On April 1, 2012, I ran the 2012 Oleksak Lumber Spring Half Marathon. This annual event benefits, and is hosted by, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield. I had 12 miles on my training schedule, so I thought it might be fun to try a new course by running this (inexpensive) half marathon.
The running husband accompanied me to the race. As promised, there were parking attendants who ushered us into a parking spot in the ice rink. I headed into the Boys and Girls Club to pick up my packet. There was clear signage noting that pickup was in the gym. I was able to easily locate the pick up area, but was met with a volunteer who was less than helpful. She passed me my number, but said nothing to me. At the t-shirt table, I found that the unisex shirts were only available down to size small. The small was huge (and I’m not a tiny person), so I got a large for my husband. The shirt table volunteers were kind and willing to make a trade. After packet pick up, I headed back to the car to get organized. A volunteer informed us that we had to move the car from the location in which we were told to park to another, farther away, parking lot because the ice rink parking was off limits. The race material indicated that parking was available at the ice rink, and the parking attendant told us to park in the ice rink parking, but we were asked to move the car. We made the trek from the parking lot only to find absolutely no direction about the start location. People seemed to be milling about in the general direction of the school, and it seemed to be a good guess that the start line would be in front of the school. There was no one available to help, so we wandered around for a while until we found a gathering of people around a van broadcasting music. About 5 minutes before the race started, we did get instructions – the race announcer told runners to line up in the road in front of the school.
At race start it was about 42 degrees and overcast. There was a light breeze and it looked like rain. A brave group of runners lined up at the start. The 5k and half marathon started at the same place and there seemed to be no real organization to the line up. After some explanation about the record number of registrants, the race began. After about a mile, the 5k runners branched off and we half marathoners continued on. Overall, the course was a nice course in terms of elevation. There were some hills, some flats, and a nice rolling terrain.
The race course was not well marked. There were white signs with black arrows at each turn, but they were only placed at the turns. There was no indication that we were on-course on the straightaways. As you can see from the map above, there were long straightaways. I was hopeful that the people in front of me knew where to go. What concerned me most about the course was the traffic. Not human traffic, car traffic. I knew in advance that the roads would not be closed for this race. The race organizers had made that clear in the race instructions and emails, noting that we should be careful of and courteous to drivers. Running on open roads isn’t all that uncommon in New England, but it isn’t usually that problematic because we have lots of roads that are not well-travelled on which runners can run safely. This was not at all the case for this race. The roads on which we ran were very well-travelled and many had 30-45 mph speed limits. There were several times when motorists, honked, sped past, got very close, or made their displeasure clear to us as we ran. I honestly felt unsafe at many points during the race. There were volunteers stationed on each corner to help with traffic, but most seemed bored and indifferent to the safety of runners. Most didn’t make eye contact, or seem to look at me at all. I said thank you to many as I passed, but few acknowledged me. One actually had the runners stop to let a group of cars pass. Worse yet, our position was always changing, sometimes running with traffic and sometimes against, as we traveled along curvy roads. I was not pleased at all with the course or the traffic situation. It made for an exhausting race – constantly looking out for cars.
There were water stops every two miles with helpful and friendly volunteers. The best one was at mile 10 on Kensington Street, were a staff of seniors were a delightful crew. I talked with Dotti, a volunteer, who was one of the nicest people I’ve encountered in a race. I enjoyed talking with her and her water stop was among the cleanest, most efficient stops on the course.
At the finish line, volunteers took the tab from the bibs – there was not chip timing. I was ushered to the end of the chute and given a very cool medal.
After the race, I set out to find food. Once again, there were no volunteers to provide direction, but I saw some people carrying bagels and headed in the direction from which they came. I found the food in the Boys and Girls Club and it was great food. There was pasta, meatballs, sauce, salad, and breadsticks from Olive Garden. I love Olive Garden, so I was happy. And, there was no line, so I was doubly happy.
All in all, I wouldn’t run this race again. I doubt that I will run any race hosted by this organization unless the roads are closed or I could be assured of a better car-runner interface. The organization was very poor, and the volunteers were not the most helpful or pleasant. On a more positive note, I liked the rural parts of the course, I enjoyed the delicious post-race food, and the medal was cute and unique.
Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon old pink shirt (similar to the current Run: Switch Back long sleeve, but not quite the same), Lululemon Run: Your Heart Out Tights, really old Nike hat (which they apparently don’t make any more, but it is similar to the Superlight Hat), Spi Belt in pink plaid, the usual extras.