Race Review: Sunburst Races

2017 Sunburst races was run on June 3, 2017. The temperatures at the start of the marathon and half marathon or right around 60°, sunny skies, and no wind. By the time the finish line closed, temperatures were in the upper 70s.

Following last year’s race, there were a lot of improvements that needed to be made to the race. The biggest concern from last year was the length of the course. Runners ran over a half a mile long last year. I had a chance to talk with the race director months before this years event and wasn’t sure that things would be different this year.

Registration

All registration occurred on line, opening on October 3, 2016. Registration fees for the marathon start at $70 and went up to $110, half marathon started at $60 and went up to $100, The 10K start at $25 at went up to $50, and the 5K start at $20 that went up to $45. Obviously I would not be willing to pay the higher fees, however I always register early and if you wait to register that’s your own fault.

Expo

One of the first major thing that was different this year was the race expo. Years past the race expo was held outside in front of the former College Football Hall of Fame. This year they moved it indoors, to the Century Center. For the first time it looked like a real race expo. There were a lot more local businesses, local races, and charities present. When you enter the Century Center you walk down the stairs to the main expo area, picked up your bib number, and your race shirt before going into the rest of the expo. The expo was on Friday from noon until 8 PM. If you were unable to make it to the expo, there was a race day packet pick up.

A suggestion I would give to race organizers, would be to eliminate race day packet pick up or if they want to pick it up on race day charge a fee. I think this way if you charged a fee, you could possibly lower some of the registration fee.  I also believe this would influence more people to come and check out the race expo as well. I have seen Chicago races charge a similar fee, and a lot of other bigger races don’t even offer race day packet pick up.

Race Day

This year, just as they did last year, the Marathon and half marathon started at the same time. However, this year they push the start back a half an hour to 6:30 AM. I am not sure what the reasoning behind pushing the start back a half an hour, but it does not seem to make much of a difference other than a little more sunlight. It may seem like 630 is a very early start, however with this race in the early part of June, it can be very warm on race day. I would not wish for this race to start any later.

Course

There were changes to the course. The most notable change was the start location. In years past, as far back as I can remember, the Sunburst races started in downtown South Bend. This year the races started just a few blocks south of the main part of downtown by Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs. This allowed for wider street, and a longer stretch before the first turn. While some parts of the course changed, the most notable part still remain, and that included running along the Riverwalk in Mishawaka which is probably the most attractive part of the course. 

The course really isn’t all that difficult until you approach the hill at Miles 12 on the half marathon course. This is where Hallelujah Hill is at.  It really isn’t that big of a hill, however it is Right at the end of the race.  Other than that the race is mostly flat.   

A big issue on the course happened at mile 11. Shortly after mile 11 some of the lead runners of the marathon and half marathon missed a turn because the police officer at the corner did not tell them to turn. I would also put a small part of the blame on the race for not having appropriate signs at that turn on the telling runners to turn, however the police officer at the corner saw the lead biker take the lead marathon runner the right way but did not assist in telling the other runners which way to go. For an officer getting paid to be out there he should be able to tell the runners which way to go. I did see other officer on the course telling runners which way to go. By the time I got to the corner, there was another volunteer telling runner which way to go. Unfortunately some of the marathon and half marathon runners ran over a mile long. This probably effected 5-8 runners.

The finish line was located on the campus of Notre Dame. As in the last couple years and the race did not finishe inside Notre Dame stadium, however it did finish on the Irish Green on the south side of campus. The stadium has been off-limits to the race for the past couple of years due to renovation to the stadium.

The volunteers on the course were awesome. I would possibly like to see more at the aid stations. The aid station seemed very short and the volunteers that were out there were so close together that if you miss the 1st cup you may not get one after that. So I would suggest they have more volunteers or have their volunteer stand further apart at the aid stations. Two of my favorite volunteers, father/daughter Paul and Lizzie Kern.

Swag

This year I liked the shirts and medals. They were both simple and design but I like that. Both featured the race logo.  Also this year, age group award winners received a pint glass with the race logo on one side and Fleet Feet Sports logo on the other. Also for the first time, the race offered free race photos. 

Overall

After talking with the race director earlier in the year about the Sunburst races, I had high expectations coming in. Other than issues after mile 11 of the lead runner is going your own way, I thought this race was much improved.The one thing I would suggest is that they possibly consider eliminating the marathon race. There were only about 250 participants and it just does not seem like it’s worth the effort to put it on anymore. I do think that there are plenty of participants in the half marathon, 10K, and 5K that this can still be a very popular event.

My Race

I was coming off my most recent marathon six days ago. Surprisingly, my legs are not that sore but I could tell they were still very tired. My goal was simple, to run under one hour 30 minutes. I thought if I could do that I could not place or possibly win my age division. 

The race started at 6:30 in the morning. Unlike previous years, I was unable to really run with some my running friends from the area because of my time goals. I knew I had to hold myself back.

I actually felt halfway decent in the first few miles of the race and thought maybe breaking 130 what’s not gonna be that big of a deal. The first few mile splits were 6:34, 6:41, 6:43, 6:47, and 6:44. After mile five I start to feel my legs getting tired. At this point I knew I just had a hold on and hope for the best. 6:52, 6:55, 6:51, 6:59, 6:53, 6:56 and 6:43 through mile 12. Right after mile 12 was Hallelujah Hill. My plan was just to take it easy up the hill and then try to finish strong after. I was probably running slower than eight minute pace going up the hill. However I was able to come back and run the 13th mile in 646. I cross the finish line in1:29:22, getting under my goal time.  It was good enough for 2nd in my division. With very little rest, I was satisfied with my time and place. 

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