Saturday, April 15, 2006

Race to Wrigley 5K Run/Walk: Not Walker-Friendly

The shirts were top notch, Nike DRI-fit with minimal advertising. Having Wayne Messmer sing the national anthem before the start was a nice touch, as was the finale through the west side of Wrigley Field. But overall, there was a lot more to dislike about today's Race to Wrigley 5K Run/Walk.

The course map provided at packet pick-up looked interesting, and it included the beautiful block of rowhouses on Alta Vista Terrace north of the ballpark. I was looking forward to that. The course also went around Graceland Cemetery, where many famous Chicagoans are buried. Come race day, however, a mere 36 hours later, all that had been changed. The new course basically went back and forth on Clark and Addison Streets. In other words, all the attractive segments of the course except the ballpark had been exorcised, and I'm sure the fast runners were not thrilled with the three 180-degree turns to break their strides on the new route. I can understand that courses sometimes must be changed, but to make such a drastic alteration so close to the race day is practically a bait-and-switch tactic. Instead of spending much of our time on quiet, residential streets, we were on major through-streets.

This event was marketed as a run/walk. So why were walkers shunned to the sidewalks within the first mile? I can understand that when walkers participate in a run, they shouldn't expect the police to keep the course open for their pace. But when "walk" is explicitly part of the event name, this is unacceptable (our pace wasn't that slow for a walk, around 15-16 minutes per mile). Of course, it would have been easier to keep the streets closed longer had the event followed the original, more residential route. Walkers also found scant refreshments at the finish. I wouldn't drink an iced latte if you paid me, but there were supposed to be iced lattes, Gatorade, bagels, and fruit at the finish. I saw lots of not-so-tasty bagels and some apples, plus people were passing out Trader Joe's trail mix. I suppose we were lucky to finish when we did because I wasn't done choking down my bagel before they starting packing up the food. Again, if you are calling it a run/walk, you have an obligation to serve those who choose to walk.

My mom had problems with the registration (they lost my brother's application), but I understand that accidents happen. On the other hand, they didn't score any points by doubting her word even as she spent all day Friday jumping through hoops via phone and fax for Chicago Special Events Management (CSEM) to secure his entry, which she had already paid for along with her own weeks earlier. CSEM organizes a lot of running and walking events every year. That makes the Race to Wrigley especially disappointing. If the organizers had never put on a 5K before, their shortcomings would have been more forgivable.

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