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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Baby!

I wasn't lying - cutest newborn ever.
My baby boy arrived on Sunday, May 26 at 6:29pm. I am still debating how much about him I want to post here publicly, so I am still uncertain whether or not I will post a birth story or not. I will post a picture though... I won't lie, he is the absolute cutest thing ever and I married the best daddy in the whole world. Things are great so far. We got home yesterday afternoon and this is the first time I've really had a chance to touch my computer.

More to come on post-baby life, I'm sure.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Home Stretch

Yesterday, 38 Weeks
At this point, I'm just waiting for this baby. We are ready. I mean READY, there is nothing left to do to get ready for it. Yesterday was the wedding of one of my college roommates. Sadly, it was in Philadelphia, so at this point, I could not go. This was so sad for me and I hemmed and hawed about it from the moment that I found out that I was pregnant. In the end, last week's doctors appointment showed that things are getting started with my body, so traveling 2 1/2 hours each way in a car wasn't the best idea. I was still really sad, though.

So, that's why I have champagne in that picture. It happens to be Ariel Brut Cruvee, which is by far my favorite non-alcoholic beverage for my pregnancy!

I've started walking again, and I've been trying to get on the treadmill for 30 minutes at least every other day. This resulted in some leg pain, which has less to do with my pregnancy and more to do with the fact that I haven't had my feet in supportive shoes in months. I made it up to a whopping 1.2 miles at 2.5 miles per hour! Woo! I'm a long way from the half marathon I ran at 7 weeks, or honestly even the 5K that I ran at 16 weeks.

And so, we wait and wait and wait. That's all that's going on now... when will the baby come? Who knows! (Well, sometime before June 11).

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Grey Areas of For-Profit

Last week, I published a post about For Profit vs Non-Profit races. In it, I mentioned the Nike Women's Half Marathon, which made its debut in Washington, DC last month. Is this a for profit race or a non-profit race? It does, after all, team up with Team in Training in order to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Here's my thought on this. I would say that, yes, the Nike Women's Half is a for profit race. Nike is putting on the race to make a profit. If you look at the fine print of the website for the event, you won't find anywhere that states that race proceeds are going to any type of cause. Races are expensive, but I find it hard to believe that a race with an entry fee as competitive as the Rock & Roll USA race (meaning, it's really high) is not turning a profit. Let's look at a few races that all take place in Washington, DC with very similar courses:

  • Nike Women's Half DC: $160-185
  • Rock & Roll USA Half marathon: $85-120
  • Marine Corps Marathon: $92 (2012 price, I had trouble finding the 2013 price)
OUCH. 

The Marine Corps Marathon is not only 26.2 instead of 13.1, but it also has a goal of breaking even and does not turn a profit. I believe it also does not raise money for a specific cause, but supports TNT and other organizations to raise money just like the Nike Women's Half, except it charges half the cost and is twice the distance. You can't tell me that Nike Women's Half is not turning a profit, and a big one. And, if they are giving any of those race entry fees to charity, why doesn't it say so on their website. The 26.2 with Donna Marathon does give race proceeds to charity, and says so in big red letters on the front page of their website. 

But, none of this is a black and white issue. Take the New York City Marathon, for example. It started without a doubt being a non-profit race. New York Road Runners may even have lost money on that first NYC Marathon. Now, though, it has big corporate sponsorship and I'm pretty sure NYRR turns a profit on the race, making it seem like a profit race... But, the NYRRs are a non-profit. So, it's a non-profit race. But, the CEO of the NYRRs makes a six-figure salary. So, profit?

How about the Baltimore Marathon? It's put on by Corrigan Sports Enterprises, which also runs the Frederick Running Festival, the Baltimore 10 Miler, the Preakness 5K and a bunch of other races and events. This is not a non-profit company. So, I would say it goes into that same bucket as "for profit." Does that even matter in this case? After all, the Baltimore Marathon is such a big race and there is not NYRR equivalent in Baltimore to put on a race of that size. Without Corrigan Sports, Baltimore would not have a marathon, and no one wants that.

