Monday, March 8, 2010

A True Appreciation for Organization

My parents first visited Charlotte in September of 2008 for a short weekend trip. Since my parents are just as passionate about running as I am, I figured they would love to participate in a road race uptown. Admittedly, I also was using this race as a way for me to make friends in Charlotte since I was having a hard time meeting people. The race we chose, the inaugural Hog Jog 5k, is in conjunction with the Blues, Brews and Barbecue Festival that occurs annually in the fall, in which the main drag uptown, Tryon Street, is closed off for the entire weekend so that people can drink beer, eat pork, and watch pigs race each other from Brevard to MLK street. An ironic race for my family to participate in, considering both my mom and dad are vegans and also raised their kids (from birth) to be vegetarians as well, the three of us still woke up, exuberant about the running tour of Charlotte we were about to embark on.

The three of us warmed up the mile to the start of the race and picked up our numbers and chips. Eventually, it was time to start, and despite having a hellashish cloud of barbecue smoke hovering over the start line, everything was perfectly organized. The gun went off at the punctual time of 730am, right on time, and we were off.

At every turn, I was directed which way to go. At every mile marker, someone screamed out my splits. At various points in the race, a professional photographer snapped an action photo. At two points, they had water stops to relieve us all of the sticky summer heat.

Horribly out of shape, I finished the race and didn't really think too much about how great of a job the race director had done to ensure that the inaugural Hog Jog would be a pleasant experience for all runners. It was my mom, after she crossed the line, who made me aware of such a feat. She immediately asserted, "WOW! I don't think I've ever run a local 5k race where they closed a lane of traffic! There were police officers everywhere directing runners! There was plenty of water! That was great!"

Keep in mind that my mom has been running for as many years (if not more) as I have been alive. Despite that, Charlotte was the first town she had seen to successfully put on a race, even though it wasn't necessarily very large. Coming to Charlotte allowed her to see that local, small-sized races could still be well-organized, flawlessly engineered to cater to every runners' needs.

While I noticed the same organization at Hog Jog that my mom raved about, I did not think much more about. Subsequently, I continued to be impressed with the organization at other local races I've participated in Charlotte (Greek Fest 5k, Hit the Brixx 10k, South Park Half Marathon, Corporate Cup 5k), but I never truly appreciated the organization that takes much time, effort, and money for a race director and volunteers to make a race successful.

After having ventured to some other small towns for races, I have seen that what Run for Your Life and other race organizers in Charlotte have done is not a small feat to go by unnoticed. Races in Charlotte tend to be, for the most part:
1) High in numbers of volunteers
2) Extremely well directed (aka - people don't get directed off course often)
3) Fairly quick in the compiling of results for the awards ceremony
4) Safe - plenty of police to block traffic or close lanes
5) Accurate with their timing systems

Just two weeks ago, several of my fellow Charlotte Running Club teammates were directed off course and could not even finish a half marathon that they had paid over $50 to run. This past weekend, several runners in a 10k race were misdirected and missed out on potential prize money and a top three spot.

People put a lot of time and effort into their training and racing. It is refreshing to know that race directors realize this and, in return, put a lot of time and effort into their race organizing.


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