Latest reviews by Tim Murphy

(2018)
"Such a challenging/rewarding race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Under Armour Mountain Running Series - Copper Mountain was easily one of my favorite trail races... ever. I don't make that claim lightly, but they just checked SO many boxes (I did the 25K).

Spectacular setting? Check.
You run up the Copper Mountain ski hills on exquisite single track trails, climbing steeply right out of the gate and enjoying phenomenal views of the massive Colorado mountains. There is a ton of climbing, and you go from about 9,500 to about 12,300 at the high point, so there is a lot of climbing and at VERY challenging elevation. But this was a high effort/high return situation, so I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Ease of access? Um - outstanding!
Copper Mountain was the perfect place to host this event. It's about 90-120 minutes from the Denver Airport, and the entire village sort of encircles the event, so packet pick up, shake out runs, start/finish line, tons of restaurants/bars/shops, post-race party, and everyone's lodging is all within a 5 minute walk. That created this very comfortable but concentrated experience where you kind of spend the weekend with everyone who's there for the race, and you get to walk 5 minutes to just about anywhere you want to go.
The post-race party also had a cool DJ, beer cart, and recovery area with a ton of vibrating massage tools that erased the damage I'd done to my legs and shoulders (due to my poor running form). And again, everyone's there because it's right in the middle of the resort.

Tons of BibRave Pros?
Haha - yes! See my attached pic - was so good to see so many BibRave Pros!

The medals and shirts were awesome - the guys' shirt was a super high-quality, somewhat heavy material in a long-sleeved hooded shirt (not a sweatshirt). Women's was similar.

Aid stations were about every 3-4 miles, and they were very well stocked. Course markings were probably the best I've ever seen - one thing they did that was really helpful was to use colored tape, weighed down with rocks to create a curve in the path whenever there was a turn that might be easily confused. As someone who regularly goes off course and blows past cones and hanging tape, this was a super obvious sign to turn this way or that. Would love to see other trail races adopt this method.

Under Armour also did a great job of bringing in people from all different parts of the country and from all different running backgrounds. There were city people, new trail runners, elite trail runners, weekend warriors and locals - all represented. It created a very lively atmosphere before, during, and after the race!

My race was just brutal - it took me 2:50 to run 15 miles, which for me is really not moving very well. I felt terrible on the ups, pretty solid on the downs, but in the end just couldn't move very well. I was carrying an intentionally overloaded pack to practice for an upcoming trail race, but even without that I don't think I would have moved very well.

I run a lot of trail races and this event simply had it all. I'd highly recommend it, and I hope to be back next year!

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(2018)
"Hang on tight!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Holy cow - 5,000 feet of loss! If you're looking for a fast race, they don't get much faster than just bombing down a volcano for 26.2 miles!
This race was tough to review because there was a lot of really well-done aspects but also some fairly significant misses. But that means there's a lot to talk about so let's dive in.

The Good:
Race Comms - This race was a bit complicated because it's a point-to-point race that starts on top of a volcano (correct, that's pretty badass). But because of that, we had to start early. Very early. I'm talking a 2am alarm time, drive to Sandy High School to be on the bus by 3:30, hour long bus, then wait at the start to stretch/warm up/relax for an hour before gun time at 5:30. Personally, I liked having that much time to chill and eat/use the bathroom before the start. With all those complicating factors, the race management did an expert job with communication beforehand. It would have been so easy for me to screw up the start, but the race comms were so good you couldn't help but know what was going on.

Starting area - Relaxing, calm, laid-back and BEAUTIFUL. Again, top of a snow-covered volcano (we were just below the snow line), basically a full moon and temps in the 50s. So pleasant. Also plenty of porto-potties, so that's always a plus. And we got to drop our bags right before the race started, so it was really have everything we needed to wait and be comfortable.

Scenery the first 5 miles - Absolutely incredible. Clear morning, sun coming up but we're still getting a ton of light from the super bright moon and you're just descending into the Mt. Hood National Forest area. One of the prettiest race starts I've ever seen.

T-Shirt and Medals - Really nice! Like my shirt a lot - nice cotton/poly blend, fits well, good looking - and the medals were great! They also added little charms to adorn age group winners, of which I was not one, but I did get to admire other people's charms!

