Monday, July 16, 2012

JP Morgan Corporate Challenge - race* report

Two years ago, back when I was still new to racing, I ran the 2010 JP Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston representing my company, Putnam Investments.  I remember it being a complete log jam of people and thoroughly overwhelming, but it was fun hanging out with friends and overall I was glad I participated.  Fast forward two years, and here we go again. 
We received the email on April 17th soliciting runners for this year's event, and by the end of the day all Putnam slots were full.  This was disappointing to a lot of people that wanted to participate and had no idea how quickly the slots would fill up.  Also disappointing was the lack of coordination within our team, and no communication regarding the race.  We received our shirts the day before the race, and were left with only mediums and larges.  Jaimee scooped up the last of the mediums for us, but they looked like nightgowns on us and required some modifications.  I cut the sleeves off and tucked in the bottom of the shirt, but Jaimee took it a step further by cutting off the bottom and even making her own V-neck.  Very Flashdance. 
Jaimee offered to drive into Boston, so Kerri, Steve (one of our lunch run buddies), Chris (Steve's friend), and I all met at Jaimee's house and we drove in together.  It was just under 90 degrees driving into Boston, and unfortunately there was no sea breeze to cool us down.  We relaxed in the shade in Boston Common and waited for the rest of our team to arrive.  Finally our team captain arrived with the bibs and t-shirts for anyone who hadn't picked theirs up yet.  There were 100 runners representing team Putnam, 100 race bibs, and approximately 45 safety pins.  I managed to snag 2 pins, and many other runners didn't have any pins or only one.  Some people ended up not wearing a bib because they couldn't find any pins, and others asked other teams for spares.  Not exactly a great start to a race. 

Now hiring: Wardrobe Manager

The pre-race crowd was deceiving, as the Common was relatively empty while we relaxed at the gazebo.  As we made our way to the start line, the crowds quickly thickened and it was impossible to move.  Finally we were able to move into the starting chute, and we lined up at the 7:00 pace sign.  Although I knew this pace was a little fast for me, I also knew I didn't want to get stuck behind a few thousand other runners.  With 12,000 runners on a 3.5 mile course, start line positioning is important.  Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to feel the same way.
This was the second race in a row where I was frustrated by the lack of start line etiquette.  It took several minutes to cross the start line, and then I was swallowed up in a sea of body parts.  Passing people wasn't an option for the first five minutes of the course, as we were forced to walk with the crowd. Finally when the pace began to speed up, I found myself running an 11 minute pace, passing people that were walking.  It's impossible to describe how crowded this race was, but at one point I had the following thought, "This is what Running with the Bulls must feel like.  Right before the bull tramples you."  I tried to take advantage of every opening I could, only to get blocked by yet more walkers and slow joggers.  If I tried to pass near the middle of the street I would get blocked by groups running together.  If I tried to pass on the side of the street I would risk getting tripped by the feet of the barriers.  There were no safe options.  If anyone fell, they would surely be trampled.  The best (only) good part about this race was seeing the Citgo sign and the beautiful houses of the Back Bay.  I finished the race in a disappointing 30:54 (a full minute slower than 2 years ago) and headed to the post-race snack area.  There were generous amounts of water bottles, fruit snacks, bananas, and Larabars.  Rumor has it there were Hoodsie cups too but I didn't see those.  We met back at the gazebo and all had our own version of the same story to tell.  Although our times were slow, it was nice to see Jaimee, Kerri, and I come in 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively for team Putnam (females).  The race bibs had a QR code on them, which was really handy.  We were able to scan the code immediately to get our finish time and pace.  All races should do this!  Finally, as we all recounted the crowds, the poor planning, and the ill-fitting t-shirts, Jaimee showed us all what she thought of the Putnam shirt.

After the race we headed back to Jaimee's house and enjoyed a few post-race beers and a dip in her pool, which was a real treat!  That was definitely the best part of the race.  *Okay if we are being completely honest, watching Steve diving off the diving board was the best part of the race.

Twice now I have done this race, and the second time was worse than the first.  This will definitely be the last time I participate in this event, but the part I really liked was our lunch buddies (sans Todd) running together.  This coming weekend will be an exciting one too, as Jaimee, Kerri and I head to Portland Maine for the Old Port Half Marathon!  I was just reading the course description which highlighted a couple of key narrow areas that will cause some backup.  Eh, no problem!  Our ninja skills are freshly sharpened!

Click here to see the Corporate Challenge course

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