This spring I had the great opportunity to go to the RRCA national convention. In addition to the useful seminars and fun social runs, there was a silent auction benefitting the RRCA programs. I enjoy silent auctions, so I was happy to participate. A new girlfriend and I teamed up to bid on and monitor a few key items. There were a couple marathon entries I had my eye on and was actively bidding on and so did my friend. Right next to one of my friend’s bidding projects was an entry to the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. No one had bid on it. A half marathon in coastal Maine in the end of July didn’t seem to prompt much in terms of vigorous bidding. The race wasn’t too far from me, and I didn’t have anything on the calendar. I bid on the race. Why not, I thought. Thirty minutes later when the bidding ended, I had won two entries into the Shipyard Old Port half marathon.
A few months later, the Shipyard Old Port half rolled around. The friend who had wanted to join me couldn’t make it, so my husband agreed to ride up to Maine with me for a little road trip. We left at a ridiculously early time to head up to the race. The drive was easy and went by quickly. We got to the port area and were able to easily find a parking spot thanks to the parking maps that were emailed in advance of the race. The maps were clearly marked and made it super easy to navigate to a free parking lot and from the lot to the race staging area.
Race morning packet pick up was smooth and easy. I walked right up -no waiting – and got my gear. I love the race shirt. It’s a pale blue with a lovely multicolor logo design. It even fit! I knew it was one that I would wear often. Thanks to my winning entry in the auction, I got a commemorative hat and a mug. Both had the fun logo and were nicely done. I use my mug often and wore my hat this morning on my run. The hat is a nice sweat wicking hat in a comfortable fabric. The gear was nice looking and useful.
About 45 minutes before race start, I headed for the corals and the porta potties. The lines for the bathroom were epic. I cannot recall a time when I saw longer lines for the bathroom. Worse, the lines snaked out into the driving lane of one of the biggest free parking areas. Cars were dodging runners, runners were in the traffic lane. Volunteers had lost control. There were simply too few porta potties for the number of people. Probably about half as many as were required. The lines were just ridiculous. I waited 42 minutes. Then I race around the bend, down a long hallway, and into the corral. Thank goodness I wasn’t really racing – I barely made it to the corral by the time the race was to start.
The start got off without a hitch, with runners racing down a huge cement dock and onto the Main Street. Inexplicably, the course went down the middle of the street, kith backed up traffic on either side. The Main Street looked nice (or at least what I could see over the tops of the cars). Very shortly, the course headed into some lovely neighborhoods. The homes were tidy and the gardens attractive. The course was fairly free of traffic and I enjoyed running in the shady neighborhood streets. It was awfully crowded, so I wound my way past other runners and through the masses.
After the first few miles in the neighborhoods, we went back down the Main Street and along the water. As we passed the fish packaging plant for the second time (horrifying and what I once thought was the worst possible smell ever), things started to unravel. I had skipped a too-crowded first water stop and the second water stop didn’t have any water poured, so I passed that, too. By the time I got to the fish plant water stop for the second time, they had no water prepared. Instead, they had a pile of cups and a hose. Runners were told to grab a cup and a volunteer aimed a hose at us. I got soaked and got about three sips of water in my cup. Undeterred, I headed along down the Main Street and up a giant hill. The top of the hill treated runners to an amazing view of the water.
The water and park views were lovely and featured Classic Maine views of boats and rocks and quiet harbors. Following the hill summit, runners headed into a park. In the park, the water stops began to be a disaster. The first water stop in the park was out of water. The second water stop had volunteers bailing water (without gloves) from big coolers. The first cup I took off the table had a dead spider in it. Literally a dead daddy long legs. I dumped it and the second cup had grass in it. Unwilling to waste more time, I picked the grass out and drank the water that was visibly dirty.
Runners then went further into the park, around a tidal marsh. The marsh was not the best. It wasn’t scenic since it was low tide and the crushed shell/sand path was extremely dusty and very hot. Dust billowed up and swirled around. The sun shone down and made the sand so hot I could feel it through my shoes. The next water stop I came to had volunteers bailing water without gloves. Again, the water was dirty. The next water stop was out of water. The next was passing out dirty water. Having no gloves on and giving out water that was *visibly dirty* was totally unacceptable.
I trudged around the marsh on the path for what seemed like ages. Finally, mercifully, it ended and we exited on to a paved bike path. For a few moments, I was so happy. We had left the marsh! Sadly, eye headed past a water treatment plant. Water treatment plants aren’t so bad. Except for when they’re churning the beds. This day, the huge water treatment plant was churning. The smell was indescribable. Truly horrific. I plugged my nose and hustled by. I passed four people vomiting. Everyone was gagging. I’ve never smelled anything so horrible in all my days. Mercifully, I passed the treatment plant and was treated to the best thing ever – a water stop. With clean, cool water. It even had music and misters. It was like an oasis. A spot of beauty. I wanted to just stop there and stay in the cool oasis, drinking my water.
I overcame the urge to stop in the oasis and continued on along the bike path. It was a nice path, smooth and level. Finally, I rounded the bend into the finish area. There were cheering spectators, race announcers, and finishers coming in. I crossed the finish line and was delighted to have finished. It was hot, I was dirty, and I couldn’t wait to find some food and water. The only problem was that I couldn’t find water. A volunteer handed me a tiny six ounce cup. I asked for another and was told that I couldn’t have one because the finish line was running out of water. The finish line had long ago run out of water bottles and was short on water. I knew I had water in the car, so I pressed on. The finish line area was total chaos. There was no organized finish chute and runners lined up in individual lines at various tables for food. I selected a table randomly – I couldn’t see what it was because the line was so long. It was a line for chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate. Next line was for pizza. I lined up, waited several minutes, and was handed one slice of pizza. I had noticed while waiting that every male runner was handed two slices of pizza. Every female I saw was handed one slice of pizza. I got my one slice and was nearly trampled by people in line. I didn’t have the patience to wait in more totally chaotic lines, so I gave up.
My husband and I hopped into the car and went to the first gas statio no we saw for some water. Finally. The ocean views at a nearby scenic spot didn’t hurt.
All in all, I was very disappointed by the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. The gear was great. The course was interesting. But to me, there is no excuse for the lack of organization at the water stops and finish line. It is completely unacceptable to have volunteers bailing with bare hands. It is completely unacceptable to have visibly dirty water handed to runners. It is unacceptable to run out of water at the finish line. In talking to other runners, I learned that this is a persistent problem with this race. Other runners were pretty vocal on Facebook about a problem with a miscue on the course or the disgusting smell at the water treatment plant. Still others complained about the finish area chaos. I will forgive a lot of things as a runner, but not a dead spider in my water. Pass on this race.