Not all races are made equal and this is the time to give due credit to those that gave us great experiences. Because of the ordeal many runners encountered during the period it was requested that penitent races also be mentioned (79% of respondents to my poll want bloggers to feature lowlights for the year). As much as I want to satisfy this request, I would just like to focus on the faults:
Race organizers did a lot of morbid offense to runners in 2009, the worst I’ve seen since I started running in August, 2008. When we signed up for a race there’s a mutual understanding between runners and organizers that both parties would act accordingly on their behalf. In many races it seemed that only runners were fulfilling their end of the bargain. Here are my list of the top five most neglected:
5. Fast and accurate race results. As much as we’d love real time race results (as seen abroad) we can settle for accurate ones at a reasonable time frame, meaning within the week. Runrio was able to come up with same day race results while still using manual timing proving it can be done even without disposable timing chips. Accuracy is the key word as we don’t need race results where we have our name, not our time. It would be best if the date of release of race results be announced beforehand, or if there would be race results at all! Of course it is common sense that tabular race results be sorted by ranking, not alphabetically.
4. Distance. No one can make a “perfect” course but it’s a different thing if it’s half a kilometer or more off. Runners would know if the margin was notable because even PATAFA-certified courses get criticized (oftentimes inappropriately) particularly by GPS-equipped runners. At this day and age there’s no reason for such huge inaccuracy especially in Metro areas nationwide because of the availability of free online maps with measuring tool (which is GPS-accurate). A 1% margin of error is ideal (e.g. 100 meters for 10K, 400 meters for marathon) but anything beyond 2% should be avoided.
3. Punctuality. Runners do struggle to get up very early in the morning just to make it on time in a race. It’s an utter disrespect of runners’ time if organizers delay the race just to let their sponsors talk about their product. It’s the runners’ skins that get burned in the sun in the first place.
2. Protection. Runners aren’t demanding that the entire course be fenced (like those abroad) but they should have some protection when out on the street. There were many that just let runners run on the street like there was no race.
1. Water. Basic need for life. Basic arithmetic on how much you need. If organizers don’t think they have enough for all they should mention it beforehand so that runners are aware. Just attach the phrase, “runners are encouraged to be self-sufficient.”
Finally here are my personal picks for the best local races for 2009:
Best Sub-Half Marathon: The Happy Run
At par with the best local races, this race was one of the most enjoyable while still having the low race fees of 2008.
Best Half-Marathon: Timex Run
One of the most organized and expensive local races of the year. Excellent no frills course utilizing disposable timing chips with fun post-race area. The huge heavy medal could’ve been more specific with the race though.
Best Marathon: 33rd Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations
The most hydrated marathon for 2009 beating all races for the year. It was well organized but race marshals could have been more professional, typical for Milo races.
Best International Marathon: Quezon City International Marathon
It was far from being perfect but for this category it was easily the best. If there would be a lone international marathon in the country, this would be my best pick. Government and local community support goes a long way making this race one with the most potential of truly reaching international standards.
Best Ultramarathon: The North Face 100
It was my most expensive local race for the year, also the longest time-wise and distance-wise, and most difficult. This was one race I was proud of finishing and the experience was well worth all the ordeals. Combining trail runs and an ultramarathon proved to be the ultimate race.
Best Trail Run: The North Face Thrill of the Trail
There were very few races for this category but the natural and picturesque trails of Batulao were enough to make this my favorite trail run for the year. It was my first and the reason I fell in love with trail runs.
Best Race Finisher’s Medal: Quezon City International Marathon
Personally I believe that a beautiful medal is one that needs no paint—it in itself is enough. QCIM’s finisher’s medal is at par with those given abroad although the medal for 21K seemed to look better that for 42K.
Best Race Singlet: adidas King of the Road
For the second year in a row adidas gave runners the best race singlet that was the envy of runners and non-runners alike, and no other local race singlet even came close!
Best Marathon Route: Quezon City International Marathon
There were so many marathons with excellent route in 2009 but the La Mesa Dam route was quite tough to beat.
Best Race: The North Face 100
An ultramarathon combined with crazily difficult trails traversing mountains and with countless river-crossings—it’s an experience of a lifetime! Of course only a proud few have bragging rights of conquering TNF100 Philippines 2009, completing it was an achievement.
I hope that this year we have enough examples of which races to emulate, and which ones to learn from. I just hope that organizers start paying attention to details, not just profit. 2009 proved that if you provide a good quality event, fees aren’t much of a deterrent. It also proved that fees are not relative to the quality of races as many “free” races were much better than the majority. We should all demand for quality, not quantity—a good resolution for the year, agree?