Dear Rock & Roll Series & Competitor,
You don’t know me. At least, you don’t know me beyond my credit card number that I have used to pay for entry fees into three of your races. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’d like to keep it. But I have a few things I’d like to get off my chest about how you do things, and the effects you’re having on my favorite sport. In short, I think you are greedy, you lack integrity, and you don’t care one little bit about runners.
My first 1/2 marathon was your Nashville race in 2010. A friend, another novice runner, said it was ‘one to do,’ and what with it being my first, who was I to argue? Plus I’m not into doing Sunday races, so a Saturday race is a big draw for me. I had no idea that the $90 or so that I spent was an exorbitantly high price to pay for a half. I also had no idea that forcing runners to attend the expo wasn’t standard practice. I’m sure this ups your and your vendors’ merch sales, as well as contributing further to the economy of the cities that hold your events. While all of these are entities with every right to make a profit, it’s just rude to force it to happen. You know what’s funny? I LOVE a race expo! Lots of us do–We’re excited. We’ll spend money. But when you force it on me, I get a lot stingier with my money. And, let’s not get started on the extremely unflattering tech shirts you gave out. You’re in the racing industry. You’re shirts are made by Brooks, who should know something about sports fashion. You should already know that more than 50% of all half-marathon finishers are women. AND WE DON’T WEAR UP TO THE NECK, BOXY MEN’S TECH TEES. ESPECIALLY GRAY ONES.
But on to the race. Yes, this was the one where there were tornados that had been forecast for days were ripping through the southeast the night before and headed for Nashville the day of the race. You know, the one where dozens and dozens of YOUR runners, who had paid you money, were posting on your Facebook page to ask for a status update on the race, with not a SINGLE REPLY as to what changes might be occurring. You moved the start time for the marathon up–a wise move–but didn’t communicate it with the thousands of runners except by loudspeaker–at the race site. Guess what–if they’re paying between $90 and $150 to run races–your runners have money. We had, two years ago, iPhones, other smart phones and computer access the night before and the morning of. Yet you completely ignored the most logical ways to communicate with us, in favor of a woefully inadequate substitute. I went into this race ticked off at how a company with the obvious slickness of your marketing campaigns, could not use Facebook or Twitter to get an important message out there. And while my race experience was fine, something didn’t sit right with me. Especially when we attempted to get out of LP field… where traffic literally was not moving. It’s LP FIELD. They stuff thousands of NFL fans in there. There clearly must be a traffic plan. Why was it not in place, or at least consulted? Too expensive to pay the cops to direct?
And yet…fast forward to 2011. I was on a 1/2 streak and still working to find Saturday races. Back to you I went. Nashville again. More money. More hassle as my husband couldn’t get Friday off to come to the expo (May sweeps in TV=no vacation, period.). We got around it. I won’t say how. Being a smidge more seasoned of a racer, now I could tell where a lot of the problem lay. Rock & Roll series, you attract rude runners. It makes sense, given your name and all. Rock Stars and Nice, Non-Rock behavior don’t really go hand-in-hand. But in situations like trying to board shuttle buses with NO direction from officials, your wannabe rock start runners get ruder. Pushy. And not just verbally pushy, not just rude, but physically pushy.
Again, out on the course was fun. No one would accuse you of putting on a boring race. You get crowds like crazy. Of course the bands in Nashville are amazing, and their friends come and cheer us on, too.
So when it came time to run my first full, I thought “Well, I can deal with some garbage if I can have great crowd support.” Crowd support was important to me, and I knew you could bring that. And you had a Saturday race in Washington, DC. Not too far away, and a city I love but have not visited since I started running. I registered on November 30, 2011.
Four days later, your Las Vegas race happened. And I watched, wide-eyed, as my Twitter feed filled with stories like Charlene’s… who ran the whole thing while attempting to get medical help, only to be told, essentially, that there was none at each place she stopped, and to keep moving along.
Then it came out that you were giving runners water from fire hydrants… in garbage cans… by volunteers dipping cups directly into the cans. Now, it came out later that that wasn’t the reason people got sick. Which is great for you. BUT you said it was standard practice for large races. It may be true that a few of them do use similar practices… but this article points out the ways you LIED about what you do. And it makes no sense that you attract these numbers of runners… and sponsors… and yet don’t pay for a different water source or get a water sponsor. AND THAT YOU LIE.
Other complaints about Vegas that have been fairly well documented: lack of water, course support, blankets, people getting stuck in Mandalay Bay. Oh, and that part where you ran out of medals. Not that a medal really means anything, but really? How long in advance did the race sell out?
I believe that I have had good experiences at your events because I got lucky. Simple as that. And I am so thankful that I haven’t been unlucky. And my heart hurts for all the people who have been turned off of racing because they were unlucky.
And I think you lack integrity. It’s a race. Not just a party (or is it?). You supposedly have course limits and then tell people who can’t keep up that they can:
“If a participant’s pace falls below the course time limit, they have a few options:
Increase their pace to stay within the event minimum pace;
Board a “sag wagon” shuttle to move forward on the course, where they may continue to participate in the event, maintaining the minimum pace required”
So, basically, you don’t have to run the whole race. Just hope a bus and go to the finish. They’ll still give you a medal.
Further, we could talk about the scuttlebutt that your CEO cheated, or at the very least, possibly hosed the age group winners at Las Vegas.
We could also talk about how much greedier you seem to get as time goes on. The shuttle with the crowd I mentioned earlier? Now it appears you’re charging money–a lot of money–for it. You actually allowed people not to come to the expo at Rock n Roll USA–but if you were picking up a packet for more than one other person, it was twenty dollars–TWENTY DOLLARS– per packet.
So, what’s the difference between you and other organizations that put on races? You could say it’s the distance–although the Atlanta Track Club puts on a 1/2 and a full marathon each year that are both great. Countless other cities both larger and smaller do the same.
Is it the size? Oh, I’m sure you could make lots of excuses about what it takes to put on a race with 20,000 to 40,000 runners. They don’t fly with me. I live in the city that puts on the Peachtree Road Race–a 60,000 runner race. And they do it flawlessly, and affordably. Every. Single. Time. I’m about to run the Cooper River Bridge Run, in small-city Charleston–43,000 runners that has free shuttles and optional packet pickup and even picks up start line clothing and returns it for you at the finish. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about their systems.
I think the difference is this:
R&R, you don’t care about our geographic communities. You don’t care about our community as runners. You care about money. You care about slickness and big, honkin’ medals. But not the people who are running your races, and not the cities we love to see by foot.
I will urge everyone I know to find their local races, or the ones in cities they want to visit that are put on by people who are invested in the community. The ones that are smaller but have some heart. Some integrity. The ones whose shirts I can wear without feeling like I’m advertising for the Walmart of Running. I’m breaking up with you, Competitor Group. And I hope everyone who laces up their running shoes will, too.
RUN GLOBAL. RUN LOCAL. JUST DON’T RUN ROCK & ROLL.
Very sincerely, but with no love,
(to readers, if you want to find a race, I use Running in the USA. It’s a great resource. For 1/2 marathons, I just found this one. Also, sign up for your local running store email list. Join your local running club–it’s a far better way to spend your running dollars than to give it to R&R.)