So I just realized that I never wrote this race recap. No problem! It’s only three and a half months late. My procrastination and laziness are becoming legendary. Actually, part of why I never recapped this race was due to my disappointingly negative experience.

Thanksgiving Day races are a common idea, and most cities and towns will host a 5k run/walk. Greensburg is no different, and in 2011 held it’s 20th annual Turkey Trot. I had never participated in this race, despite living in Greensburg for basically my entire life.

Since this was the 20th time the race was held, I assumed that meant it would be a smoothly-operated race and a positive experience for all. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. This race was, hands-down, the worst event in which I had/have ever participated.

It all started at the early packet pickup a couple days before the race. The timing chips were not included in the packets, for unknown reasons, since they were using disposable chips (i.e., they did not need to be returned). Also, they did not provide racing bibs at all.

Luke and I headed out on Thanksgiving morning to meet up with my friend Jeannette and her fiance, Eric, who were in town visiting and decided to run the 5k. This was actually my reason for signing up – I had considered a 5 mile race in Pittsburgh, but since my friends were in town I figured it was best to see them. Staying closer to home and avoiding holiday traffic was also a bonus.

We reached the starting area and it was complete chaos. There was a tent with everyone’s timing chips, with an enormous line of people waiting to pick up their chips. I stood in line for awhile, and realized there was another pre-registration area nearby, so I went over to it, relieved that I would not have to wait and possible miss the race start. Unfortunately the area signed as “pre-registration” really meant “packet pick-up for pre-registration”. RAGE.

I had to run back over to the timing chip line, which had thankfully gone down. However, since we had no race bibs with numbers, no one knew what their timing chip number was. There were a few lists of all 1500 pre-registrants which had chip numbers assigned to each person. I had to scan the list and then find my timing chip on my own while battling line jumpers and general assholes.

Finally I had my chip tied to my shoe, and we found Jeannette and Eric.

Ready to race!

There was a DJ playing music and talking over a loudspeaker, but the crowd noise was too much and we couldn’t hear anything he was saying. We stood around off to the side of the crowd, chatting, when suddenly the crowd surged forward and apparently the race was beginning. No announcements, nothing.

I ripped off my jacket, handed it to Luke, and took off. The street was choked with people and I ended up running on the sidewalk. Within about 10 seconds, I heard beeping. There were actually starting mats for this race, a fact that was not mentioned on the website nor announced before the start. I had to backtrack to run over the start mat.

The entire first half mile, I was dodging walkers, joggers with strollers, and joggers with dogs. It was incredibly maddening – especially with the walkers. Like I mentioned in my race rules post, I will never understand why walkers think they need to line up at the front of the field. I’m also fortunate that I didn’t get hurt with all the dodging of strollers and dogs.

I was familiar with the course, and despite having never run it, I managed to run the entire race. This was quite impressive to me due to a few hills with short 100 foot elevation increases, including one right at the finish line. Unfortunately for me, there was some sort of timing chip error, because my official time posted was just my clock time. I was incredibly annoyed. I also forgot to stop my watch after I finished, so I couldn’t use that to fall back on.

Can you see me?

My official time was 34:02, and my official pace was 10:59/mile. However, according to my Nike+ splits, my actual time was probably closer to 31 minutes, with a 10:00/mile pace. That would have been a great time (for me), but unfortunately I have nothing official to back it up. I finished 30/42 for my age group, and 639/844 overall.

Post-race victory photo!

Immediately following my finish, I vowed to never participate in this event again. I decided to write the race director an email listing all the issues I encountered. I drafted it several times, because I needed to filter out my anger and frustration so that I could provide constructive criticism. Carol, the race director, responded promptly and addressed most of my questions.

  • There was unfortunately a bad fire nearby that morning, so several volunteers were pulled away from helping with logistics.
  • The volunteers in charge of starting the race saw that it was 9am and started the race, instead of the committee. Apparently there were announcements to be made, national anthems to be sung, etc. None of this happened.
  • Something was was not resolved: why there were no chip times. Carol thinks they had a batch of dead chips, but I never heard back about this.

Carol also assured me that next year there will be staggered starting times to not only avoid congestion at the start, but to corral the walkers and joggers with strollers/dogs from lining up at the front of the 2,000 participants. She also said that timing chips would be included in the packets pre-race. Based on Carol’s response, I may participate next year, but I will be sure to adjust my expectations.

What was your most negative race experience?