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Jun 9, 2013

Kona Run 10 mile race review

Short Version
Finished in 1:20:19(official time); no new PR
Overall place:  111/651
Overall pace:  8:02/mile
Five Mile split:  40:15
Second five mile split:  40:03(negative split yeah!)
Age Group place:  12/52
Race #46

A superb race.  This is the fourth year I have run the Kona Run(formerly Solstice) 10 mile and it gets better every single year.  It's hard to do that!  This is one of my favorite races all year.  This is also the second race in the Triple Crown Series for Kona Running Company.

Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very easy.  Since I'm a race ambassador for Kona, the race director set me up when I mailed my registration to him just like any other runner would do.  Electronically, they have a very easy registration process and you can even confirm registration later on.  It makes it very simple to register and no worries.  I decided to volunteer again this year for the race packet pickup.  I really enjoy working packet pickup because you get to work with some great volunteers and you also get to meet many of the runners when they get their packet.

I love how many people come in with race shirts from other races and I get their opinion on the races. It's really fun and if you have not volunteered for a race, please do it to give back to the running community.  This time not only did I put packets together, I also greeted people when they were coming in.  I think many of us who run races regularly don't think about the process of getting your packet.  There are so many that don't know what to do so I helped direct them with what they needed - it was very rewarding. The race was kind enough to feed us as well which was a really nice gesture.

Packet pickup was located in Northville Square Mall in Downtown Northville.  You could get your packet from 11am-7pm on Friday and you could also get it race morning before the race.  It's a great spot for packet pickup because there is plenty of parking behind the mall so people can get in and out fairly easy.  This year the race was not when the art fair was so it made it less congested.  My suggestion to runners is to always try and make it to packet pickup the day before, if you can, just so you are not stressed out race morning.  Kona is also very accommodating and allows you to pick up for other runners you know if they cannot make it to pickup.  All races should allow for race day packet pickup though and I'm glad that Kona has always offered it.
Can't miss packet pickup
Inside the Northville Square Mall
As you came into the mall upstairs, there was a large board with all the names of every runner.  You looked up your name which was alphabetical and got your number.  Once you had the number, you went to the volunteers and gave them your number and they pulled your race bib, a race bag and an ice cream coupon.  Kona has plenty of experienced people helping organize the races and they have always run very smoothly because of it.
Bib Numbers by Alphabetical last name
There were plenty of volunteers at packet pick up to get your packet.  As you can see, the volunteers were ready and waiting for you.  I got there at 3pm since my shift was 3-7pm so it was not really busy when I got there but it did get busy over the next few hours and it was extremely busy when they opened from what the other volunteers said.  I was able to say hello to a couple local runners that I know from Twitter(Darryl, Rich, Jennifer) when they came to get their packet and I had made plans with Rich to run with him the following day since our pace was similar.
Packet pick up volunteers
The race also had a volunteer check-in area as well as a place to purchase race shirts from previous years races.  $5 is a real bargain for the shirts.  Liz, who runs the packet pickup area does an awesome job and keeps things organized and moving smoothly for everyone.
Volunteer check-in and Kona store
Start area
The next day was an early start for me.  My running buddy, Kevin and I drove together and I needed to be at his home at 5:45am.  We were getting there a little early to get some pictures and meet up with some other runners we either knew or would meet that morning for a quick picture.  It also gave us an opportunity to see the 10k runners start and and socialize a little as well as use the bathrooms.

Kona once again did an excellent job organizing the entire start area. The race starts on Northville Downs racetrack with a loop around the track to start things off.  There was plenty of parking at Northville Downs even when we arrived at 6:45am.  If you have not run the race, it's a unique experience to run around the track.

