Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adidas King of the Road 2010 : Race Review

After a series of marketing promotion, the much hyped race of the year happened last October 24, 20010 at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Even non runners knew what the Adidas King of the Road is, and a lot have registered for it despite the PHP850.00 pricey registration fee for all race distances. The event boasted 10000 plus runners flooding the streets, excited to run and be considered as the King of the Road.

I must admit, I had great anticipation for this event. News about it came as early as July on, the prime online community for runners in the Philippines. It produced raves and rants from runners, both newbie and oldies, because of the high cost of registration involved. Adidas was up for the challenge; they made sure that runners would be lured to running in this event via a barrage of excellent marketing campaigns and gimmicks. The much advertised “buffet meal” , the nice Adidas climacool singlet and other items included in the race pack was more than enough to make the race look good on paper.

Then came the registration days. AKOTR 2009 was marred by chaotic registration procedures, this year they made it sure that it will be improved. Yes, it was a welcome improvement, several registration areas was opened and the race kit can be claimed during the registration day itself. Good news for all wanna be runners like me. Or did I speak too early to appreciate it. Just 2 days after the opening of registration period, 21K slots are already depleted. What! As far as my experience will tell me, shorter distances usually run out of slots first before any other distances. But this one is phenomenal, 21K slots are selling like hotcakes. While others were happy knowing that a lot are into running, some were afraid that a percentage of those who registered for the 21K are only running for the medal. Yes, with equal fee for all distances anyone who wants a value for his/her money would go for the 21K because of the medal. We, in the forum, only hoped that no one will be injured during the race and that everyone will train hard for the event.

 I was in the province when I heard the news. The first thing that I did when I got back is to proceed to Greenbelt or Glorietta to register, keeping my fingers crossed that 21K slots will still be available. Unfortunately, slots were no longer available. I was almost tempted to run the 10K and shoot for the PR mode but my patience got the better part of me. The next few days, Adidas release additional slots for 21K, lucky for me, I got the last one from Runner BHS. My training officially begun …

My Review.

With all the bells and whistles that runners expected, a lot ware disappointed after the event. Let me share my own review on the race and how I looked at some important areas that made the Adidas King of the Road 2010 the most overrated run so far this year.

The Route.

Legions of Black Runners
I would say, any route with challenging hills would mean thumbs up. If there is one thing that makes AKOTR worth running, it is because of the challenging route. What more can you ask for, you have the Kalayaan flyover and the deadly hills of Lawton and Bayani Road in the list.  Needless to say, the route itself deserves a high five. But, when you put runners on it (10000+ at that) plus the small numbers of marshals to guide and control traffic,  this affects the overall look of the route. There were two main bottle necks in the race route. The first one was near the 3Km mark, the potholes and mud was bearable (it actually adds to the fun) but the converging of 21K and 10K runners in a rather narrow street was disastrous. Say goodbye to your PR goal, you will be walking and waiting in a queue for probably a minute.  Another choking point is the Kalayaan flyover, since a lot of the 10K runners preferred walking when they hit the flyover, 21K runner going back to The Fort area had to slow down and sometimes walked because of the congestion. The route was great but not enough to handle the sea of runners in it. Because of this I am giving it a 3.5.

The Run.

Coach Rio and other runners
My run was  smooth, except for the clogging at the two areas mentioned above. I did get a PR, so I am happy. The use of a timing chip is a plus. Visibility of an ambulance was acceptable. Kilometer markers were present, but runners with GPS mentioned that some were placed inappropriately. The hydration system for 21K runners was a big disappointment. No water on the last few kilometer stretch of the run, similar to the 34Th Milo event. I did bring my own water to keep me hydrated during the last stretch but pity those who did not have any. Since hydration is a prime need for any long distance races, I believe that the organizers should have prioritized it. I was about to give them a 3.5 rating because of this but I remember the cheerers along the way that made the run enjoyable. Thus, a 4 is decent enough for it.

