Sunday, 3 October 2010

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half

Oh crap! Lots of women about to overtake me.
 Since receiving an email with last minute race details, I haven't been particularly enamoured by the Rock 'n' Roll race series. It included a couple of annoying tips and rules. Firstly, it suggested running very easily and not pushing yourself - not what racing is all about. For a flat, sight-free race round San Jose, it's not like you can take in the views. But I suppose it does have bands at several parts of the course for 'atmosphere' of sorts.

The other thing in the email really showed me that it's only about making money and not about creating any kind of enjoyable running experience. It said that for those who can't make the expo, there's luckily an alternative for picking up the bib and chip. But only 350 people could pick up on race day instead. And they ONLY had to pay an extra $30 for the privilege. On top of up to $120 to enter the race...a half marathon (some of their halves cost even more if entered at the expo and aren't much cheaper even if entered a year in advance).

I have no issue with organisers making money from races instead of just doing it for love of the sport or charity. But these guys take the piss and must turn a lot of people off races when they see the mercurial attitude of the organisers. Admittedly, they do attract big crowds and focus on getting beginners to run, which is a very good thing when obesity is such an issue, but these events are only half like the mega events of the London/NYC etc marathons and don't have the courses, spectators or experience to offer, even though they do have the scale (and toilet queues, congestion etc associated with it).

So, although it's certainly good to get people involved in running, it doesn't help deal with obesity or get people healthier if they hardly train then never run again. This is also shown by the fact that, apart from the elites, hardly anyone runs these races and most power-walk. As I came into the last mile, I passed people on the way out at mile four. Lots of them.

I have barely run in the last three weeks, just doing the three marathons at Tahoe, so had a bit of a chance to recharge. But I was still run down at the start line and not in the mood for any mistakes by the organisers, given what I wrote above.

In fairness, the event was well run with plenty of volunteers at water stations (do they realise they aren't helping the community but offering their free services just so the company in charge can make more money?). The start corrals could be entered by anyone, meaning there was little point to them, especially when you could state any predicted finish time anyway. Mind you, I easily squeezed in to the front with just a couple of minutes to spare, so can't complain that it mattered.

Then we all went off and Meb Keflezighi zoomed off to defend his title, one month before attempting to defend his NYC marathon title too. I could see him for a couple of miles (just) and started off as I meant to, but could feel my legs were heavy.

After three miles I decided it wasn't going to be my day and I should just settle in for a jog, so people started to overtake. Another mile and I saw Amy, so I tried to tell her I'd be slowing down, but she was next to one of the bands and clearly couldn't hear. Oops.

I took it a bit easier then found about four or five of the elite women overtaking me. I stayed at my pace and was feeling fine so thought that maybe I'd not let them get away, after all who likes getting chicked? Even if I wasn't going to have a good day, I could focus on gaining those positions back.

Seemed like a good idea while I went through half way in around 38 minutes. Then I felt the heavy legs again and just settled into a pace behind a guy, then a girl. Not too fast, but I managed to hang on for 1:17:29, which isn't too slow, even if it's a few minutes off what I'd aimed for.

Can I stop now?

The course was just roads and showed off a chunk of San Jose but not anything particularly pretty to take my mind off the pain. I didn't end up taking it easy, except the middle couple of miles. I'm sure a lot of PBs were achieved as it is a fast, flat course, but not for me. And Meb won by a couple of minutes in 1:01:45, just slower than last year.

Meb high fiving after his win.

However, it all feels a bit empty - a hard and mainly unsuccessful effort in a not very memorable race. Trails are more fun, but this sort of thing is needed to work on speed.

Probably no running until next weekend's Golden Hills marathon in Oakland. Might have to jog it to continue my resting, which at least means it'll be a relaxing and fun race. I'll also get to meet Ann Trason at the event, basically the biggest name in female ultra running ever. She's the RD.

Anyway, that's the end of a slightly bad tempered posting. Apologies, but when you see the contrast between today's event and some of the excellently organised trail races, which have really passionate people trying to make sure everyone gets the best experience possible, this type of road race can seem soulless.


  1. Love it - too many race reports are too chipper. No problem with that here!

    And I agree wholeheartedly about the soullessness of corporate races, especially when compared to trail races.

  2. $120 for a half that is a lot of money in deed. Sad to ask for volunteers which are not paid to make profit.
    Anyway, good luck with recovering and your next races.
    Regarding defending Meb the NYM title that will be tricky since U believe Gebrselassie is running!