Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pros and Cons of the Long Beach Marathon

I know that my last post focused mostly on my personal experience and not a lot on the race itself.  I have compiled a few of the good and not-so-good things about the Long Beach Marathon.

*Runner communication—The staff at RunRacing did a good job of keeping runners informed about everything.  By following/liking the race on Facebook and Twitter, I felt completely connected to everything going on with the race.  They really did an excellent job of getting everyone excited from posting pictures of the medal to various spots on the course.
*Pre-paid parking—Since I had VIP parking, I didn’t take advantage of this, but I think it is a brilliant idea.  It takes one less thing to stress about on race morning. 
*Expo- I discussed the expo here.
*Shirt—I like the shirt a lot. It is a more unique color (not white or navy blue) and the stripes make it very flattering.  They had women’s sizes, so the fit is better.  It is one of my favorite race shirts.
*Location-  I had never realized that Long Beach was so nice.  Before training for this race, I had a certain opinion about Long Beach.  Years ago, before moving to Southern California, a friend and I drove from San Diego to Santa Barbara along PCH.  My memory of that trip was that Long Beach was one of the least scenic parts.  I now know that the scenic parts of Long Beach are not along the Coast Highway.  The harbors and waterways in Long Beach are beautiful.  The race course really takes advantage of that.
*Post race food in a bag- This is SO convenient.  At the LA Rock ‘n Roll Half* they just had all the food set out to grab, but it was in the finishers’ area so you couldn’t go back for more.  We looked silly trying to carry water, Cytomax, banana, bagel, cereal etc. out of the finishers’ area.  At Long Beach, they handed you a bag which made it so much easier.
*Chocolate milk!  When I saw all the chocolate milk, I was so happy.  It is a great recovery drink.  Often in races there is some sort of recovery drink, but it is hit and miss.  They are usually out of the flavor I like.  You know what you are getting with chocolate milk.  No surprises there.
Great volunteers—Everyone I came in contact with was really nice.  The only issue I would have was that a few of them didn’t seem super informed.  I asked where the VIP tent was and two volunteers didn’t know (it turned out to be about fifty feet from where they were standing).
*Plenty of aid stations and medical tents—This doesn’t need much explaining.
*Plenty of porta potties along the route—I am so thankful for this.  There was a porta potty right when I needed it!

*Flat concrete path—I knew about it, but didn’t think it would be an issue at all, but the more I think about it, the more I think it may have been more difficult than I anticipated.
*Powerade—it could have been my faulty taste buds, but this stuff tasted sickly sweet.  Luckily, I had brought my own Gatorade, but late in the race I was out.  It was pretty humid, so I was trying to keep my electrolytes up.
*No race clocks at mile markers—This wasn’t a big issue for me, but I know a lot of people that like seeing where they are in the race.  With such a big race, very few people run anywhere near the gun time, so most of us have to do math to know where we are.  It is just something I am used to seeing in big races.
*The wave lineup—There was no way to get from the back of the pack to an earlier wave without pushing through masses of people.  There were no breaks in the fence (I think this is a permanent fence for the Grand Prix) so I am not sure how you could fix that.  That said, once we made it up the the front of Wave 2, the start was the perfect pace.  I didn’t have to do a lot of weaving.  I suppose the people that want to be in Waves 1 and 2 are motivated to get there while the walkers will stay at the back.
*BAG CHECK—This was, by far, the race organizer’s biggest failure.  They brought in Jet Blue to handle the bags.  It makes sense to assume that people that deal with luggage every day shouldn’t have a problem dealing with runners’ bags.  It was a complete mess.  First, there was a line to check bags in.  It wasn’t long, but in other races I have just walked up and been done.
The line after the race was unacceptable.  I hear it was longest for the half marathoners.  My friend, Stacey, ran the half in 2:14 (yeah, Stacey!!)  They waited in the line long enough to watch me cross the finish line nearly two hours later.** 

When I finished my race, all I wanted to do was get my bag with my flip flops and sweatshirt.  I waited for probably about 40 minutes or so.  When I got up to the tent a volunteer told someone ahead of me that her bib number was on the other end of the tent.  I looked at the back wall of the (very small) tent and saw bib numbers.  I went over to where I saw the 2000’s,  The line suddenly disintegrated.  Runners stormed the tent.  There were tables laying on their sides and I stood behind one.  Those of us behind the tables were holding up their bibs, hoping someone would spot their number on a bag.  Meanwhile, runners were in the tent stepping through the piles of bags.  A guy behind me was yelling at them to get the hell out of there and let the volunteers do their jobs.  The volunteers were clearly in a situation that was out of control.  One of the runners near me said, “I’m going in.”  I told him my bag was a blue “Dana Point Turkey Trot” bag, instead of the Long Beach red bag given at the expo.  Thank Goodness!!  He found my bag and gave it to me.

I understand that it is tricky to deal with thousands of bags.  I would have more patience with the situation if I hadn’t had such great experiences in the past.  Actually, they weren’t great experiences, just non-noteworthy experiences.  I have run other large races including three Rock ‘n Roll events, Surf City and the Camp Pendleton Mud Run.  In all of these races, there was no wait at all.  Rock ‘n Roll events use UPS and organize bags by runners’ last name.  You go to the truck with the first letter of your last name and they have the bags organized by bib number.  Simple. 

I didn’t really mean to go on and on about the situation.  I know that the race management staff is fully aware of that situation and will make it better next year. 

Overall, the Long Beach Marathon was a well-run event.  There were a lot of people, which always makes for issues. The race director, for the most part, had everything under control.  Despite my negative personal experience, I would definitely run this race again. 

Happy Running...

*Race report for the Inaugural Rock ‘n Roll Half is coming soon!
**You may wonder why my friend Stacey wasn’t there when I was done or why my car wasn’t there.  Our plans were for Stacey to take my car to Huntington Beach where her sister’s boat is.  Then they all (both families) came in the boat to Long Beach and picked me up at the public dock where we hung out for a while.  The only reason I had to wait for them was the line for the bags.  Otherwise, Stacey would have been in Huntington Beach long before I crossed the finish line.


Terri said...

Oh wow. Runners stormed the tent? That shows FRUSTRATION beyond belief.

I've never run a race as big as the ones you have out there, except for the Tufts 10K and that was only 7000 or so, but the bag check there was super speedy, so I can only imagine how people felt, waiting that long, just wanting to get their dry clothes on, no matter how hot out it was.

I hope you are feeling better about it now - it looks as though you are based on your *s.

Irene said...

It seems like the race reports I've read echo exactly what you've said, especially with gear check.

Take care.

Aka Alice said...


I completely missed the milk and the Power Aide...in fact, I didn't see anything but water at the stations until Mile 11.

I agree with everything you said...it was, other than the gear check, a really well run race. My only other criticism was some of the signage and directions...but I agree that Long Beach was MUCH nicer than I thought it would be.

Did you really run a 1/2 last weekend? You are a ROCK STAR!

Anonymous said...

Chocolate milk was the best! I didn't like the powerade at all :( I think races should only serve lemon-lime flavored drinks.

Glenn Jones said...

Just soyou know - Run Racing has laready signed a contract with UPS to do next year' bag drop.It's costing them $7K!!!!!

And who says that airlines don't lose bags? Maybe now we know why...

Unknown said...

Awesome!!!!me also love running especially in beach....

five fingers


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