The Pre/Post Event.

I was almost late going to the event. Lucky me, a lot of 21K runners were also hurrying up to make the 5:30 gun start. The initial problem was the baggage counter. Yes, most runners don’t have cars to keep their belongings during the run, thus, a baggage counter is important. Anticipating the number of registrants, the organizers should have considered increasing the number of baggage counters and people manning the area. Or at least, should have put up separate baggage counters for each distance. The distribution of the “packed lunch” was organized, medals were given just after crossing the finish line, and the post program was acceptable. If only no one complained for the chaotic baggage counter management (some even reported that they lost their baggages), I could have given it a high mark. Never the less, I am giving it a 3.5 rating.

The Kits/Freebies.

I will be assessing this one basing on the registration fee. The singlet was a winner. The “buffet breakfast” was a disaster. Freebies? What freebies? I was too happy after getting PR for my 21K that I did not bother much on it. They did mention a donation to a foundation, but given its high cost of registration, I think the runners expected more. Did somebody mention finishers medal what ? Another 3.5 on this criteria.

The Organizers.

I am not sure on who is to blame on the hydration issue. As far as I know, Extribe was the organizer, Powerade  took care of the hydration and Adidas is the main sponsor. Regardless of who to blame, I think all of them a responsible for making sure that it meets the expectation of the registered runners. Sad to say, they did not, the main reason why a lot have expressed their disappointment towards the event. An open letter to Adidas has also been published by a blogger.  I do commend them for the fast release of the unofficial results. With all these issues on the line, I’m giving them a flat 3!

My Conclusion.

Much has been said on this event. The hype-that-was leading to October 24, 2010 was superseded by disappointments. I also expected a lot from this run, but got disappointed at some point. Never the less, I am not complaining so loud because I am happy with my performance  (I got a new PR for 21K) , the one that matters most.  I must admit that the free Adidas singlet and medal were an added motivation, but the main reason why I joined the event is because I believe the Adidas King of the Road is a "must attend" event of the year (aside from the fact that I dig adidas products). For me, it is not the medal, the free buffet and the freebies that makes an event spectacular, it is your performance that matters most. But given the cost of the registration fee and the sad experience that we had during the last 34th Milo Eliminations here in Manila, I believe that the organizers/sponsors should have done better. From registration to the actual run, there were flaws. Below are some of them:
1.       Equal fee for all distances. This could have been acceptable if all race categories have medals. This could have avoided the sudden depletion of 21K slots. I am just afraid that some registered for 21k only for the medal without minding the distance.
2.       Inconsistent media promotions. Why should they advertise a “buffet” if they will only provide a packed breakfast. Other information that was contained in their original press release was not followed during the actual registration.
3.       Poor/lacking baggage counter. With 10000+ runners, I think the counters are not sufficient. The people manning the available area is not enough even. If they have only been more strict, reports of missing baggage could have been prevented. Lastly, they could have categorized the counter areas by distances.
4.       Poor hydration station management.  No water in the last few kilometers of the 21k leg and a lot of powerade bottles were wasted because they allowed runners to have the bottle instead of just a cup.
5.       Route Planning/Marshalling.  The route was indeed challenging and has also been used on some events aside from AKOTR. There were no problems with it for some events because the number of runners were not as many as we had in AKOTR. I believe that they either miscalculated the number of runners that can be accommodated on these roads or they were not able to field ample marshals to control traffic. Cheating was also possible because of the lack of marshals and the lack of split timing. They could have used the old reliable straw or string marker to at least prevent rampant cheating.
Just like many forum people have said, runners maybe yelling their complaints now but come next year they will still go out and register for this run and I cannot blame them for doing such. If only Adidas could improve their handling of AKOTR, I believe this can still be the most hyped and most anticipated running event for 2011.

Here are some of my photos during the event :
Running at the Kalayaan Flyover

Me and My Medal
With the Six:30 running group
With the RunningShield

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