The San Francisco Marathon Runner Comments
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Average Ratings: Course -
Fast and Beautiful -- Lame T-Shirt (General Comments)|
A Runner from San Francisco, CA (7/30/02)
I just ran the SF Chronicle Marathon Sunday and I've got to say it was far better than the 1998 version. Although the GG Bridge has been removed, the run down the Embarcadero, through fisherman's wharf, the marina and presidio are fantastic. The challenging hills were front-loaded so that the last miles were pretty much flat.
A few constructive thoughts...
As a San Franciscan, I would say that the biggest improvement would come from encouraging the various neighborhoods throughout the race to get involved and create a theme. This may be the only instance where the Chronicle could take a tip from the Examiner but, the Bay-to-breakers is popular because it embodies the wacky culture that is SF. If the Chronicle could imbibe some of this spirit -- even in a small way, it would add to the fun -- ESPECIALLY in the post-apocolyptic miles 22-24. San Diego added bands, perhaps SF should consider DJ's in these final few miles to take people's minds off the fishy smell and burnt warehouses.
Yeah, I'm a macho marathoner and I know marathons aren't supposed to be 'fun' but trust me, they're better when they are.
One parting thought, the T-Shirt was embarrassing -- and yes I am a snob. I'm not sure who commissioned the T-Shirt, but I know SF has lots of talented graphic artists who could do LOTS better. I sent mine in to Runners World for their best/worst T-Shirts contest.
GREAT JOB IMPROVING THE COURSE! KEEP IT UP! LOOKING FORWARD TO RUNNING IT NEXT YEAR.
A marathon you should do. Amazing (about: 2002)|
A Runner from San Francisco, CA (7/30/02)
This was my 3rd marathon. Honolulu was my
first followed by Rock'n roll(san diego). This was
the best of three marathons. Less people. The
weather was fantastic, remained about 60s till
about 11:00AM. There was no heat factor whatsoever. There were a lot of hills(up and down).
water stops were great, almost every two miles.
It needs to be advertised more. Runners need
more crowd/city support. It definitely has room
for improvement but it is a fantastic marathon to run.
Great event - if you can complete under 4 hours (about: 2002)|
A Runner from San Francisco, CA (7/30/02)
As this was my first marathon, I was not expecting to complete it in record time. While I enjoyed the course - beautiful scenery - I thought the event was poorly organized in the second half, which wasn't good news for us slower runners. The roads opened up at about 9:30 (although I believe they were supposed to have stayed open till 11) and at that point the water stations started coming down. Right before then, many stations ran out of electrolytes. Some runners - and my friends & family who cheered me on - told me the police yelled at them to get on the sidewalk as the roads were closing. So we had to run down Haight St on the sidewalk passing by all these people smoking all kinds of stuff. At that point, water 'stations' were self-service, bottles of crystal geyser sitting out on a curb. And were it not for the fact that I live in SF, I would have been even MORE lost getting through Potrero Hill.
It's a shame that all this happened during the second half of the race, where positive momentum - and electrolytes - are REALLY needed.
Oh, and then the 'FINISH LINE' banner came down at some time before crossed it...not sure why, esp. since that part of the street was still closed to traffic. Very anti-climactic.
But a sincere & special thanks to the volunteers! (Esp those folks at the 25 mile mark who supplies us with gummy bears). You guys ROCK!!!!
There is NO reason why a world class city like San Francisco should not be able to support an event like this, but that support just wasn't there.
More troublesome was the lack of publicity about the event...why is it that the Chronicle - SF's major daily - is the sponsor but barely mentioned the event in its own paper? So no wonder there wasn't much crowd support.
I can appreciate Dave Deigan's comments and really hope that this event improves. And I'm sure there are worse stories from other marathons. But given the $70 entry fee, there is a certain expectation level.
With a little more publicity and support from the city in future years, hopefully these mishaps could be mitigated.
Why are there no Zero Stars options? (about: 2002)|
A Runner from San Francisco (7/30/02)
The course is OK but given that this race is run in the most beautiful city in the world it should be spectacular.
Organization was as usual amateurish and bungled. How do you allow 300 runners to go astray at the trickiest part of the course? Why were there no course marshalls at that turn?
As usual the race failed to win the cooperation of the city and had to compromise the course and the duration of the event to appease traffic concerns and other events. The Giants schedule has been available since February????? Plus even if this was the only date available you could have reached an agreement with them to play a night game.
Crowd support was non-existent. The only yelling I heard was from irrate drivers stuck at intersections. Note to organizers....put up some street signs for a couple of weeks before the race to warn people...if the pathetic Chronicle refuses to publicize the race you need to do it yourselves.
The only good thing about this year's race was the addition of prize money...which wasn't publicized either so the competition wasn't much better than previous years. However due to the fact that half the prize winners cut the course even that was messed up.
