I wanted to give this race a bit of time to settle in before attacking it. It was not a pleasant experience. The more I think about it, the more I think it was on the negative side of mediocre and, at a registration fee of $45, that is not good.
I signed up for this back in August. There was a promise of a nice race, chocolate and a sweet jacket. The only thing it delivered as promised was the chocolate. Lame.
The first problem that my fellow runners and I ran into was that there was no packet pick-up on race day (and looking back it is really good they did not try and do that). This isn’t such a problem except that the pickup was in the National Harbor on Wed-Fri before the race. There were no weekend pickups the previous weekend. That meant trying to get to the National Harbor during the week. DC traffic is horrible and not that many people live all that close to the harbor, which has no metro access. Maybe by bus, but no metro stop. This was a bit of a pain, but I ended up meeting Kerry and we got our packets. The expo was kinda small, but whatever. The problem was that the jackets were not that great. They were thin and ran about a size and a half too small. Afterward, we ate dinner at Ketchup and wandered the area looking at Christmas decor to kill time and let traffic die down. While this was crappy planning on Ram Racing’s part, it ended up being a nice outing.
Then came race day. Before the race, you had the option of three parking options: $10 at National Harbor (at least two runners per car), free at Rosecroft Raceway (about a 10 minute shuttle away, free and at least two runners per car) and Crystal City (free parking, 15 minute shuttle and I can’t remember about carpooling). None of these are ideal, but they are all doable. Kerry and I parked at Rosecroft at just before 0600 since the email warned that if you were not on a shuttle by 0615, you may miss the start of the 5k. No one checked to make sure that there were two runners, but it went smoothly when we were there. We loaded into a school bus and were transported over. As we were riding over, the traffic into the parking area had gotten really bad. Cops were directing it, but it was super backed up. We had gotten there just in time.
The bus dropped us off just in front of the festivity area. We hit one of the many porta-johns while they were still clean, got our stuff together and checked our bags. All of that went smoothly. Not sure how it went later, but it was still fairly early. It was right about then that Kerry told me her goal was to be in as many pictures as she could. She ended up scoring 22 pictures. I think she wins.
Kerry and I found the start and gathered with the masses. This was where it all went downhill. It was cold and dark. It was about 0700 and we were lining up for our 0730 start. We saw LeeAnn, her boss and Vicky come in, chatted a moment then let them go check in. Then we waited.
The announcer blasted that there would be a 10-15 minute delay because of traffic.
then another 10
People started chanting “START THE RACE! START THE RACE!”
and another 10 minutes
People began hiking to the top of a nearby hill to go to the bathroom.
And we waited.
The race started about 50 minutes late. That is a long time to stand in the cold. Most people should have been completing the race. We were also holding up the 15K since they started where we did, just in the opposite direction.
When we finally started, we were so compacted that running was a no go. It was like that for almost the first mile. We were also routed the wrong way for whatever reason. Ram Racing said it was the cops that did it, but I think more likely LeeAnn was right when she suggested that they did that because people were still arriving. As we were racing (walking) past the parking area, people were still heading up to the start. Sad. The problem with the re-route was that at the beginning of most big races, the heard starts all together and thins as the faster people take off and the slower people start to lag. The original route was a street whereas now we were all crowding on a bike path along the water. I saw one girl trip and almost topple into the water, rolling to a stop on the large white boulders that edge the water.
I will say that most people were well behaved. There was not a lot of pushing and shoving near me and all of the children I saw on the race were being kept under control by parents and keeping to the right. I know other people had problems with small children darting around, but I lucked out. The end hill was pretty amazing in its painful steepness, but it made the end that much sweeter.
The 5k race course was also very pretty. It went through the National Harbor, which is still new and nice and is also decked for the holidays. It also had a nice view of the Potomac and the Woodrow Wilson bridge. Apparently, the 15k people didn’t have it so good. They ended with our 5k route, but the majority of their time was spent running on 201/Indian Head Hwy, which had been mostly closed, but has no scenery and smelled of diesel, per those runners.
I did think that the end was nicely done. I got a bottle of water, found Kerry and LeeAnn and headed up for our gear and chocolate. The chocolate was fantastic. Some people griped about it not being enough, but I thought it was fine. It was probably about a half a cup of chocolate fondue to go with half a banana, some slices of apple, a pretzel rod, a marshmallow, and a small rice crispy treat. There was also cocoa which was really good and loaded with marshmallows. It also was also easy to find a shuttle and get to our car.
Kerry and I ended up driving into the National Harbor around noon to get lunch. Luckily, the traffic was mostly headed in the opposite direction.
Overall, I would not run this race again if it was in the national harbor and would possibly not do it if it was actually in DC. It seems like the planners just didn’t consider any of the logistics of getting that many people into an area that has one main egress route and one minor one. Lots of runners did not get to the race before it started, some in their own cars and some on the shuttles. Kerry and I lucked out on that part.