Army run 2019 – I love you BUT …

I am deviating a bit from my usual race report format, because this year the Army run made some big changes, and I wanted to touch on a few of them specifically while they are fresh in my mind.

This post is broken in two – WHAT I LOVED and WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX for next year.

What I loved

Partnering with OC Transpo

Having the ability to take OC Transpo to the start, instead of driving downtown and trying to figure out parking. I left my car at the Park N Ride in Fallowfield, hopped on a 95, got off at Pimisi and it worked great. On the way back, I took the O-Train to TUnneys Pasture (just so I could ride the O-Train), there were volunteers when I got on the O-train giving directions on where to baord, and volunteers when I got off the O-train letting us know which way to go to catch a bus or exit the station.

I ran the half marathon, so not having the LRT running until 8 AM really wasn’t a factor for me, and I just took the 95 all the way to the start. So it really didn’t bother me that OC transpo wasn’t in a position to open the LRT early. It was the first week of operations for the LRT after all.

The atmosphere of the race

Army run has a great atmosphere. Starting at the war museum and running through Beechwood cemetery all fit in well with that atmosphere. Personally, I don’t mind the extra hills on the route. This is not a good course to try and set a personal best (hilly, crowded, lots of turns), it’s a race to run and soak in the atmosphere. I still love the shirts. Cool hoodie style shirts for the Commanders challenge. Was nice to have the cannon back at the start line again this year. I adore the dog tag medals and all those touches that make the Army Run special.

The pacers

The pacers I met did a great job! Staying solidly on track for their predicted times. They even had their planned per km pace written on the signs, which was helpful for the 1:45 since the two pacers took different approaches, one did a 4:59/km pace, the other did a 4:55/km pace. So depending on whether you wanted to be aggressive or conservative you could pick your pacer.  Thank you, I met my race goal, and the pace bunnies helped with that.

Port-a-potty lines

For a race this size, I was impressed with how short the lines were! I just kept walking towards the back of the corrals until I found a shorter line. And my stops pre and psot race they still had toilet paper. Thank you.

WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX for next year

Okay, that’s all the good stuff, now I have to bring up some of the problems. There were some issues with the new location and route, that if not addressed will affect whether or not I recommend this race to others in the future.

Signage at the race expo and start area

I know that Friday noon is a madhouse to pick up bibs, so I specifically went at 2:30 PM Friday. It was nice and quiet. Due to construction traffic was a mess, but that’s not something the Army run can control. I found a parking spot on the street near the war museum and grabbed it, so I cannot comment on how parking worked if you drove into the actual museum grounds.

What I can say is once I got out fo the car, I had no idea where to go. There were tents and fences and people all over the place. But There were no signs outside saying Bib pick up this way – T-shirt pick up this way – Race Expo this way. Given that the bib expo was inside the museum, down the hallway, aroudn the corner, that would have been helpful. Then I was tol pick up your tshirt at the expo. Okay… so I figured out how to get to the expo and walked a loop around the expo but still could not find the t-shirt pick up, oh apparently I missed the little turn off 2/3rds of the way down the second tent which is a little tunnel that takes you to the t-shirt pickup. Again SIGNAGE PLEASE! Honestly, it took so long to figure out where everything was that I spent absolutely no time in the expo itself. I have been known to spend money in race expos buying shoes, sunglasses, shirts, gels, I didn’t even look around, I was so focused on trying to figure out where the heck to get my shirt. When I did get my shirt, I just wanted to get out of there before rush hour traffic set in.

Bag check

Signage on where to find bag check would have been nice as well. Once again I arrived with a bag, and no idea where to go. I did find a volunteer who told me it was where I picked up my t-shirt. So the volunteer was helpful, but really some basic signage would go such a long way!

It was a bit confusing when I dropped off the bag, do I ahve to drop it off a the booth with my race distance? OR can I drop it off with any of the volunteers?  It felt like you were supposed to go to the booth for your distance, but of course all the half marathon runners were dropping off bags aroudn the same time and the other volunteers had no-one coming up to them… you know what would be helpful? signage or a volunteer at the entrance letting you know the scoop.

I did not have a very long line for bag pick up or drop off, and the volunteers were great, but I did have friends doing Commanders Challenge and some of them were unable to get their bag between races. That’s not good! If you set the expectation that I can get my bag between races, and then I can’t get it… that’s a bigger problem than just telling me hey don’t expect to get your bag between races.

Hand cycles mid-race

I am 100% supportive of hand cycles and wheelchair racers! I also think it’s great to have people of all different levels of ability running the race, slow fast, doesn’t matter, you did it! good for you! You rock!

I don’t remember this problem before, but maybe it just happened to be around me, but I caught up to a couple of hand cycles around Beechwood cemetery. They were slower than me going up the hill. They were faster than me going down the hill. Faster than me and everyone else around me. This meant cries of “cycle on your left, cycle on your left” were a regular occurrence for about 8 km as we would pass him on the uphill, and he would pass us on the downhill. Of course the hand cycle was near the curb and lots of runners were running along the edge of the road (it’s a popular place to run for cutting corners, or just to find space on the road). Some runners heard us when we yelled out cycle on the left, some did not. We would yell over and over, and sometimes we had to jog over and tap a runner on the shoulder because they were in the zone, or just wearing headphones. Frustrating as it was for us, it must have been even worse for the hand cyclist who must have been constantly adjusting speed to avoid hitting someone.

The 5 km finish

A friend of mine had 2 kids running the 5km, he went to the finish to watch them run in and what he saw was a solid wall of people. You could not actually run to the finish line. I quickly did the math and wondered what happens when the fast 10 km runners start coming in to that mess? I gather things cleared up engouh or they made a path to the side for the 10 km finsihers zooming in which is good, but wow that 5 km finish was a mess!

The water stops

Okay I’m torn about mentioning this one. The volunteers at the water stops were great! They made sure you knew if they had Nuun or water. There were a good number of water stops on the course, and there was a sponge station and misters. ALL OF THIS I APPRECIATED THANK YOU! It was hot, and it all helped.

It was a little tricky to get water at some of the stops, and I wasn’t in the thickest pack of runners. There were a few water stations that were only on one side of the road, and the number of tables and how spread out they were seemed to vary. SO if it’s possiblew to have water stops on both sides of the road for all water stops and spread the tables out a bit more so we have a little mroe space to grab a cup that woudl be great. But this isn’t a MUST fix, this is a “if you want suggestions on how to improve this is somethign that could be even better.” I’ve seen WAY worse at other races.

Summary

So hey Army Run – I am sure you are getting feedback from other runners. There were some issues with the new location, but I think you can fix a lot of it with a little planning. These types of issues can really discourage someone who was doing their first race, or will make them look to other races instead. I hope we hear in the news about ‘improvements’ for 2020.

Sincerely – a 5 time Army run 1 time Commanders Challenge runner who has frequently convinced others they should run the race and wants to continue doing that in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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