“The bigger the screw-up, the better the story!” At least that’s what I like to tell myself. I love this race and look forward to it every year, partly because it’s always on Memorial Day weekend and unofficially marks the beginning of the summer races, and that’s my favorite time of the year to run.
I know this course well, and when the police officer pointed us to the right instead of the left at a key intersection, I said to Teresa Harrill, who was running next to me at the time, “Wow, they must have changed the course this year.” I hadn’t heard about a change and it’s been an almost perfect 3.1 mile loop that we’ve run for years, but I figured there must be some reason we were diverted, maybe construction or something.
So all of us — yep, everybody in the race including those of us who had run it many times before — headed off in the wrong direction. I thought we’d turn to the left fairly quickly but all of the runners kept going in the same direction, straight ahead. After a half mile or so I started thinking we couldn’t possibly be going the right way since I knew we were getting farther and farther away from the finish line.
There were three or four other runners around me and I yelled something along the lines of “We’ve got to turn around… There’s no way this is right!” I stopped dead in my tracks and looked around. Nobody paid any attention to what I said and I thought about the situation. There were more than a hundred people behind me and I couldn’t get up the nerve to run right back through that crowd, so I turned and caught up with the group I had been running with, figuring that the race was pretty much over since we were completely off track but I might as well stay with everybody else.
Finally I could see Mitchell Rippy stopped up ahead. He’s easy to spot since he’s about 6’5″ tall and was wearing a bright yellow shirt. That was the point where reality set in for everybody, and we all turned around. There were several runners ahead of Mitchell at that point and none of those knew the course well enough to realize they were headed in the opposite direction. From what I was told, they all ran until they hit 3.1 miles and then knew it was a hopeless cause and they mostly did an easy jog back to the race site.
I had a snafu at the starting line and my watch started updating instead of timing me at the beginning so I didn’t have the correct distance, but I ran somewhere between 4.5 and 5 miles before getting back to the finish line. I ended up jogging back with Dianne Allen and we caught up with Katie Freid and all stayed together until the finish. All hope was lost as far as a decent time so we just enjoyed what turned out to be a training run.
When we made it back to the venue around 39 minutes later, everybody in attendance knew the race was a mess. The “winning” time was over 30 minutes and all of the fastest runners were farther away from the finish line when they turned around. With everybody turning around in different spots as they were alerted by the oncoming runners who were coming in the opposite direction, pretty much everybody ran a different distance.
Just a few seconds after I crossed the finish line I saw Steve D’Avria, who was not the race director but was in charge of the timing. I made the suggestion that we should line up and run it again. He said he wasn’t in any hurry and after checking with a couple of folks in charge Steve said the race would restart at 9:00 for anybody who wasn’t happy with their time and wanted to run it again.
I tried to spread the word around folks I knew that we’d line up and run it again but most of them thought I was nuts. It’s one thing to run a 10k, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to run a 5k, then a couple minutes after you finish line up and run the race again. You run a 5k at 5k pace and you’re pretty much whupped after you finish it. There seemed to be very little interest is re-running the race but there were a few of us who were itching to go again.
I saw Steve again and he told me the race was going to start again at 9 o’clock sharp for everybody who wanted to run it. It was about 8:58 and I headed to the starting line while most people didn’t budge. My friend Bernhard was as eager as me to make things right. A few others were straggling to the starting line as Steve counted down out loud so they’d know he meant business.
“15, 14, 13, 12, 11,…” Steve yelled as I frantically waved and motioned for people to join us. Bernhard and I took off when the count reached zero. We thought we were alone but Rob McBee and Derek Hyatt took off just after we left. So that was it. Four runners plowing through the 5k again in order to get a legitimate time. Having just finished the other race we were all tired but gave it all we had left. The volunteers had been tipped off that the race was starting again and it was a pleasant surprise to see them all there and the roads still closed to traffic despite only four runners coming through. I ended up third of the four runners at 22:44, and was actually happy to finish at a time close to what I’ve been running despite a hard run just a few minutes earlier.
It wouldn’t hold up in court and I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over it, but my understanding was that if we ran the race again the official race results would be changed to the time of the race where we actually ran 3.1 miles. Instead, we were informed after finishing the race that it would be treated as a separate race and all of the results from the first race would stand.
Folks, here’s the deal: The four of us who ran the second time didn’t do it because we wanted to run more; we did it to rectify a screw-up on the part of the race organizers. The way I looked at it was that if you were satisfied with your time the first time around you could keep it, but if you wanted to make things right you went back to the starting line and ran the correct distance no matter how tired you were after having run a race just a few minutes earlier.
In summary, since all 160 runners in the first race ran different distances and different speeds once they found out the race was a train wreck, all of the results from the first race are meaningless. The only actual results that are correct were those of the four runners who ran the correct distance afterwards. Everybody could have run the race again but only four runners chose to do it, and for that we received no benefit at all. In the grand scheme of things none of the numbers matter, but just for this one small moment in time, I worked hard to change 39 minutes to 22:44, and I’m just a little bummed that I didn’t get credit for that. Because of that I’m deducting 10 points from the race score and, again, it’s all just numbers that don’t mean a lot for posterity, but it’s all I’ve got for now. Of course, if they change the official results to reflect to times of the four of us who ran the correct distance, then I’d remove the 10-point deduction. All of the number changing is easy, at least on paper.
Despite all of the complaining I’m still a fan of the Belmont Classic and I’ll be back next year, but you better believe I’ll make the correct turn at that intersection.
Race Number: 337
Race Name: Belmont Classic 5k
Location: Belmont, North Carolina
Date: May 28, 2016
Race Rating: 65
Course: What can I say? It’s a good course when you run it correctly.
Weather at Start: Clear, 68 degrees, 68% humidity
- Click Here for “Official” Race Results (160 finishing times that mean nothing)
- Click Here for Age Group Results (also meaningless)
- Click Here for “Round Two Results” (the only actual correct results because we ran it a second time)
* RACE RATING *
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
0 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
0 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
3 – Course Scenery: (0-5) 1=bad and 5=fantastic
0 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
0 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
6 – Finish line: (0-9) 0=bad and 9=spectacular!
0 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
0 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
5 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap! ($20 on race day)
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
1 – Posted online within 24 hours: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Easy to find results: (0)no (1)yes
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
0 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes
0 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
2 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0-9)
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals
4 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
7 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
0 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
0 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
3 – Design: (1-5)
2 – Material Quality: (1-3)
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
x – Prices: (1)expensive (3)reasonable (5)cheap
x – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (1-10)yes (* I saw cameras but no pics yet… hopefully some free photos and I will change score and add link if I find them)
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
2 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
2 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Kids Fun Run: (0)no (2)yes
-10 – Miscellaneous not covered above: (-10 to +10) (*Wrong turn disaster)