Race Recap: US Half Marathon

I’ve raced near, around, and under the Golden Gate Bridge several times but have always wanted to actually run across it, so when a friend offered up her bib for the US Half Marathon this past Sunday- I jumped at the chance to finally complete that goal.

Little did I know what lay ahead…

The one and only thing that went right for this race was the gorgeous weather.  It had been raining for a few days prior but on the morning of, the sky cleared and the sun was shining so I assumed that was a sign that the race would be a good one. Right?  Wrong, wrong wrong.

The morning started well enough, my friend Shaunte arrived to my place at 5:45am and we rode out to San Francisco together, found a parking spot and easily met the rest of our group at a nearby Starbuck’s.  One friend decided to check her bag and we never saw her again until after the race- supposedly only one volunteer checking 3,500 bags was problematic.  Hunh.  (Let’s count, shall we?  That was Race Evil #1.)

As we walked to the start, I noticed that there was a huge line of porta potties just beyond the starting line.  Interestingly enough, I never saw another one after mile 2.  By mile 10 of the race, I had to use the restroom SO BADLY I thought my bladder was going to burst but there was nothing.  At the end of the race, also no porta potties.  I learned later that they cleared them out by 9:30am so those 30 porta potties at the start and the 3 I saw at about mile 2, were my only chance.  That was just awesome.  (Race Evil #2.)

Tim, yours truly, and Shaunte waiting to start- if we had only known then what we know now... <sigh>

About 2 minutes prior to the start, the emcee made a brief, seemingly unimportant announcement.  He said that they received the medals with the incorrect date so we will not be getting a medal at the finish, rather, in the mail a couple weeks later.  What?  Really?  5,000 medals and no one noticed the wrong date in time enough to remedy??? Wow.  (Race Evil #3.)

The race finally started and there was a pretty good hill right out of the gate- can’t blame the race organizers for that, I guess!  We ran along the water, in the Presidio area of Chrissy Field for about 6 miles until we hit the Golden Gate Bridge , and that’s where things got really rough.

thumb now, middle finger for later

Like I said, I was very excited to run across that bridge.  Having been born and raised here, to me, the Golden Gate has always been this amazing symbol of the beauty and pride representative of the Bay Area, my home. The bridge itself has 2 paths along both sides, the east and the west and the course went along just the west path.  The path is narrow, maybe four feet wide or so- enough for 2 people to walk side-by-side comfortably.  For 5,000 runners going in both directions, though, not so much.

Down the middle of the bridge path, they had placed traffic cones about every couple feet to separate those going from those coming.  This resulted in an amazing bottleneck for those of us going while the elites flew past- single file- along side.  We stopped, completely, four separate times and had to wait- literally, just standing there, not running nor walking, just enjoying the view- until the bottleneck cleared and we were able to run again.

i could have sworn they called this a RUN but i'll just wait here...

I left my watch at home so am not entirely sure how much time was added as a result of the complete stops but I am guessing  anywhere from 7-10 minutes.  (This race also had a 3 hour time limit so I feel really bad for those who received DNFs due to this course atrocity.)  While the stopping was bad, the passing was even worse.  If someone behind wanted to get in front of me, s/he would have to go into the oncoming lane to do so- I saw a few collisions, was elbowed pretty hard in the ribs once, was pushed, and got my feet stepped on many times by those who were passing.  Ridiculous.  (I’m just gonna go ahead and call all that Race Evil #4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9- one Evil for each stop plus an extra Evil for being pushed around and one more Evil for that entire experience!  Horrible!)

Cleared the bridge, and for mile 7, walked (strict post-marathon diet of Halloween candy hamburgers, and red wine really helped me there) up a very challenging hill to the second water stop, then braved the bridge again on the return and attempted yet another self- portrait-while-running and I think I got the best one yet:

wild-eyed and crazy

The bridge had cleared out by then, as you can see, and as I rounded a nice down hill at mile 10 and hit the last water stop, I was done.  I hit the wall.  My race was over.  I had nothing left in me.  I truly gave myself every handicap leading up to it- hadn’t slept well, was eating horribly, drinking lots of alcohol, and had only run once in 3 weeks.  (Don’t do what Laura does!)  That last 5K felt like the longest 3 miles ever.  I started feeling weird, sick, nauseous, walked with a friend for a while then ran until I caught back up with Shaunte and if it wasn’t for her, I seriously would have given up.  (I mean, with no medal to look forward to, what was the point?)

Shaunte and I crossed the finish and I immediately felt sick.  After we walked through the chute and had our timing chips removed by the volunteers, the first booth we came to was the beer booth.  There were only 3 water stops along the course and while I like my alcohol, the first thing I would like to be given after 13 miserable miles would be some WATER, please!!!  (Race Evil #10 for only 3 water stops along the course, Race Evil #11 for placing the water quite a distance away from the finish, and Race Evil #12 for the water distribution itself- it was like a huge cooler with multiple spigots that eventually ran out.  Great.)  I doubled over and dry heaved a couple times while Shaunte filled up my water bottle- she shoved it in my hand, I guzzled down two bottles worth, and immediately felt better.

