Forgive me, Race Directors, but rant I must…

I’m signed up for two different races this weekend, and I realized something today about the process that, the more I think about it, bugs me enough that I just needed to vent – so here we go!

I received reminder emails this week from both RD’s, with info about time and location of the race, where to park, what to bring and NOT to bring – all great and useful stuff. These are established events, over ten years running, and so the process has been well-refined…you would think. But two things really stood out to me as being unfair and unnecessary:

  • Both RD’s stressed the importance of coming to early packet pick-up, which occurs on two different dates and locations for each event. While I can sympathize with their desire to get the administrative activities out of the way (I saw the poor RD at last summer’s inaugural South Padre Half Marathon sit in a nearly empty expo hall, day before the race, and then suffer through a horde of people who waited until race day to show up and get their bibs; it actually delayed the start of the race by 30 minutes, and she was a frantic mess by gun time), perhaps they should have given some thought to the logistics of this city of 5 million people we live in.
    • The 5K has their pickups on Thursday from 2-6pm, and on Friday from 2-7pm, during rush hour, in the heart of southwest Houston, one of the most famously congested traffic snarls known to man. This is made worse by ongoing utility construction along the freeway feeder road, which is the only practical way to get to the pickup locations.
    • The 10-mile race has Friday’s pickup from noon-6pm, in the Galleria – Houston’s premiere shopping district, and the bane of all commuters on a Friday afternoon. Saturday’s pickup is 2-6pm, in  Clear Lake City, a good 20 miles away from the city center.
  • While both races leave open the possibility of waiting until the morning of the event to retrieve your “goodies”, they both discourage it strongly by telling participants that they are likely to not receive a shirt if they wait, and that the races will start on time, regardless of how many people are still in line.

Now, I have been in charge of large events before (I once served as Leader of a ministry retreat weekend, held inside a maximum security prison in Texas, responsible for 60 volunteers and 42 inmates – I understand difficult logistics) and it puzzles me when obvious questions seems to have been ignored; questions like, What about all the runners who have jobs, and get off work at 5:00, or 5:30, or even 6:00? For example, I am currently working to install office furniture; today that meant riding in a big truck, going from a warehouse in North Houston, to a jobsite in LaMarque (a 40-mile drive), which we did not leave until 4 pm; then I had to drive from that warehouse to the pick-up location, 15 miles back into that ridiculous traffic. I made it, but only by bare minutes, and with the greatest of luck – I saw at least three serious accidents along the route, none of which happened to be on my side of the freeways. (This is par for the course in Houston on a weekday, by the way – sometimes the wrecks are so monumental they make the top item of the local news, and cause delays of up to two hours.)

Given that all of the above is true, I find it even more incredulous to  believe that RD’s would have the gall to “reward” those of us who register early, rather than showing up at the last minute expecting to be catered to, with the threat of giving away the shirt I paid for – you’ve had my money for days, or weeks, or months, and you can’t even make that simple guarantee? How is it the schmucks get the goodies, instead of facing the chance of going without because they waited?

This is the part that really gripes me – I have to accept some aspects of life in the big huge city, like traffic and unpredictable work schedules – but can’t the races do the same; in fact shouldn’t they? And the thing about last-minute Lucy and latecomer-Larry getting the dibs on swag – I see that everywhere: race recaps from coast to coast are filled with this silliness…and we accept it. Why? We would raise a riot if we went to a restaurant, expecting our reserved table to be ready, only to be told, “Well, this guy just walked in two minutes ago, and so we gave him your spot – you don’t mind standing next to the kitchen to eat, right?” So why is race-day any different?

Am I the only one confused by all this?

Do you have a horror story about getting “cheated” out of your stuff by unreasonable pick-up schedules, or late registration snafus?

Share in the comments, let me know I’m not crazy!!

And before I get flamed by hateful comments, let me yell at the top of my lungs how much I truly appreciate the hard work that all race directors put in (and insane frustration they put up with) to make these events possible at all – I love you dearly, and I gratefully bend my knee and doff my hat…but it’s these little things, the ones that make no sense, that discourage new people from getting into this sport; we diehard runners will put up with almost anything to go on with the show…and this may be our undoing at times.


  1. Pingback: CHM Training update: T-15 weeks – another one down, and a race recap | Striding Towards Life
  2. Jill

    I once was at a race that was delayed for 20 minutes because, as the announcer said, “…there are still a lot of people in line for the porta-potties.” I was livid.

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