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 Active.com.)
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:
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.