The Not-so-Good:
I really had two significant criticisms - most of the course scenery and the aid stations.
Basically you run on Hwy 26 for ab out 20 miles of the race. This is a heavily-trafficked road, and we were basically buzzed by semis and other trucks the whole time because you just run on the shoulder. I don't think there's anything the race can do to fix this, and I think people who are running this insane downhill course are doing it to PR and/or BQ, so they might just view the Hwy 26 route as an acceptable downside to logging their fastest time. I didn't like it, but to each their own.

The aid stations were just a mess - no way around that. Biggest thing was a lack of uniformity with what was in what cup or where water and powerade were positioned. At every aid station, water and powerade were just randomly scattered around, so you could never tell what was where. Often times the last thing a runner could grab was powerade, which is a cardinal sin of aid station set ups (you don't want the runner to have to taste powerade for 3-5 miles until the next aid station - always gotta have water last in line to be grabbed). And the last aid station was just not handing stuff out at all (I heard this from the Half Marathon runners too). I don't fault the volunteers - they're always trying their best, but it was pretty clear that they didn't get effective direction in how to set up water/gatorate, where, and why.

The post-race area was OK - there was only a trough of coke products with water/powerade isolated in the finisher area, so getting water while we hung out post race wasn't really an option. When we tried to leave, we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes while the busses ferried people back to Sandy High School where the cars were parked. They were walking through with Papa John's pizza and giving that out to runners as we waited (which was VERY appreciated!), but it was a bit of a bummer to have to sit there for 30 minutes before getting on a 15 minute bus ride back to the cars.

In the end - if you're in the PNW and looking to BQ or PR, you should absolutely consider this race. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and it's not a great course overall. Bu23t the first 5 miles are just beautiful, and if you're just trying to put your head down and PR, you probably don't care about the scenery either way. If you're looking to do a casual marathon, this one's a bit maintenance with all the transport issues. Also it should be noted that this was the first time they put on this race, and so for an inaugural event they really did a fine job.

My race went well - I was pacing my buddy Dave and he had a very solid day. He battled through some hip issues and still reached his goal of between 3:05 and 3:10 (we ended up at 3:07:20).

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(2018)
"Not easy, but so worth it! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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I ran this race as a test of my fitness (I'm pacing a friend for a Marathon in about two months) and it was an awesome challenge. Not all that tough, but there are definitely some hills upfront that will get your attention. But the good part is that you have a NICE, extended downhill finish to round out the race.

Race morning brought cool weather, which created pretty ideal San Diego race weather. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego starts at 6am, which is definitely on the early side and a smart move. Any later and the Marathoners would be way too hot.

We had pre-race VIP, and that is SUCH an awesome option. Breakfast, parking (I think - we walked, but I know parking is part of other RnR VIP packages), private bathrooms right by the start, and tons of post race food, massages, breakfast AND lunch food, beer, and rubbing elbows with a bunch of running celebs like Meb and Des. So worth considering at future Rock ‘n’ Roll races imo. And everyone gets chocolate milk because, well, it's Rock ‘n’ Roll and they just get it. Chocolate Milk FTW!

The race course is hilly but fair, and anything you have to run up you basically get paid back on the downhill final few miles. There was also an incredibly powerful section that was taken over by wear blue: run to remember, so there were tons of American flags with a rising sun behind them and dozens of pictures of fallen service men and women. Total silence, and a good time to reflect on the sacrifices so many have made.

T-shirt and medal were great - Brooks T-shirt and a guitar-pick-shaped medal with a surfboard (so SD!). Expo felt big and with a lot of interesting vendors to check out, and it's at the convention center, which is super accessible.

My race went pretty well overall - ran hard and wanted to be between a 1:20 and a 1:25, and after pushing myself pretty hard I was able to squeak in just over 1:20 (as my picture shows, in classically ugly race-pic fashion, I was EXHAUSTED. Those hills!).

Had a great time running through the streets of San Diego, and I'd definitely go back!

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(2018)
"Tokyo Marathon Review - new PR on a fast course!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Summary - TL;DR
Very fast course overall, in a country where running is serious business. Great energy, great aid stations, and a fast course definitely make this race worthy of a spot on your bucket list!

Expo
Pure. Madness. It was well organized and wasn't a mess or anything - but in true Japanese fashion everything was big, bright, loud and ENERGETIC. There was a ton to be seen and I managed to walk out with several items - and I rarely buy stuff at expos!!

Parking
N/A - stayed in Shinjuku which made access to the start SUPER easy. Highly recommend.

