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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fun Race, Poorly Planned Morton Arboretum Fall Color Race 5K

5K - 34:37 (official)
0.5 wd (est walk)

total: 3.6 miles

Aliz, Ildi, and myself ran side by side, dodging stroller runners, little kids, and runners who could not make up their mind whether they would walk or run. We, however, started with an 11:28, followed by around an 11:22, finishing in a strong 10:42 pace.

As their first 5K, they saw the downside. The Morton Arboretum Fall Color Race 5K did not plan for success. With 2,000 runners, they were unprepared for the bottlenecking of traffic, of runners at the start line, and long lines just for water. Better signage, more volunteers, and perhaps a dual start might help tremendously.

Essentially a massive community race, as opposed to one looking for hardcore racers, they achieved this in droves. I have not seen any official results, but I'll guess the top 10 men and women were decent, but not especially speedy.

Next year? It probably won't be on our radar. It was fun, but there are better organized races which will offer a happier experience.

Want to gripe to them directly (by all means, feel free to do it here). Here's their contact information.

What a day for racing, though! Beautiful weather here, and, internationally, in Berlin, the marathon record was shattered by Haile Gebrselassie (2:04:26 - by 29 seconds - 4:44.96 pace).

EDIT: Morton Arboretum Fall Color Race 5K race results. Looking through the results, there are glaring problems: too many unknown runners (including the top female runner), and our friend Ildi is entirely missing. This indicates gross errors than suggest all kinds of data errors. Our time is accurate, but think if the Morton Arboretum marketing department is planning a 2008 race, they should hire competent third party race experts.


joe.gorup said...

"Ditto" the title and overall review. I have not seen a more poorly organized race in a long time. The only positive thing was the course was well marked and in a nice setting.

I got a preview of the mess when the packet pick-up took 30 minutes and they had a few overworked people trying to do everything.

Race-wise - why they tried to allow chip and non-chip racing and race day registration I don't know - it was chaos. I signed up 2 weeks ahead of time and they didn't have my name associated with my time on the initial postings.

The awards ceremony was a wreck - male/female mix-up's etc. I finished a bit ahead of the #1 female...but she was not chipped and I think initially the overall female award went to someone else. (I estimate the first female to have finished somewhere between 18:40 – 19:00.)

The "kids dash" was borderline dangerous. Million kids, out-and-back (a.k.a. “kids crashing into each other”), long grass, little communication, and way too small an area for the number of kids involved.

Adding to the frustration was that there were a million volunteers - you had scads of people handing out water - but a line a mile long waiting for a bagle (maybe open up two sides to the line?), cars backed up forever trying to get in, and 1 guy trying to yell out directions to hundreds of parents/kids.

Morton needs a professional firm to organize the race; from sign up, to pickup to race day management, to MC'ing. And do NOT try to mix chip/non-chip & race day registration.

Resilient Hawk said...

Thanks, Joe. It was my wife's first race, as well as a friend's. Both are new runners overall, and they each left sour about racing. A good race isn't that hard to produce (I directed one back in 1991).

Beautiful course, to say the least, but the start was as close to unsafe as could happen this side of an acid pit. It was my first time starting in the back of a large run, and I saw hordes of bodies crammed into small roads.

Like you, we saw trouble from the get-go. I picked up my packet at Dick Pond's shop yesterday, but felt bad for those who did not. It usually doesn't make a huge difference for local races, but here, it was just one nut-job short of a riot.

Our result was more or less within the expected range, but only because we shouldered a few bumps from other runners.

We left just before the kid's dash, missing that chaos. However, at our pace (11:10), you might have thought the entire first grade class of DuPage showed up. I love kids running, but there should have been an age cut-off. They were running in and out of our path.

By the way, you finished quite well. Why not check our track workouts on Thursdays at Wheaton College? Relatively small group - 20 people or so. You can see most of the workouts on my blog. We meet in the WC parking lot near the track (across Chase) at 5:30, do a two mile warm-up, and then hit the track for various workouts. Olympian Jim Spivey coaches us.

Now, Joe, if I get the call about the Australian vacation, I might need to amend all of my comments.

Terry said...

My experience echoes everyone else's experience:
I sat in traffic for nearly an hour just waiting to park. By then it was already 8:10am. My wife and I walked about a mile from where we parked to get to the race area (Hey, why not get those Acorn Express trams running?) Since this was the fourth annual race, I suspected that the start time of 8:00am would be delayed to at least 8:30am since there were dozens of race participants still trying to park. I was wrong! I was in the port-a-potty when my wife yelled at me that the race had already begun. I rushed out, got my nasty, sweaty, velcro timechip and put it around my ankle. I took a quick 2 minute warmup and started the race.
I realized I was in trouble very early on. Since I started 15 minutes after everyone else, I suspected that I would have to dodge walkers, kids and strollers. I was right. I probably spent more time on the grass than on the paved road. When I twisted my ankle half-way through the first mile I contemplated just turning around. I kept going though. I ended with a personal record, but I think it was because I was so angry that I kept going faster and faster! My final time was 22:25 - not bad for me.
Whoever put together this race should give everyone there money back. It was ridiculous and dangerous!

