Friday, 9 December 2011

Race organizers, you really let me down!

Poor race organization.

It's something we runners probably deal with more often than we'd like. But it happens, occasionally on a huge scale. Like the Rock and Roll Las Vegas Half and Full Marathons last weekend. Sounds like the race conditions were terrible, sadly bringing out the worst in runners, too. Check out Lisa's (@runlikeacoyote) great race review here.

Considering how hard we train and how much we pay to run these races, I think race organizers are obligated to give us a good (and at the very least SAFE) experience. I COMPLETELY agree with Chronic Runner who wrote a great post about this a few days ago for The Running Bug (When Races Go Bad) so I won't rant about it here.

I have a few specific moments from various races on my "bad list" but these two posts have inspired me to share what I would classify as:

THE WORST thing that happened to me due to poor race organization!

In February 2010, I ran the Brighton Half Marathon. It was my second half and I was really looking forward to it. I ran my first one in Windsor which is quite hilly, so it was a great chance to test myself on a flat course. Plus it was my home race and much of it was where I trained everyday. What could go wrong?

Well, it poured rain the entire time. My friend and I were wet before we even started the race! But of course, the race organizers aren't responsible for the weather and we had no choice but to run. Despite the conditions we persevered, and I remember feeling grateful to all the locals who came out to cheer in the rain.

Finally I got to the end of the race. I could see the finish line ahead of me on Maidera Drive. I could hear the announcers! I could see the crowds! I mustered up every last ounce of energy to sprint to the end, ready to raise my arms up, only to find....

I couldn't cross the finish line!

I ran right into a massive crowd of runners that extended out in front of the finish, miles away from the line to get my chip time. In seconds there were others behind me and I was surrounded by more and more runners trying to get across. I thought I was going to be crushed! It was worse than the Tube during rush hour! After what seemed like hours later I was finally PUSHED across the line.

I couldn't believe it! The ONE thing that I wanted from the race was my time, and now I'll never know my actual time for running the Brighton Half. My official chip time was 2:07:30 but I'll always believe it should've been a minute or so faster. Unfortunately, I didn't run with a watch back then so I don't even have a Garmin time.

The cause of this chaos at the finish? Race organizers decided to place volunteers removing timing chips just a few feet away from the finish line. There wasn't enough room for people to cross the line AND stop to get their timing chips taken off in such a small area. Apparently it was especially crowded around the 2 hour mark. My friend crossed the line after me and said by then it was I guess I was one of the unlucky ones!

There were other organizational issues with this particular race (eg free for all at the bag drop), but not being able to cross the line is the one that I'll never forgive. How could a race that had been going on for almost 20 years make such an amateur error? And why didn't anyone move the chip removers back (or away completely) once it started to get crowded? Sadly, I don't think the organizers ever admitted fault but apparently the race was better in 2011. I hope so, because I've signed up to do it again in February!

So there you have it. My worst race organization travesty was not being able to cross the finish line at the Brighton Half Marathon.

What's yours?


  1. Oh dear that was bad luck after all that training, and the bad weather as well. I hope next year is better for you.

    I've not had a bad race up to now, they've all been brilliantly organised with a great atmosphere between the spectators and other runners. Hopefully this streak will continue into all the races I take part in in 2012.

  2. @Jenny

    Hi Jenny!

    Glad to hear that all your races have been well-organized. I've only had a few that were real nightmares, mostly due to a huge number of runners.

    Hoping that I'll have a lot of well-organized races in 2012! :)