We planned to meet everyone near the start at 6:55am.  I had told everyone to meet by the big red blow up start line.  Little did I know Kona now has their own and it was blue.  Haha!  I'm used to seeing Everal Race Managements red start area.
Getting ready! New Kona Running Co. blow up start area(at least I have not seen it)
As you can see, the track is a gravel material and works great to run on.  It's the perfect start to the race. How many of you can say you've run a race on a racetrack?
Northville Downs
There were a few runners warming up prior to the race on the track as you can see below.  Prior to coming on the track, a couple ladies yelled, "Hey, your Detroit Runner!" and mentioned they read my race review of the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon that I just ran last Sunday.  It was nice to know people are reading them and respect my opinion(well, most of the time respect it)
Northville Downs
There was nine of us bloggers and/or Twitter friends that met for the picture.  Take a look below.  There was me and Kevin(@kmjones234) as well as Lisa from Run Fast Mama who was also with her family and her kids are in the picture too(her husband took the picture).  Also, Jennifer from Wine to Weightlifting, Dawn from Shrinking Inkdgirl, Darryl(@Rundetroit), Ty from This is how Ty runs, Rich(@warrenri) and Lori from Lori Out Loud.
Group blogger/Twitter picture pre-race
We had a couple minutes to talk until they started the National Anthem ,who is always sung by Morgan Whitehead, the race directors daughter.
Morgan Whitehead doing the National Anthem
The 10k started first at 7:15am and then we were up at 7:30am for the 10 mile race.  There was also two waves for the 5k and a one mile race too that started later.  As you can see, I got a picture of Clint Verran again and who won......again.  He's won the last three races I've gone to including the Bayshore Half, Dexter to Ann Arbor Half and the Kona 10k.  I think his strategy is to just win every race he enters.  No, Clint, I'm really not stalking you.
10k fast runners - Clint Verran - Overall winner in Hanson's singlet
Alan Whitehead, the race director, made a few announcements and then sounded the horn for the 10k to start.  I could not believe the number of runners doing the 10k - it was packed.  In fact, because of how many people were in it, they delayed the 10 mile by 5 minutes.  Now, as many of you know, one of my biggest pet peeves is not starting on time, however, there were still 10k people finishing up on the track and it was really crowded.  I think it was the best decision to delay until the 10k runners could get through the track.
Race director, Alan Whitehead
Here's a look at the 10k crowd before the race started.  It was super busy and you could see it made sense to delay the 10 mile a few minutes so it worked out for everyone.
Thousands in the 10k
Look at the 10kers on the track - amazing - click to enlarge
Now it was our turn to start and so they did the National Anthem again.  This was my view of the runners ahead of me and behind me just before we started.  There was much less of a crowd for the 10 mile race since it's a smaller race.
Just ahead of me at start
Runners behind me at start
As you can see below, if you ran this before, the course is the same route as last year.  I've run this race the last four years.  I have never run any other race that many times.  It's one of my favorite races of the year.  It's a hilly route with a well laid out course designed by Doug Kurtis, an elite runner, in our area.  As you can see from my splits, we started at about an 8 minute pace and got to a little under 8 pace for six miles.  I ran with Rich(see picture at the end) for the first five and then he backed off just a bit(but not much).

I started talking with another runner that was going my pace who said he's run several marathons including a crazy high elevation one in Peru where one of his mile splits was three hours!!! Wow crazy! He helped keep me going for much of the rest of the race.  I was surprised to see my last mile as my fastest of the day but it does help having the crowd at the end of the race cheering you in.
Map per Garmin
Splits per Garmin
I said to my buddy Kevin that they don't call it Northville, it's Northhill.  Haha!  Check out that elevation below.  It's seems that if you were not climbing a hill, you were going down one.  I knew what to expect but this was his first time running this race.  This is one of the reasons I love this course so much is the challenge to it.  We also got extremely lucky today with the weather considering it was 59 degrees at the start and easily could have been much hotter.

Pace/elevation per Garmin

Note: When I take pictures during the race, I don't change my pace or stop in the interest of safety.  I just keep running and I get what I can get from the pictures.  Some come out better than others but they give you a great idea what the course is like.

