A running friend of mine once told me that all races in New England were a disaster. Some were less disastrous than others but, as a life-long New England resident, she recommended keeping my expectations low when I tackled these states. Living in New York, New England states are easily accessible by car so I figured I’d tackle them early.
I had originally planned on participating in the New England Ragnar in May. I booked a non-refundable room at a nearby hotel near the beach. When my plans changed and I couldn’t cancel my hotel reservation, I transferred my reservation to September and registered for the Run to the Rock Half Marathon.
Let me say that Hull, Massachusetts (where I stayed) is beautiful. The people are friendly, the town is extremely pedestrian friendly and the boardwalk is full of great ethnic restaurants. I would love to return to Hull for vacation during the summer. The race took place in Plymouth, about 40 minutes away.
Plymouth is a top tourist destination. The town was packed with people vying for the same parking spaces as those of us running the race. I had a very long walk from one of the assigned parking lots to the start. There were no signs telling you which way to go for the start of the race. A 5K and 10K started at the same time as the half marathon, from a different start line. The website provided directions to the 5K/10K start line and referenced shuttle buses for the half marathon start. I used my phone to map my way to the start line.
There was no schedule of when the buses would run for the half marathon or when they would be cut off. There were no signs showing half marathoners where to go. None of the volunteers knew anything about the half marathon. Several race participants posted questions about the start on the Facebook page but no additional information was provided before the race. I was eventually sent to the race director for guidance. She told me that I had missed the cutoff for the buses and that it was clearly stated on the website (it wasn’t). She had no apologies, no solutions, nothing for me. I asked her where the start line was for the half and whether I could drive there. She told me the name of the park but said I wouldn’t be able to get there since the roads were closed for the race. She then walked away.
With the help of a bus driver, a couple of friendly race volunteers and the spouse of someone running the race I got a ride to the start line….20 minutes after the start of the race. For the next 3 hours I went through an emotional roller coaster as I ran the course alone. Around the 8 mile mark I caught up with the last 10K walker. Initially I was excited to see someone else on the course. That excitement ended after about 2 minutes when she turned off to finish her race and I went on alone for the last 5 miles.
This is the hardest race that I have ever run. I had incredible support from police officers and park rangers (the first part of the race is through a national forest) once they realized I was alone on the course. They stopped traffic at intersections, checked in with me every couple of miles to make sure I was okay and shadowed me on the more treacherous parts of the open course. The police drove ahead to let the volunteers know there was still someone on the course. All of the aid stations remained open until I finished the race. Much like Hull, the people of Plymouth are some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life.
Two police officers cheered me in and alerted the photographer (who they had asked to stay) that he needed to take my picture. They congratulated me and said some really wonderful things that added more emotion to the day. I collected my medal, changed clothes in a port-a-potty, grabbed some scraps from the picked-over post race area and started the long walk to my car. I drove straight home to Syracuse without stopping.
I would definitely consider doing another race in Massachusetts but I would strongly recommend that people avoid races run by the same organization. The races benefits the Boys and Girls Club which is a great cause. The race website has since been updated to provide detailed information on each race. If you chose to do this race, consider yourself warned.
I have never felt more disrespected in my life. One of my running friends mentioned that she thought I would have been treated better if I were white. Even though my face was the only black face I saw all weekend, I never felt discriminated against. Everyone was extremely friendly to me. While I will agree that this is not a diverse area, the lack of diversity didn’t affect the way that I was treated. If the rude race director was racist then she was definitely the exception and not the norm.