Monday, November 29, 2010

Why was LKN Turkey Trot such a mess?

Last Thursday, I ran the Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot 8K for the first time, after spending the previous two Thanksgiving mornings up in Huntersville at the Lake Norman Turkey Trot.

Sounds like I may have picked the right year to make the switch.

My 2008 and 2009 experiences in Lake Norman were positive. I ran my first 10K ever in '08, and then in '09, I ran the 5K with my daughter (who was doing her first 5K ever). The races were held on the Huntersville Business Park loop, and were great for runners who lived north of uptown and/or wanted something smaller than Southpark -- which attracted 8,000 participants this year.

For 2010, race director Zahid Buttar moved the event from the business park to Gold's Gym about five miles north, in Cornelius. Gold's was a new sponsor this year, and Buttar opted to make Gold's home base for the race.

The result, apparently, was a disaster. I've heard widespread complaints about the distances coming up very short, poorly marked courses, insane runner congestion, timing issues, unprepared volunteers, and on and on. One participant e-mailed me to declare it "the worst race in the world." The half-marathon winner, Tim Gruber, posted on my public Facebook page: "No one should run it next year, pathetic ... The most poorly organized race I have ever seen." Gruber was timed at 1:04:41, which would be just six minutes off the world record for that distance. (You can also read mounds of negative feedback on

Anyway, I was able to catch up with Buttar by e-mail today.

"This was a very difficult race for us, way different than our customary level of service," wrote Buttar, who is Orlando-based and is president and CEO of Epic Sports Marketing. "I have seen the vast majority of feedback and appreciate the opportunity to explain some stuff. (FYI we just finished a 3 hour meeting about the event.)"

Here is his point-by-point explanation of what happened:

  1. Course - our course got changed 2 weeks prior to the event, we were forced to create a new course. We were misled about the size of some of the roads which caused a ton of congestion. Our solution is to modify the course for 2011, in all likelihood we won't be doing a half marathon unless we get 1 change we're looking for.
  2. Food - we had nutella, bagles, bars, crossiants, oranges, electrolyte and water. The banana's at Costco and BJ's were green. We'd love to hear what NC runners like and we'll get it. They can email to let us know.
  3. Volunteers - we had 46 volunteers out there from the local schools. We were deficient in athletes helping out, we need athletes who are not running to step up and help.
  4. Mile markers and turn arounds - we had both posted but it appears they were blocked by the mass of runners, our solution for next year is to have all mile markers and signage higher of the ground.
  5. Set up - it was a zoo! We had a 50% increase in attendance from last year which stressed out packet pick up, registration and timing. There was no way to anticipate that kind of a rush, we ran out of alot of things. Our solution is to have 1 parking lot set up for the 5K and another lot set up for the 10K. No going into the gym for any reason.
  6. Tshirts - this is always difficult. The process is we have to place the order by a specific day. So to help out we found a vendor in Huntersville and got the shirts from him. The cut off was 11/14 and when we made the order with 100% overrage. On Wed. during packet pickup we ordered another 200. We still ran out. Our solution for next year is to have the tshirts delivered on Monday, we'll sort them out on Tuesday so that all people who are guaranteed tshirts get theirs. We'll have extra but when they're gone, they're gone.
  7. Awards - due to the number of athletes who showed up we didn't have all the athletes in the timing system until half way through the 10K finish! That delayed the results generation and I made the command decision to mail age group awards rather than give out the wrong awards. This is on our dime, not the athletes. Wed. of this week is when all the awards get mailed out.
  8. Pacers - the pacer for the half marathon missed a turn. You can guess what happened then! Our solution is to have the pacers come 1 day early to do a dry run on the course so that mistake doesn't happen again.
Thoughts on the race? Or on the race director's explanation?


Anonymous said...

I've run this the past few years but took this year off to get ready for my first marathon at Thunder Rd. i've always thought it wasn't the most effectively organized event. I was walking through the neighborhood to cheer the participants and felt like the participation was way down with the 1oK-ers and 1/2 marathoners that ran that portion.

Anonymous said...

These guys are awesome (I've done their races in NC, FL and AZ). Solid people who make it right if they make a mistake. For all the morons who like to type hate - get over it, it's a race and things happen.

Anonymous said...

Clowns. This was awful. The best part was when the "course" took us behind some stores so we could run amongst the dumpsters. They had a web conference prior to the race where they showed the course map and indicated that the half marathon course was the 10k twice. I pointed out that a half is more than 20k and the answer was that it would work itself out. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

I ran the 5K and it was the most poorly organized race I have ever ran. As for the anonymous comment about Buttar being great guys, I have a message Tell Mr Buttar he should be ashamed. You probably work for him anyway. I will never run a Buttar race again. Forest_wilson@Twitter.

Anonymous said...

I want to 2nd the comment from Forest_Wilson, if Buttar is so great how much effort would it have taken for him to be polite when I told him my concern that I may have run the course wrong for the 5K, I was concenred that I goofed up, but no the course was short. He was rude to me, told to go run some more and that it really did not matter. Well it matters to me, I will not be back.

Anonymous said...

Its obvious that this race was poorly organized. I truly understand that mistakes can happen, but there were numerous ones at that. I ran the 5k and wondered why the simplest things such as the turnaround had no marker. Oh, and i found it a little greedy to delay the 5k by 10 or so minutes to register some extra people that were unable to have a chip or anything. Come on, just let the people run for free after you run out of chips.
Thank you.

A. Mayes

Anonymous said...

You know, you'd think that a race/sporting event of this magnitude would have a little more thought and preperation put into it.

runnergirlnc said...

Mr. Buttar,
I ran the 10K this year and as I've already commented on it was terrible and unexcusably disorganized. I think many of your suggestions for next year are good, however you need to do some damage control. For starters you should offer everyone who ran it this year a discount for next year. You should also time a race from Gold's prior to next year's Turkey Trot to prove that you actually know how to put on a race. I'd never run one of your races prior to the Turkey Trot and I left planning to never run another race of yours.

Dropping the 1/2 marathon would be a big mistake and you should make every effort to include it next year.

As for the food, it was fine. I don't know why people complained. It was Thanksgiving Day, how much did you want to eat before your feast later?

Good luck getting runners to volunteer on Thanksgiving. You should look for volunteers another way and do a better job of training them.

As for not getting all the people who registered into the system soon enough, you shouldn't have registered so many people the day of if you couldn't handle it. As someone said above, you were greedy.
Good luck Mr. Buttar!