I love your race complaints

I love reading people’s complaints on the Facebook page of a race. It’s almost a guilty pleasure. I know there are going to be the same complaints for every race, but I can’t not look. In my opinion, some complaints are valid, some aren’t. (And I’ve totally made some of these same complaints myself, even the not valid ones.)

Complaining about something you knew (or should have known) when you registered – not valid. If it says “no race day packet pick-up and packets will not be mailed” when you register … then don’t complain when race weekend comes and you have to make an extra trip downtown to pick up your bib. Newsflash: big races in big cities NEVER have race day packet pick up. Never. If it says “no race day packet pick-up” it means just that.

Complaining that your friend can’t pick up your bib – valid. This is one of the dumbest things to me. I get that there are liability issues. But I thought we all electronically signed waivers when we registered for the race? If that’s not it (maybe that’s just the “no refunds” agreement), then there SHOULD be electronic waivers. And friends should be able to pick up bibs with a copy of your registration.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Expo

Complaining about the expensive parking at the expo – usually not valid. Big races have big expos. Big expos need a lot of space. Just thinking about Chicago, there are only so many places with enough space: Navy Pier, McCormick Place, Merchandise Mart and the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. So far I have only seen Navy Pier and McCormick used for big expos. Sure, the parking is expensive (Where ISN’T the parking expensive in Chicago? Other than our “super secret lot”?) and public transportation is kind of a headache to get to either … but at least the expos aren’t in Rosemont!! Bottom line, big downtown races = registration fee + parking fee the day of the race + parking fee at the expo. Which is why I need to stop doing big downtown races.

Complaining about bibs not being mailed – not valid. Sure, some small races offer this option – for a price. But for the bigger races, if 5 percent opted for the mail option – that’s a thousand or two packets to mail, depending on if it’s big like the Chicago Half or big like the Chicago Marathon. The logistics of that on top of all the other race logistics … I can see why that is only an option for small races that max out at 2,000 runners. I wouldn’t want to deal with it either.

How my Garmin tracked the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Complaining that the course was too long – usually not valid. Your Garmin is not an exact measurement. It’s going to space and back, over and over and over again. The distance it measures is going to be a little off. If your race is among skyscrapers, lots of trees, includes tunnels, or it is overcast, it will be even more off. Other than teeny tiny local races, most races are measured and certified. Accept the fact that your $200 Garmin is not as precise as a calibrated bicycle or whatever.

Complaining about ill-fitting race shirts – somewhat valid. On the one hand, race swag jacks up the price of registration. So if I’m paying a lot for a race, I want a shirt (or jacket, or whatever the swag is) that I’ll wear. On the other hand, as a woman, I know how jacked-up sizing can be. Heck, even within the same store, I wear different sizes for different styles. Consistency in women’s sizing is a utopian dream that we’ll never achieve. BUT, unless registration was super cheap, it is basically a waste of my money.

Complaining that race results aren’t posted ASAP – usually not valid. You probably ran with your Garmin or RunKeeper app or whatever, and there are clocks at the finish, so you have a pretty good idea what your time was. When did we get so spoiled that results up instantaneously is not a perk, but expected? Sometimes there are technical problems. Also races are on weekends. I’m guessing Active.com doesn’t have a full staff on weekends. Be patient.

Complaining about a lack of food for your spectators – not valid. I actually saw this complaint on Facebook recently. Someone complained that there wasn’t enough food for spectators during the race. I didn’t even know races supplied food for spectators. Maybe the person was referring to a charity tent or something. But … huh???

Asking when race photos will be ready hours after the race ends – shut up. Um, how quickly do YOU process and tag thousands of photos? If it’s been a week, and no photos, then yes, it is valid to ask. But holy sheesh, wait for the photographers to get HOME first. The photos are usually posted within a couple days anyway, which to me is freakishly fast.

What are your “favorite” race complaints? Do you disagree with me on the validity (or … not validity) of any of these?

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25 Comments on “I love your race complaints”

  1. I love the topic of this post! You are right that some arguments are valid (i.e. running out of water, any sort of danger to participants) but most are not valid.

    It’s funny you bring up the complaint of the course being long. Most of the time when I see someone complain about their Garmin measurement I think – “Shut up!” – but at the Green Bay Marathon in 2011 it really was too long- by .15 miles. Whoever marked the course added 2 blocks onto mile 4. I even noticed it and I didn’t have a Garmin. (Going from 10 minute miles to an 11:30 and back to 10s had me very confused!) People complained, the race director acknowleged the mistake and times were adjusted.

