On Carrying Essentials while Running

Runners often wonder how to best carry items while running.  Common items that you may need while running are a phone, ID, cash, and gels or other fuel.  Water is an entirely different topic.  🙂

Over the years I have used a few different options that worked well for me.  One thing that did not work well for me is the SpiBelt, which bounced around on me.  I know that other people love it, so it can be a viable option.  To me, it looks too much like a fanny pack.  Which some people still love, so it’s a matter of personal preference.

First I will share the 2 belts that I have used, the FlipBelt and the hipS-sister belt.  I actually have 2 sizes of the FlipBelt.  It did have a tendency to slide up my waist, so I tried a smaller size.  It still slid up my waist.  It wasn’t horrible, it just needs to be readjusted.  Not an issue on shorter runs, but it did tend to become annoying on long runs.  I think it may depend on the type of clothing that you wear underneath the belt.  Some have suggested using safety pins to keep it in place, which would definitely work.  Runners always have extra safety pins.

I never had anything fall out of the FlipBelt, but I was somewhat afraid to put smaller objects into it.  Thus, the purchase of the hipS-sister belt.

The hipS-sister belt did tend to stay in place while running.  It is a wider belt, with two zippers and a slot to hold a phone.  It is much easier to get things out of the hipS-sister belt than the FlipBelt.  The FlipBelt has slots that are pretty well hidden in the construction of the belt.  It looks nice, but it does make it somewhat tricky to get things in and out, especially while running.

Pictured below are the belts.  The two belts on top are the FlipBelts.  Note that I have the “classic” FlipBelt, without any extras like the key hook.  They also now offer a slightly wider version of the belt with a zipper.  The hipS-sister belt is the Left Coast Sister.


When worn underneath t-shirts both belts are hard to detect.  But you can also get them in different colors and have them peek out from underneath tops as pictured on the websites.

FlipBelt now makes water bottles that fit into the belt, which is an interesting addition.

Now for a couple of “non-belt” options.

I have two running pouches, the RooSport 2.0 and the Buddy Pouch by Running Buddy.  The RooSport is on the top in the photo.


The RooSport is the smaller of the two and has two zippered compartments and a larger non-zippered compartment.  The small compartment works well for a key, while the larger zippered compartment will hold a phone and the non-zippered compartment can store gels.  When attached to your waistband only the top portion of the pouch will show, and the back will be tucked behind your waistband.  So if you have a phone inside, the phone will be in your pants.  🙂  There is one magnet on the pouch.

The Buddy Pouch is not as flexible and has 2 separate parts.  When inserted into your waistband, the pockets (and your phone) will be on the outside of your pants.  There are 2 velcro pockets and a zipper for a headphone cord.  There are 2 magnets on the pouch.

There is an advantage to having the phone outside your pants, especially if you sweat a lot.  The sweat will penetrate the RooSport.  So you may want to put your phone in a Ziploc baggie to protect it.  The Buddy Pouch is quite a bit heavier, weighing in at 3.2 oz vs 1.6 oz for the RooSport.  But it is also easier to get things out of the pouch while running, you don’t have to remove it from your pants, as you may need to do with the RooSport.

If you don’t need to carry much then the RooSport is a nice option, it’s very lightweight and small and you won’t feel it while running.  The Buddy Pouch is quite a big larger but it is still comfortable to use.  Both will not bounce.

The nice thing about all these products is that they can be used for hiking, travel, or any activity where you don’t want to carry a phone or money in a purse or wallet.

Current Pricing (as of 5/11/16):

  • Classic FlipBelt: $28.99
  • Zipper FlipBelt: $34.99
  • hipS-sister Left Coast: $24.99
  • RooSport 2.0: $26.99
  • RooSport Plus (for larger phones): $32.99
  • Buddy Pouch XL: $23.98  (currently on sale)

As with most online stores, get on their mailing list and you will likely be sent discount codes for future purchases.


Best Running Websites

Over the years I have found some great internet resources for running.  Here is a list of ones that I use regularly or that I think may be useful for runners.  Unless specified, the site is free!

