Sunday, October 9, 2011

My First and LAST Army Ten Miler

The Army Ten Miler was my third long-distance event in the last three weeks: my seven in the last year.  And this event has the distinction of being far and away the worst run.

Let me begin with the schedule.  Race number pick up was at the DC Armory near the capital--nowhere near the event itself.  But it did allow the organizers to fill the armory with more than 100 vendors selling shoes, shorts, shorts and other shit.  I drove to number pick up with my sons.  There was a line out the door because having the number pick up in a government building meant metal detectors.  We got to go in a different entrance with my military ID.  But there were only two lines for those who were not military.

This bottleneck told me what the whole event would be like.

Inside, I got my number and went to another table for the t-shirt.  I paid $10 extra for a long-sleeve t-shirt.  But when I got to the table, with two hours left in registration--no more long sleeve t-shirts.  They had a woman's small which fit Nigel, so he got the race shirt.  I got my other a son an under armour Army shirt in the Expo.

We got up at 0540 in Silver Spring MD at Grandpa's house (he cooked spaghetti for us the night before) and were on the way to the Pentagon by 0600.  The race program said to take the Metro so we parked in Arlington and took the Metro two stops to the Pentagon.  So did thousands of others.  It took 11 minutes to get from the tracks to the exit.  We were against a wall.  Most of the riders did know the Metro and that there were other stairs.  So we all funneled up one inoperative escalator.

No one from the event was at the Pentagon Metro station helping with traffic.  There were HUNDREDS of volunteers along the route with nothing to do.  They would have been helpful in the Metro tunnel.

Or moving people from the Metro stop to the start line.  Everyone who drove or took the Metro had to move through one unmarked gate to get to the start.  No volunteers there either.  No announcers.  But along the route there were official volunteers with very good bull horns encouraging us.  These same bull horns would have been great getting people through the funnel.

In the half dozen other half marathons I have run, by mile five I would be in a group of people running about my speed.  In this event I ran a very steady 10 minute pace for the first five miles then ran about 9:20 pace for the second half.  But for the entire event the crowd around me was changing.  I was passing and being passed by others all the way from start to finish.   And in the last half mile I got passed by young guys who were sprinting for 11,000th place.

They shouldn't have bothered.  From a half-mile to the the finish until the boys and I got in the Metro station, we could hear the finish announcer saying, "Don't walk, keep running after the finish.  Keep moving."  The boys could mimic his pleading/commanding tone very well.  When I got the finish line I couldn't cross the timing line because runners jammed up and stopped.  It was about 20 seconds from the time I was in the crowd till I actually crossed the line.

The finishing chute was no wider than the one at the Hamptons Half Marathon which had about a tenth of the runners.   Fifty feet passe the finish I climbed over the spectator fence and went to Nigel and Jacari.  We first tried to walk back to the finish but the mess was getting worse, so we left.

Again, this event is 25 years old.  They knew the number of runners.  Why all these bottlenecks?

The entry fees totaled about $150,000.  The organizers should take some of that money and make a road trip to Philadelphia to see how they can run these events with either side of 20,000 runners and no bottlenecks at all.

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