The Canada Day 5K in Burlington, Ontario has always been one of my favorite races. It’s a smaller, local event, which is well-organized by VrPro, on a flat course and, for me, it’s the first race of my summer break.
This year, though, the numbers of runners jumped. Last year, there were around 500 participants but this year, I heard at the start, there were almost 1000 runners. Between the constant media and retail reminders that July 1st marked Canada’s 150th and the daily email reminders and facebook posts leading up to the event from VrPro, a lot of people registered at the last minute, resulting in a race that grew too fast too soon.
Now don’t get me wrong, the race director, Kelly Arnott, is quite respected in the Ontario running community. She puts on the Chilly Half-Marathon in March, which attracts a few thousand runners, and many other races. Kelly also puts a lot of money from the races back into the community, especially Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington. Kelly has been directing races for years and she knows what she is doing. But on Saturday morning, there were problems from the get-go.
First, the volunteers weren’t ready for the crowds at the bib pick-up. I don’t know how many collected their race kits on the day before, but Monica and I found ourselves at the end of a very long line an hour before the race. We were told that the race was going to be delayed so that everyone would have time to get their bibs and timing chips. I felt my anxiety climb as I was worried about having enough time to get back to the car, change into my running shoes (always a good thing at a race) and warm-up. We inched our way forward, collected our bibs and – what? No t-shirts?
When I registered for the race, on Monday night, I was able to request a t-shirt and size (adult medium). Monica registered a few days later and only had an adult XL as an option, so she ordered that. We really had no idea what kind of shirts we were going to get, but we were expecting them. If the fabric was technical, I could wear it while working out; if it was cotton, I could hand it over to my son; if neither of us wanted it, I could use it as a prize at school. By the time we got to the bib pick-up table, they only had youth medium sizing left. I was given one; Monica wasn’t. I couldn’t understand the point in requesting a size or a shirt, only not to get it. In all honesty, not getting a shirt is not a big deal and I gave mine to Monica. It just irks me that this happened.
After we got our bibs and token flyers, we were directed to a second line to pick up our timing chips. We assumed that the chip line was for people who got their bibs the night before. If we had realized that we had to line up twice, we would have split up. Fortunately, this line moved faster. By the time we got back to the car, I had just enough time to change my shoes and do a quick warm-up before the race start.
I always like this course, even with the bit of sand that we have to run through; I don’t even mind the “out and back” route that so many don’t like. As we expected, the start was packed. I positioned myself close to the start line, but I still found myself weaving through far too many people for the first mile. The marshalling and water stations were just fine, but a few of us commented that we didn’t see any medics along the course. They could have been there, but we did not notice them.
About 20 minutes after finishing and talking with some friends, I noticed that they were wearing medals. “You got a medal?” I asked. “Why didn’t I get a medal?” Somehow, between cutting the timing chip off my shoe and handing me a bottle of water, nobody gave me a medal. I borrowed a friend’s to take the “medal” picture as that was really all that I needed. Again, I think the race grew too fast (in a week) and the volunteers weren’t ready for the numbers of people coming through the finish line. I heard later that they did run out of medals and the race director is ordering more for those who want one. Will I ask? No, but for the first timers or people who don’t race often, I know that getting the medal will be a big deal for them.
Will I run this race again? Absolutely. As I mentioned above, I like the course and I like VrPro’s races. This year’s event simply had a few hiccups which can easily be corrected for the next one.