This is in response to an article that appeared in today’s NY Times on the eve of the NYC Half Marathon. I had initially posted a response about this on my Facebook but as I was writing my comment I realized that there was much more I wanted to say.
Overall, I felt that the article was flawed and so I’m going to break things down bit by bit.
1. The article starts off by mentioning that the number of finishers in the first two races of the years was down from the year before.
First citing that two races (Joe Kleinerman 1ok and the Al Gordon 4m) in winter are not a good measuring stick of a problem. In the years that I have been participating in NYRR races, since 2009, I have never seen these two events sell out. Not even when the Kleinerman was held in December and more people ran this event to get in their nine qualifying races to get guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon.
It was also colder this winter than it was last year and well so many reasons why the total number of finishers could have been down.
Second, the NYC Half, Coogan’s, Brooklyn Half, and Colon Cancer Challenge races have already sold out. Other races like the Women’s More Magazine Half Marathon and Scotland 10k are nearing capacity and I have a feeling many more races will also sell out as registration opens for those events.
2. The article cites competition from the organizers of the Rock-n-Roll race series and NYCRUNs.
It’s hard to say the the one RnR 10k event serves as any sort of competition to NYRR. They’ve held this event twice and from people I know who ran the first year it was held said it was a disaster. When you expand to the rest of their events outside of NYC they also have mixed results with runner satisfaction. Last year’s DC event had many organization problems and let’s not forget their event and the not so great water issue.
I personally like NYCRUNs and have participated in a few of their events and have been satisfied. As stated in the Times article, they do cater to a smaller more community type of event. So far, no event has had more then 1,500 by design. Can NYRR learn from NYCRUNs? Yes, especially in reaching out to their community.
NYCRUNs can also learn from NYRR. The complete race results from their recent marathon and half marathon were not posted until three days after the event and it took about a week for results for a recent track meet to be posted. If NYRR had been this late posting results people would be calling for Mary Wittenberg’s head.
3. There was a complaint about the quality of t-shirts declining in recent years.
We’re starting to get into a pettiness area. But ok, let’s address this. Are you running the shirt? Yes, it is nice to have swag for these events but I’m not sure I completely understand this one. In the races I have participated in the common type of shirt was a cotton t-shirt. That has been pretty standard. But in recent years I have noticed that more and more races are proving tech shirts. So much so that you can almost run in only the tech shirt races and still get your nine qualifying races completed. Now the quality of the tech shirts has varied. These aren’t cheap and if you are only paying 18 bucks for a race don’t expect some Nike Dri-Fit.
4. NYRUNs has better bagels and gives out hot chocolate.
I wasn’t going to include because of the pure STUPIDITY of this. It’s so stupid I had to put it in all caps. Really, people complain about the bagels.
I haven’t had a bagel after a NYCRUNs event so I can’t offer a comparison. But realistically, even though we live in the bagel capital of the world, I’m not sure that there are too many companies that can provide over 6,000 bagels for an event as compared to those that can provide “better” bagels for an event with no more than 1,500 people.
Again this is just pure STUPID.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m all rah, rah, rah, NYRR. The organization does have areas where they can improve.
The article mentions that their marketing strategist has left and longtime spokesperson will soon be leaving. This could be a good thing because NYRR’s PR stinks.
Remember the outrage before the 2011 marathon when the NYTimes reported that NYRR spent a million dollars on a new logo and website? In actuality, that’s not what they really spent the money on. It was on a marketing strategy to increase their presence in the community and encourage healthy living through running. That message got lost because 1) NYRR failed to notify the membership first where they could have controlled the message and focused more on the community initiatives. 2) Of course, the Times would focus on the money aspect which is then what everyone else focused on.
NYRR has a wonderful program for kids that is now spreading outside of NYC. We should be proud of that. I don’t see RnR or NYCRUNs doing that.
I’m not sure if I want to touch on Ponchogate as I’m not sure there was a way that NYRR could have managed that better. Maybe if they came up with their ultimate decision of a choice between baggage or no baggage earlier that would have help because I know the no baggage policy was discussed much earlier than when it was announced.
I’m not touching on the whole marathon cancellation thing. That has been done ad nauseum already.
NYRR is not perfect but neither are RnR and NYCRUNs. But I do know that there are few organizations that can put on a well organized race better than NYRR. I think we have all experienced those horribly organized events and became appreciative of something we have become spoiled to.
I also believe that some of the people who constantly complain about NYRR are similar to those who hate Apple or Microsoft just because who they are and that there is nothing that can be done to win those people over.