This went to C.W. Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle in response to this story. An oblique response, really.
I didn’t really feel like commenting on the story, because however I wrote this, it would come across as whiny. However, you might find some story fodder here:
The Nike Women’s Marathon was my first. My wife came with me, and this was her second marathon. I was looking forward to this race and had trained adequately, if not completely. My goal was to finish the race and I had no reason to suspect any vast difficulty to run this course. I’m an experienced runner and I train in hilly terrain.
Unfortunately, my race turned into a slog from mile nine on. I had to push and push in order to keep myself going. It was a trial which doesn’t bear much desciption. Suffice to say that this was my worst race ever, in terms of physical performance.
That, however, wasn’t the problem.
Again, the Nike Women’s Marathon was my first, and I picked it because of its location (yay San Francisco!) and because I thought it would be fun to run with a bunch of women. My wife laughed at me for that, but I didn’t really care. What I didn’t anticipate was that because the Nike Women’s Marathon was a benefit for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, it was really the “Nike Team in Training Marathon”. This resulted in what felt like half of the field being TNT participants. The course was filled with TNT Coaches and people there to exclusively cheer on TNT participants. For those of us who were having such difficult times it was very disheartening to have dozens of people cheering for TNT runners and only the (very!) occasional one for me.
I’m an experienced racer, although obviously not a marathoner, and this is the first time I’ve felt rejected by a race. Because of this overwhelming bias toward Team in Training participants, I will actively discourage people I know from running in this race unless they are working with TNT.
A point in your story was that you “are hoping … that [runners] leave town talking about the terrific location, the great restaurants and the perfectly organized event.” The event was well organized, and the City was great, but the race was disappointing to me. I won’t be coming back for the race.
I may be only one person (and a man in a women’s marathon at that) but races should be all-inclusive and welcoming. The ones that are not…well the word will get around.