I also got this great video of me and Rich at the start.  It's short but very cool!  Thank's to Ty from This is how Ty runs for recording it and sending it to me.  I don't often have an opportunity to be on video at a race so this was nice to see.

As I said, the first part of the course is on the race track. Once you run that, you come out of the track and run through the parking area until you hit the streets.  This is where the first big hill is and many times where the crowd starts to thin out.  Kona calls it the "Kona Hill".  We kept a pretty good pace going so the hills were not affecting our pace much.

The course takes you into the neighborhoods of Northville which are absolutely beautiful.  It felt like a nice fast training run with a few thousand of your friends.  Haha.  Actually, the race really gives you a hometown feeling and one of the things I love about the course.  Some of the neighbors come out and cheer for you as you run by which is nice.
Mile 1 - still on the hill
Gorgeous area to run!
The picture below shows a mom and her two kids running the race.  This is a great family race as well.  That's one of my co-workers who I put the running bug into and now she's going for the triple crown medal.  One more race in October for the Wicked Halloween and the Triple crown is ours!
Awesome neighborhoods
You can see here that we are rounding a corner for an aid station.
Coming up on the aid station
Mile 3 - I missed mile two - oops
Turn out of neighborhood into another neighborhood - you can see it's slightly uphill.
Police presence was great and helpful
The below picture was going into another neighborhood and the entrance was really pretty.  Look at all that great landscaping!  It felt great to run through here.
Beautiful entrance to subdivision!
Mile 4
Below you can see a few spectators holding signs.  I saw these guys at least three different times on the course.  It was great to see them moving around so many times.  Plus check out the beautiful neighborhood again.
A few supporters on course
At the half way point, the race timing company, Everal Race Management, had a timing strip there for runners to run over keeping us all honest plus giving you a half way split.  I like to see at least one of these during a distance of at least 10 miles.
Mile 5 and timing pad
Just a very nice area - I think near mile six(no picture came out with the sign)
Mile 7
Pictured below, you can see we did a small loop so you could see the runners ahead of you.  Once you got around it, like in the picture below, you can see runners behind you as well.  I like the little loop to see who's coming up from behind.
A small loop - you can see the runners ahead/behind you
Mile 8, this guy passed me with a stroller like I was standing still! lol
More police to help with traffic
Mile 9
Below we were starting to get back into downtown Northville.  You can see they had the fire department out today as well to keep us safe and they were ready for anything.  Running through Downtown Northville is amazing.  Actually running through any downtown area is great and Northville has a really nice one.  You can see below the clock in the middle of the street which was really fun to run by.
Almost downtown Northville
Downtown Northville
Such a nice downtown area with clock in center
Almost finished near Ford Field
As we came into Ford Field(the one in Northville, not Detroit), there was all kinds of spectators there cheering for us.  In addition, there was a steel band playing just as you entered the area.  This made for an awesome finish!  As you made your way around Ford Field, there was lines of people cheering for you right up until you got to the finish line.  As you crossed the first timing mat, the announcer called your name out just as you were finishing.  I love that feature in a race since it makes you feel like a rock star at the end.
Steel band near finish playing
Timing mat so announcer calls your name
Finish line - nicely organized with gates
Aid Stations
The aid stations were well stocked.  The race also had GU which I didn't even realize until someone after the race mentioned it.  I think it's awesome to have that nutrition option but I don't typically use anything other than water if the race is a half marathon distance or less so I was not looking for it.  The volunteers did an awesome job as they always have every year I have ran this.  Most of them cheering for runners as we ran by them.
Excellent volunteers
Kids did an awesome job helping
Port-o-potties on course too
Finish area
As you made your way past the finish line, there were volunteers there to give you your medal.  They also had water set up right after the medals in cups.  You could then make your way through an expo which I really love.  It's great to have this at the finish of a race and you can check out the sponsors while eating your food.
First aid area and water at finish
The race had the medals all organized and ready to go for runners so everyone who finished was assured their medal.
Volunteers giving out medals
Vendors in expo starting
More vendors
Giving out popsicles! Yum!
The race food was your typical finish line food including water, bagels, bananas, and granola bars.  I love the Kona races because they are the only races I've been to where they individually wrap the bagel for the runners which is a nice touch at the finish area.  The race also had grass skirts along the table in keeping with the Hawaiian theme of the race.
Panera Bread = awesome
Bagels, Granola bars
Kona's signature kid pools with water ready
I had a few minutes to wait for my running buddy so I got a quick picture of the steel drum band and listened a little.
Steel band was excellent
As I made my way back to the area, a couple people that follow the blog came up to introduce themselves.  I cannot emphasis enough how I love when people tell me that they read the blog and love it.  I appreciate each and everyone of the people that read these race reviews and other information I post.  We talked a little about other upcoming races and I saw Kevin so we headed out shortly after he finished.  He could not believe how hilly the course was! Haha! Yup!

