Or… My Experience With (and Thoughts on) Competitor Group
I’m just going to say up front that these are my own opinions based on my personal experiences and those of some of my friends (I will indicate which is which) as well as what I’ve gleaned from interviews with them, specifically on The Marathon Show. Your experiences and opinions may vary, and that’s fine. This is my blog, and I’m stating my opinion.
Competitor Group is the group that puts on the Rock’n’Roll (RnR) race series that does marathons and half marathons all over the country. And a 10K in New York City.
The New York 10K is my experience with them. NYRR (New York Road Runners) seemingly has a lock on Central Park, and so RnR did a 10K to come into the market. In wanting to support something to provide choice, I figured I’d do it, so I signed up. It was expensive for a 10K – I want to say $60 or $70 – but it did have bling, and it was inaugural.
My first clue that they really hadn’t thought this thing out was seeing that they were expecting 6000+ runners. The NYRR and Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC) races held in Prospect Park are capped at a max of about 4000. And if they lap the cap is even smaller. The road around the park is just over 3 miles, so clearly there would be lapping going on. Red flag number 1. Then the location for number pick up was announced. I didn’t expect an expo since it was only a 10K. But they picked possibly the smallest running store in the city to hold the number pick-up. It was crazy. Then they randomly put all of us who registered early – before there was an “estimated finish time” on the registration form – into the last corral with a ridiculously slow estimated finish time. So a lot of us were having to change our corral. I’d brought proof of time and was put in Corral 7. By them simply putting a little round sticker on the bib and writing the new corral with a sharpie on the dot. I found out my friend who I was planning to run with was given the choice of 7 or 6 because our estimated finish time overlapped. It was not a problem to change my number when I got home. And as it turns out no one bothered to check the numbers anyway. But back to pick up…they were running out of bags and shirts so that people were having to get them the next morning. Fast forward to then. Less than an hour before the race, only the porta potties where registration was going on (yes, they were still registering people…total cash cow) were unlocked. None further up the course, which many of us had to pass based on the subway stop we got off at. We got into the corrals, and then it was announced that they were delaying the start by 15 minutes because people were STILL registering. Once we got underway, the race itself was fine. No big problems, though there was much lapping going on. After, when it was time to collect my baggage, it was horrible. We’d put them on rental trucks based on our numbers. Now…if we were going from Prospect Park to somewhere else in Brooklyn, this would have made sense. However, there was less than half a mile between the finish village and the registration village. There was no need to move the bags PERIOD. But they did. Now at NYRR races (the regular ones…not the NYC Half or NYC Marathon), yes, you go in on your own and get your bag, but your bib is checked against that tag on your way out. Here, we found that bags were being and had been tossed out of the trucks at random, thrown between trucks, and essentially were not being watched at all nor was anyone bothering to match up bibs with tags. Thankfully as far as I heard no one’s bag was stolen, but that’s sheer luck really. Basically it was a big cluster and I’m not doing it again. Especially when I can run laps of Prospect Park any day I choose for free.
This past December, Competitor put on RnR Las Vegas. Which was by al accounts one huge cluster fuck in pretty much every way it could be. I have some friends who ran it and they said they have never been so happy to simply get out of a race experience alive as they were. The horror stories that were all over the internet were truly shocking. People having medical issues afterwards – being curled up/collapsed on the floor for hours before any EMTs could get to them because of the crowds, running out of water as well as people who have run many races getting violently ill all around the same time, no one maintaining any order for who got into what corral (that one didn’t surprise me at all), and massive overcrowding on the course. Just do a google search and you’ll find PLENTY. Oh yes, they ran out of medals. And there were plenty of reports of people who were shuttled closer to the finish and crossing the line being given them (this is a stated policy on the RnR website…yet the person interviewed on The Marathon Show (it’s coming up) said he’d never heard of that happening) as well as some people reporting that some volunteers weren’t checking bibs or anything before handing one over.
They went on The Marathon Show shortly after the event and basically blamed the whole collapse of the corrals at the start of the half on “new and inexperienced runners” who “got antsy and jumped the gun, just pressing forward”. The reason they ran out of water/cups at later aid stations? The volunteers were cold and abandoned their stations. The medals? Oh, they knew going in that they were short (did I mention they were still registering people at the expo, already knowing they were short on medals?) but did and said nothing. The water? “It was hydrant water, but it’s tested.” They took very little responsibility for anything.
They were back on the most recent episode of The Marathon Show talking about the changes they’re making to ensure that things don’t happen again. My jaw did drop when the guy actually said that the corral collapse at the start was their fault – that they had to move people through faster. So at least he wasn’t blaming “new” and “nervous” runners on that anymore. It does sound like they have made changes that should help. The people getting sick? Well, the Las Vegas health department (or someone that’s local out there) determined that it wasn’t the water but that they must have picked up some virus. That all hit them at the same time? I would have felt better about those findings if someone neutral in the situation – as in not Las Vegas or even Nevada based – had conducted the testing. Because clearly they’re going to have a vested interest in saying their water is 100% safe. But still…the testing was done and the report shall stand. He didn’t mention the medal issue. But he said they are keeping the cap at 45000 runners between the full and the half. So theoretically if they order 45000 medals they should be safe.
So it will be interesting to see how this year goes for them. There are a lot of people who think that Competitor can do no wrong and will do any and every one of their races. there are others who have had bad experiences at various races they’ve done. It seems to be it and miss as to which cities they do well in and which they make a mess of.
Las Vegas was never on any plan I’d had regardless of who’s doing it. I’m probably one of three people in the world (me, my mom and my dad) who have no desire to ever set a toe in Las Vegas. So it held no interest for me at all.
They are expanding to international races now – this weekend they did one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ll be interested to see how it went. They had one scheduled for Dublin, Ireland in August, but it’s been pushed back to next year. I love Dublin and have been considering it. The airfare was ridiculous for 2012…probably because it was scheduled DURING THE OLYMPICS and Dublin’s close enough I could see it being a point of “fly in here and then catch a cheap hopper over” kind of place. Competitor’s story on the postponement is “Competitor Group, organizer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, has decided to postpone the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon until 2013. We realized with great regret a need for more time to create an entirely new event to meet the high standards established by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and expected by our local community partners.” And they claim there was “tremendous support”…but I suspect that the ridiculously high airfares and the fact that it was scheduled during the London Olympics has a lot to do with it. (It would just make them look stupid to say that had anything to do with it because those dates have been set for years. But that’s my opinion.) I do love Dublin and may still consider doing it. But I’m going to look closely for reports from non-RnR junkies about their international races to see how they go.
In the meantime, I for one will pretty much avoid the Competitor Group races just on my experience and that of my friends. Yes, they may put on some good races, but that only shows that they know how to do it, so there’s really no excuse for why others consistently have problems – often the SAME problems year after year.
For those who love them, great. But I think the voice of those of us who haven’t had good experiences with them needs to be heard as well.