Saturday, October 24, 2009

Race Report Part 1: Nike Human RAGE

Oh Nike, you left a bad taste in my mouth after what would have been a pleasantly sweet race. I am dividing my race report into two sections today. The general race report will soon follow, but first I would like to have a Nike Human Race rant.

Yes, I followed the legions of runners in participating in the Nike Human Race NYC today, 10.24.2009. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about the event last year, something about it's aesthetic seemed a bit off to me. I mean I like the idea of world unity in running and all that, but coming from Nike it seems a bit contrived. However, becoming active on twitter this year changed my mind because seeing updates from runners all over the world gearing up for it was cool. So, I jumped on the bandwagon. Also I am signed up to do a 10K event with Team in Training in December so it seemed especially appropriate; both because it will be a good before and after to show the effect of the training I will be doing and also because some of the proceeds for the Nike Human Race are going toward Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Unfortunately, the perfect storm of variables left me with an unpleasant ending. Not all of them were Nike's fault, like the weather or the fact that the F train was not running (the train that goes through part of the park where the start line was.) Still, there were organizational problems where they were to blame.

My first fatal flaw was that I didn't want to go into Manhattan to pick up my chip and t-shirt a day or two before the race. I live and work in Brooklyn so I figured it would be better for me to do it the morning of the race since it was taking place in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. My second mistake was that I brought a backpack. Since the F train was not running and I knew I would be standing around waiting for buses; I figured I would like to have the extra layer of cloths and a book. Had I picked up my shirt already I would have dropped my stuff off at the gym but because I still had to pick that stuff up, I figured I would take advantage of baggage check... these were to be my famous last words.

My first thought when I entered the park was, gee, it really is a sea of red t-shirts like all the promotional art. Why is everyone complying with this so universally? Well I soon found out. The chip line was a breeze, it was separated by last name. I was surprised how many people were in line to register the day of the race and glad I didn't have to wait in that line. Then I saw the t-shirt line extending off into the horizon. I thought to myself, eh, I don't need a t-shirt, I prefer the one I'm wearing anyway. So I ask the chip lady if I could forgo getting the shirt. She raised an eyebrow at me, "Do you want to check your bag? Then you have to get a t-shirt." It turns out the race numbers are on the shirts! Nice Nike, way to indirectly enforce conformity. Of course I was not running 10K with a backpack on and there was no way I could make the gym before the race start. I entered the line questioning if I could even make the start time after waiting for the t-shirt.

Turns out it was not so bad, I even made it through the porta-potty line before the start (a victory in itself after the Staten Island Half.) What I did not realize was that I was given a doomed "0" T-shirt. The number on your T-shirt determined which bus you put your bag in. Bus zero, was the last bus on the end. Everyone registering and picking up a t-shirt that day must have gotten a zero t-shirt. Then, the added kicker was that everyone arriving late (the bag check was scheduled to close at 7:45) apparently was told they had to put their bag on bus 0 regardless of their number.

So, when the race was over and people went to pick up their bags the line for bus 0 eclipsed the length of all 10 buses. As far as I could tell if you had a bag on any other bus you didn't even have to wait in line. It was thoroughly maddening!

The other problem was that the line was not moving. No one was directing the line whatsoever. The poor guys on the bus were doing their job the same as all the other drivers; they let on one or two people at time to retrieve their bags and they matched their shirt numbers to make sure it was the right person. Unfortunately, when there was such a large percentage of the bags on one bus this was a completely inefficient system.

Now, at this point, I was calm. I figured I'm just killing time before Matt and Kim perform anyway. I can wait in line and mentally formulate my race report etc. The people directly around me were starting to get very angry. One of them said she could see people just cutting the line altogether. One by one, they left the line and took their chances with cutting in. This is one of those times where some one like me is left feeling like a real sucker. I hate it when people push their way to the front at the expense of everyone else, but then at the same time who is left at the back of the line suffering? That's right, the nice people.

Anyway, after waiting in this virtually unmoving line over half an hour I begin to suspect I hear Matt and Kim songs playing in the distance. At this point I am in denial. "Nah," I think, "I would have heard the announcer or the roaring crowd," or "Maybe they are just playing the CD to get people psyched up to hear Matt and Kim." I was seriously considering going to check it out and coming back later, but I looked back and saw the line was stretching twice as far behind me. The fear of having to start it over (in the case the set had not started) seemed like too big a gamble.

It was not long after this that thoughts of Matt and Kim dissolved from my mind as disgruntled runners started scaling the sides of the bus, pulling out random bags and passing them into the crowd below where they disappeared. The mob of waiting runners gathered up in paralyzed anticipation. There was some relief that maybe this wait would be over but at the same time it was impossible to see any of the bags. Where were they going? Who was monitoring this? Everyone was packed so tightly. There was no way to move through and get a good look at what was happening. Most people were dumbstruck but occasionally you would hear a "this is insane," or "is this some kind of strange social experiment?"

Luckily there was nothing too valuable in my bag. Although I did want to be able to wear pants home. It was easily an hour from the time I got in that line until I wrestled my bag out of that tangled mess. No one was checking numbers at that point, by the way. Without opening my bag I slung it over my back and marched toward the concert stage. I could hear the song "Daylight" and I had hope that I could make at least part of this show. I was so excited after my ordeal to see Kim standing up on her stool stomping and Matt shouting out a hearty "Brooklyn!" No sooner had I come to a stop then they wrapped up their final chorus and immediately disappeared off stage. Seriously, I saw them for a total of about 30 seconds and they were done!! It was such a cruel tease! (Not that it was their fault of course.)

I have to say I remained pretty cool through all the lines, but as I stood there in the mud realizing I had just missed the entire Matt and Kim show there is really no other word to describe what I was feeling but RAGE. I had heard there were some organizational problems last year and it looks like they still have a lot to learn.


Anonymous said...

Wow ~ I am very sorry you had to go through that! My friend had the exact same situation as you, she waited 50 minutes for her bag on bus #1. It is a frustrating end to a good race.

I got there fairly early and checked my bag on the bus # that corresponded with my tee shirt that I did pick up on Thursday!!

Sorry you missed Matt & Kim. I saw a bit of their set and I really dig them.

SMILE! YOU RAN A 10K today!!!!

Lady Southpaw said...

Hey Michelle,
Yea, I think blogging about it helped, it's good therapy haha! I definitely learned my lesson to not be lazy and pick up my number in advance.

I was most frustrated about the Matt and Kim thing, I should've just abandoned the line and gone back, there was nothing worth taking in my bag anyway.

My "other" Nike Race report is much happier :)