The novelty of running on the Hoan Bridge, the challenge of running in tough conditions, the opportunity to participate in the largest race in Milwaukee and the promise of a world class event, drew me to sign up for the Inaugural Rock n Sole Half Marathon.
The race fell short in their promise.
We all knew it was going to be hot. Milwaukee + July + freeway bridge = potential for very uncomfortable conditions. Strangely, that was part of the appeal for me. You don't earn any bragging rights for a flat course with 50 degree weather, tail wind, and gentle cloud cover.
With an entry fee of $80, I think we all assumed the race organizer would know what they were doing.
The big story everywhere is how the race was not able to provide water for most of the 10K course, and that medical assistance was also not available.
Though this was their biggest mistake, and a huge one, it is overshadowing the fact that they fell short in providing many other features that an $80 half marathon should.
The aid station problems did not affect me. I was in the half marathon. As far as I know, the half marathoners had ample water, though some of the aid stations lacked volunteers to hand out the water, I can't really complain that I had to grab the cup off the table myself, knowing others had no water at all. However, a world class event does need to have volunteers handing out the water.
There was no water at the start. Because of the road closures for the course, people had to arrive fairly early. We all stood around in the warm sun. A world class event should be handing out water for the pre-race crowd. There was a guy on a bull horn who kept directing us to hydrate, but if you didn't bring your own water, you were not able to do that.
There was no bag drop. The event ended in the Summerfest grounds, allowing participants to stay for the festival's entertainment. It would have been nice to have been able to drop of a change of clothes with an official bag drop, rather than either staying in sweaty wet clothes, or having to leave the grounds to return to our vehicles many blocks away, to get a change of clothes.
The finish chute was a mess. Finisher medals where there, but weren't being handed out. It was narrow and crowded, and when we got to the end and didn't have medals, everyone did a u-turn to go back and get them, causing horrible congestion.
Post race food included bananas, cookies, chocolate milk, water, sports drink and pita chips. Relatively weak selection for an $80 race.
Each participant was also given a voucher for a free beer, that had to be redeemed before 11am. At 11am, many were still running. Pretty useless perk for many.
Mile markers were merely small, plain, sandwich boards, maybe 2.5 feet tall. They had no race logos, decorations, sponsors, banners, etc. They were probably not seen by most of the runners. In a world class event, mile markers have banners, balloons, the race logo, and are taller than the running field, so that they can be visible by everyone in the pack.
OK. About the water thing. This is unforgivable. Granted, I don't know how much water would be needed for such an event, but if I was organizing the event, it would be my number one priority to figure it out. With a course on a freeway bridge, there are absolutely no other options for water, except what was provided by the race. In residential areas, sometimes local residents offer water, or hoses to cool people down, or a public drinking fountain can be found. On a freeway bridge... no such informal amenities. The race absolutely needs to have adequate supplies at the aid stations.
The only thing world class about this event was the price. I truly wonder about the future of this race. Many skeptics criticized the notion of a half marathon in July. I was intrigued. It offered a unique challenge that attracted me, but outside of the horrible water problems, this was a $50 event, at an $80 price.
Follow up: I have heard that there was a gear check, however, I have searched on the website, and in my packet of information, and can find nothing about it. If they had a gear check, they did not adequately communicate any information about it.