Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Large Races: Pros, Cons, and Planning Ahead
I noticed this morning that the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon just sold out, closing registration 25 days faster than last year. The registration STARTED on the 1st of February! Over 45,000 people will be lining up in Grant Park at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 7th to run in the Windy City. This will be the race's 35th anniversary, and it doesn't even start for 241 days !
I like to think I plan ahead, but this is just amazing to me. I suppose that since this is one of the premier marathons in the country that still doesn't have a restricted entry system in place (think New York City / Boston Marathon), that it is a highly sought after run, and I do have to admit that I might like to run it myself one day.
But that IS a lot of people though. My first (Cowtown) currently has a little over 19,000 people signed up at this point, and the Ft. Worth Marathon isn't anywhere near as prestigious as Chicago. I suppose that "big city" marathons just attract very large crowds these days.
I have kind of mixed feelings about races this big to be honest.
Participating in a larger marathon certainly has name recognition, so people will know what you're talking about. And at this point in my running, making a goal race something "name worthy" (so to speak) is a nice touch.
Another kind of nice thing about a larger event is just the opportunity to run with and test yourself against a large group of like-minded people. I tend to do the overwhelming majority of my running alone, so it is interesting and a bit invigorating to be around THAT many people doing what I love to do.
On race day, I'm primarily out there to compete against all the men in their early 50's who were complete couch potatoes less than a year ago, unable to string 2 miles together at a time without nearly killing themselves, and 30+ pounds overweight. In other words, myself. Because even though I'll be around a lot of people, it will still be myself that I have to deal with most of the time.
Yet I do also get a lot of enjoyment out of passing other runners on the course, especially in the latter half to quarter of the distance...and especially in the last couple of tenths of a mile at the end to cross the finish line. Even though I won't be setting any record of note, and the odds of me either knowing the people I'm passing or every recognizing them if I see them again will be slim, I still get a "rush" out of pushing myself hard at the end and blowing past a few of my fellow runners.
Of course there ARE downsides to that many people, including taking a while to cross the start line, and erratic runners who dart in front of you or slow down (A LOT) all at once for no apparent reason. Then there are the small groups of those using the Run/Walk method, which just add to the clutter early in the race before people are settled into their pace.
The water stops can also be a bit of a "cluster" at times, with all the people who (at least sometimes) seem almost desperate to "get that cup", and they all have to funnel into one relatively small area where they will at times slam on the brakes to take the drink. I have to admit that I'll be carrying some water bottles on my belt just so I can avoid that hassle (at least in the early miles).
But even those things are minor things in the minds of a great many people apparently (as they are to me)...I can think of at least 45,000 people right off the top of my head (and 19,000 more a bit closer to home).
So what do you think...especially those of you who have done a few marathons..?
Do you like the large crowds or find them frustrating..?
Do you enjoy large spectator crowds, or could you care less about them..?