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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Constructive Criticism About the Baltimore Marathon

First off, this isn't a rant. I understand how hard it is to run a race like this (or, really, multiple races). I have a ton of respect for Corrigan Sports, so please understand that these criticisms are meant to be constructive. That being said, there were a number of things I didn't like about yesterdays race.

The Half Marathon: Starting Time
I HATED the fact that the half marathon started at 9:45. This is almost 5 hours later than my usual long run training sessions started. Due to parking, it made sense to arrive well before 8 am to see the full marathoners start, and once that happened, there was no where to sit or relax until the half marathon began. I much prefer to start with the full marathoners and finish before them, just like in Frederick. Then, the race would have been cooler, I would have been running with full marathoners who also run my pace (rather than 4:00-4:45 marathoners), and I could have done my standing around after the half rather than before. For this reason and this reason alone, I don't see myself doing the Baltimore Half Marathon again. I would much rather be a spectator.

Medals
Ok, for those of you who have never run a race like this, this may seem like a minor complaint. However, I know that I'm not the only one that feels this way. When we got our medals at the end, whether it was a half marathon or a full marathon, the volunteers were standing there with boxes of medals and they simply said, "here's your medal," and handed us one in a plastic baggy. All of that pain and torture, and my medal was handed to me in a plastic baggy. Most races with medals have them hanging on racks, and they place the medals around your neck. It's a minor thing to do so and makes a huge difference to how you feel at the end of the race. So, Baltimore Marathon, please start doing that. Start placing medals around necks. It's really not that difficult, costs nothing, and makes a big difference.

Photos
Most races also have a place right after the medals where you can get your photo taken by marathonfoto or whoever is taking the official race photos. I couldn't find this place, if it existed.

Maryland Double Line
They're going to get a lot of complaints about this. We all had just run 13.1 or 26.2 miles, and then to get our Maryland Double medals, we had to stand in line in the hot afternoon sun for over 45 minutes to get our Maryland Double Medals. Once again, they were handed to us in a plastic baggy.

The Goofy Challenge is nothing like this, so, Maryland Double folks, take a page out of the book of Disney. At Disney, you run the half marathon on Saturday and afterwards, the Goofy folks are given a wrist band to wear. They must keep it on, and then at the finish line of the Marathon on Sunday, they present it and are given their Goofy Challenge medal. No looking up times is necessary. It seems to me that the Maryland Double could do the same thing. Look up the Frederick times at the Expo, and put a wrist band on the Maryland Double people, which must remain on until they cross the finish line. Then, just give them their medal. Easy. This writstband could even be given out in the morning before the start of the races.

At a minimum, the Maryland Double table should be staffed the same as race packet handouts, which had a much shorter line. One person is not enough to be giving out those medals. But, I think you know that and you're going to be hearing from plenty of people who were nearly passing out in that line (I was actually nauseous and nearly ready to throw up from the smell of the Qdoba tent).

Runner Cage
I understand why you have the "cage" around the runner area. Stupid spectators hang out and steal all of the food, so you block them out with barricades that prevent anyone from runners getting into the finish area. However, this cage is around the entire celebration village, too, and I find that unnecessary. I had a difficult time getting back to the finish line to see Todd cross the finish, and I had an even more difficult time trying to get to the car. I felt locked into a cage and for the life of me I couldn't find my way out. When I finally did, I had to walk all the way around to get to Parking Lot A. Seems like overkill.

At a minimum, it would be really helpful to have some signs directing how to get out of the runners area and back to the various stadium lots. Just a sign with "Parking Lot D" and an arrow would be really nice. Things look different later in the day, different things were blocked off that were not blocked off when we arrived, and we were hot and exhausted.

What was good?
Not to be all negative, there were good things. The water stops were plentiful, and well-staffed. For once, I was experiencing middle of the pack rather than back of the pack because I was with full marathoners who were faster than me. The merge between the half and the full went very well, and there were lots of things to eat at the finish line. The expo was very nice. This was not a bad race, there were just a few minor things that needed to be tweaked.

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