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Problems at Sommer Sports Lake Minneola Half Marathon

Posted Apr 20 2013 5:53pm
Today I crossed the finish line of my 10th half marathon at the Lake Minneola Half Marathon .  I ran my first half marathon as a "pacer" and I ran the most unorganized half marathon I have ever witnessed.
For real people. It was not good.

But before I break it all down I want to say how humbled and grateful I was to be able to cross to finish line today.   Boston broke my heart , but it didn't break runners spirits.  Thank to you those who keep running and the many police officers at the race today.

Back to the chaos.  I actually think I need to break my race recap into two parts.  The terrible race organization and my personal race.  I don't want to totally bash an organization, that's not cool, however I have personally worked at close to 200 race events and ran on 20+ myself and I have NEVER seen the things I saw today.

Terminal Offenses:

  • The race started 30 minutes late. 
    • We were all in the corral waiting. And waiting.  There was no PA system or announcer to give us updates.  There was also no timing mat down at this time. The race was scheduled to start at 7am and at 720 some guy on a bullhorn yelled that it would be a little longer.
    • Around 728 said man on the bullhorn said we were going to do something "kinda fun" and have a moment of silence for Boston.  Nope.  That's not fun nor is that a respectful way to say that.  There was no anthem, however bullhorn man suggested the Pledge of Allegiance which never happened.
    • The 7am start time turned into 730 am.  This BLOWS your pre race nutrition , warm up, and mental game!  Our WDW race director Jon gets intense if we are 20 seconds late at WDW.  Starting on time is imperative and a hallmark of a well run race.  If a delay needs to be made (and I have worked 3 races where we have delayed for traffic) it should be communicated to runners before the start and communicated frequently.
  • There were hills.
  • I'm cool with a race with hills, BUT when your website says "flat and fast" you don't expect two monsters in the first 2 miles.  
  • I kid you not about mile 9.5 we passed a sign that said "The Hill at Lake Minneola". If it needs a sign, baby it's a hill!
  • Don't say it's flat if it's not.  Clermont, Florida, where the race was, is known for hills. But silly me believed the race website and figured maybe the around the lake course was flatter.  Flat Stanley is not impressed.
  • Un-manned Water Station
    • Yes, you read that right.  A DIY water station. No volunteers, no waters set up. Stop, get cup, fill cup, drink, shake head walking away.
    • My girl Megan missed sub-2 by 8 seconds.  Pretty sure there's 8 seconds to be had right here.
  • Roads not closed
  • Serious Offenses:
    • No Mile Markers
      • In my opinion this is the worst offense of all. However I have been at other races with a lack of mile markers (they at least had a few) so I won't list it at the top. But in the end the course measured short for me.  Had I known when I hit the last mile according to their mapping I could have pushed Megan better and more accurately.  Imagine runners with no GPS device? 
      • At one turnaround a runner asked a volunteer "How far?" and she said "You're halfway". We were at mile 4.5!
    • No clock at the finish
      • There was no timing clock at this finish.  That's odd right?
    • One port-o-potty on course
    Believe it or not there's a list of more things I want to complain about, but I don't want to seem like I'm complaining to complain or trying to bash the race group.  I think the things I've said are serious lapses on the part of race management.  
    Here's a quick run down of my last gripes: Race website advertised tech tee and it's definitely not, the course measured short by 0.3 miles, the half marathon runners had to fight through 5k and 12k walkers, and finally the half course crossed in front of the other runners at each turnaround.  No cones to divide the street or volunteer support. Finally, the awards ceremony was 45+ minutes late and nobody could tell us when it would start. Kelsey won her age group but never got her "live plant" award.
    To Sommer Sports
    I'm perplexed by what went on today.  You organized the Windermere 5k that I ran a mere 7 days ago and it was organizationally flawless.  What happened? I understand that things happen race day (boy do I understand) but I think a sincere apology needs to be issued to your half marathon runners.  Race expectations were not met and you need to own your mistakes.

    Again, I feel bad complaining.  I feel really, really bad because I know how much work goes into race planning.

    However I do feel these things need to be heard by the race so they have a chance to improve next year.  I would run this race again if Sommer Sports works to make changes.  The race did some things right.  Packet pick-up was easy, they had great communication via Facebook, the race fees were reasonable ($60), and the medal was nice.

    Have you ever run a race that you felt was not run by the race organization? What's the wackiest thing you've seen?
    Out of this list what would've been most frustrating to you?

    Love and 30 minutes later,
    Carissa & Kyle
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