This past weekend, myself and three friends traveled and met up in Virginia for the Run Like a Diva DC Wine Country Half Marathon. It was a weekend of FUN, FAMILY, FRIENDS, and FRUSTRATIONS. If I focused solely on the actual race and build up for it, my gears would be stuck in that last gear of frustrations and I’m sure you’d stop reading right about….NOW! So, I won’t. I’ll start with the first three Fs-FUN, FAMILY, and FRIENDS.
Let me say, I LOVE the group of women who have come together as the body of MRTT (Moms RUN This Town). When this was started in Georgia by Pam Burrus, she really got it right. They are such a support to me, and I know that race would have only left me with frustrations if I didn’t have these ladies, especially my local chapter, Monroeville and Surrounding Suburbs. From door to door, amongst the drama of the weekend, we had FUN. We were there for one another and cheered each other on wholeheartedly. We rolled with the punches together. We ate together, and shared expenses such as hotel and turnpike tolls, we even split the cost of our new headwear so that we could buy 4 and get 1 free. We cracked jokes and kept each other upbeat. We are friends and sisters in the running world. FUN
I was especially touched when my little sister and niece showed up before the race started. It made a hard to bear, delayed start (more on that later) much more tolerable. My sister is a runner and decided to surprise me. She chose to deal with the drama of this race day to support me. And that, after this week, will be part of the things I treasure from this race FOREVER. I only regret that the race delay made it tough for them to stick around with us after when they might have otherwise. FAMILY
But then, at the finish, another fabulous surprise. No, it wasn’t my time, or the shirtless fire men handing out medals, or the sparkling apple juice toast (more on THAT later too), it was my best friend, Lisa, and she even convinced my childhood neighbor and friend, Brian, to come along. Yep, you guessed it, ugly, happy tears. I rarely get to see Lisa and Brian and I felt fabulously bessed and loved that they spent many hours of their Saturday at a race for ME! Are you crying yet? FRIENDS
On no, we’re to the fourth F now. The actual race review. For runners, probably the only part you really care about, glad you stuck in there. If you’re not a runner, it’s okay to stop reading now, there will be lots of gripe and negativity, but I’ll try to end on a positive note, I promise. So, I’m not a Diva, I like my medals, but I’m not one to get made up and wear pink, I don’t throw random tantrums or expect people to pay attention to me (except maybe my kids). I only chose this race because my friends, Dayle and Nicole, were already running it and when Rock ‘N Roll Pittsburgh got canceled, I had the refund to spend. Run Like a Diva is a costly race series. It doesn’t really “benefit” anything except their pocket books that I could tell, and it wasn’t local or small. That’s all fine, it was my choice to register.
If you read my blog, you know that in August, I suffered a knee injury. No race refunds, but many still allow transfers to other runners. This race DOESN’T…NO EXCEPTIONS. Fine, I agreed to that when I signed up. One year race deferments have to be made a month a month in advance and you pay $25 dollars…NO EXCEPTIONS…NO LOCATION SWITCHES. Again, I agreed to that when I signed up, but how many of us know we’ll be injured or unable to attend at least a month prior? Anyway, just one of those things that leaves a bad taste…
Then about two weeks prior to the race, we receive an email telling us that the race will not be able to provide us with the promised Champagne toast at the finishers’ tent. Instead, they will be serving us sparkling apple juice. But, there will be a tasting at the Expo the night prior. I really don’t care that I didn’t get a Champagne toast, except that it WAS promised to me when I signed up.
At packet pick up, I expected a fairly large expo…After all, I spent nearly $100 to get my bib for this race in registration fees. I expected a decent goodie/swag bag with some freebies, discount coupons, just something. We got NOTHING, not even a free chapstick or water bottle. No coupons, no virtual goodie bag (which I hate anyway, but at least it’s something). NOTHING. We got a tech t-shirt, our bib, and one of those drawstring bags that are horribly uncomfortable to wear with anything more than a t-shirt in them. The tech is, well, whatever…there’s no contrast in the colors, so it looks like Pepto Bismol (yeah, I know, Diva race and divas LOVE pink, so even that I got over quickly). There were a handful of vendors, but no one was really giving great discounts. And usually they have vendors with samples, NOPE, not one freebie in the place. The tasting consisted of a 1/4 inch serving of one white and/or one red wine. The parking at the packet pick up did not have ample parking and I’m glad we got there by 4. By the time we left, people had to walk from outside the business complex.
Still we had hope that the race would be awesome. So, the next morning we got up and left the hotel by 6 for the 7:30 start. We were staying about 8 miles away, but were told by a friend that it would be crowded, so left extra time. The roads were due to close at 7:15 so the race could get underway. We ended up in such a traffic jam that only got worse when there was an accident on this one road town. If you know the area, think about where 15 and 7 meet…crowded on a normal day, add 3,500 1/2 marathon runners and 1,000 5k runners adding to it. But, we still managed to be parked by 7:20 and I was texted that they had delayed start. At the entrance from the parking lot there were 4 porta-potties. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes, someone told us there were more johns by the start line, so we headed in. There were, but the lines were miles long. But having no choice, we waited our turn for these 20ish potties (I didn’t count, but no way there were more than that). By the time we reached the start line and found our paces, the race had been delayed to an 8:30 start. Then the announcement that it was going to be a 9 am start. NO FOOD, LONG POTTY LINES, and the day was getting warm. I’d say we all (3,500 of us) made the best of it. There was minimal griping and a sense of excitement. The biggest issue was that Diva laid the delayed start blame firmly on US. We hear, “since you didn’t heed our warning to get here early”. WHAT, even if that’s partially true, the venue was not in a well thought out location for that volume of traffic and we certainly had zero control over a traffic accident that stopped traffic.
The course was described as a country run with “rolling hills” and one large elevation increase. What we found was rolling small mountains with uneven, dangerously laid gravel and several larger hills. I know some people didn’t like running through the neighborhoods, but I enjoyed that because we then had spectators. And I know some people were highly offended and blamed Diva for the guy holding the Anti-Abortion sign in front of his house, but they had no control over that. They did have control over the advertising of the course, and where it was held. Maps below look a little different…someone can’t read their information. GRADE does not equal ELEVATION!
My final gripe, post race food. Yes, bananas are staples in the running world, but on top of my allergy, they had GREEN bananas…not appetizing folks. No alternative fruit (oranges work well for those of us who can not eat bananas), but even that’s not a sin in the racing world, I don’t expect anything. They also had bagels and cookies, but the area had to be navigated in single file if you wanted anything…or risk tripping over the tent stakes. And you could only get water right after the finish, no additional opportunities to grab a bottle.
The best parts about this race weekend, the non-Diva related things. Sorry Diva’s, thumbs down. I will not be running with you again.