Thursday, September 13, 2012

NY Marathon Changes

I'm late on this, but that whole 200 mile relay thing got in the way, then I was so focused on the Beijing marathon being cancelled that I wasn't really thinking about other things. 

Short version is that the NY marathon has decided to eliminate bag check in the typical fashion (at first, a few weeks ago, it was wholly eliminated, this week it appears they are stepping back from that).  At most big marathons (and actually at most small ones, including some that are point-to-point), runners can take a small bag (usually provided by the race) and drop it off, and then it will be at the finish line.

I don't always do bag drop, but when I do, this is usually what I include:  a car or hotel key, money and/or credit card for transportation and any merchandise I want, my phone, flip-flops, my favorite recovery drink, a long sleeved shirt.

Well, the NY marathon announced a few weeks ago that it will no longer offer bag drop.  Ostensibly because so many runners complain about the long delays and big crowds after you cross the finish line.  Then later this week they basically said everyone had to elect expedited finish or finish with bag drop. 

I was really surprised about NY dropping the general bag drop. I never thought bag drop was the problem at the finish line, but there is definitely a major problem at the finish line. I ran NY in about 2005 and it took hours after I crossed the finish line to walk about a mile out of the park (which you are forced to do, unless you just sleep in the park or something), then about a mile back south outside the park, and across Columbus Circle (my hotel was right on Central Park south).  At least 1/3 the time was in a crowd cluster at Columbus Circle.  Hours of that headache after hours of running is insanely miserable. But I didn’t have to pick up a bag, and those who did seemed to have no issues.

The problem is definitely the funnel out of the park and resulting chaos. I absolutely hated it. But NY remains one of my fave marathons b/c the run itself was incredible.

So it sucks for people running NY -- they aren't reducing their fees for the reduced services to runners, and those people are still going to be stuck in that finish line chaos, and they won't be able to put on flip flops or hail a cab (unless they carry money). 

Oh well, maybe when NY still realizes that even w/o bag drop, the post-finish-line is a mess, then maybe they will make some other changes to improve it. 

It's not clear to me how much better the new "early exit" plan will work.  My guess is that it will still take many hours to cross the finish line and get back onto the south side of Central Park south.

This is the official explanation of the two options, and there's also going to be some kind of pre-paid you-ship-it-home, but there are basically no details about that so far.

Here are your two options:

• New No-Baggage "Early Exit" option: If you choose this option, you'll be guaranteed the earliest exit from Central Park. After you finish, you'll receive a Marathon Finish Line Poncho and a long-sleeve limited-edition T-shirt, and have fastest access to the Family Reunion area, "Call Home" stations, and public transportation.

• Baggage option: If you choose this option, you'll check baggage in the Start Village and pick up your bag as you leave Central Park at exits farther up on West Drive. Please note that we still anticipate congestion, and it could take up to an hour to retrieve your bag and exit the park. The bag will be smaller than in years past (although large enough to hold shoes, warm clothing, and small personal items).

Of the runners I am coaching this year who are running NY, I suggested trying the early exit.  It will be very interesting to see how it works.  I'm going to ask one of them to stop his watch when he's done running, then start a new timer to see how long it takes to get back to Central Park South. 

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