People say that the third time’s the charm…and I might agree with them, with some reservations. On Sunday, I ran my third consecutive Hershey Half Marathon. It was sweet indeed, as far as my performance went. In terms of race organization, it was a tad sour.
In past years, I’ve delighted in Hershey’s easy breezy packet pickups, even if the so-called “expo” element of the half leaves something to be desired. This year, however, was different. For some strange reason, the Chocolate World parking lot (my normal packet pickup parking area) was closed, and so we were forced to join the Hersheypark traffic going through the Entertainment Complex. Chaos ensued.
Cars were bumper to bumper, and the hyper Hershey security team did nothing to calm nerves. Exiting traffic from the Giant Center was being directed in front of the incoming traffic for the Entertainment Complex, which caused major tie-ups. Screaming, honking and apocalyptic outbursts ensued from Central PA’s irritated suburban drivers (I would like to dump all these people on my city block during a simultaneous commuting hour/ambulance incoming and see just how they deal). It was truly horrific.
At packet pickup itself, the tension was still high among participants, but the actual deed of grabbing my bib and t-shirt was straightforward (you know, after my family spent 30 minutes maneuvering past irate drivers and searching for an elusive parking space). Thanks to the morning madness, we decided not to brave entry at the park on Saturday (two tickets to Halloween in Hershey are included as part of the race fee).
The bedlam continued into race morning. I woke up at my usual Hershey time (5:15) and was on site by 6:45 am. Around 7:10 am, I got into line for the porta potties, thinking from my past experiences with Hershey races that that would leave more than enough time to be at the start by 7:30. Bizarrely, Hershey thought it would be a wise idea to move all of the porta potties into a newly-gated participant area (previously they had a long line of stalls in the parking lot to alleviate congestion near the stadium restrooms). Furthermore, there was only one entrance for the participant area, and it was on the far side of the stadium, making entry horribly inconvenient for anybody who didn’t park in the Entertainment Complex (and we heard from those people who did park in the designated areas that traffic was nightmarish again on race morning, forcing many runners to ditch their families at the curb in order to get to the start in time).
The forecast had called for yucky weather (46 degrees, overcast and windy), and just for fun, it started to lightly rain as us runners all assembled. Thankfully, the rain was just a tease.
I was in line up until 7:28 am, and I had to fight my way through the crowd to reach my mom and ditch my warmup clothes before the starting gun. I didn’t have time to start my Gamin in advanced like a normally do, and as it searched for a signal, I was afraid I was going to get stuck at the very back of the pack. Mercifully my watch locked in on a satellite right as I was directing myself over the starting mat.
I was hoping the race itself wouldn’t be as frenzied as the pre-race episodes!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my race recap, including my finish time and overall race grades, tomorrow evening.