Not long after, we started encountering 5K walkers. They weren't too bad in general, though they did force me into a few wide turns. My one concern was when I make a left turn on my second lap while the walkers would keep going straight. They were all over the left side of the road, so I had to pass them on their right and figure out some way to cross over to the left.
I think that this type of thing is a common problem at races where they have multiple distances or where they might repeat a loop. I had a busy week of racing this week running the mile, 800m, and distance medley relay for corporate challenge track on different nights during the week and then running the Hospital Hill Run half marathon on Saturday.
Corporate challenge is a month and a half long event where employees from registered companies compete in a variety of events including a very broad array of events (flag football, darts, fishing tournament, tennis, 5K, and triathlon to name a few). For certain age groups, the mile run might include 40-50 runners on the track at once. Amazingly it goes pretty well. About the time when the leader is going to start lapping people, the announcer asks those about to be lapped to move to lane 2 (or lane 3 if it is a close race up front). At the finish, there is a finish chute that guides finishers from lane 1 into the infield. It really works pretty well so long as the lapped runners pay attention when the announcer says something like, “Will those runners in the back stretch please move to lane 2?”
In my race, I was in a fairly close race for second place. I moved into second place just before the final turn. As I was exiting the final turn there was a runner who had ignored the announcer and they yells of some of the people who were warming up or watching from the infield and stayed in lane one. As I approached, I moved to the outside to pass him. At the same time, he looked over his shoulder, saw me, and moved to the outside. I called, “Stay there!” as I clipped him with my shoulder. I was pushed further out into lane three and I stayed there until right before the finish line where there was a gap between people with a lap to go and I moved into lane 1 so that I could go to the finish chute. In that case, the race is about as organized as it can be, but one participant didn't follow instructions.
The other corporate challenge races were pretty uneventful.
On Saturday, I ran the Hospital Hill half marathon. They also had a 10K and a 5K. They started the half marathon first, with the 10K starting 15 minutes later, and the 5K starting 15 minutes after that. A friend who ran the 10K said that she had to do a lot of weaving across four car lanes of traffic to navigate through the half marathon walkers at the start. At the finish of the half marathon, I began to encounter a lot of 10K and/or 5K walkers in the last couple of miles. This is a pretty big event with a fairly large crowd. I am sure that the crowds were not quite as bad as what my friend faced starting the 10K, but there were several turns in the last mile, so I had to navigate from side to side through the pack in order to get to the outside where I could get past them. I did not encounter any problems, but it was down hill the last half mile and I was going pretty fast. If a slower runner had made any kind of sudden change of direction, I could have easily plowed into someone. At the finish, the half marathon runners finish on one side of a median and the 5K and 10K runners finish on the other side. So, for the last 100-200 meters, it was pretty clear to the finish.
Although the race director could have started everyone together, some friends of mine who had run the race before mentioned how it was much less crowded at the start without the 5K and 10K runners packed in the same space. She probably made the change based upon survey results. I suspect that she may change it back after she hears from the 5K and 10K runners this year. For the finish, I am not certain how much she could change. I think to some degree a race director must depend on people to show some common sense and common courtesy. Unfortunately, that sometimes fails as it did in that mile run that I mentioned earlier.
I am by no means saying that this particular race director is perfect. She has made many changes to deemphasize the race and emphasize mass participation. I think, however, that when she took the job, that was what she was hired to do. The people who are on the board want to attract more people (and their money) to the Crown Center shops.
I am sure that this race still attracts the fastest field for a half marathon in the area, but I think that the field behind those competing for the money is much thinner than it was before. I have heard multiple people say that they no longer run Hospital Hill due to the higher entry fees — fees that are necessary to buy finisher medals and to generate the “event” atmosphere that attracts a different breed of participant.