December 14, 2013
I was still bummed about the cancellation of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, but I was looking forward to running my first half at Rock n' Roll New Orleans in February. I went back in my training plan and this weekend was supposed to be a seven mile run. I thought this would the perfect opportunity for me to run my first 12K at the Christmas on the Coosa's 12K's of Christmas. The city of Wetumpka hosts the 12K's of Christmas as part of their Christmas on the Coosa festivities. They also offer a 5K distance.
When I woke up on race morning, it was pouring down rain. I debated whether I should even go to the race. I needed to run seven miles to stay on track with my training plan and it's always better with company, so I got dressed and headed downtown. There were not many people in the parking lot when I arrived, and I wondered if it was cancelled. I picked up my packet from the race director, and he assured me that the race was still on so long as there was no thunder or lightning. There were only about 30 runners who showed up for this event. I don't know if more registered and decided not to come due to the crappy weather.
Before the start of the race, the director apologized for the weather and announced that if you decided not to go the whole 12K distance to turn off with the 5K runners and notify him of the change at the finish. I was going to go the 12K distance as planned.
When I arrived at the point where the 12K and 5K runners split, I noticed some confusion among the lead runners. "I turned off, but it just circled me back to this point." "I don't know which way to go." "Should we just go back through this turn?" "Maybe we missed a sign somewhere." They threw their arms in the air, frustrated that they didn't know which way to go. There were no volunteers on the course guiding people. With such a small group of runners, I didn't want to get turned around on a course that was not clearly marked. I took the 5K route.
At the halfway point there was a table with an igloo sitting on it, no cups, no volunteers. I was so glad at this point that I decided not to attempt the 12K with no support on course. At the last mile, I ran alongside a man that I recognized from River Region Runners. He expressed how disappointed he was with the lack of support and poor marking of the course. We got turned around near the finish, and we ran at least half a mile out of our way.
After the race, all the runners were complaining. 5K runners ran as much as 4 miles and 12K runners as much as 8.5-9 miles because they got lost. On a positive note, almost everyone got an award because of the small turnout. The trophy was really cute with Santa on it.
I've talked to other people who have done this race in year's past and loved it. However, I probably won't be participating in the future due to this poor experience. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to organize a race, and the volunteers contribute greatly to its success. I assume that many of the volunteers stayed at home due to the weather. Always be sure to acknowledge and thank the volunteers at races. This was an example of what a race is like without them.
Have you ever got turned around during a race? Was the course poorly marked? Was there a lack of volunteers?