And 'coach' the reverse course is not easier its harder.
not as bad as reviews said (about: 2002)|
A Runner from Southern California (7/29/02)
I was nervous, but time constraints led me to it. While I have a few points of constructive criticism, it really was pretty pleasant; I'm not one of those who expects or needs lots of cheering, and the course itself was lovely for an out-of-towner. I would say this (PLEASE LISTEN ORGANIZERS!!!): It's distracting and disorienting to have the half marathoners join the marathoners mid way through the race! The pack gets thicker, you're running with different vibes and chatting runners. I HIGHLY recommend starting the 1/2 marathoners at the same time and sending them back another route, or just give them a different route altogether. ALSO: Around mile 22(?) for some reason runners were sent in different directions, though the same distance, to meet again down the line--WHY??? Traffic constraints? Anyway, overall it wasn't the nightmare that many people have written about; hopefully it will get better. I also have to chime in and admire and THANK the volunteers.
2002 Version a big improvement (about: 2002)|
A Runner from San Francisco (7/29/02)
Well, the 2002 edition is in the books. There were signficant improvements, and some aggravating glitches. We're learning and we are improving.
Before I give you a rundown on what did not go right and what did, I want to make a point many runners miss.
San Francisco may be in California, but don't count on nice, hot weather. Yesterday was a warm day for us. It eventually reached about 70 degrees, but that was well after the 11 a.m. street cut-off. Most days, we are overcast all morning at this time of year. There are exceptions, but this is probably the ONLY City in North America where it's practical to hold a marathon in mid-summer. Obviously, most people don't know that because the hot-sale items for tourists are sweatshirts and sweaters, because most arrive in shorts, t-shirts and sandals, and they just, plain FREEZE.
It will be 52 degrees most nights and early mornings and probably won't get much higher than 65 during the day. Give this one a try.
Here are my thoughts on yesterday's marathon and half-marathon.
Sometimes people get stuck in time and hang on to negative impressions without reason. I feel sad for the angry person who continues to anonymously snipe at this event (and now, at me personally), despite admitting to not having run it since 1999.
My suggestion is, look to the runners who DID run it Sunday and base your decision to do this one or note next year on what they had to say.
I'd still be the first to admit that we've got a way to go to get this event buttoned down. Here are some specifics:
Herding runners on unfamiliar streets to the half-marathon and relay buses needs a little tweaking.
Most of the participants made it, but a handful didn't. Most who did not arrived well after the last bus was scheduled to leave, so my feeling is, they've only got themselves to blame. There was plenty of signage and I posted myself on the corner to guide anyone who looked uncertain to their assigned buses.
If I came to an unfamiliar city and I needed to find a bus at a specific cross-street in the wee hours of the morning, I'd walk over there the day before and make sure I could find it again. I guess not everyone thinks of that.
We also had one bus that left the start of the half-marathon without the sweats (aka runners' belongings) it was to return to the finish. The people on the scene thought quickly and loaded the bags involved onto a truck bound for the finish line, but it took a bit of extra time to recover them and sort that out. Hopefully, runners whose clothing was effected have been reunited with their things, but for that, we apologize.
And there was the matter of the mystery biker who led some of the faster runners off-course because they mistook her for the lead-bike. It turns out she was out there watching over people from the fund-raising group she belonged to who had taken advantage of the 5:00 a.m. early start options. The race organizers had no way of knowing she was out there.
Races like this one are run on public streets and it's not possible to cordone off every vehicle, especially bicycles. The organizers are still trying to figure out the fairest way to resolve the order of finish, particuarly of the womens open event.
It reminds me of two incidents in much more familiar events. At New York some years back, the lead runner turned up Central Park South just before Columbus Circle and the final turn to the finish. A police officer mistakenly moved a barricade, opening the wrong entrance to the park. The leader was off-course for about 100 yards before he realized his mistake. He somehow reversed direction and caught up with the guy who had been following him prior to the wrong-turn and he won the marathon anyway.
And the Disneyland cop who opened a gate when he saw thousands of runners coming towards him. Runners flooded out the wrong gate and the Disney folk reacted quickly. They found the fellow who had certified the course. He happened to be running in the marathon. They recruited him to quickly re-certify a fix for the course out in their vast parking lot. The job was done before the first runner reached that point and the event saved face. Most runners didn't ever know it happend.
In short, we are all human. Mistakes happen. It's really frustrating, but even the best events suffer from human error.
There were two other glitches I am aware of this year. This first one is not really a 'glitch'. It's a challenging logistics problem that I'm not sure anyone could solve. If you've got thoughts, I'm sure that the race director would appreciate your input.
