Thursday, July 12, 2012

Race Report: Finish on the Fifty Half Marathon [New York: State #7]

This is going to be short and sweet... mostly because there is little good I can say about my experience with the Rapid Running Buffalo Half Marathon.

"But, wait, Russ. This says you ran the Finish on the Fifty Half Marathon."

Exactly.

I registered for the June 30 race about two months prior to the date, willing to pay the high entry fee ($85) since I happened to be in the area during my road trip. Since the time of my arrival in the city was questionable, I opted to pay an additional $20 (seriously?) for race-morning pick-up. Total rip off.

Well, on June 21st - the day before I left on my drive and only 9 days before the race - Rapid Running sent out an email postponing the race to an unspecified fall date. I was miffed because there was no way I'd make it up there in the fall. They offered to transfer registrations to another RR event, but none fit my schedule or were anywhere near me. I emailed asking (politely) for a refund knowing it was a lost cause. I've come to find out thousands of others did the same (some not so politely). Apparently, RR's excuse was that they hadn't prepared for so many entrants. Well, how about you cap the entry number then, geniuses? STOP TAKING ENTRIES.

Rumors swirled that they didn't have a sponsor and that was the problem. Regardless, I was annoyed with the lack of customer support (a constant diatribe I have about America in all industries). So, I was prepared to adjust my drive accordingly when visitbuffalo.com went WAY out of their way to put on a comparable event.

Visit Buffalo recognized the smear that RR placed on the city and in 8 DAYS got sponsors, community approval (including cops), and Buffalo Bills front office concurrence to run the race. In 8 days. Now, it wasn't perfect, but I give them total credit for pulling this off.

About 500 people showed up to race. Where were these thousands that RR claimed? Admittedly, the experience left bitter tastes in the mouths of many, but only 500? Visit Buffalo was able to get t-shirts for us (sweet!) but no medals (a disappointment to many... especially those that had signed up with RR for this event as their FIRST race).

We met early in the morning at the Bills clubhouse for packet picket. The indoor practice facility was impressive, but I've seen much better facilities on college campuses. Oh, and the Bills play in Orchard Park, NY. It's a nice area with rolling hills and... cows. But there is absolutely nothing out there but the stadium. Why Buffalo chose to build their stadium in BFE is beyond me. Why a professional football player would choose to play for Buffalo is similarly confusing.

The bare-bones organization made for a hectic start, but we were quickly off and running through the pastures of eastern New York. it was actually a nice run but not at all what I expected. The field was minimal, so long stretches would go by where I would be near no one. A few overpasses and culverts produced hills, and it began to rival those I saw in Tennessee. I started fast (something unusual for me), and I felt it as I toured the marshes and cattle fields of miles 10 and 11. But, I fought forward because of what was coming.

RR had promised a finish on the 50 yard line of Ralph Wilson stadium, and Visit Buffalo had matached the promise. We turned into the tunnels and emerged under the goalposts for a mad dash through the dozens of spectators to the 50 yard line. It wasn't as grandiose as I had imagined weeks earlier, but it was certainly a memorable experience. Even better? I set another PR (my second for the trip) in 1:54:17.

Rapid Running's complete disregard for its customers made a large hill for Visit Buffalo to climb, but they did it well considering their resources. And, the Finish on the Fifty was certainly one I will remember.

I can't post a picture of a non-existent medal, and my distance from Buffalo makes it unlikely I'll run another race there. So, I can't recommend this race. But, given what they pulled off, I'm sure that next year (Visit Buffalo enjoyed the 8 days of confusion and was considering making it an annual, better-organized-with-more-time event) it will be an improvement.

However, I won't be running another Rapid Running race (they aren't a fly-by-night operation... they have a somewhat large presence in racing) again.


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