Hal Higdon Training – Beginning runners will often get to the point where they will want a training plan.  Higdon’s plans range from 5K run/walk plans to full marathon plans.  The plans are tried and true, and they range from beginner to advanced plans.  There are paid apps that can supplement the plans, but the plans are available online for free.

Athlinks – Once you start racing, Athlinks is a great place to keep track of all your race results and also keep a race calendar.  You can also see how you compare against others your age.  Your results are verified using the official results from the race, at least one week after the race.  If your race is not listed, you can add a race and a link to the results.  The race will usually be added to your profile within a week after the request.

McMillan Running – So you have run a 5K.  How fast can you run a half marathon?  What paces should you run in training?  Greg McMillan’s running calculator can give you these answers.  The race estimates should be taken with a grain of salt, they assume that you are training heavily.  But it will give you an idea of what you can do given ideal training.  There are also many informative training articles on the website.  For a monthly fee you can join McMillan’s RunClub, giving you access to hundreds of training plans and advice from McMillan coaches.  One time custom plans can also be purchased on the site.

Runner’s World Community Forums – Do you have a running related question?  Many answers await on these forums.  There are categories for beginners, different races by length, and even a forum for women runners.  For the most part, forum users are helpful and friendly, especially if you are truly interested in running, learning, and you are open to different opinions.  You may get a snarky response if you post something like, “I have never run before.  Can I run a marathon in 3 months?”  But these questions can also be entertaining.  🙂

Facebook running groups – There are many closed Facebook running groups, which you can join by simply asking.  Most of the groups are extremely supportive and composed of beginning as well as veteran runners.  You may see the same questions asked multiple times and your feed may be overloaded with posts.  This may or may not be motivating for you.  🙂  It is easy to turn off notifications for the group and read posts and participate at your leisure.  An example of one group is Favorite Run Community.

Race Raves – This is still a fledgling site but it can become an awesome resource for runners.  You can read and post reviews for races and set up your own “staging area” to keep track of your upcoming races and PR’s.

Active and Running in the USA – Looking for a race in your area or a race on a certain date?  These are 2 of the main resources for locating or registering for races.  There is also the “old fashioned” way of Googling the date, location, and the type of race you are seeking.  That is actually the way that I have found some smaller races.

Map My Run – Map My Run/Walk/Ride/Fitness, they are all the same site.  🙂  You have a 10 mile long run coming up and you want to plan a route in advance.  This site will let you easily map a route and also show you the elevation for your route.  It is helpful to know the area in advance so that you are not mapping a run onto a busy highway.  Basic membership is free, with some advanced features available at extra cost.  The corresponding phone app feeds the site and is a good basic GPS tracking app.  I have a Garmin watch but I feed my Garmin data into the site because it is an easy way to track all my fitness activities.  The site was recently acquired by Under Armour but it has not changed much.  There are also challenges that you can participate in that are sponsored by the site or through “friends” on the site.


Winter Running (For Beginners)

A topic that always seems to come up on various running forums during the winter is what to wear for winter running.  While everyone is different, here are some of my tips.  Keep in mind that I live in Wisconsin and I am a skinny woman that is normally cold unless it is 70+ degrees.  🙂

If the temperature is gradually changing then it will give your body time to adjust.  As long as you keep running as the temps start dropping, it will not be a shock to your system.  However, if you stop running outdoors when it’s below 40 and then try to run a 5K race when it’s in single digits, you will feel very cold!  Your lungs may feel like they are burning and your feet feel frozen.  It seems obvious, but it’s something to keep in mind.  The coldest weather that I have run and raced in is single digits with negative wind chill in the -10 degree range.

I have found that insulated/windproof clothing is the key.  If it is sunny with no wind then it’s actually very comfortable.  Brand names that I like are Athleta (for women), Under Armour, and Nike.  If you are shopping online then look specifically for insulated clothing or Polartec.  There are many different ideas about what winter means.  🙂   If you get a good insulated top or jacket then that is most likely all that you will need.  You just need to layer appropriately for the weather (long sleeve, short sleeve).  Some people like wool underlayers but I am too warm if I wear wool under an insulated top.  This is an individual thing, but make sure the base layers are wicking.  An insulated vest is also a good purchase.  It will keep your core warm but allow your arms to breathe.


