Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Classic 5K Race Report - My first DNF

Back in September I registered for the Winter Classic 5K road race in Cambridge, MA. I was really excited about it because not only did they boast a long sleeve t-shirt, they were also giving away a fleece hat for runners that signed up for the race before a certain deadline. You know me and fun gimmicks like that! Sign me up!

Two previous races in the past 2 months, I had gotten lost on the course due to poor organization on the race’s behalf. There was no support out on the course for runners towards the back of the pack. I asked a few volunteers if they had a race course map. They didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked them if the race director was around so I could ask him what his plans were for support out on the course. They said he was busy somewhere but they didn’t know where he was. I understand that. When I volunteered at the Oktoberfest Cambridge 5K, the race director was being pulled in 10 different directions. He was busy. So I went out there and hoped for the best. I hoped I didn’t get lost.

 The MC announced the start of the race and stated, "All runners and walkers please make your way to the start line". I also heard a few people talking about being walkers. I figured everything would work out.

All smiles before the race!
Gathering at the start
I started out and, although I was running, I was slower than most people. I always have been. But I'm a runner nonetheless. As we turned the corner onto Albany Street, the cop car following the race almost hit me as it passed by me to keep up with the other runners. By the time I turned onto Mass Ave, I was alone and there was no more traffic control. I saw one of the cops who was directing traffic get back into his car and drive away. I was still behind him. The course looped around passed the finish area within the first mile. As I got to that area, there were about 5 police officers waiting for the racers to come back into the finish area. As I got to them, I said, "Where did every one go?" He laughed at me. I said "No, really. I'm in the race, which way did they go?" He laughed again and pointed towards the finish and said, "The finish is over there". I said, "I can see that, but which way did the racers GO? What direction?" He pointed over his shoulder and said "Up that way". I asked if he knew which streets or had an idea of the course directions. He was useless.

Since this was the 3rd race in a row where the race didn't leave volunteers or directions out on the course to let runners know where to go I was annoyed at the lack of respect I was getting from this race as well as the others. I paid my money to participate in this race. There was nothing on the website stating that this was for runners only and only runners who can finish faster than the cop car behind them can drive. And I certainly didn't pay money to be laughed at.

I went back to the start and asked for the race director. A volunteer said that she didn't know where he was and asked if I really needed to talk to him. I said yes and she immediately turned to her left and said to the man standing about 10 feet away from her, "She needs to talk to you". Amazing. I told him what had happened and he argued with me saying that the event was only for runners because they had a time constraint. I asked why it wasn't specified on the website and why the MC had welcomed "runners and walkers" to the start not even 15 minutes earlier. He said that they were only allowed 45 minutes for the race. That doesn't explain why a cop car passed me within the first 6 minutes of the race when we had just passed the half-mile mark. I asked about course directions and letting people know where to go for the route. The race director said it was clearly marked. I informed him that it wasn't. He said that he went out that morning and did it. I asked him where or if the volunteers had maybe brought the directions with them as they finished. He told me that it was spray painted on the street. It was nowhere on the street that I saw. He said that I should have been able to just follow the pack of runners for my directions. I tried. I really tried. But I'm not as fast as "the pack".

As a paying participant, I should have been given the same opportunity to finish the race as everyone else. I may not have been the winner of the race, and I probably never will be, but I paid my $28 just like everyone else. They still got my money and I didn't get to race because there was no support for me and no one directing me where to go like there was for the lead runner or anyone else running. That's not fair to me or anyone else who gets left behind in races.

I sent an email to the e-mail address listed on their registration website explain what happened at the race and I asked for a full refund since I was unable to complete the race. In the e-mail I informed them that I spoke with the race director, and although he avoided answering my request for a refund 3 times, he finally said that if I emailed, they'd give me a refund. I told him I appreciated it and said thank you several times and he said "Yeah, ok" and went back to getting ready for the lead runner to arrive at the finish. Did I feel like he was brushing me off? Yes. Do I think he told me I'd get a refund just to get me away from him? Yes. Do I think I'll ever get my refund? No. 

But I'd like to hope that there is someone in that organization that will actually do the right thing. [EDIT - 2 hours after sending an email requesting a refund, I received an email back:
Hi Sara,
We have just processed your refund with the online registration company racewire. They said it takes 2-3 business days to clear on their site. We are sorry you were dissatisfied with your experience at today's event and appreciate the feedback you gave us on race day. It will help us to continuously improve our event.
I'm impressed with their professionalism and I appreciate their prompt response. I apologize to them for being quick to assume that they wouldn't be receptive to my request.]

I came home and started a campaign for No Runners Left Behind to help prevent this from happening again. Please go like the Facebook page and tell everyone you know! It happens all the time and it's a shame that race directors only think about the winners and the records that might be broken during their race. We all pay the same fee for the race. Why don't we all get the same treatment?


  1. It's unfortunate that they didn't just communicate the time standard ahead of time. There are quite a few races in my area that are like that. A lot of them give the time limit and then say if you aren't at point X by HH:mm, we'll pick you up and give you a ride, and you cannot turn us down. It makes it simple to figure out if you should give it a go or not.

    Good luck on your next race.

  2. Agreed. If they stated a time frame, and I knew I couldn't complete it, I wouldn't register for that particular race.

  3. That's a shame but I'm glad you are able to turn this into a positive by spreading the word & educating others.


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