To whom it may concern:
Yesterday I, along with three friends, participated in the 2009 Hot Chocolate 15k/5k, hosted by RAM Racing. While it was a beautiful Fall day for a race, the organization of the event unfortunately made for an incredibly aggravating experience. And it wasn’t just me: my racing companions, and nearly everyone around me, were disappointed, irritated or just plain mad. (Read my friend Jamie’s thoughts on the race here.)
The disorganization started shortly after registration. When I first signed up, packet pickup was at the Running Away Multisport in downtown Chicago — easily accessible via train. However, after I registered that changed to the UIC Pavilion, a place significantly harder to get to via CTA.
This was blamed on the large number of race registrants, which we later came to learn was the result of RAM Racing closing registration when it hit capacity of 15,000, and then reopening it to allow another thousand or so people sign up. The result was an event and venue that simply could not handle the volume of runners.
Race day arrives. The web site said the race started at Montrose Harbor. Imagine our surprise to learn that we had to backtrack to Wilson Ave for the race.
Then came the craptastic disaster that was gear checking. As most of the runners who are checking bags are the less experienced ones (we wear coats and carry keys), naturally we would also be the ones who register later — thus have higher bib numbers. It’s like that at every race. So, the fact that the 14000-15000 gear check tent had only a few volunteers working it, who were throwing our bags in unorganized piles, was unfortunate. And, when it came time to pick up our bags, we waited in line THIRTY FIVE MINUTES for our gear. Yes, we stood in the gear check line longer than it took to run the actual race. Pathetic. Finally, we had enough and went to one of the other gear check lines, which were empty with volunteers standing around talking, and asked for our gear. They scolded us for getting in the wrong line, but caved in when they saw the smoke coming out of my ears.
Oh, and the running course? Horrible, clusterfucky and dangerous. Literally, at one point, we were running on a sidewalk. Really? For a race that has over 16,000 participants? And then there was that long stretch along the waterfront, where people were passing each other only a few inches from the harbor’s edge — just an elbow in the chest away from falling into freezing waters of Lake Michigan. Due to the sheer number of people and the crappy course, I had to stop and walk several times so I wouldn’t bump into someone or run into a park bench, dumpster or a tree when I tried to pass.
As for the hot chocolate aspect of the “Hot Chocolate 15k/5k”? Fail. Not only were our complementary hot chocolate tags mistakenly taped onto our bibs, which required all sorts of creative thinking to tear them off, the hot chocolate we were served was assy. Probably the worst hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. Watered down, lukewarm, and just funky tasting. We threw it out after two sips. (Also, Flour Girl on ChicagoNow.com says they ran out of chocolate.)
Needless to say, I’m not participating next year. Montrose Harbor is not equipped for hosting a race of this size, and it was irresponsible of RAM Racing to do so. This was, without a doubt, one of the most poorly organized racing events I’ve ever experienced.