And then, when I was finally ready to have some beer, it was gone.  3 kegs for 5,000 people.  Perfect.  (Race Evil #13.)

Thank goodness my friend Anabelle came prepared with tequila shots in honor of her birthday and even though I felt pretty wrecked, it was just what I needed to put the annoyances of this race out of mind.

cheers to making it out alive!

I finished in 2:36 which, for me, is not so good.  This was my 31st race and 3rd half marathon and by far the most disorganized and poorly managed race I have ever done. I counted 13 Race Evils in this post, but there were tons more that I won’t bore you with, probably over 20.  Usually, when I write a race recap I post it on the event organizer’s Facebook page in order to get more readers and traffic to my blog but this time, it probably goes without saying, I won’t.

I realize that not every race can be perfect, not every race can be a PR or have good weather or hand out bottles of icy cold H2O at the finish but I am always happy for each experience, and I am glad I did it.  I got another half under my belt, “ran” across the Golden Gate, and was able to celebrate with and not puke on my friends after.  Not a great race, but all-in-all, a really great day!

Have you ever done a race that you were dissatisfied with?  Did you complain to the organizers (like me) or just lump it and move on?  If you have done a race you were unhappy with, would you give them another chance and do it again?


18 thoughts on “Race Recap: US Half Marathon

  1. Wow, really doesn’t sound like a good experience. I’ve done a race that I didn’t enjoy but it was mainly because walkers and runners started at the same time and there just wasn’t enough room on the road to prevent runners from bumping into lines and lines of walkers getting in the way. Looking back, I guess it was poor organisation too, yeah. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as what you’ve just wrote about here. Congrats on another half marathon, though! 🙂

    • I’ve done races where that has happened too- walkers with the runners- and that hasn’t bothered me nearly as much as the compounded mistakes of this one! They have a 2nd version of this race called “The 2nd Half” in April… I’m thinking NO.

  2. Wow, what a nightmare! I’ve only experienced a few annoyances here and there (wrong mile markers, not enough water stops or bathrooms along the way), but your experience sounds downright horrible. I ran across the Golden Gate once for a 12K, and they wisely 1. limited the field to ~ 1000 runners (?), 2. staggered us into 3 groups, and 3. started us over on the Marin side so we’d only cross the bridge once (no 2 way traffic).

    Well, the upside is that now you have a great “race horror story” to tell, not to mention another half under your belt! That’s nothing to sneeze at!

    • We were warned that the construction on the bridge may cause delays but I imagined nothing like this! Your suggestions are exactly what would have improved this race and like I wrote to the organizers, make a lot of unhappy customers happy again. I am SO HAPPY I did not pay full price for this turkey.

  3. I guess the least organized was the Giant Race 1/2 marathon. There was plenty of stupid decisions and lack of organization and enough to make lots of people pretty annoyed. BUT, it was a beautiful day, a beautiful route through San Francisco, I got to high five The Beard, and yes, I would do it again. I give them the benefit of the doubt knowing that they received LOADS of feedback.

    • Yes, I must admit that any run in San Francisco is a good one because of the scenery, and in this case, the weather- it was gorgeous! I would give them the benefit of the doubt if they would just comment more on Facebook- people really complained after the race and they said nothing. Poor customer service on top of it all- kinda unforgivable in my book.

  4. LOVE your recap Laura! Exactly what i was thinking most of the race…..WTF, did they not learn anything in the previous 9 years! I too, was looking for water at the finish….didn’t see the tanks until too late. The saving grace to the whole experience was the amazing weather and incredible views from the bridge and that hellish hill at mile 7. It figures that the shirt fits perfectly…..so I can be reminded of a less than perfect race experience, unlike some of the really fun races with ill-fitting souvenirs. I did email the race director and got a reply about the water tanks, which I did not see. No response to the question about the medals. I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be running “the other half”.

    • Ha- I was thinking that too, “How was this the TENTH running of this disaster?” I am glad to hear that you got a reply from the organizer- nothing was said on Facebook. If we get our medals, then maybe I can forgive and forget but I seriously need to see a FAT COUPON in that package toward the other half or that Grapes of Wrath race they are doing in June.

  5. Sheesh, you would think that if this the 10th time they’ve done this, the complaints from the last 9 times would have made them figure their sh*t out!
    I’ve never had a race experience this bad (knocks on wood). I was not a fan of the Chinese New Year 10k, where they had it right in the middle of downtown SF and didn’t block off traffic safely, and everything smelled like half-rotted Chinese food. And last year’s Bay Breeze 5k was my worst personal race, with the pouring rain and dry heaves and quitting-half-way-through-then-deciding-not-to-be-a-quitter-and-finishing-late…but that wasn’t the race organizers’ fault.
    I think you’re right to send feedback to the organizers. That’s something I should do more often, even if it’s just for small things like more porta potties or extra hydration.

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