The race has some of the results up for the 10 mile but it was only the top three in the age group when we looked.  It wasn't really necessary anyway because you could scan the QR code on your bib to get results.  This is a great new feature that every race should have as an option.  In addition, by the time I got home and looked, results were already posted on Runmichigan for us to review.
Results board
The race also hired Hula dancers like they did last year and it was a huge hit with people.  You can imagine the excitement going on in Ford Field with the steel band, race finish and the Hula dancers going.  It was a hopping place!
Hawaiian Dancers were great
Overall view of Ford Field
For your races entry, you received a safe, supported course.  If you ran the 10k, there was pacers to help you as well.  Your bib had a b-tag timing chip and it also included a QR code so you could scan your results with your phone.  While the course was not completely closed, the intersections that needed to be stopped were stopped by police.

In addition, you received a race tech shirt with Hawaiian print on it.  I love it because it was so unique.  It's like no other race shirt I own.  In fact, I would have loved to see the entire shirt in Hawaiian print.  In addition, you received another cool surfboard medal designed by Kona.  They have done an awesome job on all their medals and this one is one of their best designs.  I even included a picture below of the last four years to see the progression of them.  You also received a great race bag.  There was finish line food and water as well as water/GU on the course.
Tech shirt front
Tech shirt back
Incredible medal
Close up
Back of medal
Since it's hard to see the stained glasslike features when against my black background, I also put it up against a window to show it off.  Very nice design!
See thru blue, glass-like appearance
2012 top; 2010 bottom left, 2013 bottom center, 2011 bottom right
Kona bag with packet
Kona has always been known for their incredible organization.  From the well informed website and easy registration process to the start area, finish area and course.  This is one of the best run races that I've been to.  As many of you know, the details of a race are what take it from good to great.  Kona understands all those details and makes sure that its reflected at every point effected by the runners.  The staff is very experienced and truly care about what runners think.

I cannot say enough about this race organizations ability to provide a superior race experience for both inexperienced and experienced racers.  This is my 8th race organized by Kona Running Company and they continue to get better and better each year.  If you have not run this race, consider it for next year.  You won't be disappointed.  

Next up for them(and I'll be there to review these) is the Wicked Halloween Run on October 27 - the final race in the Triple Crown series(click HERE for details) and the the Kona Chocolate Run on November 17(click HERE for details).

Rich - who I ran with for 5 miles - a new PR for him!
Kevin and I finished!
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I received a complimentary race entry in exchange for this race review.  All opinions in this review are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.


  1. This is a great review and it was so worth traveling 6hrs to be a part of this race. You covered everything off perfectly! Great job and it was a pleasure meeting you !

  2. Nice race recap! I volunteered and was at the last fluid station! Hopefully next year I will be running it!

  3. Nice job Jeff! I always enjoy your race reviews! Keep'em coming!

  4. Missed you guys. I was scrambling around town in the morning and didn't get to the 10k for pacing until the National Anthem was finished. Had a good time pacing again.