    The funniest complaints I ever saw were on the FB page of the Wisconsin Marathon before race day this year. Some annoying dude was asking if they would re-route the course due to 7 mph winds along the lakeshore. (Yep, 7mph. Not a typo.) He also asked if they would put tents up over the aid stations so that rain water wouldn’t get in the Gatorade. Not even kidding! He had some other good ones too – I bet you could find them still on the race FB page.

    1. OMG those are some hilarious complaints. What a diva! I think for one of the races I was doing this summer (maybe Rock n Roll Chicago), someone asked at what temperature they would cancel the race. It wasn’t even supposed to be that hot (in the 70s at race time), and I couldn’t resist, so I replied to their post “eleventy billion degrees.” I mean, come on. If it’s too hot for YOU, stay home. But it’s JULY. Get over it.

      I actually did a 5K once that was too short – and I was on PR pace, so I was pretty annoyed. After the race (like, days later), we got an email from the RD saying that because of work being done on the course route, they had to re-route it, and as a result, the course was short. But the race was done by the YMCA, so whatever.

    1. Yes, I love the nervous nellies (or, n00bs) posts. But I always try to be sympathetic to the ones that have legitimate first-race jitters. (At least, I hope it is their first race based on their comments.)

  2. I agree with you on most of these! I do think it’s silly to have to pay for parking at an Expo (if you pay for parking, will you still buy swag at the expo? Maybe.) but I understand that large event spaces with easy public transport are limited in the city. I do like that the Chicago Marathon provides shuttle buses to McCormick, though! That’s a nice bonus.

    Although, doesn’t the Chicago Tri have their expo at the Hilton at Michigan and Balbo? That’s a pretty sweet location (but, again, parking is a pain if you drive).

    If a course is USAF-certified I don’t mind if it’s a little long per my Garmin (by a little I mean .1 or .2) but if it’s more than .5 long or if it’s short I start to wonder. Not enough to complain, mind you.

    As for the whole “someone else picking up your bib” thing, I was told some races do that because they’ve had people cheat my having someone faster than them pick up their bib and then running with it and WINNING! At least, that’s what I was told about Rock n Roll and the Chicago Half. It still seems kind of silly, though.

    I just wish more races would either A. tell you in advance if they shirts are “unisex” (aka men’s) sized or B. have women’s sizes. I’m tired of getting shirts that are as big as a tent. That’s just a waste of resources.

    1. Any race that goes through downtown or under tunnels is always off (and I loooove downloading the map from my Garmin, always good for a laugh). Also with the skyscrapers, I know some people have had some pretty wonky elevation profiles (I assume the signal bounces off the buildings), which would also add distance to what Garmin measures.

  3. I’ve gotten into the habit, when given the option, to just go with the men’s small. I don’t even want to chance it with a woman’s size. Even if they fit right around the middle, they’re most likely going to be too short. Screw that. I honestly only work out or sleep in race tshirts anyway. Just make them comfy…

    1. I guess I’m lucky, women’s mediums fit me pretty well. I’m just so sick it a t-shirt every time. Any race that takes place during June, July or August should give sleeveless tops.

  4. I love doing this too! i always read the complaints. As a disclaimer though, i would like to add *don’t yell at the packet pick-up volunteer about your ill-fitting shirt – she can’t do anything, nor does she care. And her shirt is ill-fitting too. deal with it.*

    I love that people complained about spectator food. Spectating is really hard work and requires lots of carbs…


    1. Jerks! Although (I would hope) the people complaining assumed you were paid to work packet pick-up and work for the race company, and not a volunteer. But that’s still jerky.

  5. I HATE when people complain about the distance! Honestly this is one of my biggest pet peeves. Your Garmin isn’t the end all be all…and most people just can’t seem to face this truth. Everyone runs the same course so this little added detail erks the heck out of me!

    And spectator food? Whaa…huh? I’ve ran 100+ road races in the past 16 years and I’ve never seen spectator refreshments. When do people ever get free no strings attached refreshments?

  6. I love this post! Looking at race FB pages just before and after races is an absolute HOOT! Disney races are prime spots to look. Omg. Lots of noobs and some legitimate first timer
    Nervous Nellies, which I can commiserate with. We’ve all been there.

