This morning, my wife and I ran the 10k portion of the All Community Events' "ChiTown Half Marathon & 10k" at Chicago's Lakefront. I have to say, the race experience left something to be desired, but a little redemption from the race organizers at the end.
Similar to last week's 5k, it was cold and windy, with a slight expectation of snow (luckily, it held out). Since we live right next to the lake, we basically rolled out of bed and walked to the Start Line which is a really nice luxury (since there are so many lakefront races). There was a pretty decent turnout, but it didn't seem as large as last week's St. Paddy's 5k. Both the half and the 10k started at the same time at 8:15, but they did have pace corrals so folks could line up appropriately (although, there were walkers in the 8:00 pace corral - have you walkers not read my etiquette post?)
|ChiTown Half & 10k|
The first issue with the race was starting the race through a very tight (like 4 runners wide) blow up gate, funneling runners through and a poor way to start a race. I, however didn't mind that much since I was taking it easy on this race. Fighting a cold I lined up with the 9:00 pace group and planned to coast through the race. The course was to take us north on the Cannon Drive running path and then back down by the lake, but that all changed at the half mile mark. I had moved up a bit and was probably around 60th place, then at the half mile mark I saw a volunteer move the 10k turnaround sign directing us 10k'ers back down a parallel path we had just run. Heading down the path, all of sudden there were a bunch of cars parked in the middle of the path, making us run around them, which I had never encountered in a race before. We, then continued down the path, past the soccer field and up towards the Lincoln Park Zoo. However, there were zero signs and racers were on every fork of the path with no race marshal in sight. We continued south and then down the underpass at North Ave to get to the lakefront path. Imagine my surprise when I saw a bunch of 10k'ers coming back at us! A pacer going in the opposite direction had an 8:10 pace sign so I figured the turnaround must be just ahead. Nope. A few of us continued on the lakefront path and hit a water station (the only one I had seen) and a ton of half marathoners coming straight at us! It was a complete and total cluster! A few fellow runners and I compared notes and tried to figure out what went wrong as we continued down the path (upstream of everyone else). After about a half mile, later, I saw my wife running in the other direction. She mentioned they stopped the 10k a few miles back and restarted, meaning us front runners were now running an inaccurate race. After being directed as best as possible to the Finish line, my race length ending up being 6 miles.
Pissed didn't begin to describe how I felt. The entire race there were ZERO course marshals, not even at the water station! I made my way to the race tent and asked for the race director and was told he was going to make an announcement in a few minutes. After about 10 freezing minutes, the race director made his way to the stage. He couldn't have been more than 25 and was visibly uncomfortable. After stammering a bit, he did what every race director should do: he took the blame for the mix up. After communicating his team (including volunteers) made a huge error (at the 10k turnaround sign), he then discussed how he stopped the back half of the race and brought them back to the Start line. This meant I didn't get an official time, which was fine for me, but anyone who needed this time I could see why they'd be upset. He, then proceeded to tell us we could have a full refund, plus $10 off our next ACE race. I have never seen a race director offer a refund, so I give him and All Community Events a lot of credit.
While the race was not ideal, ACE handled it like a professional race organizer should, they immediately owned up to the mistake and offered a way to correct the issue, a huge win in my book. Other racer organizers (Hot Chocolate & Turkey Day run, I'm looking in your direction) should maybe take a page from ACE on how to communicate concerns with races.
I will continue to run ACE events in the future.