Saturday, April 19, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Circular Logic Marathon


Being a Race Director is a lot different than being a runner.  Yet, it is a terrific way to give back to a sport I so enjoy.  Our third Circular Logic Marathon on March 29, 2014 came off with our largest field ever on the worst weather day in our short history.  Much good came and while we still have a few kinks to work out of the event, it's encouraging.  And a lot of work.  I view every race I run though very different eyes since becoming an RD!!  Here's the story.  

Gory Details:

This was the third running of this quirky little marathon that first jelled in my mind several years ago.  (You can also read my reports on the 2013 race and our inaugural event in 2012)   It was also the biggest and we continue to learn a lot. 

During the 2013 race, we observed we could handle a few more runners on our 1.000 mile loop course, given all the passing that happens.  So we bumped our field size limit to 165 marathoners and 21 marathon relay teams.  We opened registration on November 1 and sold out the marathon on March 3 and the relay slots on March 14.    This never ceases to amaze me.   It also gives my wife many laughs as I express this amazement all winter long as each registration arrives.  And we all agreed this is about the right field size...we'll stick with this going forward.  

A huge reality of any road race is pick the date, way in advance, and hope for the best when it arrives.  Late March in Indiana is a roll of the weather dice and this year, while it wasn't snake eyes, it was hardly a seven.

My uber volunteer and work colleague Mike and I arrived at the race site at 5:30am on race day to 39F temperatures.  By the time we were set up for the early starters at 7am, it had started to snow.  The wet white stuff continued right through the 8am early start and was still coming down for our main start at 9am.  Snow on race day...yeow.  But that's what we had to deal with.

Not everyone who registered showed up.  In all we had 146 marathoners toe the (snowy, cold) start line and 128 finished.

We instituted a 6 hour time limit for this year's race but also allowed early starts for those who needed extra time and didn't want to compete for awards or Boston qualification.  Our early starters knew just what they were doing and persevered well, as this shows:

7am:   17 started, 16 finished
8am:  12 started, 11 finished
9am:  117 started, 101 finished

We had 19 of the 21 registered relay teams make it to the start and all 19 completed the race.  About half of our relay teams were made up of families and four teams were school age kids from a large local Middle School.  

And off we went. 

One of the cool things about a mile-loop marathon is the chance to see the race develop without even moving.  As in any race, a lead pack formed, setting the race pace.  Eventual race winner, Jake Gillette (in the white cap and singlet) ignored the cold and took charge from the beginning.

Our women's winner, Laura Gillette (in the turquoise singlet, above) also took charge of the women's race from the start, yet didn't have to run alone on our loop course.

And, yes, Laura and Jake are married!  And, yes, they both won the CLM for the second year in a row.   And, yes, they are really neat people too!!

With the race started, we then began to make sure the race progressed well.  

A unique feature of our race is our Litter Free Water Stop.  

All our runners bring one or more of their own water bottles.  We set up tables with a designated spot for each runner with his/her bib number and name.  It took seven full tables to serve this year's field and our water stop volunteers did an awesome job keeping the bottles filled and in order!

The race then simply happened.  It is so much fun to just have 300+ marathoners and relay team members hanging out in a city park running, having fun and (this year) trying to stay warm.

Man, it was cold.  

It wasn't all that awful for the full marathoners who were dressed properly; they warmed up and stayed warm with the proper layering.  Those who were not running (the Race Director, for one), however, just got chilled.  We all persevered, though and the race happened.  

Our winners finished under 3 hours and our early starters started finishing and our final runner on the course came across the finish line 10 minutes before our 6 hour  (3pm) cutoff time.  Our volunteers pitched in and we had the entire park cleared by 3:30pm, clean, litter free, without visible evidence we'd had a big event.  That was really sweet.  

Since race day, I've reflected on a lot.  A few thoughts follow.

One of the best things about being a race director is hearing the unique stories of all of our runners. There are as many stories as there are runners, of course, yet a few stand out.
In December, the cross country coach from the University of Jamestown, a small school in Jamestown, North Dakota contacted me. He had a talented distance runner he felt had the skill to qualify for the NAIA national marathon championships.