Here's what I think the bottom line is. If you want to race with a good conscience, then there are some questions you should ask about the race you're signing up for. It's not even a matter of whether or not the race is for profit or not, it's about what you are getting for your race entry fee and how that race organizer is handling themselves. Did the participants of the Nike Womens Half get their $185 out of the race ($14 per mile)? I don't know, I wasn't there, but that's a really expensive race.

What exactly are you getting for that race entry fee, and is it important to you? Do you need bands on the course? Do they need to be bands that are paid with your fee or are volunteer bands like high school bands ok? Are you going to be disappointed if you run past and the band is taking a break (as is what always happens to me at Rock & Roll Races)? Do you care that the race offers a giant medal or some sort of other bling? Is the bling worth the cost? How many water stops are on the course? Are they providing amenities like bag check, a big expo, etc, and do you need that? What food will be offered at the finish line? What about port-o-potties? Will any of your race entry fees be given to charity? Who is profiting off of your race entry fees?

Of course, as I write this, I remember back to the Hot Chocolate 15K, where the chocolate was worth the race entry fee, if it had been as described, but it wasn't. Or, the fact that they ran out of water and didn't have enough volunteers on the course. Or, the Rock & Roll USA Half that ran out of shirts well before the expo finished. Or, many other races that I mentioned in my last post that did not exceed expectations. So, I guess there's another question - are you ok with surrendering more than $100 to run a race when the corporation putting on the race may or may not come through with the things you want and need?

And there's my biggest question:
Is the race company actively pushing local races out of the area? 

Just more food for thought.


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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For Profit Races: Good or Bad?

The Color Run is the latest trendy for-profit race. A couple of months ago, a friend asked me (and a bunch of other people) if I wanted to run it, and of course, since I'll be almost 38 weeks pregnant on Saturday when folks are running it, it's not really in the cards for me. But, when I gave it some thought, I don't think I would run it anyway. Why? I've simply had it with for-profit races.

Everywhere you look these days, there are companies sprouting up with a new shtick to get runners to fork over cash to run in some sort of themed race. Some examples:
  • The (already mentioned) Color Run is a 5K where people throw colored powder at you during the race. You wear a white shirt and come out at the end looking all colorful. Besides the for-profit issues that I have with this one, I also wonder about breathing in that powder, and how much it stains if you don't get it all off of your skin before you get into your car. Cost: $50.
  • The Warrior Dash is an obstacle course the people run through and get all muddy and stuff. Cost: $70-90.
  • Tough Mudder is just like the Warrior Dash, only longer and more difficult. Cost: $85-180.
  • Run for your Lives is like a normal race, but you're apparently getting chased by zombies.
  • The Hot Chocolate 15K is a race where you get chocolate at the end.
And there are more and more and more and more... the Zooma races, the Rock & Roll race series, the recent Nike Women's Half Marathon... they're all for profit.

So, why have I "had it" with these races? My major concern is that they are squeezing out the other, traditional non-profit races. I know there is a little bit of an attitude of "the more races, the better!" in the world of running, but that's not really true. In order to have a race, organizers have to close the roads of a city. They have to use resources, such as EMTs and police. They have to find volunteers. And, cities are only willing to do this so many times for so many races. In the end, the profit races tend to win out over the non-profits, because the non-profits don't have the cash behind them to win their case.

It's already happening. In Raleigh, NC, the RunRaleigh Half Marathon and 5K, a non-profit race raising $30,000 for charity every year, has been bumped in order to allow Raleigh to host a Rock & Roll Half Marathon in 2014. 
Raleigh police have already had 82 applications for road races scheduled this year, nearly double the runs held a few years ago. Most race organizers want the city’s most picturesque route: generally a lap around downtown coupled with a trek out Hillsborough Street. And they want a weekend when other races aren’t competing for runners. But as the number of races grows, neighbors along the most popular routes are getting fed up with roadblocks that can last all morning.
EXACTLY. So, 2013 was likely the last year for the RunRaleigh Half Marathon. Those $30,000 in charity dollars? Gone. Rock & Roll runs for profit - you're paying that hefty registration fee to line someone's pocket.