Sierra Trading Post is an excellent online shopping site for running gear.  Make sure you get on their mailing list for additional discount coupons.  I purchased Craft winter running tights there and they are my absolute favorite for winter running.  They are warm and comfortable and they do not slide down my waist as I run.  I recently purchased a second pair.  I have worn them in single digits with negative wind chill and have not needed to wear a second layer. I also purchased a pair of Lole running pants and a Lole winter jacket for a great price.  Normally winter running clothes tend to be pricey.  The good news is that they last awhile.

Another necessity is a neck/face covering.  I like the Buff neck wraps with the fleece/fabric combination.  Fleece is normally too thick to have over your face constantly as you run.  It just gets wet and gross.  If it’s not windy then I pull up the neck warmer as I need it and do not run with it over my nose/mouth.  I also love the Turtle Fur double layer neck warmers.

My ears get very cold and the thin winter running hats are sometimes not warm enough.  I have some thicker hats that I use if it is windy or especially cold.  Smartwool makes a warm hat that is still thin.  Some people just like to wear ear warmers.  Smartwool ear warmers are warm and comfortable.

Thicker, wind blocking gloves are also a necessity.  I scored a warm pair of Nike gloves from TJ Maxx.  If it is over 20 and not windy then I will just wear some knit gloves.  They can be taken off and stuck into your waistband.  I usually pick up some inexpensive ones from Target so it doesn’t matter if they don’t last (frequent washing) or get lost.

I find that Merino wool quarter height socks work well with tights and they keep my feet warm.  Smartwool, Feetures, and Balega make similar socks.

Another question is whether everyday running shoes will work in snow or ice.  Some trail running shoes are more waterproof (for slushy conditions) and offer more traction.  Some of the major manufacturers offer a Goretex model of their popular shoes.  For additional traction you can put screws into an older pair of shoes or purchase Yaktrax type products to wear over your shoes.  If it is too icy then I will run indoors rather than risk falling.

Off season is the best time to buy sale winter items, so February is a good time to stock up on your winter running needs.  It will take some experimentation to figure out what works for you.  Keep in mind that you will feel cold for about a half mile.  Then you will quickly discover if you overdressed.  🙂  I find that I am more likely to overdress than underdress.

Some examples of clothing mentioned in this post:

  • Insulated tops: Athleta Plust Tech Hoodie, Nike Pro Warm Half Zip
  • Insulated vest: Athleta Polartec Alpha Slice Vest
  • Insulated tights: Craft Active Run Winter Tights
  • Base Layer (warmer):  Craft  Pro Zero Extreme Base Layer Top
  • Socks: Feetures! Elite Merino+ Light Cushion Quarter Socks
  • Neck Covering: Polar Buff
  • Gloves: Nike Element Thermal Run Gloves

Don’t be afraid to give winter running a try!  You won’t regret!



Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay Recap

This weekend I ran the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay race at the Pettit Center.  The Pettit Center is an indoor ice skating/speedskating facility with a running track around the perimeter of the ice.  The running track is a 3 lane track with an odd length of 443 feet.  It is quite large for an indoor track and it is touted as the largest indoor running track in the US.


The relay race is held separately from the full marathon.  There is a maximum of 100 teams.  Teams can be sized from 2-4 runners though I believe the majority of the teams fielded 4 runners.  The relay race is popular and fills up quickly.  There are a wide range of teams, from college track teams to first time relay teams.  The winning team this year broke the track record with a 2:09:33 time (a 4:57 pace!) while the slowest team clocked in at 5:16:40, a 12:05 pace.  Some teams wore costumes.

The approximate 26.2 mile distance (it was slightly short) can be broken up between the team members in any way.  The only requirement is that the current runner wears the timing chip.  The team receives a singe timing chip that is attached to a velcro ankle bracelet.  It seemed that most of the faster teams have runners switch after 2 laps (a little over a half mile).  So the race is basically an interval workout… on steroids.  🙂  I read a race recap that recommended having a third person switch the chip and we used this method.

