Latest reviews by Robin Chan

(2018)
"Good Spring Marathon, but Time to Iron Out the Details"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Alright Glass City Marathon, you’ve got a reputation for being a great spring marathon and you’re now attracting fussy runners. Overall, I would say this marathon does have the trappings of being a great smaller, spring marathon for those trying for a PR or BQ. It’s a great value for the distance and everything that it includes. There’s just some details that I think could easily be ironed out that would really make this a GREAT race that can meet the standards of runners from bigger market and a smoother experience for everyone. I ran with two friends that I trained with this spring, and we all ran Personal Records for the Marathon, so it is a PR course!

Its worthwhile to note that the main feature of the GCM is the half marathon. It sold out in 2018 (4.1k runners) and there well under 1.5k marathon runners. So, the course is more crowded in the beginning, but then it opens up after the turn off around mile 6. Other odd thing is that the timing mats are set up with marathon distance relay which means they are not at typical distances like 5k or half marathon, but surround the relay hand off points. it would be nice to know what my half marathon split was. Also, a spectator was telling me I was at the half way point at 20k, so a big timing mat may have helped correct this mathematically confused person.

T-shirt/Swag: Not a big swag person. Got a short sleeve tech t-shirt (which I probably will never wear), Big, tacky, medal (it has glitter and the runner slides up and down);, and glass mug (didn’t take, but people seemed super into it). As Jes T noted in her half marathon reviews , the mugs were located down by the after party, which I thought was an odd choice. If you want people to take these things and make it easy to find, please hand them out as they exit the finish line chute. Also, please, please for the sake of my tired legs, hungry belly, and supportive partner who is receiving me, please *some* food/calories at the finish chute. I only saw water, but some calories right away would be appreciated without having to navigate a super crowded (and downhill) after party. We ended up hobbling over to our car that was parked almost a mile away and stopping at the starbucks in Barnes and Nobles.

Expo: The expo was BUSY and had a lot of vendors. The local running store had some nice gear from Nike and New Balance for the race, but were out of a lot of sizes. We went Saturday afternoon, so if we had gone earlier we would have probably had better luck. Packet pick up was easy, but had to know bib number, but can look up at expo and friends can pick it up.

Course Scenery: Pretty nice course! You twist and turn through some nice neighborhoods with big houses and people come out to cheer. I was impressed by the amount of crowd support. Once you get tired of the twists and turns you’re a nature reserve, run along a highway, and then on a rails-to-trails path for the last 10k and it’s a straight shot. There are some slight inclines, but nothing that you should be intimidated by even if you live in flat Chicago.

A nice to have item for out of towners would be a spectator’s map to make it easy to navigate and tell loved ones where to be and how to get there. They may have been at the expo and missed them, but an online one would have been appreciated, too.

Race management: Within their domain of expo, course, after-party (didn’t attend), etc seemed to do really well. The app they used for tracking was AWFUL (Race Joy) and hope they consider using a different service in the future. The 10,000 emails I got about it did not help clear up the confusion either.

Race management could be more aggressive with their volunteers in directing runners. Several points along the course there are medians that divide the course, and all the runners stayed on one side, but there was no reason to force this congestion since both sides were closed. There were also a lot of cones on the course to divide out runners, but not volunteers to tell you what they meant and which side to run on, which again caused unnecessary congestion...including in the finish chute when I ran to the right of the cones, and was blocked by a relay team running 5 abreast SLOWLY as I was gunning for the last few meters. Yikes.

I have also been surprised by the lack of follow up post-event such as a “thank you for attending, here are your results, and take this survey” via email. I did see a link on an instgram(?) post, but that does not seem easy to access since it was a comment and not a clickable link. It seems like the race management takes their job very seriously, so a bit surprising.

Parking/ Access: We stayed at one of the partner hotels, Park Inn by Raddison, and it was a disappointment. They advertised (EVERYWHERE) a shuttle to the start line which was a big plus and worth staying a little further away from the start area to have. At check-in we were provided one departure time (6am). We anticipated one big shuttle bus (like a school bus) to take the group to the start. Instead, the shuttle was the usual hotel shuttle which was maybe a 10 person van. Even worse, none of the hotel staff seemed interested in communicating this to us, and another runner pointed this out to the very large group waiting in the lobby. Luckily, we were able to wake up one of spectators to drive us to the start. Our group wasn’t really rattled by this, but know some didn’t have this option and were really thrown off getting to the start! The hotel did reach out and apologize after the fact, so hopefully this is resolved for future races.

Aid Stations: Aid stations are plentiful on this course, but probably my #1 thing that could use some work that race management has control over (see my above point on being more aggressive with volunteers). The aid stations could be a little longer or even have the tables more spread out. Water should ALWAYS be first and electrolytes second and in a different colored cup. Our whole group encountered issues with thinking they’re grabbing water, getting electrolyte instead or blowing through the aid station without receiving what they wanted because they were too crowded and short. Cups were also filled at all sorts of different levels (too much, too little) and the electrolytes drink was too watered down at other aid stations. I also forgot about the scary, pothole ridden aid station that Jes T also mentioned and I agree it was a CLUSTER but I generally feel that way about the first few aid stations on a course and recently ran another pothole ridden course in Chicago. But, THANK YOU for having wax-paper cups.Paper cups with wax that you can pinch and drink are the best (looking at you Chitown Spring Half..) All of these things I think are things you don’t realize matter unless you’re also a runner.

