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Bag it... no, bin it!

by Editor
Tuesday 4th September 2012
 
 

Tim Heming is not a fan of the NYRR's decision not to offer a drop bag service at the 2012 ING New York Marathon. Read his thoughts on the matter:

Check it out, you can’t check it in. As 26.2mile road runs go it doesn’t get much bigger than the ING New York City Marathon.

Big numbers and big costs in the Big Apple, but now big trouble after its latest move to can the baggage drop-off at the start.

In her infinite wisdom, Mary Wittenberg, the New York Road Runners CEO and President, dropped the bombshell to the 47,000 fully paid-up and excitable runners that the radical move was to ease finish-line congestion.

It essentially means no bags will be welcome at the chilly November morning start on Staten Island and, if you do take one, there will be no trucks on hand to deliver it to the finish in Manhattan’s Central Park.

Initially, I thought the running gurus of NYRR must have devised some ingenious solution to the age-old problem of getting your clobber from point A to point B, freeing the scurrying, squiggle-eyed marshals from trying to match up countless bib numbers to drawstring bag stickers.

But not so. It seems NYRR has instead simply abandoned the baggage collection, telling runners to dispose of any excess clothing for recycling purposes - and lug anything else around with them.

In return you receive a fleeced finish line poncho to keep you warm, with the suggestion that family and friends bring along extra spare clothes to the finish as they, like your bag, are banned from the start.

Oh, and there are also some handy tips on the website from the race medical director on how to stay warm (the average low temperature on race day is eight degree Celsius and drops rather fast as the afternoon wears on).

It’s late August though, almost taper time.

Race entry has been paid, hotels and flights booked and the marathon’s Facebook page has exploded... with hundreds of complaints from infuriated would-be runners demanding a u-turn.

Granted, there were finish line issues last year as fatigued runners faced lengthy delays as the masses piled through, but surely a more streamlined approached, mimicking other Marathon Majors, would have been more apt.

Securing more space to fan out into Central Park must be favourable to such a radical ‘ban the bags’ move. The hundreds of Facebook commentators seem to agree.

It’s not just an added inconvenience. I ran my first, and probably final, New York City Marathon last year, but had the organisers dropped this policy on me a couple of months out, I’d have been stumped.

I might not be typical of all runners in the way I approached race day but I probably had the typical runner’s mentality in that I was trying to do this on the cheap.

I’d snuck in on a qualifying time with a 1hr 22min half-marathon, which meant I only had to stump up the race fee of ONLY $281 (the London Marathon is about £32) snag some flights to New Jersey, and find somewhere to crash for a couple of nights.

I’d be travelling on my own and staying in Brooklyn, using the subway before dawn to make the Staten Island ferry on the southern tip of Manhattan.

A look back at my race pics has me in beanie and hoodie covering about four more layers, some but not all of which I wanted to donate to ‘in partnership with New York/New Jersey Goodwill Industries’.

Of course the race is a wonder, seeing the five boroughs, marvelling at the Cityscape as you climb the bridges, and finishing with the crowds in Central Park.

But the warm glow afforded by crossing the finish line would soon have been chilled in just a sweat-soaked singlet and shorts had I not had a change of clothes.

But this was 2011 and there was a bag for me to pick up after which I spent a further three hours out on the course clapping and cheering people home.

That wouldn’t have happened this year. I’d have been sat on subway in a funny-looking fleece shivering my way back to my digs in Brooklyn before it got dark.

I understand many people race New York having shelled out on four-figure packages, put up in handily-placed central Manhattan hotels adjacent to Central Park, looking for a ‘one and done’ marathon experience, where they are being hand-held before and after the race.

Good on them. It is still a marvellous aspect of the sport, one that raises millions for charity and gives people an unforgettable life experience.

But there will also be others who just want to run because it is such an iconic race, embrace the 26.2miles, grab a medal at the end, grab their bag and move on to the next one.

It’s these people, the bedrock of the running community, the NYRR seems to have forgotten here and while they bleat it is all about easing congestion, it smacks of money-making greed and profiteering on the popularity of an event.

Runners of this race are used to being fleeced before they start, now they can be fleeced at the end too.

Prices have already jumped by up to 39 per cent for 2012. Members of New York Road Runners must pay $216 this year to enter the marathon compared with $156 last year.

Overseas applicants saw it soar from $281 to $347. In addition, the automatic qualifying times have crunched down, the men need to run a sub 2:45 marathon, the women a sub 3:10 effort.

I started searching for Mary Wittenberg my first predictive search suggestion was for ‘Mary Wittenberg salary’.

It’s that sort of thing that sticks in the throat.

The one ray of light is that NYRR have already intimated they may have a swift rethink over the next few days. It cannot come a moment too soon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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