The air in the Pettit Center is dry and it is a cool for the ice skating.  I thought that I would be colder while I was waiting to run but I was actually fine.  It did take awhile to adjust to the dry air.  I have run in the Pettit Center before and did not have an issue with breathing but you do notice a difference when you are running very hard.  We were hacking after our initial lap.  I adjusted to it after a few laps and drank a lot of water.

Each team sets up camp around the perimeter of the track at the curves.  Most teams brought blankets or yoga mats to “mark” their territory.  Some people brought folding lawn chairs.  We had a chair but we didn’t use it.  The start line is at a different location than the finish line.  The mat at the finish line had a screen next to it that displayed your team name and the total number of laps completed on the top of the screen as you crossed the mat.  A large screen on the wall scrolled teams and the number of laps in the order of the least number of laps.  With close to 100 teams, it was luck if you happened to run by while your team name was displayed.

I actually used a knitting row counter to keep track of the number of times that our lead runner ran.  We split the race into 2 laps each, so we would each run 12 times.  We were situated at the turn close to the finish line, so to allow our anchor to run a full 2 laps at the end one of our runners ran 1 lap on one of her turns.


The race actually went pretty fast.  2 laps was a good number, you had to run hard but you didn’t have to wait too long to run again.  The announcer notified you when your team had 10 laps to go and also with 1 lap remaining.  I did not have much difficulty passing, most runners ran in the middle lane and the very fast people ran in the inner lane.  There were some walkers in the outer lane.  You had to watch for traffic when exiting and re-entering the track, but with less than 100 runners on the track it was not difficult.

We had a fairly old team, with our ages at 57, 54, 51, and 46.  I joked that we would easily win a Master’s division if they had one.  We finished in 3:25:48, a 7:52 pace.  That was good for 49th out of 95 teams, 16/32 for mixed teams (we had 3 women and 1 man).  There were medals for the top 3 teams in the womens, mens, and mixed categories.  Everyone received a long sleeve tech shirt.

Skating was allowed during the race and occasionally the Zamboni made it’s way out onto the ice so there was a fair mount of noise.  They also played very loud music during the race, which you may or may not appreciate.  🙂  A DJ played the music and you could make requests before the race.  The music was louder than it normally is inside the Pettit.

I found that this race was pretty hard on my legs, perhaps due to the lack of active recovery after the hard running.  I hadn’t been that sore after a race in a long time!  The team aspect was really fun and it was cool to be able to cheer team members.   I would recommend this event if you enjoy running with a team and want to try something a bit different.

Grand Rapids Marathon Recap

Grand Rapids was my second marathon.  My first was the Chicago Marathon, so it was quite a different experience.  I was looking for a smaller race, with a course that was not completely urban.  I found the Grand Rapids website and I appreciated the race director’s humor.  You can’t be completely serious and run a marathon!

Packet pickup was at the YMCA.  It is a beautiful, huge building, easy to find and there was plentiful parking.  There was a midsize expo and pickup was smooth.  There is a half marathon and marathon relay that starts at the same time as the full marathon.  There is a one hour earlier start for “Velocity Challenged” runners, runners that expect not to finish in the 6 hour cutoff.  Unfortunately you would have to start in the dark if you opt for this.  The regular race start was 8 AM.

The weather had gotten colder again, last weekend it was close to 80, but temps at race start was a calm 32 with temps not reaching 50 by race end.  I opted to wear mittens, a short sleeve shirt, a Nike vest, shorts, knee high compression socks, and arm warmers.  I figured this would give me the most options to shed clothes.  I also had a sweatshirt which I handed off to my husband at the race start.

We stayed at the Amway Grand, which was super nice and easy walking distance to the race start.  Lineup was not by corral or expected pace, you could start wherever you wanted.  I found a spot behind the 4:29 pacer.  My goal for this race was to finish by 4:30.  The pace groups were named after celebrities (and based on their marathon times) and the 4:29 pace group was the Oprah group.

The first part of the race is through downtown Grand Rapids.  Then you head out towards Millennium Park.  Most of the race is then on paved trails that wind through the park.  It was sunny but the park offered a lot of shade.  The course was fairly flat, there is one small hill before mile 12 and some gentle, long slopes at the end.  There are beautiful views of lakes in the park and the fall colors were spectacular.

