I ran the 1/2 marathon in 2012 and again in 2013. Completely different experiences. In 2012 the expo was held at the Santa Anita Racetrack. It was a decent size with quality vendors. The 2013 expo was much smaller and held at Fuller Theological Seminary. Even though the expo went till 7:00, many vendors were already tearing down when I arrived at 4:30. I easily saw everything the expo had to offer in under 10 minutes. In 2012 the shirts were black in color and made out of tech material. In 2013 the shirts were white. Although I’m not a fan of white shirts, a lighter color shirt was probably a good choice given the heat. Women received tech material shirts, however men received cotton shirts due to an ordering error. They also ran out of many sizes.
The morning of the race, everything was fine both years. Parking is free at PCC. Both years I got a parking spot immediately. There were adequate restrooms. From this point on, I will primarily focus on the 2013 race. The race started late because the City Of Pasadena was clearing parked cars from the course. That is not the fault of the race organizers. Although the City Of Pasadena contracts with 4 different tow lots, I’m sure they had their hands full that morning. Normally I wouldn’t care about a late start, but given the extremely high temperatures, I was very anxious to start running. Again, not the fault of the organizers. Fast forwarding into the run — the race did not provide adequate water stops provided the heat. Several water stops ran out of water and cups. The water they served was very warm. To my recollection, all but one of the water stops provided only water — no sports drinks. On a hot day such as June 30th, electrolyte replacement is extremely important. This did not affect me as much as it did others. I always carry my own sports drink of choice. I only partook in the water stops for the second half of the race. I’m glad I was “fast enough” to hit these aide stations before they ran out of water and cups. I have read many horror stories on the Pasadena Marathon facebook.
The other big issue with 2013 — they ran out of medals. About 500 runners (including myself) did not receive one. I read that the 5k and 10k medals were handed out to the kids run. When they ran out of 10k medals, they started handing out the 1/2 marathon medals to the 10k runners. Once they completely ran out of medals, the 1/2 marathoners who then crossed the finish line were told they would be mailed a medal in a few weeks. I’m not sure if this was bad planning or bad organization…or both. At this point, I honestly don’t care about my missing medal. I have a decent number of races under my belt. I only wear my medal the day of the race. After that it goes into my box of medals. However I do care about the people who were running their first 1/2 marathon not receiving a medal. I care about the mother running with her two teenage children who finished right before me. It is a wonderful feeling crossing the finish line for the first time and having a medal being placed around your neck. It is such a feeling of accomplishment. These people were unfairly robbed of that experience. Receiving a package in the mail a few weeks later? Not the same. Although from what I can see…the medals were extremely cheap. I’m not sure they are actually metal. They looked like painted plastic with a sticker placed in the center. I guess I’ll know for sure once mine arrives. The 2012 medal was really cool. It was nice heavy metal and doubled as a bottle opener.
The refreshments were lacking at the finish line. From what I have gathered, part of the problem was the fact that the finish area was not restricted to runners. Many spectators helped themselves to the fruit and bagels. By the time I crossed the finish (my time was slow, but not horribly slow), there were only orange slices left. Every race I have ever run I have received a bottle of water at the finish. Here it was only a cup which was about halfway full. As for the VIP tent? Only a small bowl of muffins.
There were no photographers at the finish. During the course itself I only spotted one person who might have been an event photographer…but then he also could have been some random dude out taking pictures. I don’t know. I’ve only run one other race that had so few photographers — and that was a marathon with less than 200 runners. A race of this size should have at least a few photographers scattered throughout the course.
My final critique is probably one that wouldn’t bother most people. The back of the bib did not have an area for you to write down your emergency contact information and medical history. This really surprised me. I believe this is common practice to have this on the back of the bib. Having suffered a brain aneurysm and having gone through heart surgery less than a year ago, I have started paying extra attention to filling out the back of my bib. Although I have been cleared to run, I take a certain comfort in having important medical history and emergency contact information on the back of my bib. Again, a complaint that wouldn’t bother most people.
Many people have posted that they will never do this race again. I may only because it is conveniently located in my hometown. If I had to travel to this race, forget about it! The 2014 race will have a new race director. If they don’t make some serious changes, this race will go under. I personally look forward to seeing how next year is different.