Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2013 Rock the Parkway Half Marathon and 5k race review

Ready or not, running season has kicked off in Kansas City with the 2013 Rock the Parkway Half Marathon and 5k on April 13, 2013. Sure some other races have hit the books, but RTP is the first large scale running race to kick off the season.

The race boasted 5500 half marathon runners and 2500 5k runners. That's 8000 runners pounding the pavement. Race temperatures were little cool starting in the mid 30's, but that didn't deter thousands from hitting the start line. At the beginning of the race, runners faced the sun heading east on Ward Parkway, but pulled an immediate about-face to head west on Ward Parkway with a wide open parkway. Finishers were greeted with temperatures in the high 40’s to mid 50’s, huge race medals, mylar blankets and warm post-race snacks.

After navigating the half marathon course, the Kansas City Endurance Examiner will share thoughts and opinions about the event.

If runners were lucky enough to get signed up for the early registration fee of $50 for the half marathon and $20 for the 5k, they saved significantly. Signing up at the last day meant a fee of $90 for the half and $40 for the 5k. The early fees were very appealing to a runner on a budget and a very good deal for a quality event.

Web Site Content / Instructions / Course Info
Registration was easy and painless as it always has been signing up using links from the race website. The only catch with the 2013 race was to get signed up in time as the race filled up quickly at the 5500 cutoff for the half marathon and 2500 for the 5k.

Most all questions racers had were answered on the site and those asked on the Facebook page were responded to in a fast and efficient manner. The website is easy to understand and navigate for the most basic of users.

Location / Parking / Access
Rock the Parkway utilizes the engineering firm of Burns & McDonnell for parking and logistics. They open up the parking garage for employees and surface lots for non-employees. Other parking locations are close enough for a 5 to 10 minute walk.

Those lucky enough to access the Burns & McDonnell buildings were able to soak up the warmth of indoor heating before having to brave near freezing starting temperatures.

The start area was easily accessible from gear bag drop, race day packet pickup and the port-a-potty area. Logistics of moving from one area to another was free flowing and non-congested leading up to race time.

Port-a-Potty Count / Location
There had to be over 40 to 50 port-a-potties on location. Lines leading up to the half marathon only required 8 to 10 minutes to wait from end of the line to toilet use. They were well stocked with toilet paper and as well maintained as could be expected for pre-race usage.

The location was away from the start line in an area segregated apart from the main post-race and start area as not to offend the delicate nostrils of runners awaiting their start time.

Race Course / Roads / Markings / Upkeep
New for 2013 was the wave start according to estimated finish times. Wave A was reserved for efficient runners at 1:45 or less. This greatly reduced the congestion that is experienced in the first half mile of the race. This eliminates the need for runners to strike out on the grass or curbs to get around slower runners.

Race Day Instructions
The volume was up full blast and it would have been hard to miss any announcements. Nothing changed on race day, so the need for emergency communication with the athletes was not an issue. The only real communication issue was the lack of volume for the national anthem.

All volunteers and staffers were courteous and motivational to all runners. Everyone had great attitudes on a chilly spring morning and packed their lunch for a long morning of handing out water, gatorade and GU. With that, each aid station was stocked with gallons of hydration. If any athlete had issues with getting water, they weren’t paying attention and just sleep walked through the aid stations.

Finish Line Area
The finish line was a glorious combination of race clocks, cheering spectators and rockus race announcers. Finisher names were blared out over the loudspeaker as they passed the line, reached their water bottles and received their finisher medals. The finisher chute aimed runners to the food and port-a-potty area where the likes of Noodles and Company and Papa Murphy’s Pizza hosted famished half marathon and 5k finishers.

What running race would be complete without chocolate milk? Rock the Parkway stocked the freezers and kept it coming. Rock the Parkway offered space, amenities and a safe place to congregate for finishers and their friends and families.

Packet Picket / Goodie Bags
Rock the Parkway broke out the fine china by producing high quality Nike dri-fit race day shirts and broke the bank with huge race medals for finishers.

The race expo providing runners with the chance to get their timing chips and race bibs before race day provided access to running retailers and shopping. It also provided the chance for other entities not always associated with running to come and place their wares in front of the 8000 people running Rock the Parkway.

The goodie bag has been replaced with the opportunity to tour the expo and get what you want from the vendors you want. Tables with brochures and coupons greeted racers at the entrance and exit, allowing people to pick and chose what they wanted to take home. It’s a fine line to walk to eliminate the goodie bag which so many runners look forward to, but it also greatly reduces the odds that the majority of goodie bag contents goes straight to the trash,

Overall Satisfaction
As mentioned before in the pricing, this race was a steal at the early bird prices. The event manage was top notch and even at race day pricing, an event cannot provide much better accommodations.

Runners really could ask for much more than warmer weather, but that’s not the race director’s area of control. The course speaks for itself being ran on the historic Ward Parkway. The 3 lane openness of the course allows for runners to stretch out and run their own race without getting nudged out of the way. When Rock the Parkway 2014 opens up for early registration, get in there.
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