Resilient Hawk said...

Right on Terry!

Too bad such a good organization set this up. Though, I am beginning to think the Arboretum itself has become more exclusive as they increase parking fees and so forth. Apparently, the everyday runner is unimportant to them.

I'll be sending on my irate comments to the Arboretum next week, after I sort out my exact issues with them. A refund is a very reasonable request.

I wonder how many others feel as we do? I'll post their contact information here later, or, in a new post.

Well done with your 22:25! The course was hilly, and your circumstance was adverse. As I responded to Joe, check us out some Thursday. My own modern PR is a 22:00, so you'll feel at home. some are faster, some are slower, but all love to run and train, and are respectful at whatever level.

Bryan said...

As an employee of a very reputable athletic supply company, I take time throughout my day to observe certain blogs in relation to the sports/hobbies in which my industry lies. I am amazed at the "lashing out" of participants in such events as I am sure that they truly have no idea all the work and preparation needed to pull of an event of such magnitude. Unfortunately, to me, it sounds as if there were many "agencies" involved that didn't pull their weight and to solely blame the staff of the organizing party would be completely naive. Please take a moment to recognize the sport for what it is, why you do it, and please try to be good natured and constructive in your commentary. I can only hope that your experiences become more pleasant as time goes on, but please don't be so quick to judge unless you have truly run a mile/kilometer in someone else's shoes. In Phil we trust......

Resilient Hawk said...

Thanks Bryan, for finding this blog.

I'm not sure what you mean by running a mile in their shoes. I have. Not only do I have, during my late teens and early 20s, have a huge number of road races behind me, but I have produced a 5k. By comparison, it was small with only 325-350 or so runners, but the point remains: this race was not safe. I have volunteered to help in others.

I've run one race where, while I was in the lead group, we were directed right instead of left. That 5K turned into a meandering 5 miler. I've run one where my big prize for winning the Turkey Trot was a coupon for a free brat and Coke. Just this year, I ran one in Glen Ellyn (Freedom Four
) where the beginning was such that it bottlenecked at an early turn, causing anyone not running a sub-6:30 pace to lose precious time. None of this reflected the same chaos we found on Sunday.

You did not mention if you ran, or were present at this race, Bryan. I noticed one 'Bryan' in the results. Did you see how it started at least 15 minutes late, causing some runners to miss the start?

Or how walkers and runners wound up lumped together, with the runners tripping over the walkers?

Or the finish line which appeared just a few meters beyond a turn, causing a mass sprint in, again, a bottlenecked context?

Or, what I did not see, the kid's dash (see Joe Gorup's comments), which sounds like a free-for-all?

Then, of course, the parking fiasco, the 10-minute water line, the misleading or not-present signage?

Take a look at the results (linked in my post). Scan down and count the unknown runners (they spelled it 'Unknwown'). 21 of 1177 finishers (1.78%). That's not counting those whose results aren't listed, like my friend who finished directly behind me. Maybe my friend is the only one missing, but, given other mistakes, who knows?

By comparison: the June 2, 2007 Cosley Run for the Animals in Wheaton, IL, with 1,343 finishers, had six unknowns (under 0.45%).

The results company (Accu-Split Timing Co) even got my per mile pace wrong. My 34:37 is listed as an 11:10, not 11:08. While my time isn't the issue, all of this indicates a larger problem.

Were there many agencies involved? No more than three or four: the Arboretum's own events people, the timing company, whatever third party race management consulting they used, and the volunteers. At some point, somewhere, someone was making bad decisions. The volunteers were sweet, tried to be helpful, but whomever was leading them is where the problem was.

I love running, and 5Ks are part of what I love. Read my other race reports, my training and the rest. I'm serious about running and want to race well. My comments come from lots of experience. The Morton Arboretum has beautiful facilities which I otherwise support (I hiked the property two or three weeks earlier with non-running friends, had lunch there, and had a fine time), but in this race, they screwed up. When I write them, my comments will not be filled with vitriol, but directed at solutions.

I applaud your support for their effort, for which I agree, but good effort did not return good results, and, when thousands of people show up, each paying $25 a pop, mediocrity and incompetence is not enough.

Terry said...

I have to agree. There are often little problems with any race...not a big deal, that's life. I just can't believe at the number of huge problems with the Arboretum race. I would probably give them a break if this was the first time they did this rather than the fourth. The Arboretum put together this event and it was horrific. It wasn't the inconveniences or even problems that affected people's times, it was the dangerous conditions. There were so many things that went wrong that could have been averted if they had just put a cap on the runners from 2,500 to 800 or less.

As a long time member to the Mort, I was really looking forward to this race. I still love the grounds and the organization, but I will never enter this race again!