More than 1000 runners signed up at the Expo on Friday and Saturday the half-marathon. The race organizers had about 1400 runners pre-registered about 7-10 days before the event. They planned a contingency that seemed reasonable. They ordered 1800 medals for the half (nearly 30% extra).Heck, MOST half marathons don't even GIVE medals.
We knew before everyone started that the later runners would not have medals when they got there. A quick plan was improvised to see that those runners do receive their medals as soon as they can be 'struck'. I expect that our 'sniper' friend is going to rail how that's not an excuse. It's actually just a legitimate explanation.
Sadly, finish lines tend to be somewhat chaotic, even at the best-organized events. I've been working with major marathon organizations in my business for two decades and have witnessed many of the big ones work behind the scenes. There isn't a practical way I know to identify who signed up early and who signed up late when you have from 100 to 350 runners per minute coming at you during the mid-point of the event, so when you end up with far more runners than you anticipate, the first runners in get medals. Those later don't. The best any event can do is deal with it after, as quickly as possible.
There was also another volume-related problem. It was resolved through the quick action of several people on the finish line team (in about 10 minutes). When the much larger-than-expected horde of runners consumed the last of the water bottles Crystal Geyser had provided for the finish-line, finishers were temporarily left dry.
The finish line staff supervisor quickly evaluated the situation and dispatched a forklift immediately. The driver hauled back boxes of paper cups and large bottles of water held in reserve for the course.
Within 10 minutes, volunteers were handing runners paper cups and pouring water for them. Those who did not get water immediately were able to get it at nearby Justin Herman Plaza a few minutes later.
I'd call that one minor glitch in the scheme of things.
The last thing we need to work on is our Information booth system. The SFRRC (San Francisco Road Runners Club) is investigating this area and are confident that the 2003 version of this race will include a much-improved information booth with better indexed information. Many, many runners came to the SFRRC booth for information they weren't able to find elsewhere. The SFRRC members had gathered information from the event web-site and were able to guide most everyone who came by so most people were fine.
Those are the 'bumps and warts' as I know them, and I'm sure I've missed a few. I've been to hundreds of marathons behind the scenes and I'd still rate this year's Chroncile Marathon as 'good'.
That's the bad news. Here is the good news:
On the brighter side, runners raved about the reverse course. The first 8 miles are truly inspiring and beautiful.
Most of Golden Gate Park is also quite lovely. The short run across the Richmond (less than 2 miles) isn't inspiring but it's necessary, and the race director concoted a very clever system for shunting traffic through the runners to minimize the impact on local residents without impacting the runners. At four different points on the course, One in the Richmond District, the others in the Haight, Mission and Portrero Districts, he created 'parallel routes'. By alternating runners one either 23rd or 24th Ave, he was able to allow some cars to cross most intersections, even though there were some delays.
He executed the same plan at the other locations.
It reduced congestion on the course and kept the residents a bit happier (and the police and City government).
Pace Teams were provided in both the Half and the Full Marathon. I don't know of another Half that has pace teams. All of the pace team leaders arrived within 2-3 minutes of their target time, most within one minute. That's pretty impressive.
Lot's of runners were skeptical before signing up because they had tried Pace Teams at other events and the pace leaders took off way too fast, leaving their charges to fend for themselves.
The SFRRC split the routes in half for the full-marathon, so a fresh group leader took over at the half way point, and each group leader had a wristband with their target miles splits on it.
I'd argue that all but 4.5 of the first 18 miles of the course are beautiful. The Haight might not be beautiful, but it sure is funky. And running nearly 1.5 miles of very fast downhill there helped a lot of runners with their times.
The section through the City's Mission District, where much of the Spanish speaking population resides, has many sides to it. Whether you consider it beautiful or not, it IS a major part of who we are as a City, and if the neighborhoods get more involved, it could be a vibrant place to run in future years. Visit their during one of the many festivals this multi-national section hosts and you'll understand why.
The last section of the race, through the Potrero Hill and China Basin areas is changing. In a year or two, the China Basin section will become one of a center piece of the City's ongoing rennovation. Tech Centers, new residential buildings, walking trails, shops and more are being constructed there now. At the moment it's mostly dust,debris and concrete. But just wait.
And the last part of this marathon, passing McCovey Cove (splash site for many of Barry Bond's home runs), Pac Bell Park, and the Embarcadero, under the towering shadow of the Bay Bridge, bring runners home. The last 2-3 miles are dead-flat and much faster than past routes.
Most people who ran and spoke with us thought it was a winner. There is work to be done, but this year's vintage was a decided improvement.
And did you check out that seminar schedule? Lot's of great, free stuff.
Hope to see all of you next year.
Dave Deigan/Head Coach
Do it if you live here. Tough course. (about: 2002)|
A Runner from SF Bay Area (7/29/02)
Organization: Seemed OK. Check in at Justin Herman Plaza was convenient for those who work in downtown SF. During the race, there was enough toilets at the start and enough water at the stops.
