Sunday, April 3, 2016

For the Rosenfields! - Amity Gurgaon Half Marathon

The Rosenfields know how important it is to give. Their (very) generous gift is going to help kids with financial struggles get to YMCA Camp Miller, where they will form lasting memories of life in the outdoors. Thanks guys! I'm so lucky to have friends like you! If others want to help, please donate here - You'll get a dedicated run, just like Jonah, Kristen and the boys!

The Rosenfields not only get a detailed description of my first race in a while, but they also get a grumpy open letter to the organizers of the Amity Gurgaon Half Marathon! Buckle up everyone.

Dear Amity Gurgaon Half Marathon,

Would you like the good news or the bad news?

Some people think the good news is always the best place to start. People like to hear what they did well, and it eases the pain of the bad news. On the other hand, some people like to hear the bad news first. It's like ripping off a band-aid. Grin and bear it, then finish with a bit of positivity.

I suppose I'll just decide for you, because I'm guessing if I offered you the chance to choose, it would take you days to respond.

The Good News: your management of Sunday's half marathon was decent during the race. There was plenty of water along the route and the volunteers managing traffic did a pretty good job.

That's about it. Are you ready for the bad news?

The Bad News: Your management pre-race and post-finish was pretty miserable. I'm not sure why, but I have some guesses. This is my seventh year running in Delhi and I've seen a considerable amount of growth in the sport since 2010. Way back in 2010, there was pretty much one name in the scene - Rahul Verghese and Running and Living. If you ran a race it was a Running and Living event or the Airtel Half. They worked hard, they proved the business model, they built a base of believers and every year, I would see more and more runners on the streets of this fine city. Our small running group was also slowly building, and we saw the change. We registered for more events with more organizers. Vinod Kaul, Coach Ravinder and others built the Run With Me Foundation. They were runners and built events from runners' perspectives. They worked through the kinks of organizing events and put on a fine show every time.

Others, well, they fell flat. Enticed by the "easy money" or fooled by the "presumed ease" of putting on an event, non-runners fail to think from runners' perspectives, or take short cuts that undermine the effectiveness of an event. Take a look at the comments from the New Delhi Marathon Facebook Page or any local bloggers takes on the event.

But this isn't about them, it's about you. As I said, the pre-race management was pretty terrible. The registration on the website was quick and easy, and I was able to use a foreign credit card, which doesn't always work here. That was nice. Put that in your good news, I guess. However, the only confirmation I received from you was a confirmation of payment. Then I waited and waited. No emails describing the event, no confirmation of registration, no details on bib pickup, start time, etc. I had to send you an email to make sure your event was real! After waiting several days, I got an email with basic bib pickup instructions. That was it. In the package was my bib, an extra-large t-shirt (I could fit three of me in it), the world's cheapest water bottle and a one-page leaflet with the route map and the start time (6:00am onwards, whatever that means).

Arriving to the venue at 5:20am on Sunday, I was (moderately) surprised to see the area still under construction. Appeals over the loud speaker to convince anyone and everyone to pick up trash were going unheeded. I approached the "Enquiry" tent to make an enquiry.

"Will there be water on the route?" I asked, as the information received in advance did not indicate anything about water, first-aid, traffic...
"Come back in 20 minutes," was the reply from Ms. Enquiry.
"But the race starts at 6:00!"
Ms. Enquiry chuckles, "The race starts at 6:30."
Me, getting a little upset. "Most races tell you when they start, so people can manage their arrival time. I don't need to be here this early."
She, "Yes you do. The race starts at 6:00."
Me, "You just said 6:30."
Mr. Enquiry, trying to help, "It's been delayed."
Me, "And water?"
They, "Yes, every 2 km."

And so, the scene was set. It was already 81 degrees at 5:20am. Waiting for an hour wasn't going to help. The organizers were predicting 10,000 runners and there was no accounting for organizing the start. Everyone crowd to the Start Line seemed to be their best thinking. When the race finally started at 6:43am, my primary thoughts were of not getting trampled and finishing as quickly as possible so I could leave.

As I said, the management during the race was fine. Lots of water in small plastic bottles (can we please look at using paper cups, Dehi?), lots of people stopping traffic, and clear signage along the way. It was hot, the air quality wasn't great and the route wasn't terribly beautiful or interesting. Not really your fault, Amity, I'll give you those ones.

From the running perspective, I started too fast. My first 6 miles were waaayyy faster than they should have been and I had to switch to a run a mile, walk a minute strategy after the turn-around (also-can we please get rid of u-turns in long races? Bo-ring!). The heat was killing me and it would have been nice to get some Gatorade from the "Energy Drink Partner". Eventually, I found it. It was in sachets at a table crowded with 5k and 10k runners. Not exactly built with the runner in mind. More like the "I'm running a bit, but will stop at this table and chill for a bit" person in mind. I decided to keep running.

It was when I finished the race that I almost lost it. No medal. No certificate. No snacks, no water. NO WATER? I just ran 13.1 miles and there was no water for runners. Your "Juice Partner" had some juice for sale. There was also a melee at the ONE station that was handing out coconut water. Three guys slowly distributing one bottle of coconut water at a time to hundreds of hot, angry, arm-waving men. Not only is that unacceptable, it's just plain dangerous. As I waited for Heidi to finish, I approached the "Certificates" Tent to get my certificate.

Me, pointing up at the sign that says certificates. "Can I get my certificate?"
Mr. Certificate, "Not until the end of the race."
Me, walking away.

Two days later and still no indication of timings, photos or certificates. People on the event Facebook page are equally dissatisfied.

Oh well, at least it fit into my training regime and wasn't something that I had been working toward for months.


Distance: 13.85 miles (Wait, what? A half is supposed to be 13.1)
Duration: 1:49:35 (unofficial, still waiting for the "Timing Partner")
Soundtrack: Great mix that kept me going

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