Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nike+ Human Race - Chicago

When I went to pick up my packet for the Chicago Distance Classic there was a booth for the Nike+ 10k Human Race. For $35 I got a tee and got to choose a charity to donate my fee to, and I would be signed up for this amazing race.


Sunday was the big event. The start line was outside of Soldier Field and the race was scheduled to begin at 6:30pm. At 6:20pm I headed to my pace group area. At 6:30pm... no starting gun. At 6:40pm someone sang the national anthem and right after the race began.

Let me describe this to you... The start area was on a street that was two cars wide. The actual starting line that you had to cross in order for your chip to start the timing was 3-4 people across. They funneled 14,000 runners through this tiny start area. I did not actually cross the start line until a few minutes after 7pm. While I was in the back of the pack, there were plenty of people behind me. Loads! But anyway, after the runners crossed that narrow start line the path widened back to an area 2 cars wide.

The course headed south on a side street parallel with Lake Shore Drive for 3 miles and then swung over to land us on the bike path heading north for the last half of the race. I hit the first mile marker at 36 minutes from the time the first runner crossed the start. So that gave me about a 15'ish minute pace.

The next marker I saw was for the 2.5k point. I have no idea why the markers went from miles to kilometers and this was pretty annoying. Somewhere between the 1 mile marker and the 2.5k marker there was a water station and a live band. I have no idea who the band was because there was no sign but they sounded pretty decent. I wish I knew!

A bit past the band the course swung east towards the lake. I knew I couldn't have hit mile 3 already, it seemed to soon even though I thought I was making good time. I'd been passing a number of runners and the cop cars at the back were far back (I'd passed them near the start of the race). I followed the course people at the first turn but when I got to the other side of the cross street there were only police directing traffic. There were orange cones leading the way so the bunch I was with followed the cones which led us right into the northbound path of the race runners. This was not a good sign as where we had a "merge" area, there were MANY runners south of us.

Somehow we were detoured 2.5 miles to a shorter course.

There were NO signs or course people directing us. The group of runners I was with all looked at each other and kept asking "are we supposed to just merge?" It couldn't be right but there was so course area blocked off for us to run south. In fact the whole bike/running path was filled with runners running north. There was no way we could head south to get our miles. So we merged.

There are no words for how I felt. I was using this race to determine my pace after training setbacks. I was finally able to add more running to my training and suddenly my 10k turned into a 5k. There was no course officials around to tell me what the hell was up. And as a slow runner I stick to the right side of paths to keep out of the way of those serious runners who manage a -9 minute pace. It took almost a mile for me to get to the right side of the path and out of the way of those faster than myself.

I ran back the rest of the race being furious. I got to the finish line in about an hour from when I started and there in front of me was another poor planning decision.

After we crossed the finish line we were stuck in this mass of runners. To the far right there were volunteers handing out the awards. The finish area was corralled in so thousands of runners were fenced in and funneled through another 2-3 person-wide exit area. We were told to remove our chip timers but they had been attached to our shoes with plastic dealies which really needed to be cut off. And at most races there are people right at the finish helping cut those timers off. Not so at this race. We didn't see those people until AFTER were managed to squeak through that tiny exit in the fencing. And it should be pointed out that at this time it was dark and these chip collectors were working in the dark. And I believe they were only on one side of that exit area. I saw about 4 people working as collectors for the 14,000 runners.

As for water which is usually RIGHT at the finish line, we had to be able to make it through that tiny exit area, squeeze past the runners getting their chips removed and walk a bit of a ways just for a bottle of water. No gatoraid, just water. And Powerbar smoothie bars. There were little cups of yogurt and Bare Naked granola across from the water area but I don't believe I saw bananas or anything salty like I've seen at other races.

The whole race seemed horribly planned, as though Nike did no research on how to run a race. My race was cut short by 2'ish miles and the only reason I can come up with is that Fall Out Boy was supposed to start at a certain time so they wanted all runners to be finished on time even though the race started late. I didn't stay for the concert and was I was leaving I saw many other red-shirted runners leaving also.

The race was a great idea and the award bracelets finishers received were cool but the race itself was so poorly organized. I cannot find ANYTHING online to tell me why I was detoured from 2+ miles. I was not even close to being in the very back of the pack this time and my crossing the finish line was not acceptable to me. It wasn't a real finish and I have no information as to why things were handled the way they were.

Would I run this again if Nike organized another Human Race? I don't know for certain. The idea is exciting but after Sunday's experience, I am not pleased. I paid for a race and didn't get what I paid for. Just because Nike donated my fee makes little difference as far as my expectations are concerned. Badly done, Nike.

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