The number of runners is perfect, the half marathon split off around 8.5 miles and it was very clear for the end of the race.  The only issue I had passing was one set of 3 runners that were walking in the middle of the path, and the runners that would suddenly stop and start walking wherever they were, instead of moving to the side.  There are people riding bikes on the path, probably there to spectate, so I would stay on the right.  There is a long out and back section, which I didn’t mind.  It was motivating for me to see other runners coming in the other direction.  Even the fast ones, I give them props.  It was interesting to have relay teams, occasionally someone would go flying past me, I assume that they were fresh relay runners!

There were a fair number of spectators on the course and they are friendly.  The volunteers were also great, cheering on the runners.  There were a variety of food and drinks at the water stops, which were spaced about 1.5 miles apart.  Gu, oranges, bananas, pretzels, gummy bears, and cookies were available.  Two of the later water stops had pickle juice (believed to help with cramps).  I did try the pickle juice, since I had cramps.  I don’t know if the pickle juice helped, but I can now say that I had pickle juice during a race.  🙂

A thing that annoys me is runners that throw their garbage (cups, gel packets, etc) wherever they want.  This is not Chicago, where street sweepers will come along and collect all the trash after the race in one swoop.  This is a trail in a park.  Someone else has to pick up the garbage.  Seriously, all runners should just throw garbage away properly.

I tried to stay around 10 minute miles, which worked for most of the race.  Until the end.  Then I was a little over a 10 minute mile pace.  The last 3 miles were hard.  Really hard.  Probably the hardest 3 miles that I have ever run.  Everything hurt, my middle back, my calves, the bottoms of my feet.  I skipped the last few water stops since I walk the water stops.  I figured if I started walking then I wouldn’t want to run again and I wouldn’t be able to make the time up either.

I had headphones on for music, but I took them off at the end of the race.  The spectators near the finish line were crazy!  They yelled for everyone.  Two turns away from the finish, some guys came out onto the course to give me high fives.  They announced names at the finish, and the race director was in the middle of the finish chute, shaking hands with finishers.  He shook my hand and gave me a hug.  A guy sprinted past me at the finish.  I assume he was a relay runner.  If you can finish a marathon at a sprint, at close to 4.5 hours, then something is wrong.  😉

I don’t eat a lot after a race, but there was a variety of food, including Wendy’s chili.  I grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk and sat down.  There was a beer garden, with unlimited beer from New Holland Brewery.  The Beer Garden was very crowded, though I did find a seat there.

Overall, it was a great marathon experience.  The email communication from the race director is fun.  I would recommend this race if you enjoy a smaller marathon in an area with paved trails but with also a city atmosphere.

Time: 4:25:33

Age Group: 27/55

Gender: 279/581

Overall: 797/1332

Grand Rapids Marathon 2015_1

On Greg McMillan Custom Running Plans

A bit of background, I started running at the end of 2011 (following Couch to 5K) at the age of 42 and my first year of running was somewhat of a struggle as I learned about running in general.  I ran my first half marathon in Fall of 2012, loosely following a Runner’s World plan using their iPhone app.  I was a bit lost, not sure what paces to run or if that really was the right plan for me.

For my next half marathon I used a Hal Higdon plan.  I also read more about training plans and running in general.  I read Greg McMillan’s book “You (Only Faster)”.  His approach to training and his training philosophies made sense to me.  I also used his training calculator, which I believe is one of the best running resources out there.  I really enjoy training and I am the type that loves to have a plan to follow.  I was getting good results using the free Higdon plans, tailoring them slightly for my needs.

In 2014, somewhat on a whim, I entered the lottery for the Chicago Marathon.  I figured if I got in, it was fate telling me that I should run a marathon.  Well, I got in.  Then began the search for a training plan.  My main goal was to train smart, not just run a lot of miles.  I decided to splurge on a McMillan custom plan for the Chicago Marathon.  After purchasing a plan you will get a very detailed questionnaire to fill out. Obviously, the more information you can give the more tailored your plan will be.  It made me really think about my strengths and weaknesses as a runner. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I have a tendency to fade at the end of the race and have somewhat inconsistent pacing.