The coach's problem was finding a marathon in some reasonable driving distance early enough in the season at which he could qualify. Last time we checked there are very few marathons in North Dakota during the winter and CLM popped up as a possibility, if we were game. Well, one thing led to another and we were very happy to welcome Conner Doppler (in the orange singlet above) to give it his best at the CLM. He and his father drove from North Dakota to Indiana for the express purpose of trying to run a fast marathon. And run fast he did! Connor tucked in with the leaders early on, ran the best race of his life and ultimately placed 2nd overall in 2:45:09, blasting his target time of 2:50.

In so doing, Connor qualified for the NAIA nationals in Gulf Shores, Alabama in June. He and I had a good laugh about just how different the weather in Mobile in June will be than the weather in which he qualified!

And then there was Jennifer Savage. Jenn has been a running friend of mine for many years and a fellow Marathon Maniac as you can tell in the photo below. Jen truly honored our race by setting up her racing schedule such that the CLM would be her 100th lifetime marathon. We gave her bib number 100 and she ran wonderfully well in this milestone event.

She had a terrific group of family and friends waiting at the finish line for her and she was thrilled both by the support and by the accomplishment of 100 marathon. We were very honored  Jenn selected our race for such a special personal accomplishment. Way to go, Jenn!!

And then there is Eddie "The Barefoot Bandito" Vega. Eddie is seeking to run a barefoot marathon in each of the 50 states to raise $50,000 for shoes for children in the Philippines and Pacific Islands. You can read his plan here and even donate to his cause.

Eddie is a fabulous guy, full of encouragement and energy and came all the way from South Carolina to notch Indiana in his quest for 50 states. That he ran barefoot in snow and cold, wet conditions is even more amazing. He was thrilled with his medal at the end and in showing off his well conditioned bare feet to the Race Director! Eddie, thanks for running.

The medals we awarded our finishers this year were different than what we've done before.

They were still in the shape of a circle rather than a traditional medal, as we have done before. But, if you look closely in this photo, the wording on the medal is itself circular logic. Relay runners got the smaller medal, marathoners the larger. In addition, anyone who had finished a previous CLM individual marathon this CLM got either two or three of the small Greek letter pi dangles on his/her medal. Consider that a "frequent runner" award. I was surprised at how excited our repeat runners were to have this extra bling on their medal.

Three people deserve special mention, as they really pitched in to make this year's race go so well and to relieve me of much concern.  

I already mentioned Mike.  He was a Division I college cross country runner and truly understands how competitive runners think.  He was a major adviser to me all along, a fact certainly enabled further by the fact we are both engineers at the same company.  On race day, Mike turned into a one-man, inexhaustible, really clever cheerleader.  He circulated all day along the course, learning virtually everyone's name, nick-name and Grandmother's maiden name.  So many expressed thanks to him to help them go.  He had no voice at race end but seemed happy anyway.  

The second is Mark.  He's not only the treasurer of our running club but also a great youth coach.  Mark recruited, organized and communicated with all our race volunteers.  Then, he led the four youth relay teams for the entire day, while running a full marathon himself.  Mark is an awesome detail guy, helped me so much with race finances and really made our volunteers feel better organized.  

Third is Sarah who did the terrific job of just keeping our water station going.  That's a central part of our race and it happened flawlessly.  

I'm deeply indebted to these three and the 30+ other volunteers who made this race happen.  It was due to them we've receive such wonderful and humbling post race comments on . 

Was everything peachy?  No.  I still don't have the lap timing and display nailed down perfectly.  We got it all worked out in the end but it was not yet perfect.  This drives the Race Director nuts and remains Job One in preparation for next year's race.

All in all, though, this year's race showed me something I had not fully grasped in the previous two CLMs. A loop marathon uniquely creates an event which is simultaneously a race and a community effort. Since our entire field of runners plus volunteers occupy a single space for multiple hours, we all sensed the group effort. All of us were focused on either finishing ourselves and/or helping other people to finish the colossal effort which is a marathon. Our relay teams worked together and with the individual marathoners to make the event special. I found this quite moving, at an emotional level.  And I'd never quite grasped this as much as I did this year.

So, as we began to wrap up race day, I asked my local running club colleague Cory (who had created our original race logo) to modify it for future use. He sent me the result a week later:

We inserted the initials of our Wabash River Runners Club in the center of the logo; our club is central to making this race happen. Then, we added the tagline "Together We Run". Indeed that's what we did all day on race day. Further it captures the genuine community effort that is running. We will use this new logo going forward, as it captures in a simple way just what this race has come to be. I hope others find this as helpful as I do.

Hope you enjoyed this write up.

Persevere.  Together, persevere.