Today’s blog post is going to be a bit of a brain dump as I write a complaint letter to a particular race director. As a business owner, I get the whole making money angle. In fact, I’ll be the first to beat down any runner who thinks that an organization putting on a major race shouldn’t be allowed to make money. But if you want to charge top dollar (in this case $100+) for what is advertised as a quality product (entertainment and experience), then you should deliver a top notch experience. Otherwise you’re kind of like General Motors right? Of course I’m talking about the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon and Half.
Maybe first I’ll talk about what went right. EXPO!!!!! Something about being able to attract larger numbers of runners and their families with deep pocketbooks that makes for large expos with lot of exhibitors. I arrived with my relay team a little after Noon on Saturday, and everything was still pretty organized. People people people everywhere. Samples samples samples everywhere. Something for everybody. Nice!
The next day though is where things fell really flat in my opinion. I knew the start area was gong to be a zoo, so I planned things to arrive early. I ended up spending the night in San Diego (in typical L.A. fashion the trains weren’t running) and boarded the hotel shuttle at 4:45 AM
San Diego Rock ‘n Roll is a different beast. Adding the Half Marathon this year swelled the ranks of runners. This is no “huge” race like Surf City and it’s 20,000 runners. This is a MEGA event. There were a reported 40,000 participants this year. This is a business. Planning and best practices are required. Management and supervision of volunteers are required. This is not a nice little neighborhood event.
Here’s where my list of complaints begins. It’s an hour before the race starts. I amble to the gear drop and drop my bag. I ask for and get a bottle of water. I move toward the center of the park. The lines for the porta potties were *tremendous*. At least 30 minutes long.
Luckily I’m a guy and notice some trees on the perimeter of the park. I wander over. Please Mr. Race Director, how about a few stakes and ropes for defined lines – one per porta potty. Keep the lines organized and moving. Then you won’t need to deal with the little piles of tissue on the east side of the park today.
It’s warm (mid 60’s at 5:30 AM) and HUMID! I head back to the center of the park to get another bottle of water and a bagel and banana to start the day. No. More. Food. Or. Water. WTF? Mr. Race Director – you need to take care of your runners! If it’s a cost thing, fine. Get rid of the food. But no water? Let’s get serious here!
About 30 minutes before the scheduled start, things start ramping up. Up first was the USMC marching band. I get goose bumps still up when I watch this:
As the band moved up toward the front of the starting chute, they are drowned out by the PA system and canned music! Mr. Race Director – how about a stage for these awesome defenders of our freedom! We don’t need no stinking recorded music. How about letting us start to something that is ingrained in the fabric of San Diego? Music by our Armed Forces!
Next up – time to get into my start corral. In the past there was strict corral control. There was a colored dot on your bib and a volunteer at the entrance of the corral to make sure you were entering the proper corral. Yesterday? Not so much. IN fact not at all. I freely moved through about 6 corrals – up as far as 9. During the race I kept running up against the back of the prior waves – and I started in the appropriate corral. Mr. Race Director – bring back the corral police!
Now, keep in mind – I only ran the first 8 miles of the course. The course itself was nice and support along the course adequate. I *did* have an issue though as I finished the relay leg. I came pulling into the transition zone and passed the baton (actually a drumstick) to my waiting teammate (Go Sasquatch!). And just like that I’m done. Or so I thought. I hit the porta potty and went looking for the aid station to grab some water. Then I noticed a little table set up to the side with a few goodies. And a medal. Hmm. If I hadn’t seen it, I would never had known it was there. And then when I was done stuffing my face, I noticed another table a few feet away. I ambled over and noticed that they were helping others figure out how to get around. I understand the not having shuttles to get us around. But Mr. Race Director – it would be *real* nice if (1) you had a couple volunteers at the relay transition to guide us to the food and refreshment, and (2) you had a little care package for each of us including a medal, a map, and instructions on how to get to the other transition points and finish line. Yeah. That would have been real nice.
Wait a minute Mr. Race Director. I’m not done yet! First – the finish line. For us relay runners – maybe we’d like to meet as a team at the finish? I finished my leg at 7:40 AM. I rode trolleys, walked paths, and took shuttle busses to get to the finish. I waited patiently in the sun for our final leg runner to pass. Then we wanted to meet in the finish area and get a team picture taken. WTF? Unless you pass the finish line you can’t get into the secure area? Come again? So I’ve been on my feet for 4 hours and I can’t enjoy a cold drink of water, a banana, some salty snacks, and make your photographer some money? Mr. Race Director – please include an entry ticket in the little care package I mentioned above., It’s just not right that we paid $75 each for the privilege of running YOUR relay and then NOT be allowed in the finish area. I guess the only team pictures we have are coming from my camera.
Lastly Mr.Race Director, the whole getting back to the trolley and parking thing. Yeah – I get it. you probably have 100,000 people to move out of the start area. And to give you credit, the busses were magnificent. The line to the shuttles were long (45 minutes), but they kept moving. Better than Pirates of the Caribbean for sure. But all you did was move people from one location to another. Did you see the lines waiting for the trolley back to Qualcom stadium? Mr. Race Director – is there a reason that we can’t finish the race at Qualcom? It’s not football season and the Padres no longer play there. Or is there not a reason that there can’t be multiple parking locations spread across the city so everyone isn’t cramming into the same trolley? I know if I needed to go back to the Q, I would have taken the southbound trolley to Old Town and then switched to the Northbound to Qualcom. Probably would have saved at least 30 minutes in line. Luckily for me, I had a hotel shuttle waiting. Whew!
Folks – thanks for bearing with me. If you didn’t make it this far I won’t hold it against you. I don’t like reading whiny reports either. If you have made it this far – thanks! You’ve allowed me to vent just enough so that I can put something constructive together for Mr. Race Director’s inbox!
Tomorrow – on a positive note. My San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Race Report.