About a week later I received a spreadsheet with my running plan and some additional documents.  This was followed up with an email from Andrew Lemoncello.  He is a McMillan coach.  Oh, and also an Olympian!  So I was a bit psyched about that.  If you purchase a training plan you are allowed to ask questions through email about the plan.  I had a few questions and they were answered promptly.

The running plan had the expected components for a week: long run, easy runs, speedwork, and recovery run.  At the end of the plan it added a day of running which was a semi-speedwork or slightly longer runs for a total of six running days a week.  There were also a lot of fast finish long runs and “combo” speedwork days where there were some shorter sprint intervals thrown in at the end of the longer intervals.

I could see what the plan was trying to do, build the mental toughness to hang in at the end of a race and eliminate the fade.  The overall mileage of the plan was less than other marathon training plans.  But it taught me to push hard and how to run when tired.  It also taught me to pace myself so that I had the energy for the push at the end.  During my marathon training I raced a half marathon.  It was the best half marathon that I had run in terms of pacing and being strong throughout the race.  Any additional races that you have scheduled are included in the plan so there are no worries about adjusting a plan for races.

During the Chicago Marathon I felt strong throughout and I never hit the wall.  It was a great experience and I couldn’t ask for more for my first marathon.  I decided to go back to McMillan for a half marathon plan.  I set my goal, a sub 2 hour half marathon time (I would have to shave about 5 minutes off my PR) and I felt confident that McMillan could point me in the right direction.

My goal race was the Rock N Sole in June.  That race has some hills.  So my new plan had some hillwork (a nice bit of research by McMillan). I ended up taking some time off running due to a PF issue in my heel and I moved my goal race to September.  The new course didn’t have significant hills, but I followed the plan as it was, since running hills would only make me stronger. Again, there were a lot of fast finish runs and “combo” speedwork.

It was an ambitious plan for a half marathon plan because it built upon my marathon training.  I had mentioned my heel issues and the number of weekly running days was reduced by one and there was more of an emphasis on recovery.  I felt that the new plan hit the “sweet spot” in my training.  The point where I was improving but not going to the point of risking re-injury of my foot.

You can read more about my race in my recap, but I did get my sub 2 hour half marathon.  I never felt that I couldn’t achieve my goal.  I had to push hard but I felt prepared for it.  Not bad for a turtle like me!  🙂

One thing that I really liked about the McMillan plans is the variety.  The speedwork was always different.  The plans are challenging, but they are doable.  I really enjoyed my training.  The plans do what they are supposed to do.  I felt that I was progressively getting stronger and able to handle the next challenge.  The plans built confidence in myself. I really do believe that you need to trust in your plan.  For any race the mental challenge is half the battle.

I had a great experience with the McMillan custom plans, I actually went back to get a 5K plan.  I also believe I have the ability to go back and tweak the plans that I have for future races.  Greg McMillan’s book “You (Only Faster)” has plans for the standard distances and suggestions about tweaking the plans.  I would recommend reading the book if you are interested in the McMillan training plans.  Based on your level of knowledge, the book may be all you need. I would recommend trying the custom route if you want a more personalized experience, or if like me, you feel a bit lost trying to put together your own plan.


Fox Valley Half Marathon Recap

This was my sixth half marathon.  In this race I set a goal to finish in under 2 hours.  My previous half marathon PR was 2:04:56.  I followed a McMillan custom plan for my training.

The race starts in St Charles, Illinois.  There is also a full marathon and 20 miler, all starting at the same time.  St Charles is a small town along the Fox River. Packet pick-up was in a building that looks like it was converted from a church.  There was a small expo and the pick-up was quick.  Free public and street parking around the area was not difficult to find.  The race shirt was a nice women specific long sleeve tech shirt. Not many other goodies, just a Clif Bar sample, sunscreen spray, and lip balm.  Everything was in a durable backpack type bag that doubles as the gear check bag. I stayed at the Best Western on Main Street, about 1.5 miles from the race start.  St Charles, Geneva, and Batavia all have many small shops, bars and restaurants.  It’s a nice location to make the event a weekend getaway. The Baker Hotel looks very nice and is very close to the start line. But there are many inexpensive options within close proximity.