The Start
A very slow start with thousands of slower runners at the front made this race feel like less of a "Major" IMHO (there was a serious log jam through mile 2 that led to almost a complete stop at times). Not a ton of signage to show people to the start, but the flow of people was such that it was pretty easy to figure out.

The Course
The Tokyo Marathon is mostly flat - a few bridges and small hills here and there, but overall pretty darn flat. There are a few 180 degree turns which would probably rule out this being a "super fast" course, but that those few seconds might not matter to you. Even vying for a PR, I still wasn't bothered by the 180 turns. I actually liked that the turns created out and back sections, where I could check in with and cheer on my buddies who were also running. In fact, during my darkest hour, I was rooted on by one of my buddies who was seeing me running back as he ran out, and that encouragement was HUGE at that stage of the race!

Aid Stations
I thought the aid stations were clearly marked and well-organized. They were only every 2-3 miles, so if you didn't plan or saw a hot day, it might have been on the thin side (tho if temps rose they might have added stations). But for my needs, there were plenty and they were well organized and SUPER clean. In some races the trash from runners at the front really builds up on course (I'm looking at you, London Marathon!), but this was the total opposite. As soon as a cup went down, there were like 5 volunteers on it with rakes and bags. No trash made it more than 5 seconds on the ground!

Port-a-Potties
I didn't use any of these, actually. Sounds like they were adequate from others in my group though.

Swag
Oh man - overall some of the best SWAG for me. 1) I liked the shirt, design, and fit - gotta love being a small guy in Japan! Seriously though, big fan of the shirt - but they only had unisex sizes which means a ton of ladies had ill-fitting shirts. Can't believe a major marathon would only have unisex sizes!
2) The medal was definitely my favorite of all time, and definitely one of the nicest I've seen (pic below). Totally unique design and aesthetic, and everyone agreed that it was just gorgeous.

Post-race Transport
Our tour group provided a coach bus back to Shinjuku, which was amazing. After a VERY long walk to our bag pick up, it was critical to get on a warm bus rather than have to take the train. Not sure I ever would have warmed up without that bus. (the post-finish line walk was 30 minutes at least, and by the time I got to the bag pickup I was FREEZING. Was supposed to have a race poncho for the walk but must have missed the pick up. Didn't see anyone around me with one either though)

Conclusion
I really liked this race, but I was put off a bit by the start. I lost at least 30-60 seconds on the front end (30 on my watch and another 30 or so in lost energy expended trying to weave through thousands of slower runners who were somehow put in Corral A). When trying to PR - that definitely makes a difference! (I still PR'd but missed my goal by 75 seconds...).
Overall though, Tokyo is just a magical place, Japanese people love running like few places in the world, and this is still a super flat course with a HUGE feel to it. Not perfect, but definitely worth doing.

My Race
Was trying for a 2:43 and was on track for most of the race despite having my Garmin off by about 30 seconds per mile for each mile (it just seemed to struggle in the city). Thank gosh I memorized my average goal 5K split because all the markers are in Ks. I lost that 30 seconds in the first mile despite trying to move through the crowd as best I could, and then was back on track through 30K where I started to fall off. Slipped until 37K where I got that shout of encouragement from my buddy and was able to dig deep and claw my way back into PR contention. Ended up with a really hard-fought 2:44:13 (2 min PR) which I was really proud of. Hard day but so much fun!!!!

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(2017)
"Turns out, I like 10Ks! "
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The Honolulu Marathon's Start to Park 10K is the perfect way to experience the incredible start line of the HNL Marathon without committing to the full 26.2 miles. You get the insane fireworks display at the beginning (this was nuts - they were still going off 10 minutes into my race!), the awesome run through Honolulu, and the finish line right in Kapiolani Park where the Marathon finishes. And for the first time this year, it was timed!

Expo and medal were really good - expo had plenty of space, easy access, and a lot of interesting vendors. The medal was outstanding (pic below) cool design, good size, weight, coloring. Definitely a worthy reward.

Scenery - I mean, come on. OK, some of this race (and the Marathon) are run in the dark due to the early start. But seeing the sun come up while running through Waikiki (or immediately after the race depending on your finish) was just awesome.

No complaints - the HNL Marathon crew knows how to put on a great event and adding the 10K to the overall event was a good move. If you can't (yet) commit to the full Honolulu Marathon, the 10K is a great option.

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