outside at 5am, the bus drove right pass me, never to come back. Not the best way to start your marathon morning! However, the 530am bus came, stopped, and all was settled.

2. The Race - This specific day ended up being a lot warmer than expected, but the organizers did a great job at having water stations out. Student from frats and sororities came out to watch, families were standing outside to cheer everyone on. It was a nice atmosphere, and felt fairly well supported for being a small town. The first half was fantastic - we ran through the campus, shaded neighborhoods, and nature preservers. The second half, was not so nice; many open 2 lane roads with minimal shade. Not to mention, a couple surprise hills around mile 24.

3. Post Race - The finish line was awesome. You run through the stadium, and your name and time is announced to the crowd. Once you're done, there was really bad flow to get water, a metal, etc. The bathrooms were not marked, it was really unclear where gear check or the post race food was located.

Overall, I would recommend this race to anyone trying to qualify or looking for a spring marathon in the midwest. However, I think the half marathon might be a better bet.

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(2014)
"4 Score and Many Races to Go!"
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This race rules. It's a smaller race, but very competitive, flat and fun. Here's my top5 reasons to run this race:
1. The race starts with men dressed as union soldiers firing off musket guns. You run past Lincoln's house, up toward the capital, and through Old Ridge Cemetery - the location of Lincoln's tomb
2. The swag is great! A comical shirt with Lincoln in a sweatband (see logo), and a giant penny finisher's medal.
3. Rolling Meadows Brewery ( a local Springfield brewery) hands out post race brews. Who wants to try the "Lincoln Lager?!"
4. Actors dressed like Lincoln and Mary Todd great you at the finish line, and are more than happy to take photos. Participants even dress up as Abe, a penny, Mary Todd, etc.
5. The course is flat, not too warm, and quick

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(2014)
"Do You Love Hills??"
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Really fun but very hilly race. The hills start around mi 3 and continue until mi 10ish. If you're not from Birmingham, you've been warned! The course went through beautiful parts of the city, and support was fairly good. The last 3 mi are flat and carry you down a straight line. On a hot day, this could be an issue for the lack of shade. The full is the same course as the half, completed twice. By the time the Half was finished, support really thinned out. I'm not sure I'd recommend the full marathon.

The medal was a huge Mercedes logo, pretty badass. The shirts were great, and the participant bag was all electronic (which I'm a big fan of). It also included a free subscription to Mens/Women's Health.

The Expo was really crowded, and gave out free beer and coca cola products (not the best for people running a race the following day). The local running store - Trak Shak - http://www.trakshak.com/ had a huge sale in the middle of the expo and it made it pretty claustrophobic. The post race food was classic southern BBQ, provided by Jim& Nicks. YUM!

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(2014)
"A race for the crazies"
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Why run a half marathon, at the end of January, in 10 degrees, on snow and ice covered terrain, with wind coming from both the south AND the north? Because we're runners, and we love a challenge, and it brings us together, no matter what! That's the best part of this race. It's not about PR'ing, it's about toughing the cold and ice together, as the Chicago running community.

The course starts at Montrose, which is normally fairly easy to park. I suggest driving, since you'll want to spend as much time as possible in warmth before race start. This year was very cold, icy, and snowy (Thank you, Chiberia), but the camaraderie makes this race. I clustered in a group of 4 runners, and we took turns blocking the wind from each other. Everyone called out large ice patches, and MADE props to the volunteers who stood outside for hours, just so we had water and Gatorade.

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(2013)
"Pros and Cons"
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I'm notorious for having a bad race at the Chicago Half, but ended up running it again in 2013 because it is a good distance from the Chicago Marathon and a good time to check your fitness level if you're in marathon training. However, here's my attempted unbiased breakdown:
Pros - Great time of year weather wise for a half marathon, great weather and good for marathon training. It's located in hyde park, there's ample parking, and not too terrible of a drive down from the northside (do beware the drive back. Race day often ends up being the same day at the first Bears game). Lots of people do this race, and each year it seems to double in participants ( which can be a good or bad thing)
Cons - The expo is at Navy Pier, on a Friday or Saturday. DO NOT drive there. It's all the way in the back, and I highly suggest walking outside to the back auditorium to avoid the inside foot traffic. The course is flat, but pretty boring. You get to run down LSD, but it's not very scenic. The post race party has pizza and beer, however the lines for each are incredibly long, and not really worth it ( I'm not a big fan of deep dish pizza right after running 13 mi).

Overall, it's not a bad race, however I think there are better organized, more scenic half marathons to do.

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