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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rock & Roll Races

The same weekend that many of us in the DC area were dealing with the fiasco known as the Hot Chocolate 15K, in Las Vegas, there was another race fiasco at the Rock & Roll Las Vegas Marathon. See some accounts of it at Runner's World, Yelp, KTNV and Facebook. Runners complained that there was a ton of illness, not enough potties, and a crowded, chaotic and dangerous course and finish area. Many people who ran that race are now calling for a boycott of Competitor and RnR Races.

In the meantime, I've signed up for the Rock & Roll USA Half Marathon.  Can I just tell you that I have some serious reservations about this race? I initially mentioned it in November, stating that I wasn't sure about running it. I ended up signing up for it because I really want to run this race with my high school friends. However, I've got my doubts. I don't have a lot of faith on Competitor races, or in the Rock & Rolls. I'm not impressed with them at all.

Granted, the only Rock & Roll I've ever done is the Philadelphia half, which I didn't think was better as a rock & roll (I'd done it the year before when it was still the Philadelphia Distance Run). From what I can tell from Philly, Competitor races are too big for their britches, and they coast along on "cool medals" and other gimmicks without really providing the service that I'd expect for the price of one of their races. I could be wrong, but that was my initial impression. Get the runners in, through the course and out, so that you can collect the dollars.

But, I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for this race that my friends had chosen. So, what is worrying me?

A couple of weeks ago, they announced that the marathon time limit would be 5:30. This is after many, many people had signed up. While this is reasonable for most runners, I'm sure, if I had signed up for the full marathon, I'd be screwed. And are they offering a refund? Of course not! In my opinion, 5:30 is a pretty tight time limit. Of course, Competitor likes to offer coupons and incentives to sign up early, but then won't offer a refund when the rules are added or changed that make completing the race an impossibility for some.

At this point, the race is "Approaching sell out" according to their website, but a course map and elevation chart have yet to be published. Since this race was previously the National Marathon, many are thinking that it will follow the same or similar course. But - why haven't they released it yet then? It bothered me to sign up for a race with no course information, but I did it anyway because race entry fees went up after 12/31.

Overall, the information about this race has been sparse. For a while, I thought I'd do the relay with a friend, but they haven't even published how the relay would be split. Evenly? 8miles / 5 miles?

I already see that they've updated the expo information, which wasn't updated before I signed up. The expo ends at 7pm on a Friday, so I have to get from my house to DC by 7pm on a Friday after work. Great.

Competitor, I'm still waiting for you to impress me.
Do you love Rock & Roll races or are you as unimpressed as I am?

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Kathryn said...

I did RnR Chicago last year (Aug 2010) and was actually pretty impressed with it. Even with 25K people, they managed the crowds well, had plenty of water on the course, and it never felt crowded even with narrowing down to the path on Lake Shore Dr. FWIW, I am generally not very fast, and finished that race at 2:49 (pretty close to my current PR).

It was *hot* but they were giving out sponges soaked in ice water during the later miles, and I saw prompt medical care where needed (even again, along the path).

Granted, Chicago may have just had better race organizers.

The Vegas one seems like a *serious* cluster.

Jen said...

I did 2 RnR events in 2011 - Country Music and Providence. I didn't do them because they were RnR events, but rather because of the dates and locations. I did Philly in 2010, and agree, it was better in 2009 when it was still the PDR. It's scary and sad how many events they are taking over. Although I think the success of each depends on the quality of local organizers they use, not necessarily the parent organization. That said though, I was appalled at the exec's reactions and comments about the problems (he thought there were none) when interviewed on The Marathon Show days later.

I have no plans to do another RnR event this year, or really for the foreseeable future. Instead of doing the local USA race in March, I'll actually be traveling to Virginia Beach for the well established Shamrock, as that has been on "my list" for some time.

A friend of mine really wants to do the Vegas half this year as his first (and maybe only) half. He's got a bit of a "go big or go home" attitude about his race choice. I hate discouraging him, but given what I've read about the 2011 race, and the fact that they want to INCREASE the field even more in 2012, I'm trying my best to sway him away and find something better.

James said...

I've never done a RnR race, and probably never will. I've heard too many bad things about them to have an interest. When I look for a big race, I'm looking for something unique about it, something that just speaks to me. RnR races are the opposite of what I look for. Cookie-cutter impersonal cash cows.

Kandi said...

I've never done an RnR race but I considered doing the USA Half this year. I knew a lot of people who ran it last year and a few who are signed up this year. I wasn't too excited about it being an RnR event this year because I've heard such negative things about them. On the other hand, I've heard of people that run their races almost exclusively and seem to love them... but they are few and far between.
I ended up not being able to do the USA half though because I'll still be on my honeymoon, but I look forward to hearing about how it all went down once I'm back!

Carly D. @ CarlyBananas said...

I've only done one RnR race (VA Beach) and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the organizers. There was abundant water and Cytomax, there was Gu, there was a ton of medical tents, the start was the most organized start I've ever been a part of. And I'm a slow runner (and was even slower at this race due to the crazy heat) so all of this was available for the 2 hours and 47 minutes it took me to make it through. I'm not saying this all to say that RnR races are the best, or that even my experience was typical. But I am saying that RnR has done a ton of races, and while Vegas seemed to be awful, most seem to be fine with some minor annoyances.
As far as the time limits go, I was really surprised they weren't announced earlier. The National Half had a similar limit last year but they also required qualifying times to make sure everyone would finish in time. I think they are offering refunds though. At least the email I got from them said you could drop down to half for a refund or withdraw from the race for a refund (or train for a 5:30 time, which was a bit rude).
Anyway, I hope you have a good race :) I'll be there running the half and I think it will go fine.

Righteous Runner said...

Hi! I'm a first-time reader and long(ish) time runner. From reading RnR recaps from runners all over the county and having participated in the PDR and the 'revised' Philadelphia RnR, I think RnR and Competitor do well in cities with prearranged services and where all they have do is rebrand and resell things. The Philly RnR followed almost the same route as the PDR which is also the second half of the Philadelphia Marathon. It seems as though their disasters come from inaugral races in medium sized areas. NY, Chicago, Philly, La, all seem to have the structures in place for a big race and the community to support it.

I've had my fill of HUGE RnR races and am sticking to the well-established independent races or those involved with a specific charity.

Black Knight said...

Interesting post. The organizers cannot change the rules after we have payed the fee: some years ago I finished 3rd in my age group but I didn't get the prize because they said we were few runners!
I have a personal black list and I don't enter anymore bad-organized races. Not only, with other friends, we send our complaints to newspapers, magazines and running web-sites: they must respect us. We train, we travel to reach the start, we pay .... and we want to run without any problem.

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