Normally a runner, I decided to support a couple of friends and walk the harvest half. Emails had gone out saying if you are walking you need to be ready for a 6:30am allowing the walkers a bit more time to finish before the course closed at the 3 hour 30 minute cap. Whereas the runners did not need to be ready until 7:45.
I had gone up to the registration table to ask where the start line was. Because I hadn’t noticed it on the way in. The response was
“umm outside in the street just outside of the parking lot.”
“Ok” I thought. It seemed strange that I hadn’t noticed the start when we had walked in.
I started to walk away and stopped when I heard coming from behind me.
“Oh yeah, but you guys have to start yourselves”. By now I was very confused. I have never walked a race before. I am used to standing in a herd of people waiting for the gun to go off. “What do you mean we get our selves off?” The response I got was.
“well the chip timers is not set up, so you have to go on your own. Take a map because the Marshalls won’t be out till later too.”
“You don’t have Marshalls out for us yet?” Now you have to understand it is 6:30am on a Saturday morning in September. It is pitch black outside and most of the race was to be done in fish Creek Park. I was a little concerned.
“No, but don’t worry the Marshall will be out later for the runners”
I couldn’t help myself, when she said that. I replied with “how does that help us? Wait, if the chip timers are not ready, how are you chip timing us?”
“oh that….. we will just add an hour to your time when you cross”
I mention again maybe because I am not used to walking an event this is normal. For all I know this is how all race organizers treat walkers in an event. But it seemed very wrong to me. It made me feel like a second citizen. My friends who had never done an event like this before looked a little disappointed.
So 6:30 rolled around and a guy stood in front of us and yelled 3,2,1, GO! Off we wandered into the darkness of Midnapore streets. We traveled this way for a few kilometers. We entered into fish creek still in complete darkness. We traveled over bridges, came across a deer in the trees. Then we came to a fork in the road. It had no markings and of course, no Marshalls. We were left to decide if we would go left or right or straight. The only reason why we went left is because we happened to see other people between the trees. I had later read on Facebook that many people went the wrong way and became members of the, as the marathon organizers put it “elite 23km club”. The rest of the walk went on uneventful. We had 3 cheerleaders on bikes that passed us from time to time and yelled out encouraging words. We had our water stations which was good. But what felt like sarcastic “encouraging” comments from the volunteers. While I type this I realize there were no aid stations. The website mentioned 4 aid stations along the path, another thing that was not provided for the walkers.
After the race I went on-line to check my stats as I always do. The chip timing company had put us in the same roster as the runners. I had emailed the organizers to ask if there was a way they could post the walkers separately from the runners, so we could see how we ranked within our little group on 50. I knew this would be possible because at the start of the race they wrote down all our bib numbers so they could adjust our time later. I haven’t heard a single response from the organizers of the harvest half.
So I am torn, while this was probably the most beautiful race I have ever entered with all the leaves in fish creek and walking towards the sun rise in the park. Would I enter it again? No, I felt it was unsafe and disrespectful to all the walkers.