The worst-run race I ever experienced ... and why

  But first, full disclosure. I’m not actually gonna tell you which race it was. Not worth the litigation exposure.

 Any runner who has done more than a few races can tell stories of the best and worst run events. Be they 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, full marathons, or ultras, each race has a story.


This is not that race.
This is not that race.


What lessons can be learned from the worst of all races?

 A few years ago, I splurged on a fancy themed destination half marathon, starting and finishing on an historic resort property. The website was flashy. The swag looked swell. The course photos were scenic. And a friend was an enthusiastic race ambassador. So I signed up.

 Oh, boy. Was I in for a surprise or what?

  1. The entry fees were higher than most major races. This might have been OK, if the race was aimed at benefiting some worthy charity. But nope. It was all for-profit.
  2. The race expo was miniature, despite big hype beforehand. Basically, the only exhibitors were the race company, the pacer organization, and a couple of referral/multi-level marketing (read: pyramid) sellers hawking scents and soaps and such. There wasn’t a running-related vendor in sight.
  3. The swag tees were flimsy and cheap. To make matters worse, several runners didn’t receive the sizes they ordered. And for those who did, the fit wasn’t as expected.
  4. The race map was generic with no race info. The race company had simply copied the resort’s publicity map. No race directions, course routes, or other relevant information was added.
  5. The location wasn’t all it was advertised to be. Who knew the pretty lakefront locale would be overcome by lake algae, with wave ripples sending sludge and foam along the shoreline running path?
  6. Parking was very limited. Runners who opted not to stay as guests at the resort property had to park along the edge of a busy, curvy county highway and hoof it to the race location. They also neglected to arrange for shuttling relay runners to the midpoint. (I didn’t do the relay, but I heard this was a real quagmire.)
  7. They had no PA system for the start (or finish). This led to some confusion, as mid-to-back-of-pack runners could not even hear the start. And it was a good thing runners knew the national anthem by heart, even if we couldn’t find the flag anywhere around.
  8. The course roads were open. Ever run a half marathon on the narrow or non-existent shoulder of a county highway? (Remember what I said about runners having to park out there too?) OK, some of the course traced a running path, but after the first mile or so, the course hit the roads. And so did the traffic.
  9. No split clocks on the course. Hey, they barely even had directional signs. And that’s only if you count chalk arrows on the ground at various turns. (And don’t get me started about the total lack of course marshals to direct runners and vehicular traffic.)
  10. What? Only two aid stops for a half marathon? And all they offered was water -- lukewarm water on a hot summer morning.
  11. The final stretch ran across loose gravel and the resort’s lawn. Tired runners trudged through bumpy terrain to reach the finish line. Smile for the cameras, folks! And don't step on those flower beds. Just leap over them.
  12. The finish line ran out of waters before half of the field finished. Who counted the registrants and then planned the purchase of finisher water bottles?
  13. The post-race breakfast ran out of food. The race promotional materials highlighted the fancy eggs Benedict and bacon breakfast. Photos displayed tables of colorful fresh fruit, elegant pastries, and assorted giant cookies. But anyone crossing the finish line after the first 100 runners or so had to settle for a paper cup of warm water and a granola bar.
  14. One bartender was expected to serve hundreds of runners at the after-party. Mimosas for everyone! Well, only those who got there first or stood in a line that wrapped around the whole crowd.
  15. The race organization became my permanent pen pal after the event. Despite many unsubscribe requests on my part, they continue to flood my email address with announcements for this event and others they hold in various destinations. I think I will pass.


What were the pluses?

 They had fabulous pacers (actually a different company) and really spiffy finisher medals. And my friend (the race ambassador) gave me a 10% discount code on the event.

 Was that enough?


Related Items:

·        Choosing running races: How do you pick which races to enter?

·        Race aid stations - What are they serving this time?

·        Race management: 10 tips for choosing race tees

·        Race volunteers are both valued and violated

·        Sports nutrition: What runner foods do you hate?


Image/s: National Parks Race - public domain photo


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