    What gets me is WHILE RUNNING THE RACE hearing people complain about the course! Wtf? I ran a race in the Twin Cities recently that was super hilly. If you’re doing 13.1 miles of anything that you paid money to do, it’s a good idea to look at the course! A lot of people didn’t, and thought because it was a women’s race that meant it would be relaxed and “easy”. The course was hilly! Some people dropped out, or complained the last 4 miles! What a drag. Normally I’m a one-ear-budder, but that day I used both!

    I just discovered this blog and I’m oh so glad I did! Please keep
    the post coming!

    1. OMG, hills, that’s a good one. Sometimes people act like the race director personally built the hills to spite the runners. I don’t understand people who complain about hills. I personally love hills. They make you a better runner. In my mind, hills during a race separate the weak from the strong. That sounds funny, but it’s true. If you’re a strong runner, you probably seek out hilly routes once in awhile, or you paid attention to the course description or elevation profile (sometimes I’ll plot out a race course on gmaps-pedometer.com to see what the elevation is). Newsflash: when you run outside, especially for 13 miles, you are bound to hit some hills. Even “flat” Chicago has hills – either overpasses or highway ramps. Hills happen. Suck it up and deal with it. I should get a shirt that says that.

  7. I also like to look at sites after races to see what people have to say. I always find myself talking to the computer about how stupid people are when I do that though. haha. I hate when people complain about distance too! They think their garmin is going to be perfect. Nope. I also agree with all the complaints about race day packet pickup…its something you should be considering that when you sign up for the race.

  8. I’ve never read comments on facebook about races. I am going to start! I think the complaining about the shirts is valid. They should fit small women. I pay a shit ton and I want a nice shirt!

  9. My absolute favorite race complaint of all time came from a running blog which shall remain nameless (not least because I can’t remember which one it was, because I took it out of my reader a long time ago for reasons which will shortly become clear): This chick ADMITTED she hadn’t trained properly for a race – one of the big Rock n Roll HM’s – and then bitched in her race report about the hills! She literally was like “And THEN there was a HILL at MILE 10! What was the race director thinking???? I wrote an email to complain!” She went on to blame her poor showing on the poor course design…..

    1. AHHHHH …. I can’t. Did she also complain to the race director about the weather? Because in addition to being able to build the hills himself, I’m sure he also controlled the weather that day.


    These gripes are all pretty funny. I think another thing people complain about is switching the name registered for the event (aka they bought a bib from someone and now want it to be in their own name). This is almost NEVER allowed yet people always seem to complain about it. If you wanted to run the race under your own name, you should have signed up when everyone else did.

    1. Right? No refunds means no refunds. That includes transferring a bib. Could you imagine the clusterf*ck they’d have to deal with if they did allow refunds or bib transfers?? Ugh. I can’t.

  11. Muah hahahahahah. I love this list. My husband’s dad spectated at my BiL’s tri and was upset there was not food for spectators. HUH?! Maybe he meant to buy. GET. A. CLUE.

    What about people who complain about the shirt color or design? All those red shamrock shirts? LOL. I thought that was kind of funny, but not really worth complaining too much about 😉 Like Amy said, you will probably just wear it to bed. I have so many race shirts I don’t care too much anymore.

    There are a few people in my club who have to complain about EVERY race. Can we please keep the complaints for legit stuff? That really bugs me.

    Also, a blogger I read who ran her first full last year gave her chip time, then went in to this long speech about “but my Garmin said this.” Give me an effin’ break.

  12. Ha these are great! I am ashamed to say that I was once extremely guilty of the first one. I spaced through bib pick-up for this year’s Shamrock Shuffle and “hoped” to pick it up on race day. Umm fail! It turned out fine and some nice woman gave me an extra bib she had, but lesson learned! I complained for weeks though 🙂

  13. My favorite complaint was an argument between an unregistered participant and the race director of the Chicago 10K last month on the race’s facebook page (it’s been deleted now). This woman went off on what a scam she thought the race was (her registration didn’t go through, and she never followed up), so she kept posting that the race was a scam and she was going down to some big city office the following Monday at 8am and she knew that at 8am Monday morning the race organizers better beware because “JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED!”

    On the other hand, I ran the Firefly Run last night and it was pretty rough with a poorly marked and overcrowded course, followed by running out of water for at least 800 runners post-race and having zero recovery food options. I’ve been watching the facebook page last night and this morning and the organizers are deleting complaint posts. While I understand managing your online reputation, I think it’s really shady to act like there were no problems with an event.

    1. Running out of water is DEFINITELY a valid complaint. Also, I don’t know if they still do it, but All Community Events gives out cups of water after the finish. Even for half marathons!! I just ran 13 miles … I need more than 4oz of water.

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