Alexandria Half-Marathon Race Review

31 May

WARNING: I have very little to say about this race that is positive. It was a good race for me personally, but everything from the organization, to the course, etc was horrendous. I watched a number of race participants blatantly cheat or ignore standard running etiquette. I will not be running this race again next year, unless the organizer’s pay me to do so. And even then the fee would be pretty steep.

So, let’s take a look at the Alexandria Half-Marathon

Logistical Overview

As far as I am aware, this was the inaugural year of the Alexandria Running Festival. It consisted of a 5K and a half-marathon. There were a few pre-race events on Friday and Saturday but I wasn’t able to attend them. Registration was straight-forward and I had no issues. However, I did met a woman at the race today who had registered, had the registration not show up and then called to try to resolve the problem and faced substantial obstacles. Eventually, she re-registered (including paying the race fee, again), and it went through the second time. But apparently, the race organizers were not particularly helpful when she contacted them.

Packet Pick-Up

I picked up my bib number on Sunday right before the start, so I have no idea what packet pick-up was like on Saturday. I will say that I received about 5 e-mails this week from the race organizers asking for assistance in preparing bibs and swag bags. Probably not a good sign. I got my bib number then went to a separate table to pick up my shirt and finally a third table to pick up my IPICO chip, which we had to return post-race or pay a fee. I arrived early enough to snag a shirt, but apparently the ran out of shirts not long after that.

Expo (On Race Day)

Very small. Possibly smaller than last weekend’s 8k “expo” (and that was a tiny expo and tiny race). I scored a few free samples- Hammer Gels, PowerBars, Aquaphor, but nothing exciting, and no coupons! I love getting coupons in my swag bag. Please tell me I am not the only one who uses those coupons?

Teeny Expo

To be fair, I expected the expo to be small as this was more of a “local” race and the first year for the race. This race had some 1500 participants as opposed to the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon which had some 8,000+ participants.

Start

The start was a mess. They had about 10 porta-potties for some 1500 participants, so the lines were ridiculous. I walked across the way to Starbucks where the line was much shorter (and the bathrooms cleaner). The race was scheduled to start at 7:15 but because the lines for the porta-potties were so long they pushed it back to 7:30. The start was small, with little fanfare: some music, a few cheers for the racers and then someone yelled go. That was it.

Looking a wee bit tired

The Course

The course started out great. Nice and flat and fairly scenic. We ran down Eisenhower Ave (I think, must double-check!) and after 2 miles or so turned into a park. At first it seemed wonderful. The weather was nice, the field was starting to spread out, so it was less crowded, we were running by a big creek and it was nice and scenic. A few small inclines but nothing crazy. The first loop through the park was awesome. The second loop through the same park was fine, but a little boring. The third loop through the same park was annoying and frustrating. I was bored and felt like I was running on a giant track, round and round and round. See you ran a little more than two miles through the park then crossed a bridge where a race volunteer pointed you to the left if you still had loops to run and to the right if you had finished the loops (once you hit mile 10). The whole thing was based on the honor system and I watched several runners blatantly cheat. I found that unbelievable. You train, you pay the race fee, you invest all this time and effort to run 13.1 miles and then you pull a stunt like that?

These people weren’t elite runners and stood no chance of winning anything, so the only person they were doing a disservice to was themselves. It just made me sad to see that kind of behavior.

Spectator Support

There were a smattering of fans here and there, and because of the three loop system you passed them several times, but nothing could compare to the support along the Marine Corps route.

The Finish

I crossed the finish line and the announcer made some standard comment, the photographer snapped a photo, and then I went to get my medal. Turns out the had run out of medals quite some time ago. A race volunteer informed me that they would be sending out an email with instructions to receive a medal in the mail, but we shall see what happens.

I will not throw up, I will not throw up...

There was a fairly decent spread, bananas, bagels, pretzels, chips, gatorade, etc. but they seemed to be running very low on water which is kind of a necessity.

Dumping water on yourself- the only way to handle a hot day

Odds and Ends

I haven’t seen the official photos yet, supposedly they will be posted on Wednesday. I was hoping this would be a fun race to run as it was smaller and local. Maybe my expectations were set too high after Marine Corps, but this was a disaster of race. I sincerely hope it wasn’t anyone’s first half-marathon as it may turn people off them forever. Fortunately, I had a great first half-marathon and will continue to run them, just not this one ever again.

I didn’t run with my camera this time around, mostly because I wasn’t sure how ugly this race was going to be with my knee and I didn’t want the hassle of carrying my camera. It turned out there wasn’t nearly as much to photograph as their was at Marine Corps, so I wasn’t too disappointed about not carrying my camera.

Apologies for being so quiet this weekend, I had a ton of stuff to catch-up on, but I should be back to a normal posting schedule this week!

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