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"

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Race directors, race pricing, and irrationality

By now I'm sure most of you have heard about the fiasco surrounding the Naperville Marathon.

In short, the race directors announced this new race, in the western suburbs of Chicago. They had it priced at $150, which included the usual perks along with a nicer-than-normal shirt and free photography. Potential racers flipped out about the high price on social media, and the race organizers capitulated and lowered the price to $105 a few days before registration opened.

And then the race sold out on the very first day it was open.

Now, my training in economics extends only as far as two semesters of intro in college, but I don't really think it takes an advanced degree to draw some conclusions here. Namely: demand for this race far outstripped supply, and as a result the race directors undercharged for the race. (Granted the price lowering probably did engender some non-quantifiable good will.) The end result is that consumers were left paying much less for a race than they would have.

Not that anyone is asking me, but in my opinion they should have offered a tiered system for race fees. Not the typical tier, where prices go up at a certain date, but instead a tier with more services.

Offer the first 500 slots for a finite window of time at $75. You don't get anything but the race for that amount. The next 500 slots cost $125, but you get a shirt and a medal. For the next 500 slots, offer a shirt, a medal, race photography, and charge $150. For $175 you can add showers and a finisher's meal. Charge $200 for the rest of the entries. The race will still sell out.

And before you can protest, this wouldn't actually be that hard to do logistically via tabs on one's bib or another simple system like they already do for race shirts. After the Mt. Washington Road Race, I didn't get my meal because I'd lost the small bib tab. I was annoyed, but it was my fault. Life goes on (and I got Dairy Queen, anyway, which was way better).

Race directors are often short-sighted, wanting to get their races full (and therefore get as much cash upfront) as quickly as possible, even if it means losing out on large amounts of potential profit they could make.

For Naperville, there's also a marketing issue. They opened their registration more than two weeks before registration opens for the Chicago Marathon. Chicago will sell out, and that will leave a lot of local runners seeking reasonable options - runners who would have likely paid (and paid well) to run a marathon in Naperville. $200 seems unreasonably high today. But with Chicago at $175, it's easy to see how a local runner could (and would) justify it to themselves - I mean, the last time I ran Chicago, I paid $150 for the registration, plus $250 for the hotel - and I had a place to stay, with my family. If the directors had waited, or at least adjusted their marketing around Chicago (maybe opening a few slots in advance but then holding off on open registration until after Chicago opens), they again could have used this as opportunity to make more money.

I'm as big a fan as anyone of lower race entry fees. That said, there is a huge demand for races right now, and arbitrarily lowering fees to increase accessibility or because you don't like high prices isn't going to work as long as people are clamoring to run races. We need the number of entries in well-run races (including more, newer races) to catch up with the number of runners willing to pay pretty much any asking price for the ability to pin a bib on themselves.

An ineffective pricing model like this does a disservice to both the runners and the organizers: organizers are left making less money than they could, and cheap runners like me are left competing for limited entries with runners who are willing to pay more than I am.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I kinda want to spam him

How's this for cool?

Remember that "What to Wear" widget on runnersworld.com? And then remember how suddenly it wasn't there anymore?

Mark Remy, the Runner's World editor who wrote that book a while ago that was absolutely everywhere (um, at least in my world) with "rules" on running, was responsible for the decision to remove it from their website.

Now, the disappearance of this website didn't phase me at all, because every time I used it, it told me to overdress excessively. I know that I tend to run hot (please insert flattering jokes about my attractiveness here), but I swear: I could tell the site it was 85 and humid out and that I liked to feel cool when I run and still it would say I should wear tights, a hat, a long sleeved tech shirt, and a vest. Always, always a vest.

But some people used the what to wear tool, and some people loved it. (I also personally am not really sure how hard the "dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is outside and maybe adjust a little if it's really windy" thing is, but that's just because I've been doing this running thing for a million years. I've been sailing twice, and both times I flipped out and must have asked my friends what to wear on a boat about a thousand times beforehand.) (I wore shorts.) (I even had to buy shorts because I didn't own any non-running ones.)

Anyway, Mark Remy has offered to personally answer any emails runners send him asking what to wear. And he's actually doing it. I like that.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sort of sportsbra things and other weirdness

Remember when I had my first-ever giveaway? And it was a weird thing, so only a couple of you entered? Well, the Thing I was giving away (courtesy of runningskirts.com) found a happy home, and here's what its new owner has to say about it:
UPDATE ON THE BRA OMG SO EXCITING!  (Actually it is kind of exciting, spoiler alert: I surprisingly liked it!)
When I first got it the size was perfect - which meant not tight enough for me.  So I wore it out under regular clothes just to check.  That sucker doesn't move and is super comfortable.  I thought the strappiness would bother me but it didn't.  Then I washed and dried it (you aren't supposed to) and that shrunk it just enough for me to wear when I run.  I found it surprisingly supportive with the padding and stayed put.  I'm not sure that I'd switch to this type entirely, but I thought it was cuter than a regular sports bra and worked well.  However, my caveat is that I used it for runs 5 miles and under - I'm not sure how I'd feel on a longer run.

