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Review of Hollywood Half Marathon by Tanya

Posted by: on April, 11 2012

This race failed to protect the health and safety of its participants and therefore receives a failing grade from my perspective. The best medal I’ve ever seen, all the great marketing and fun social media interaction in the world can never supersede the importance of the health and safety of race participants. Period.
There were lots of organizational/logistical problems with this race and I will discuss them, but chief among them is the failure to plan adequately in the area of health and safety. Water stops ran out of cups (at about mile six of the half marathon for the majority of runners). Volunteers did not coordinate with earlier stops to obtain cups nor did anyone as far as I know, simply go to Target, Walgreens etc. to buy more cups. By the time the 5K and 10K participants started, there were no cups, so my assumption is that this was not done. At least one water stop along the half marathon course was abandoned and participants were left to negotiate the jugs of water left behind on their own. Furthermore, I never saw the promised Vitalyte on the course. Clif Bar and Co set up a Gu stop at around mile 10, but my understanding is that that ran out as well. I consider myself a middle of the pack runner and my friends behind me had no access to gels, vitalyte or safe drinking water for the majority of the race. Granted we should all prepare for contingency by bringing our own hydration and gels and I did. However, many folks do fairly expect that after paying upwards of $100 for a race, these items will be provided, as promised. The RD is darned lucky that no one was hurt. I did read an account from a blogger whose legs gave way after crossing the finish line because she didn’t get enough electrolytes on what was a challenging course, by all accounts. I am disappointed by participants who feel that folks should have sucked it up and embraced a “go hard or go home” mentality. While I certainly respect their view, I hope they would respect mine in rejecting a waterfall, in particular after a witnessing previous participant after previous participant wrapping his/her lips around the very same jug of water. I should not have to drink unsanitary water after having paid over $100 all in for a race. I plan better for my own long runs. And notwithstanding my own planning for this race, I ran out of water and ran thirsty for the last three miles or so. Not acceptable.
Traffic was horrendous (even by LA standards) getting in and getting out of the Universal Hilton. The Expo was a madhouse. The room was too small for the number of vendors and the thousands of participants picking up their bibs. There was no signage nor were there volunteers directing participants to the back of the room to pick up their bibs and then to the side to pick up t-shirts. The location of the bib pick up was unusual (why at the back of the room?) adding to the confusion. Neither safety pins nor zipties were provided. The vendors were unremarkable and the room was overcrowded. And I paid for parking.
A friend had her packet mailed to her in advance. She noted that no information regarding race logistics was included in the package. More on that in the section titled communications.
The Start
We purchased our parking pass in advance which went smoothly. There was no signage nor were there volunteers directing us from the parking lot to the start line. Participants were left to figure it out on their own. Traffic was quite bad getting in. Mercifully, the race began late.
Although there were pacers, there were no corrals. Hence you had walkers/very slow runners at the start line with the 5:00 pace runners (look at the pictures of the start line…the evidence is there). There were no wristbands or pace notations on our bibs so there was nothing the volunteers could do about it, presumably. There was lots of confusion regarding gear check. Volunteers were not trained sufficiently. Some told participants that there was no gear check. Others indicated that there was. The RD indicates in his apology on Facebook that gear check instructions were announced numerous times over a loudspeaker. However, the loudspeaker was unintelligible to participants and volunteers alike, hence the confusion. I stopped to ask volunteers a few questions until I realized I was able to get accurate information from the security officers. Sad. Also, there were children selling the technical tees for $10. Have no idea what that was about.
The Course
Medical tents weren’t always tented and there weren’t enough of them. There weren’t regular mile markers. In fact there were very few. I have a watch but not everyone does or was wearing one. They really should have had mile markers. At least one mile marker read “Holywood Half”. They should get their money back for that one. The Hollywood Half finish line was used for the 10K and 5K races, in error. Issues with water, electrolytes and gels have already been discussed.
The Finish
Again, I’m a middle of the pack runner. I could barely retrieve my medal because it was so crowded after crossing the finish line. Post race nutrition was adequate. Plenty of bottled water (I drank two and usually can’t drink after a race! Why didn’t they bring some of that water to the water stops?). No mylar blankets. The finish line area was just too tight for the number of participants. I didn’t take a picture or get a massage I just wanted to get out of the crush of people. Friends who crossed later said the race ran out of post race nutrition, so the race was insufficiently stocked in this respect as well.
I waited for my friends to finish the race and off we went in search of the promised shuttles back to Universal. That was fruitless, as the Limo Buses apparently stopped bringing participants back to their cars at 9:30 a.m. and the RD, by his own account, was tired of arguing with the city about it (would have been more impressed had he said he weighed what was important and made a run to Smart & Final for some cups instead, but I digress). I too was tired after running a 13.1 mile race and wanted a ride, but at the end of the day, the two mile walk uphill didn’t kill me. It took FOREVER as there were thousands of us trudging up that hill together at a 53:57 min pace (yes, I checked my watch). We were so very cold (no mylar blankets provided) and the crowd started to get the angries. It was difficult negotiating the park participants back to the car. I don’t know how to fix all of that but there had to be a better way.

Apparently, folks paid for a post race brunch and the brunch closed an hour earlier than stated (at 9 instead of 10). Hopefully, they’ll get their $25 back.
There were several emails, lots of communication on facebook and of course the website. Problem was that the emails linked us to the website for certain information and the website crashed from demand. Lots of folks claimed they didn’t know about this or that. In these sorts of matters, I believe in making this stuff idiot proof. I would suggest sending one email with all the information several times and not require linking to the web to read more about anything. Would also suggest including this information in the mailed packets.
This race had/has a lot of potential but it seems as if organizers focused their energies on the marketing, the flashy, fun ideas and the hype at the cost of nailing down the logistics. Bottom line. I don’t care about breakfasts, parties, limo buses or celebrities if I don’t have access to clean water and electrolytes and mile markers on the course. I would have run the race without all the fun stuff. Get the basics down, first.
The course was challenging and fun. I hated the hill, but would run happily run the course again. My medal is gorgeous. The technical tee was great.