Tuesday, October 21, 2014

YMCA Stone Bridge Marathon Race Rating

Race: YMCA Stone Bridge Marathon
Date: October 11, 2014
Location: Belvidere, IL
Year Running: 4th
Registration: $80

stone bridge marathon header 
Race Information
Size: 46 full, 94 half, 57 5K
Course Limit: 6 hrs
Min. - Max. Elevation: They took away the whole website, so I can't grab exact numbers, but the course was very flat and near sea-level.
Min. - Max Temperature: 39-62
Charity Supported: Belvidere YMCA
Airports: We drove, but either Chicago airport would be a good choice.
Rental car: Likely needed. I believe there is a Metra stop in Roscoe, so I suppose it would be theoretically possible to fly in Chicago and then take the train, but that would be a lot of work.
Host hotel: None.

Communications: None. One of my complaints about this race was that there were no pre-race emails, nor did the race officials respond to questions on their Facebook page. Everything was clearly explained on the website, and the RD responded immediately when I emailed her a question, but I get a lot of comfort from an email confirming race day details, especially when a shuttle is involved.
Expo: None. We did race day packet pick-up, which was a great option, but I think otherwise we would've just stopped by the YMCA to get our packets.
Other Activities: None.

Race Day
Parking: Fine. There were plenty of spots around the park for marathoners, as the half didn't start until much later. I'm guessing a lot of people doing the half probably had to park on the streets in the surrounding subdivision, but we had no issues.
Shuttles: A bus took us from the finish to the start. There was also an option to ride back in the YMCA van following the race, if you parked at the start. (Only one person took this option, while quite a few of us took the bus before the race.)
Bathrooms: Plenty. We were able to wait inside the YMCA until right before the start, so there were lots of indoor bathrooms.
On Time: Exactly on time.
Corrals: None, but not needed. The field was very small, and there was almost no traffic that early on a Saturday.

Type: Point-to-point
Terrain: Concrete, asphalt, rock; country roads and bike paths
Bathrooms: Every few miles, and there was never a wait. 
Crowding: None
Highlights: Stone Bridge Trail, farmland

Course Support: Good. I think some of the volunteers needed a bit more coaching. Some of the water stops were manned by younger kids, and a few of them were just slumped at the table and didn't say anything. They also gave the course marshals flags, but most volunteers were just sort of waving them, rather than pointing. There was also one point some high school volunteers just stared at me and I had to ask which way to go. No one was rude (unlike in Indiana!), but they probably could've used a few pointers.
Spectators: Very few, but it's a hard course to spectate, since most of it is on bike paths. Plus, the map online was static and very zoomed out. I had no idea where we would be, so I doubt any potential spectators did either.
Local knowledge of race: Poor. This is hard to assess for this race, but I'm docking points because, even though there were mile markers all along the bike path, the other users didn't seem to really get that we were racing. A few signs announcing a race was in progress would've been nice.
Food: Bare minimum - I think there was only bananas and bagels. For the price we paid, I'd expect a few more options.
Atmosphere: Calm, but there was no one else really there. The DJ had a great playlist going, though.
Party: None.

Shirt: Short-sleeve technical T-shirt. It looks really cool and is a nice color. I'll definitely wear it.
Didn't realize it was almost the exact same color as my sheets until just now.

Medal: Not a fan. I don't mind simple, but it looks very cheap. I have all my medals hanging at work, and almost everyone has commented that it looks really out of place with the others.
Age Group Awards: Plain medal. I don't want to sound like a sore loser, but it'd be nice if the medal even had the race name or something on it. I'm probably going to label it so I can remember what it's for.

Final Thoughts
  • I'm surprised how much criticism I had for this race. I came away initially liking it, but I forgot just how much we paid for it. For that price, I expect a lot more. If the race had been $30-40 cheaper, I would've been more satisfied with what we got. The RD generally seemed interested in creating a great race, so I'm not sure where the disconnect is coming from.
  • They're strongly considering making the course an out-and-back on the bike paths next year. I would give this a big thumbs-down. I do a lot of my runs as out-and-backs on a bike path, and it is mind-numbingly boring. (Point-to-point is still a bit tedious, but at least you're not repeating anything.) Very little traffic control was required on the roads, so I'm not sure what the benefit to making this change would be.
  • I think the race is a good representation of Illinois - farmland, but also some forest. While obviously not my favorite, I think it gives you the "Illinois experience."
  • There is nothing on the course except water and Gatorade. I appreciate having fruit at at least one stop. For the price, I think they should definitely offer something "extra" at one or two stops.
  • We chose this race because the registration fee didn't go up until almost before the race weekend, so it was a good way to hedge our bets while I figured out my work schedule. It is very convenient in that aspect. I suppose if there's some crazy cancellation next year in the fall, this could be a good gap-filler for someone.
  • 50 Staters: Eh...if you want to avoid Chicago like me, I'd say this is an adequate race. I don't remember any other small Illinois races really sticking out. I don't think you can go wrong with this race, but you could probably do better.
  • Non 50 Staters: I wouldn't travel specifically for this race, but if you go to Chicago to spectate, this could be a fun activity for the day before (there's also the half and 5K options). Otherwise, unless you're local enough to not need a hotel, give it a pass.

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