Overall: Yes, I would recommend this race to someone. Especially if you read my review and a know what to expect :) Will I return to Toledo? Probably not...because it is Toledo (really tough sell to both other crazy runners, but especially our non-running partners). Because of this location, my non-running partner now has veto on future race destinations.

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(2017)
"Get Lucky Half- course is the right distance! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I ran this race as a part of my build up to a spring marathon. In previous years, the course is known to be a little shy of 13.1, but this year the course was the correct distance! On race day there were LOTS of port-a-potties which was nice. The race village area was on one side of a hill and the start on the other. At the start, there were ample pacers, and some St Patrick's Day festiveness in the crowd. I chose to bring my own water and nutrition since I was incorporating this race into a training run. The aid stations had plastic cups instead of paper/wax ones and the electrolyte drink was very dark red (I didn't have any). The course runs south on the lake front, and *did not* go over the one hill on the path which makes this an extra flat course. Overall, I would rate this race as average for a Chicago lakefront half marathon with an out and back marathon. The swag was a heavy long sleeve quarter zip and a buff, which are both items that are appreciated!

I found two things a little odd- the packet pick up location and the volunteers.

1. Packet Pick Up- Maybe I've been spoiled by Ram Racing/Fleet Feet with in store pick up that I find convenient because I'm there 3 days a week? Packet Pick Up was at the race day finish area, which was nice to know so I knew where to go the next morning. However, it is not super easy to get to since you have to walk around museum campus in order to access the southern side of Soldier Field via public transit (Red Line) and late spring weather can be chilly. Packet pick up was super fast once I was actually there.

2. Volunteers- I am grateful for all of the course support and volunteers that make my racing possible, but maybe they needed more direction/captaining at each station. Honestly I feel weird even mentioning these. I had two odd experiences with the volunteers. On the course I had two volunteers casually chatting, walk out in front of me with their backs to the oncoming runners while going through an aid station and seemed surprised when I said something. At the finish, I had to walk up to a volunteer to ask for my medal and picked my second piece of swag (the buff) from a box. It was cold and windy, so maybe the volunteers weren't super enthusiastic because of the temps and were confused because multiple distances were coming in at the same time? Not sure.

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(2016)
"Relaxed, small marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is a very relaxed marathon put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club with less than 450 participants overall. In the week leading up to the race, I received a nice email from the race directors describing the course by segment and additional logistical details. Race packet pick up was a breeze before the race and packet pick up day of looked easy. The course starts out at the local elementary school (regular sized toilets) where you can wait until close to go time to stay warm.

The first 2.5 miles are on a gentle downhill then uphill then down on the road to get to the trail that are not so friendly on the way back in. Once on the trail, it is very flat and is not a dirt trail, but more like a paved trail that has degraded to gravel. Aid stations are pretty frequent as it is an out and back course. I consider myself pretty middle of the pack and found myself running solo for a lot of the race. My family found it easy to cheer for me through out the race because the trail intersects roads with pullouts. Swag was good- sweatshirt and matching blanket. I had my finisher certificate filled in at the results table which was a nice touch. If you finish in 4:20 or longer, post-race food pickings were slim. Overall, I found this race to be a great experience.

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(2015)
"No Frills Turkey Trot"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Another reviewer said it well-- this is a no-frills neighborhood 5k! Great race to do with family/ friends that want to be active on Thanksgiving but might be intimidated by a bigger race with all the bells and whistles. Very family friendly race. You can tell that for a lot of folks this an annual event.

Race was easy to get to and easy parking in the area. I don't care for the long sleeve cotton tshirt but is on regular rotation for my boyfriend.

I look forward to this being an annual race!

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(2014)
"2014 Rock n Roll Half "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first year running this race. I wish I ran it last year before the Chicago Marathon to help prepare for race day since the feel is similar! It was my friend's first half and she had a great time.

Overall, I agree with what a lot of reviewers said about the 2014 race- the course was surprisingly hilly for Chicago with lots of turns through the Loop, the entertainment was sporadic (it looked like the first band had packed up and left by the time we got it), GPS watch was way off due to running between tall buildings and underpasses, but great aid stations and overall well organized. Next time I will use my watch like a stopwatch and just record a lap at each mile marker. Each individual corral started in it's own wave, so it took a while to get to the start (30mins+ from Corral 30 and I believe there were 60+), but also let runners start comfortably. Also, good to know if you're starting further back that you have some extra time to use the bathroom (long lines!) and check gear. From mile 9 on when the course goes down the Lakefront Path, it became very congested and difficult to pass people all the way to the finish.

Rock n Roll's bib pick up policy was frustrating since we had some semi-local runners with us that had to either make an extra trip into the city or spend the night away from home in order to do pick up. Not the biggest deal, but just adds another extra step into race day prep. I did appreciate that they didn't give you a bunch of stuff that you don't want or need at the pick up.

It's a well organized race that I would consider doing again next year. I would also recommend registering early for this race/being aware of fee increases and keeping an eye out for flash sales. I paid nearly $100 with all the fees registering almost 4 months in advance.

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