Latest reviews by Andrew Wallace

(2018)
"The Most Magical Marathon Ever 💫"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I have been wanting to do this Marathon for years and I finally realized my dream! I was able to run this with my bestie, Jessica! I loved the overall experience and here are some of the highlights from our trip down to sunny Orlando!

Expo: The expo is split up between two different buildings in the Wide World of Sports. One building has your packet pick-up and all of the vendors that are hocking their wares . The second building contained all of the Disney-exclusive gear (also had a character picture stop as well). It was easy to get around from building to building.

Parking/Access: We stayed on Disney property and I would suggest this to anyone participating in the race (or races if you are in it to win it for the weekend). It is soooo easy to get around on Disney property, and even better, you get direct transportation to the race start the morning of the race. This is clutch because of the early start time for the race. Disney had it all down!

Course: I LOVED the Disney course because you get to experience all of the parks. The starting line experience was thrilling with fireworks and lots of production value - really gets you hyped up. It is important to note that there is also a lot of highway running that isn't as scenic, but running through the parks made up for it! There were lots of character stops, but they ran very smoothly - and you don't have to stop if you don't want to. Each park was a magical experience, especially if you are a Disney lover. And, the parks start to open up around 8am so some of the public gets to see you run and cheer you on... loved it. There were only a couple of tough hills, but elevation was mostly flat. I really loved the course and I recall hearing the moment when someone said, "No more highway running," and I rejoiced because I love running in the parks so much.

Finish Line: After running by a gospel choir you finish between some grand stands of cheering audience members. Then we got our medal and because it was the 25th anniversary we also go Mickey ears! It was great!

Disney just has everything locked down and they know how to do logistics and create an experience. I would recommend this for every runner as a race to add to your bucket list!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2017)
"Huge Flock, Nice Experience! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my very first Turkey Trot! I chose it because it was local and super close to where I live in Chicago - my über only took 6 minutes and it was easy to get to race start! I ran the 8K distance. I loved seeing all the costumes and excitement for the event. Here is my breakdown:

Expo: Was help at the Fleet Feet Old Town. I found pick-up SUPER easy. I was in and out in less than 5 minutes, (I went in the late morning on Wednesday before the race). I loved that the race gave you all your materials in a Chicago Food Depository donation brown bag - I thought this was brilliant and I (and tons of other participants) brought a full bag of food donations back on race day. So easy.

Shirt - Not my favorite shirt. It is a long sleeve, cotton shirt with a muted, autumnal color palette and underwhelming graphic design. I can see using this as a comfy shirt to wear as pjs, but I wouldn't be able to use it for running, unless I was wearing it as a warmer before I threw it away in a race 😳. The race logo/character, Perky Turkey, is SOOO cute and I don't know why the race wouldn't lean into that for the shirt design.

Aid Stations - The shorter distance meant not as many stations - they had gatorade and water. I also saw race marshals, and Race Guards (hired EMS runners) were in all corrals.

Course - The course is on the Chicago Lake Path - which is still open to the public. The general public didn't seem to be out and about so that wasn't a concern. However, the race was old out with almost 8500 runners so the course got pretty packed. The 5K and 8K ran together, then split for the 8K runners to go farther north, and then rejoin. They spread out the corrals to avoid congestion on the path, however they moved the corrals up to the start and OVER the chip timer to wait. So many runners had 'started' the race and then had to wait about 5 minutes- EEK! I was in the second corral of the whole race so I think my beginning experience was good, not too crowded. At the beginning there were some children running with parents, but they were managed. No strollers (THANK YOU!) and only a couple of walkers. The best part of the course was when the 8K split off - way less crowded, but also the clientele seemed like experience runners. So, I only started to get frustrated with the congestion when the 5K and 8K combine. The merge happened at a pretty tight spot on the path, and because of the waves, I re-entered into tons of walkers, first-timers, and children - right as I was in my home stretch trying to keep pace. This stayed pretty tight and forced me to bob and weave quite a bit until the finish. Then, I ran home to get in some more miles... why not! Lastly, and not related to race management, is the course itself. It happens to be the exact stretch of lake path that I run almost every day so that part of the race wasn't special to me (but I would still do this race again!).

Post-Race - Let's start with the finisher chute. The definition of a bottleneck - literally closed in to a very narrow point at the end. Since the race was at capacity, I do think the race needed more support here to move people through. I am grateful for volunteers, but they were not on point in the finish. No one was moving the crowd or even handing out supplies (I even saw one teenage volunteer on their phone blocking finishers from getting by). I think with increased support here the finish could be less congested, and I acknowledge that the race was dealing with A LOT of people. I did think the post-race tailgate was super cute. Lots of games, tents, and other activities for all ages. I sped through to get home, but I was impressed with the setup. We also got a MEDAL! Not sure if that was needed, IMO, but I know it was probably pretty exciting for first-timers or runners that stick to shorter distances.

For my first Turkey Trot, I was happy and would do this race again - even recruiting others to join this city race. Loved the food donation aspect! You do need to know that Trots come with large crowds with lots of families and first-timers and that is just the nature of the beast.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2017)
"One of my favs, but not one of my best..."
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my 5th Chicago Marathon experience and I ran this year for the JDRF charity group. I had a solid training experience that ended in a less than stellar performance on race day, BUT I am still grateful for my finish. So to break it down:

Expo - Large-style expo with tons of vendors and presenters represented! I always like the electric excitement at the Chicago expo. I found the packet pick-up process just okay - signing in was easy, but then there were long and unorganized lines for t-shirt/swag bag pick-up. But the volunteers were extremely kind and funny.