On race day, the weather was perfect for running, a cool, sunny 50 degrees with no wind with a race start of 7:00 AM. Parking again wasn’t difficult to find and we walked a few blocks to the start. I had a “disposable” sweatshirt from Goodwill that I picked up for the occasion.  Instead of ditching it, I gave it to my husband before the start of the race. I noticed that they did gather the discarded clothing and put it into a pile near the finish, so it could be retrieved. There were no corrals but the start chute line-up was by expected pace.  My only complaint about the race were the people that arrived late and felt compelled to push their way forward to get where they wanted to start. I got into position as soon as I saw the corrals starting to fill to avoid that. Anyway, with a race this size and with the wave start, there is no problem with running your pace even if you start a little further back.

There was an informal wave start, about 200 people were allowed to go at a time.  There were about 3,000 total runners for all 3 races.  Volunteers held up a rope to stop each wave.  There was just a few seconds between waves.  I started with the 9:15 pace group and I crossed the start line about 5 minutes after the clock start.  As usual, everyone started out fast.  People were passing me in droves and I found that I was running under a 9 minute mile. So I just moved to the far left and slowed down.

The first part of the race is along a 2 lane street.  The road is closed off.  The course does a little bend through some side streets which were also closed, then eventually went onto a paved bike path along the Fox River.  There were very scenic views along the river, and even the section along the road gave nice views of old homes.  The bike path is standard width but it never felt crowded.  The race materials suggested running 2 abreast at most on the path and the majority of runners did that, or they were single runners so passing was not a problem.  There are a few odd loops thrown in, more on that later.  Water stops were plentiful and the volunteers were all enthusiastic and friendly.

I noticed that my Garmin was tracking ahead, as was the Nike+ app on my phone.  So I knew I had to run faster than a 9:09 average, but I wasn’t sure how much faster.  I was averaging close to a 9 minute mile so I figured that should be safe.  As you head to the finish, there is a crossing over a bridge and an oddly configured loop where you run right past people running in the opposite direction, then back over the bridge.  Only the half marathoners do this additional loop. Then there is a final bridge crossing with the finish line in sight. The finish is near the start (around the corner from it), but closer than running back to the start.

The last 3 miles were hard work.  I focused on just trying to keep pace for the current mile.  My Garmin screen showed the current lap distance, total time, and the lap pace.  I looked at my watch as I saw the finish line, 1:59.  I didn’t realize I was that close to 2 hours!  I finished in 1:59:45. The announcer read everyone’s name at the finish, always a nice touch.  The finisher medals were heavy and large.  They were simple but attractive, one of my nicest race medals.  There was also an additional medal for repeat runners, and even larger medals for those that ran this race in conjunction with other marathons.

The food at the finish was quite varied, the typical fruit and chips but also macaroni and cheese, bread pudding, and small plates of barbecue beef. However, even though the bib has a drink ticket, there was no beer.  I don’t usually drink beer after running, but I figured I should mention it for those that do.  🙂   I skipped the food since I am not hungry immediately after running. I think they were trying to discourage people from getting food multiple times, it was a bit tricky to re-enter the food area, but it can be done. My husband complained about the lack of beer and the fact that there was no post-race entertainment.

Overall I was pleased with my performance in this race. I never doubted that I could accomplish my goal. The last 3 miles were extremely hard, but I felt that I was prepared for it by all the fast finish type runs in my training. I expected the end to be hard and I think that the mental preparation is important. I divided the race into segments, 3/4/3/3 miles. Then I just focused on finishing each segment. The race seemed shorter to me that way, and I was almost surprised when I saw the 11 mile marker!

This was a great race. I find that I enjoy smaller races and this was the perfect size. It was very well organized and the location was beautiful. My husband rode his bike to make spectating in different locations easier and he really enjoyed riding his bike in the area. It made it a little more interesting to him as a spectator.  I am thinking or returning for the full marathon.

I would recommend this race for anyone looking for a half marathon, full marathon, or 20 mile supported run.

Finished: 1:59:45
Overall: 468/1542
Female: 175/952
Age Group: 26/162