And then, from the silliness files, here's an oldie but a goodie: the RunBike, now with a treadmill version! If you thought it wasn't possible to get sillier than the Elliptigo, you were wrong.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


When I last blogged, I was headed off to Florida and annoyed that I had been cast off into the last corral at Disney. I was kind of dreading the race itself, feeling underprepared and angry with myself for my lack of preparation. Plus, you know, I'm kind of a childless adult, I'm not a princess (nor do I want to be), I don't run in a costume like ever ever ever, and it was supposed to be hot in Florida for the weekend.


But still, I told myself, maintain a good attitude, Tracy. Buck up. You can do this; you're prepared for a half and you'll finish the half.

I flew in Friday morning and my weekend was off to an inauspicious start when I threw up, twice, in the bathroom at LaGuardia (NB: the handicapped stalls in Terminal C actually aren't that bad). Luckily, I slept it hard on the airplane and felt better once I got off the plane and into my SuperShuttle. Tired, yes. Filthy and unshowered, yes. Ready to roll through the expo for my bib and then nap it hard before my friend Emily arrived in the evening, yes.

On the shuttle to the expo, I was chugging Gatorade and making small talk with other runners, one of whom was another New Yorker who was doing Goofy - and who didn't mind my dehydrated rants about how "running" a 6-hour marathon wasn't a "real" effort. I'm an ass when I'm hungover. (But to be fair to me, I made sure to mention that I knew from experience. So then it's less offensive, right?) Mike and I hung out at the expo for a bit and agreed to try to meet up the next morning to run together.

NB: By Friday afternoon, the chaotic mess of an expo was stone cold out of Goofy gear (down to a lone water bottle and a sticker) and almost out of marathon gear. And also: I presented the results from a 15k (9:36 pace) and got moved up to Corral B. The second corral. Because running a sub-10 minute mile makes you nearly sub-elite at a Disney race?

Anyway, 3:30am Saturday morning rolled around way too soon, and I headed to the race start. To get runners into and out of the parks without disrupting park hours, Disney races start mad early. (And their starts are staggered, so had I stayed in Corral H, I would have started nearly an hour after the posted start of the race - but still needed to be in the corral by 5.) They also mean business about it being a long walk from the parking lot to the race start. Fortunately I had left myself enough time, and even better, I was able to meet up with Angela before the start. We'd never met before, but she recently had crazy and intensive leg surgery so I knew she'd be just my speed.

This woman's race was over before it began.
Medics were en route. This was in the parking lot.
The race itself... was kind of awesome.

I hate myself for admitting that. I really wanted to be able to come back and say, "Well, I did it, and it was stupid." I wanted to say that Disney races, like RnR races, aren't actual races but instead are events and I wanted to stay on my stupid purist soapbox and look down on people who enjoy them.

Instead, I had an awesome time.

I mean, they are events, and my soapbox is intact, and I paid waythehell too much to run a half marathon. But I liked it.

I took pictures with characters, sort of:

I got excited when I saw the castle and Epcot:

And I ran with Mike and Angela for the whole race:

After the race, I made like any good blogger and ate nut butter on a banana. Full disclosure? I'm actually the world's worst blogger. I forgot to pack Nuun, nut butter, and my Garmin. So I can't even post a photo of my mile splits!

Better yet, I spent the whole next day with Emily at Magic Kingdom acting like a 5 year old and loving every minute of it.
This is why I actually did the race.
Have I changed my mind on Disney races? Not really. They are what they are: super duper expensive running parties. Given that they sell out quickly, there's no incentive for Disney to up the perks (like, say, a discounted park admission?). Since I ran the Disney Marathon in 2004, the field has expanded substantially and the race has slowed down even more. Costumes were an anomaly back then; this year, I felt like a (happy) minority without one. In 2004, it was easy to stop for photos; this year, lines to wait for pictures could run 20-30 runners deep. If that's your thing.

And now, with that out of my system, back to acting like the dignified 30-something year old woman that I am.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On attitude adjustments, and things that don't really matter

I need an attitude adjustment, and I need it badly.

Remember last year (okay, only last month, but back in 2012) when I asked for advice on what to do about Goofy? After much thought and much advice, I decided that I really only felt okay about running the half. So I committed to that idea.

Then, this morning, I found out that I'm in Corral H for the race - and there are only corrals A-H.

Disney is a slow marathon to begin with, and being put in the last corral will impede any attempts I might have to go faster.

In the grand scheme of things, to say this is inconsequential is an understatement. But I'm bummed. I wanted to see where my training was at for a half; I do not want to weave around walkers and people stopping to wait to have their picture taken with Disney "cast members."

Okay: that's done. Time to stop whining and start packing. It's supposed to be 80 this weekend and my hotel has more than one pool.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Maybe a post-Christmas present for yourself?

A way to spend your NYCM refund money! How does this even get on the market?

Of course, as expensive as the medal is, it's cheaper than actually registering for the race was...