Yesterday I ran the Prospect Park Track Club Cherry Tree 10-miler with Tracy and Tara. Actually, it might be more accurate to say I ran the race thanks to them. If they hadn't been there to keep me going every step of the way, I would have given up before I'd even started.
For no real reason, I put off registering until online registration had closed and the only options left were in-person registration in Brooklyn during the days leading up to the race, or on-site registration the morning of the race. Since I didn't really want to travel all the way out to Brooklyn just to sign a paper and pay for a race, I figured I'd do it morning of, in spite of the fact that it was pretty expensive (the race registration fee started at $20, but ended up at $40. Not expensive for a 10-miler, unless you know you could have paid $20 if you'd been more on top of things). I emailed the race organizers the night before the race just to make sure there was still space available (again with the going all the way out to Brooklyn) and got a less-than-optimistic-response: "Get here at 8 [when registration opens] and you're sure to get a spot." I wasn't supposed to meet Tracy in Manhattan until 8, and I began to wonder if I'd be wasting my time getting there at 9:15 or so. Would I miss my window of opportunity and end up without a bib?
Tracy convinced me to come and see what would happen, and the three of us headed out to Prospect Park. I stopped off at the registration site, which was located about half a mile from the starting line in the cafeteria of a high school. It's nice when races have an indoor space where people can hang out before the event starts, and not have to freeze in the cold. But I'm glad we didn't end up waiting there. For one thing, it smelled like an outhouse. For another, it was complete chaos. While standing in line to hand in my registration form, I had a kid crash into my legs. I guess when you're a parent standing around chatting with other runners, it's hard to keep tabs on what your child is doing. On top of all that, it was really unclear where anything was. There were tables with volunteers, but no indication of their function. Individual registration? Relay registration? Packet pick-up? As far as I could tell, there were no signs. I asked someone where I could register, and he pointed vaguely toward a grouping of tables with a lot of stuff on them, but no volunteers in sight. I found some registration forms on one of the tables, and filled it out. By that time, a volunteer had appeared at a neighboring table, so I took my form to him. At that point I found out that the registration fee could only be paid with cash or a check. There'd been no indication of this anywhere on the website, and there was no indication of it at the registration table--I'd only brought my check card with me. I was so frustrated by that point that I really just wanted to go home. But Tracy and Tara both had cash with them, making it possible for me to return to the stinky high school, pay my fee, get my bib, and get the hell out of there. I was offered a fleece hat souvenir, but I'd seen them on other people and decided to pass. The last thing I need sitting around my apartment is a fleece had that is big enough to fit my head in it twice.
Fortunately once I got the registration debacle out of the way, things were pretty smooth. The three of us went into the race knowing we didn't really want to race, we just wanted to run. We took it pretty easy and ended up coming in under 1:40, which, it turned out, was the super secret goal both Tracy and I were shooting for. Considering that my time was around 1:47 last time I ran a 10-miler, I was really happy to run a 1:38 without feeling like I was killing myself! We'd been on pace to hit our super secret goal during the entire run, but we were helped a bit by a woman who was consistently running or walking around where we were--she'd be walking, and then as soon as we'd run past her, she'd start running, pass us, and continue running until she had a bit of a lead, at which point she'd go back to running. I've always hated when people do that, I find it really annoying! So during our final loop of the park, we decided we wouldn't let her pass us anymore. As we approached the last .3 mile, she overtook us. But, stubborn as I am, I sped up (since we weren't racing, I had plenty of effort left in my tank) and left her behind. Tracy and Tara did the same. Mature? No. Spiteful? Yes. Satisfying? Also yes. Normally, I try not to let that sort of thing get to me, but there was something about that woman!
All in all, the run was really enjoyable. I'm still a little annoyed about my overall experience with the race organization, though. In addition to the on-site registration chaos (and the lame souvenir), there was very little water available on the course. Two stations were set up, and they were positioned well (since this was a loop course, two stations were enough), but the water was poured into tiny Dixie cups. It would have been a great supplement if I'd had a Fuel Belt or a hand-held bottle with me, but I didn't because I assumed there would be enough water for me to get by without them. There also weren't that many cups, and I didn't want to stop running in order to stand at the table and drink five tiny cups of water before continuing on my way. At the end of the race, there was a single table with more Dixie cups of water, and a few with Gatorade. The volunteers were doing their best to provide water to all the finishers, but there was far more demand than there was supply. And because the race home base was at the high school, there was *nothing* to eat at the finish. Not even orange slices or something tiny. Nothing at all. This was another case where, had I known there wouldn't be anything, I would have made sure to bring a Luna bar or something. But when you run a ten-mile race, you just sort of assume that there will be something at the finish, and that you won't have to walk half a mile before you can get to it. Finally, there were no clocks on the course at all. Since I wasn't paying all that much attention to time, that was fine with me. But I wasn't the only person out there, and I'm sure there were a lot of runners who would have liked to know how they were doing from mile to mile. If they weren't keeping track of their splits on their own watches, they would have had no way of getting that information.
This was a fun race--the spectators were enthusiastic, and Prospect Park is a beautiful place to run (and one I'm not as used to as Central Park, which makes it all the more interesting). But I kind of feel like the things about it that went well were incidental to the organizers of the race. I would definitely do this race again, but I hope that next year things will be done a bit better.
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