Course: Much harder than I expected -- and I live here! The 'elevation chart' on the web site was so large-scale as to be useless. There are a couple of stiff climbs, and most of the rest of the course is sloped noticeably up or down. For $99 you can buy 'elevation software' that tells you, block-by-block, what the course elevation is ... it would have been convenient to have this info on the web site. The last quarter was much, much hillier than I expected. There's some 'scenery,' but if scenery's what you want, then ride a tour bus. Marathons are for running.
Spectators: I thank the fifty spectators, especially the nice guy in Mile 14 who shouted that we were 'doing great, kicking this marathon's a**' and the nice lady on Haight Street. Otherwise, there are no spectators. This actually has its plusses and minuses: running in the quiet can be nice.
These remarks aside, I am a satisfied customer. I paid my money and got my goods, and I'm happy with the deal.
Ways to improve an overall good race (General Comments)|
A Runner from San Francisco, CA (7/29/02)
The expo and the course were good. Even if the course was extremely difficult. But hey, that's San Francisco. If you want a flat race, run Chicago. There were few fans because of the hour of the race, but the volunteers and the cops were very supportive.
This city is great, and the organizers did their best to showcase the city while making the route manageable (both to residents used to the hills and non-resients alike).
Ways to improve an overall good race:
1)I think it is too much to try to organize three races in one (including a staggered start). As a marathoner, it was disheartening to run among slower marathoners and half marathoners. It was very difficult to get into a rhythm, because I was flying by the walkers in the first half, then getting passed by the half marathoners later in the race. I never knew where I stood relative to the rest of the field, and had a lot of trouble pacing because there was no 'natural' or logical organization to the way the race unfolded.
2) The sponsor 'GU' screwed up by representing that they would have GU available on the course, when in reality, all they had was GU sports drink, which doesn't provide the same nutrients, calories and sustenance as GU gel or a sports bar. Consequently, I bonked very hard in the second half.
3) Next year, it would be better if the stretch along the Great Highway were reversed, so runners don't have to run into the wind on the way out and then turn around and be protected by the small knoll, reaping none of the benefits of the tail wind. The wind always blows north-northeast, so running into it can be avoided. he course already is hard enough with the hills; there's no need to make it harder with a pernicious head wind.
4) Don't start so early, and don't schedule it on the same day as a Giant's game. 26.2 already is hard enough without having to wake up at 3:45 a.m.
5) The tee shirt is very, very unattractive. For $70, you gotta do a better job. Hire a graphic designer. Faceless figures running under a non-descript skyline? And the color scheme? Sorry, but that has to improve. Tee shirts are fun collectors items, and a fun way to show off one's accomplishments. Not this one though...
Great water, potties---poor city support (General Comments)|
A Runner from Portland, Oregon (7/29/02)
I was considering the early start because I knew my time would be around 5 hours to finish. I went to the information booth at the expo and asked about the early start. I asked if the course would change after 5 hours. The woman I spoke with said NO that it was an option given to have a bit more time and cooler run. I decided to stick with the 6 am start.
I kept my pace and as I came out of the park and into the city I was amazed when I suddenly had police motorcycles yelling at me to get on the sidewalk....traffic was opening up! This was before 10 AM. I had to run the majority of my run from 9:45 to barely 11 on the sidewalk.......dodging locals...homeless...roots coming up out of the sidewalk. There was no longer help at the lights......I had to jump in front of traffic. I nearly took 2 wrong turns because there were no more volunteers and no arrows pointing the way. Then as I am about to find glory in my possible sub 5 hour finish I have to dodge spectators in line for their Dodger/Giants tickets. I was getting a bit upset. I finished in 5:02:45 ....not my 4:59 that I was finally trying to get. But that is OK.
I did enjoy the race. The first 30K or so was lovely. The Presidio was nice. The weather was perfect. The water stations were very well run (nice clean water......) and there were no lines at the Porta Potties after mile 6 or so. That was helpful. The timing was first rate.....great online coverage and split times. The pace groups were great. I hung out with the 5 hour group for much of the race. They were right on. I thought the course was pretty fast and worth it. If I had more course time I would do it again...hopefully under 5 hours.
My suggestions. More literature on the race in the packet (there was nothing...no maps etc.). Better education of the runners regarding traffic happenings. I would have started at 5 if I knew I would be kicked of the road 4 hours into the race. Get an official hotel a little closer to the start/expo.
A fun run in beautiful weather. (about: 2002)|
A Runner from San Francisco (7/29/02)
A nice running tour of San Francisco. Pretty good organization (I've seen lots worse). The weather was beautiful. The crowds were a bit sparse, but with all the races (full, half, relay and 5K) ending at the same finish line there were lots of cheering fans at the end which was nice.
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