On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rock and Roll Country Music Half Marathon race report: THIS IS WHAT A PW LOOKS LIKE. And it's not good.

Hmm... where to begin? How about my facebook status update a few hours after the race ended:

There are two reports to be had here: one, an objective report on the race; the other, my race. Sadly, I don't have too much good to say about either.

So let's back it up to a few weeks ago. I know that by virtue of living in NYC I'm supposed to be all "rah rah I love New York SO MUCH!", but sometimes? I just want more than anything in the world to be anywhere else but NYC. So what did I do? I decided on a lark to return to the scene of my very first marathon and run the Country Music Half Marathon. I knew a few people who were doing it, travel was reasonable, and I wanted a mini-break.

Now, the race itself.

I hate Competitor. It's true. I do. I hate how they turn their RnR races into "festivals" and I hate how they cater explicitly to making money off of the average runner. I passionately support anyone and everyone running. But I don't support any company trying to make money off of the running boom so blatantly. That said, they have their niche, and people who like their races: props.

After registering for the race, I got ONE email with my race registration (no details, just a confirmation) and several emails offering me different upgrade packages. Parking? VIP tent at the start? Buy the race video in advance? It'll cost you! Dearly!

The t-shirts were, hm, okay. A tech tee (I SHOULD HOPE SO CONSIDERING I COULD HAVE BOUGHT A NEW GARMIN FOR THE COST OF REGISTRATION), but unisex sizing. The size small fits around my torso more or less but is too long and the sleeves extend to my elbows.

I can't speak much to the expo as I ducked in, got my race stuff, bought some compression socks, and left. It seemed pretty standard expo-ish. Large. Lots of stuff for sale. Crowded.

If you're looking for information about the race itself, here you go. The course is a point-to-point that starts near the Parthenon and ends downtown. The 7am start was pretty rough, and this year it was cold - however there was a Starbucks right at the start, so I was able to hang out there in the warmth. (The line to use their toilet was really, really, really long.) The course features consistent rolling hills. It runs briefly through the downtown area, winds through a neighborhood, and then, um, and then I lost track. There's at least a part of it that's pretty boring and desolate.

The race ostensibly started at 7, but they release the runners in waves every minute or so apart. So, being in the 18th corral meant that my race started much closer to 7:30 (which gave me time to wait in the porta potty line). They do this to reduce congestion and crowding along the course, but it - like much else that RnR does - helps take away from the race feel of the event. You're passing people and being passed and it's all inconsistent and harder than usual to keep track of.

It doesn't help that much of the course is narrow. Given the size of the event, the race was crowded the whole way through. At mile 11-12, the full marathoners split off. By mile 12.5, I was shocked to notice that the crowd had not thinned in the least.

When I did the inaugural race, I remember enjoying the bands and cheerleaders. This go around, I didn't notice any cheerleaders and the music wasn't very enthusiastic. That could have been a reflection of my attitude, true.

Water and Cytomax were available every couple of miles. I carried a water bottle to avoid having to stop. Gu - plain gu - was available at one point toward the end. No flavors. I saw one woman grimacing and moaning about having accidentally eaten the plain gu. "That tasted disgusting!" she said. Yes, yes I can imagine it would. I didn't tell her what I thought it would probably taste like.

I have a theory that these races are bad for etiquette in general. When you have too many people who've never raced before or who have only done other RnR races, it just seems like the basic rules are out the window. People are ruder than ever throwing their cups on the ground thoughtlessly, they stop cold and walk in the middle of the course, they ALL wear headphones. (Seriously - at several points I looked around and realized that there was no one besides myself who was music-free.)

Crowd support was actually good. And if you've ever wanted to run a race in a tutu, I'd definitely A+ recommend this one. You won't be alone.

This has gone on long enough. Tomorrow: my race.


  1. I read a race report on Runner's World that said the same thing, it was crowded and tough to get a running flow going due to the number of people running and different levels...Both of you mentioned cytomax and I have never hear of it before.

  2. So, what does Plain Gu tastes like in your opinion? ;) I was told it should taste like honey. Yeah, like I'd believe that...

  3. this makes me not want to run an RNR race ever - I hate the concept completely. Sorry you did not have an enjoyable experience :( At least you got a mini break from NYC? Let's get dinner soon!

  4. Like I said, shoulda done Flower City! 50 bucks, NOT unisex tech shirts, free food, some neighborhood crowds (some with historical themes!) and you could have stayed for free in my dingy flop house!

    Then again, since I couldn't run I might have had a mental breakdown if I'd ventured out to watch the race. So, maybe it worked out?

  5. @Aron - Cytomax is kind of gross, but to be fair it's much better than the Ultima they had the first time I did this race.

    @Christel - SEMEN.

    @Kelly - don't do it! don't do it! I actually had a good weekend, but a terrible race. but yes to dinner, for sure.

    @AR - I made a mistake, okay? I made a mistake. Next time I will listen to you.