Last year, one of my favorite races, The Annapolis Ten Mile Run, was forced to change its course due to too many for profit races coming into town and applying to run similar courses. The Annapolis Striders, who organize the race, wrote:
As noted, we are no longer "the only race in town." It is unfortunate that a number of for-profit events have caused this situation. The Striders, in sharp contrast, are an all volunteer, non-profit which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities over the years.
The thing is, for profit races aren't that great. I've already expressed my frustration with Rock and Roll races,  and I mentioned how disappointed I was with the Hot Chocolate 15K. Others have had similar issues - in 2011, the Rock & Roll Las Vegas Marathon had huge problems with lack of water and illness. In 2012, the Maryland Tough Mudder was forced to cancel their second day due to the fact that poor planning made it impossible for people to park or even get to the race. The most shocking? This year's Tough Mudder resulted in a death where EMTs did not react very fast to the fact that someone had slipped below the water and did not come back up.

My experience with for-profit races is that they come into town, totally unfamiliar with the area, and set up a race with 10 to 20 thousand participants in the first year. They do everything to maximize profit, which leads to crowded courses, lack of water stops, difficulty with traffic and parking, and frankly dangerous situations for runners. Do you really trust these companies to put on a quality event and keep you safe? I no longer do - and even if I did, it is coming at the detriment to good old fashioned non-profit races. You know, the races we've all come to love.

Is this really how we want racing to go?

What about Disney, though? I have to address this because I'm a fan of Disney races, as many know. Yes, Disney races are generally for-profit. They do not, however, have the same issues as other for profit races in that they are mostly (yes, I know that they have problems too) well run, they happen in an area where race organizers are familiar, and they do not compete with non-profit races for resources or street closures. If Competitor wants to buy a 44-square mile private area to host Rock & Roll races, I think that's a great solution!

I would LOVE to hear more examples of for-profit races having issues because they have either not prepared properly, or because they tried to include far too many participants. If you've run one of these, please let me know in the comments!

Update: Jen commented on Facebook two things: 1) Pittsburgh booted Competitor out of their Rock & Roll event planned for August, due to possibility of heat (and of course Competitor had already taken a bunch of registration fees even before the permits were finalized!). And 2) There's a new shtick in town - Running with the Bulls. Seriously? That's not an Onion article?

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boston...

I have been back and forth about posting about Boston. In the end, I felt like I couldn't continue to ignore it on my blog. Now, it's been 3 weeks and anything that could have been said has been said, and by people who are better at saying it than I am. It's hard to write about it and NOT try to connect it back to myself, which is wrong because it's not about me at all. I could say "I could have been there" or "that could have been my family" or "my friends" or whatever, but honestly, if we're talking specifically Boston, I doubt I'll ever go there for the marathon unless by some miracle I qualify for it, which I won't. So, it really couldn't have been me or my family. At another race? At Marine Corps, or New York, or any of the other high profile races I've run? Yeah, then it could have been me, I guess.

I had even been ignoring Boston this year, just like I'm ignoring most spring races because I can't run them and it makes me feel sorry for myself. I've even hidden people from my Facebook newsfeed who post too many running things for me to handle right now. So, I wasn't really in the Boston mindset.

I don't know, I guess I just feel sad and numb about the whole thing, especially because in the end it wasn't even about running. So pointless, so senseless. A terrible thing to have tarnished our sport.

Run on, Boston runners. I doubt I'll ever be there with you, but I stand with you to keep running once I can, and to not let this tragedy spoil the races that I love.

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