An open complaint letter to RAM Racing

To whom it may concern:

hotcocoraceYesterday 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 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.

19 thoughts on “An open complaint letter to RAM Racing

  1. Oh my gosh, Robert. You just reviewed a race! :)

    As probably close to 100 runners with numbers 14000 and up waited in ONE line, the tables for all numbers leading up to that were empty.

    And the gear check system seemed to be “Let’s throw everyone’s bag in a big pile,” which led to confusion.

    Once the new line was opened up, Eric and I wound up running around the line telling all the 15,000 and up runners that they didn’t need to wait in the endless line. There was no RAM Racing staff around to direct anyone.

    And there were apparently no trash cans.

    Yeah, I won’t be running this one next year either.

    Though I had a really good race time, I didn’t feel safe on the course or able to run as well as I would have liked (having to stop for lines of people walking and blocking the sidewalk, having to climb up embankments in order to not have to jump a bench)

    Le sigh.

  2. The company that puts on the race (RAM Racing)and the sponsors (Hersey’s) should hear from everyone that is upset and feel that we got less then our 40.00 entry fee.

    It was a poorly organized event and they were lucky that no one was hurt. There is only one reason that you reopen a closed registration, greed.

    1. The only good thing about this race were the goodie bags. However, a dangerous running course is simply inexcusable.

  3. I was registered for the 15K but decided not to run it on Friday when I got the e-mail that they changed the start time of the 15K. Who does this 48 hours before a race? A group of us who were registered decided to cut our losses and just run our own 15K on our own turf so we wouldn’t have to deal with race day chaos. I’m sorry that it continued to spiral downward. I am totally behind a group complaint to the sponsors. The only think that is keeping me happy is the goodie bag.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Barb. I didn’t know they changed the time of the 15k. How ridiculous.

      I’ve forwarded this blog post to RAM Racing and CARA, who have listed it as a “Runner’s Choice Series” race. I wonder if I’ll hear anything.

  4. Clusterfucky…what a great way to describe it. I RT’d your post, because this article is so spot-on. The 15k was awful too. Water stations 2-4 were unprepared (pouring water & Gatorade as we showed up, #3 didn’t have any Gatorade at all), and the traffic control was awful. I almost got splattered by a Land Rover on Recreation Drive because the Traffic Mgmt person didn’t stop him. What an asshole.

  5. Ditto the “clusterfucky”. Had to wait in line at LPZ for 45 minutes to get the shuttle and make it to the starting line just before racetime. Not sure if the hundreds of people behind us at LPZ ever made it. I made it past most of the congestion just after the start but spent much of the race wondering how the course I was running could possibly support the thick of the crowd (especially the aforementioned sidewalk adjacent to the harbor that at one point also has a sign post in the middle, thought for sure someone would be swimming there). Anyhow, others I’ve talked to have said the same, count us out for next year unless there are some limits imposed.

  6. I found your review on Yelp and I couldn’t agree more. My best running buddy and I signed up for the 15K again this year. There were kinks last year, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt and hoped that the second year would be better. Let me just say that I don’t care less about the third year of the race because I will NOT be participating.

    My friend picked up our packets in Naperville, as she lives nearby. The bib numbers had not been distributed yet, so she waited in line behind 50 other people to use the ONE computer. The entire packet pick-up took her over 45 minutes. The next day, we received emails saying that the expo was at UIC. I live down the street from the Pavilion and would have gone if I was notified earlier.

    The entire race was a mess!

  7. As someone who travels 300+ miles to Chicago to run races like these with her friends, I am VERY glad I did not come to town for this race. With 15 races under my belt (can you believe it?) I have not participated in a RAM race. After hearing about the many issues surrounding the 2009 Hot Chocolate 15k/5k, I will not be running any RAM races in the future. Thanks for the heads up.

    …so, are we still on for the 2010 Shuffle? :)

  8. I did bangs lake tri this year ran by the same goofballs. Won’t do that again. The results only total 8645 5k and 15k combined and I’m not even on the list and yes my chip is on correctly. Emailed them but I won’t hold my breath. I thought this was closed at 10,000. Doesn’t add up.

  9. You should forward it on to Hersey’s both locally and via their website, to Nike, and to Illinois Bone and Joint. They posted on twitter the they think that everything was great. RAM does not do a good job and runners should know this.

  10. Last weekend they held the race at National Harbor (DC area). They held the same race with the same screw-ups here as they did in Chicago. Check out the following:

    The runners from this race have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Maryland Attorney General and their credit cards.

    These type of business practices need to be exposed and stopped.

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