Monday, November 17, 2008

San Antonio Marathon Pet Peeves List

Before I get to my race report - I had to dump my rants about the race - so here they are:

Inaugural event of 33,000 signed up (~24,500 finishers) - expect a few things to not be quite perfect - overall I think they did a GOOD job pulling it off but there are definitely opportunities for improvement for next time - a few that come to mind for me:


  • Website didn't have all the information - had to look at both website and emails to piece it all together - should have updated website to incorporate the later information sent out on email. For example - there was nothing on the website about live tracking however I do now see it was in an email - I told a couple people there was only Start and Finish time recorded as that was all that was indicated on the website that I could find. Another example - no mention on the website about prize breakdown that I can find although it also was in an email - that particular email had proofreading issues - for example it listed Masters 1st - $500 - with a comment next to it "Do we need this" - creating questions in my mind now if there even is a Master's prize.

  • Expo - I went 2 hours before close - a little late so I was expecting it to be crowded - but it was a bit overly so in the packet pick-up area - had to keep us in a holding area before getting into the pick-up area for a while before we could get into individual corral lines.

  • "Calling Texas Bests" for the Texas Showdown - this was listed on the website as "We invite athletes who have run under 2:47 (male) and 3:15 (female) for the marathon & 1:15:30 (male) 1:26:30 (female) for the half to submit their resume for consideration of elite athlete status." So I thought I was in with "elite athlete status" - from other races I've had an invitation this included VIP benefits (Twin City Marathon-2008 which I didn't end up running, Houston 2009 coming up in January) - for this race it was only a black bib number - ok I also got free entry because I also qualified for complementary entry with a sub 2:43 prior marathon. The VIP thing really was not that important to me - but it would have been nice and I think they should have done it for the ~10-15 runners that entered the program.
  • Shuttle to the start - worked perfect for me leaving at 5:30 - no waiting at all - I heard some pretty bad experiences from those who thought showing up for a 6:30 shuttle was plenty of time to make a 7:30 race start.
  • BagCheck - when I got there there were many UPS buses not there yet and the ones that were there didn't know which letter bag they were collecting. I recognized a couple glitches in the system I heard very quickly and decided I was going to be first to check in my bag to avoid the glitches. 1st glitch was the buses were being loaded by last name alphabet - I was hoping by corral number since the 1st corral would likely have a shorter check in line. 2nd - the UPS trucks were arranged similar to the New York Marathon fiasco last year with the a line of trucks on both sides of a narrow road forcing all the runners down the center to line up in a congested center that could become a huge mess. After recognizing check-in was not going to be a smooth quick operation I decided to go ahead and get out of my warm gear and load up my bag and check it in a first opportunity. Once the rest of the UPS trucks arrived and they started marking them with the last names that would load - I projected which truck would be mine and ended up 3rd in line about 1 hour before start with only a trash bag to keep me warm - but better to shiver than be caught in what I was expecting to be a fiasco given another 30 minutes or so.
  • Start - excellent - went off without a hitch (ok it was 15 minutes late for some reason - but that's ok).
  • Race - good aid stations, enthusiastic volunteers, clocks on every milemarker (I would have rather not had that but that's just me - I prefer to fly blind), clearly marked course, good separation of 1/2 marathon from marathon last 2 miles.
  • Finish - don't know - they pulled me into VIP thinking I was 3rd Texan (1st ran so fast they missed him whizzing by) so I didn't get to go thru the normal post race stuff - missed my finishing photo but that was more than made up for by a free beer :).
  • Family Meeting - very clear.
  • Baggage Pick-up - a brutal long line - a regret of mixing 1/2 marathon and marathon together is near all the 1/2 marathoners finish ahead of me and I must wait with them to get my bag - I kinda wish the marathoners could be more separated but there's probably no better way to do this - just a hazard of running half/full marathon races.

Again - overall these issues were minor for me - but I do think there are opportunities for improvements. Considering their self proclaimation this was the largest inaugural race ever anywhere - I think they did a GOOD (but not excellent) job.

4 comments: said...

I was standing right there - at the start - when the young lady told the public address announcer - who I think was hokey - that there was going to be a delay; however, she didn't tell him what for. I immediately assumed that it was because of the shuttle situations.

Seems like they were in "need to know" mode.


Steve S. said...

First off, Congrats on the PR. I really enjoyed reading about your run and how you were doing versus your race plan.

I'm a recreational runner and ran the San Antonio 1/2 marathon on Sunday. Overall, the experience was postive and I ran a PR 1:53 in the half. Like I said, I'm a recreational runner. The bands, the crowd and the conditions were excellent.

However, from my perspective, to say there are "Opportunities for improvement" may be the understatement of the year... So, I'll add my few cents worth to the pet peeve list...

1. Let's start with the crowded Expo. Too crowded, too little space for 25,000+ runners. I guess I'm spoiled by the Houston Marathon and the setup at the GRB.

2. Parking at the Expo - what a joke. Traffic control and access was rediculous.

3. Packet pick-up - Not allowing friends to pick up packets for other runners is nutts. There are runners out there that could not make it to the Expo before closing. However, they did have an unpublicized back-up plan. You could go to the "solutions" tent race-day morning to get your bib.

4. Traffic control at ATT Center. I've never experienced traffic that bad getting to a major sporting venue. We left the hotel at 5:40, got to the freeeway exit at 5:55, then sat in traffic and finally parked at 6:30. It appears there was a complete lack of traffic coordination between the race organizers and SAPD.

5. Start Line Shuttles - We then stood in line for 32 minutes to get the shuttle to the start. As the bus pulled out of the lot at 7:02, the waiting line for the shuttles was 3X longer than when we first got there. Note to race director - shuttles must be loaded quicker and more efficiently. Due to traffic, the shuttle took much longer than the advertised 20 minutes. We got to the start line drop off area at 7:40 and walked/ran the next 1/2 mile to our start corral (#4). We got there just as the corral was released. I was lucky in that my wonderful wife took my bag to check in so I wouldn't have to deal with that fiasco.

6. The course - a nice course, but way too many turns, and a bit tight in certain spots.

7. The Finish Line - the steep climb at the end with .2 miles to go is an absolute insult and slap in the face to most runners... "I just humped it for 13 (or 26) miles and now I have to climb this frickin hill???"

8. Gear bag pick-up - What a joke... As unorganized as anything I've seen. It took 15 minutes to claim my gear.

9. Beer line - OK, this is kind of petty, but I had to wait for 5 minutes to get my one free beer. More free beer and taps PLEASE.

10. Shuttle back to ATT - The longest line yet... We saw runners collapse as they waited another 45 minutes in a LONG unorganized line for shuttles that were being loaded one by one...

All in all, I enjoyed the run, am happy about my PR, but do hope that the race committee can improve the overall event. Because, I hope to run it again next year...

kayry said...

Lots of races start a little late - not a big deal - after reading steve s. experience I suspect it was a bit of waiting for late the suttles.

kayry said...

steve s.

thanks for piling on with the rants - who knows - maybe someone over there will read this.

Guess that rediculously expensive downtown hotel was more worth the money - didn't know all the logisics issues from and to AT&T parking

This was my 10th marathon with most of them Mega-thons and I have got into the pattern of trying to be on near the first shuttle getting to the race - I hate the stress of morning logistics and would much rather just wait around at the start line.