Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why I won't be running the Wild Half again next year

When I finished the Wild Half last weekend, I was pretty surprised to see the clock on 1:33 as I crossed the finish line, seeing as I had gone into the race expecting to run about 1:45.  I hadn't worn a watch for this race, and knew I had significantly picked up the pace towards the end, so I just shrugged it off and went to look for beer.

It wasn't until I met up with friends shortly afterwards that I started to hear the course had been short.  Almost everyone I talked to told me they had the course marked at about 12.6, a full half mile short.  

Ah, so that explains it.

People were already questioning the course's length on the Wild Half Facebook page that afternoon.  Someone then posted this screenshot of a private message from the Wild Half, explaining that the course was indeed short and was due to last minute construction issues.

The next day, however, the race completely changed course and sent out an e-mail to all participants, claiming the course had been 13.1 miles all along, and made no mention of the above Facebook message.

"While this was a USATF sanctioned event, it was not a USATF certified course but our team has been actively reviewing course maps and calculations to ensure the course measured 13.1 miles... In addition, the course was also measured using an odometer with a reading of 13.18 miles."

In the comments on the Wild Half Facebook page, some compared Strava results to the posted course map in what became, in my mind, the most plausible explanation: the course had indeed been 13.1, but we had missed an approximate half mile detour off of the otherwise straight course.  Either this small detour had not been marked, or race volunteers had not directed us properly.

To the race's credit, in the original e-mail they claimed to be continuing the investigation and would follow up later in the week.  The next day, participants received a second e-mail from the race, finally acknowledging the short course and offering entry into next year's race for just $50.

But there was still no mention of the original message from the race's Facebook page.  And something about the language used in this e-mail bothered me as well.

"...there was confusion about the race turnaround point with several athletes, including our pacers, turning around at the last aid station and prior to the base of the Stone Harbor Bridge (the intended and published turnaround point)."

First, it made it sound like there was only a portion of the race field that turned around early, because we were just too dumb to follow the course properly, and the rest followed the true course. While I can't be completely sure, I'm willing to bet not a single person continued to the intended turnaround point.  This language also shifts part of the blame onto the participants, making it sound like the turnaround point had been properly marked and, again, some of us just missed it.

There is no way that section of the race could have been anything other than a turnaround point.  Plain and simple. 

Then Runner's World got ahold of the story and published an article about it.

They continue the blame shift with this line:

"Compounding the problem, an unknown number of runners mistook an aid station for the turnaround point just ahead..."

Not an unknown number.  All of them.  And we did not mistake anything.  We are not to blame in this mess.

I really did have a good time last weekend.  The course was beautiful, the participants friendly and enthusiastic, the weather perfect (minus the wind), and the post race party a lot of fun. But this is first and foremost a race, and one of the most important things in putting on a race is to get the course right.

Yes, mistakes happen, and yes, I appreciate the steep discount for next year.  But I will not be back.  As a husband and a father, my race choices these days are severely limited by lack of time and money.  I simply will not tolerate the gross ineptitude and dishonesty shown by race leadership this week, and in the future will choose to spend my money elsewhere.

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