T-Shirt - Pretty standard, classic design. Comfortable and basic. Nothing special here.

Course - MY FAVORITE! Love the Chicago neighborhoods and the flat terrain. Each new area comes with special entertainment and unique characteristics - everything from the pizzazz of Boystown to the mariachi of Pilsen. It really keeps you going!

Aid Stations - So I have not had to use Aid Stations in the past, but this year I did. Unfortunately, I was disappointed because I really needed salt and we ran for almost 2 miles with no success or help from aid stations. Can't give high marks here, but this may be an outlier.

Management - Chicago has this wrapped up tight. Good communication and direction. There was some congestion getting into the race start due to very high security, but I am not sure this would be avoided in any situation. My Nike pacers struggled on this hot day, in fact all 3 ended up dropping out, but I would still use the pacers if you want a consistent guide for the run.

My run: Oh boy... I felt good going into the race. The first half was pretty solid and I stayed with my pace group. Then I started feeling some slight hip pain around mile 15, and I felt that I was altering my stride slightly to compensate. By mile 19 I had significant leg pain traveling all around my leg muscles. Luckily, I was picked up by my friend Jess around 19 and she helped bring me in. We had to start running for 4 mins, walking for 1 min to try to keep things moving while still taking breaks. Then I started cramping in my calves. In fact, around mile 24 I actually fell over due to cramps, screaming in pain. A good samaritan helped me by massaging my calves back into place with IcyHot. She got me up and got me on my way. I walked, or waddled, all the way to the finish. Not a great race, but I am always grateful for the finish and the experience. Doing it all over again next year!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2017)
"Cinco de Miler 2017"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first Cinco de Miler and I was very happy with the overall race experience. I would totally run this race again and it was a nice distance.

Expo - The expo was a simple Fleet Feet Old Town (Chicago) pick-up. It was extremely fast, no elaborate set-up, and Nuun was in the Fleet Feet lobby promoting their product. I am always a fan of a quick in-and-out pick-up so I don't have to pay for parking. PLUS the QR code in my google wallet was a really nice touch for pick-up as well. One scan and I was done!

Race Day Parking/Access - Personally, I ran to the race because I only live a mile a way, but traffic and parking at Montrose Beach/Harbor can be very congested. There are a lot of other leisure activities that utilize that park space as well. So it seemed that there were a lot of late comers to the start line.

THE RACE - Pre-party race functions were high energy and ran smoothly. The race started right on time and every corral was released every two minutes. For a road race, this course was pretty rough, with several patches of chunky gravel, large pot holes, and even some sandy beach running due to some wind-blown sand dunes. The beginning of the course (within mile 1) got pretty tight, but after that the crowd seemed to thin out . The course scenery is not the most beautiful and does wind and snake around itself quite a bit, but the final leg traveling south along the lake was beautiful. The wind was a beast on this day 🌬 but that is totally out of the race's control. Oh... and totally flat. :)

Post-Race - Lots of fun activities, if you could take the wind, like mechanical bulls, dancing, great food and beer. The race shirts were very nice and the medal was very cool (with built-in beer opener).

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2017)
"Finished on the 50!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I ❤️ this race! I have participated for numerous years now, and it always is so rewarding.

Venue/Staging - First, a Saturday race (especially on this holiday weekend) is amazing and a great way to kick things off. The Soldier Field setting is really quite special and the finish line on the 50 has always been one of my favorites. Parking is FREE and consistently has been very easy. The staging was different this year. Gear check was outside of the stadium- totally fine, no line, and ran pretty smooth. The start line was inside the stadium. We had to be funneled through some pretty tight hallways to get to the field and it was pretty claustrophobic. Corrals A-H started on the field and the later corrals waited in the stands for the first wave to go. In past years, we were staged on the road that runs parallel to the stadium and it allowed everyone to be stage at once. I know that some of my friends in later corrals said they felt they started late because they had to move the whole crowd down to the field for the start. My assumption was that the race wanted a different feel for the start and wanted to take advantage of the jumbo-tron that featured all pre-race ceremonies, including a video sponsored by the beer vendor.

The Race - The race started almost 10 minutes late because the pre-race ceremonies ran long... this is frustrating because corrals closed at 6:45am so we had to stand in crowded corrals for close to 25 minutes. Once we were off, things got back to normal... the first mile has always been tight because the road itself doesn't open up for a mile or so. Speaking of miles, the mile markers were not consistently placed and myself and several other runners commented on this post-race. When I was done with the race my watch had recorded 10.3 miles. The race course itself was great- hydration stations were stocked and the Nuun hydration was a welcome addition! The finish (have I mentioned it is my favorite) is always a thrilling experience, and military members distribute medals for a really poignant moment at the end of the race.

Post-Race - Always a fun time! Love, love, love the band and the beer. And the weather was perfect for the entire race and post-race.

Expo/Swag/Management - The expo (I attended the one at Fleet Feet- Old Town) was super quick, and it should be mentioned that the race also offers other city and suburb locations for packet pick-up- a really nice touch. Plus, friends can pick up your bib for you! The swag was very nice- pretty standard, but nice- and I even got my extra BibRave swag (a water bottle) by using my BR code.

This race is extremely well managed and a race that I will always return to year after year. Moreover, I love the 10 mile distance because it is substantial and you can still talk your friends (who are afraid of long distances) into running it. Did I mention you finish on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field... so cool!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.