Indianapolis Half Marathon 2010

The Indianapolis Marathon deserves its reputation as a well-respected race. We found it to be well organized, and several nice touches showed attention to detail on the part of those who ran it.

We had a minor hitch getting to the expo and packet pickup due to construction confusion at the YMCA, but it was smooth after that. We arrived just in time too, since we observed that the parking lot seemed completely full when we left a short time later. The entry area to the expo was lined with mums and heaters, a nice but unnecessary touch, as the weather was mild that day. The expo itself was on the small side. We had no trouble walking right up and getting our packets and t‑shirts from the friendly and helpful volunteers. The relatively small number of other vendors was no problem for us — less to traffic to dodge on the way out!

We owe a big thank you to the Zembrodts for watching David on race morning. We could not have both participated had it not been for their help. I’m glad that David got to play with his friends Jake and Toby on a Saturday morning, too. 

After dropping off David on race morning, we were prepared for heavy traffic on 56th Street. By the time we crossed I‑465, traffic was flowing smoothly. The kids directing traffic in the VA parking lots could have coordinated better and filled more spaces, but we didn’t have a problem. People arriving later might have had some difficulty finding parking spots, however. We stayed in the warm car, and Emily did some grading while we passed some time before braving the cold morning. Perhaps we should have left the car a few minutes sooner so that we could have made one last pit stop before the start. The lines were very long!

As the race started, the temperature was quite cool. No complaints though, as the sun felt glorious between the trees. The quiet environment while running in the state park was enjoyable, just the sound of footsteps and concentration. After a while, the park became more challenging for me. First, the hills were more than I am accustomed to, particularly the one at mile 10.5. Second, the design of the course led to some doubling-back even on the half-marathon course, which tends to sap my motivation. Still, the scenery was undeniably beautiful.

The food in the finishing area was a pleasant surprise. Both Emily and I thought that we had to have bought an additional ticket to enter, but we were wrong. All participants were allowed to have a hamburger or bratwurst lunch. Cool, how nice! And a well-earned brat it was. That’s why we run.

National Running Day

In honor of National Running Day, David and I ran around the block together this afternoon. We also took the opportunity to start off his Kids Marathon, which he will hopefully complete as part of the Indianapolis Marathon this October. He’s very excited about earning his very own real marathon medal, just like mommy and daddy’s. Over the next 4½ months, we’ll keep track of how far we run together on his Kids’ Marathon Mileage Log. After completing a total of 25 miles before the event, the kids will complete their final mile on the same course as the grownups, even using the same finish line. This looks like a great program with meaningful incentives to help get kids interested in being active.

It sounds like a lot of running, and we’re very cautious not to force David into it at such a young age, but in this case, the enthusiasm all comes from him. After last week’s two-block Rookie Run, the smile on his face all the way from the start line to the finish line was just great. He was excited about getting a medal, but just as excited about getting his own bottle of cold water. Whatever does it for him!

Today, he ran (and walked) six-tenths of a mile, alternately sprinting and dragging his feet, picking up pine cones and jumping on them to pop them. I stayed a step behind his lead, wearing the GPS, just to see the result. I had a good time looking at all the points where he got distracted and stopped to look at something. At one point, he looked back at me, veered off the sidewalk, and tripped as he got back on. He landed on his hands and knees, and decided that was enough, “but there is no blood, so it’s okay.” So we walked back home after that. After crossing the street one last time, he forgot about tripping and sprinted the final two house lengths on his way to get his ice pack out of the refrigerator.

At this rate, he’ll earn his medal in no time. We’ll see how this plays out!

In other outdoor activity news, National Trails Day is this Saturday, June 5, and National Get Outdoors Day is next Saturday, June 12. We’ll be on the Monon Trail this weekend, and possibly Ritchey Woods the next. See you outdoors!

Geist Half Marathon 2010

Sometimes the bear eats you. 

The first half of this spring, the IU Mini, was rainy. The second, the 500 Festival Mini, was very windy. So, I was hoping for the third half marathon of the spring to make up for the bad weather of the other two. Unfortunately, this time around, the factor that gave me trouble was the heat. We have had such a mild spring for training that I found the heat and humidity to be especially challenging, despite having brought extra water with me. Runners were given good warnings to start off easy — good advice. Even so, I had a lot of difficulty preserving my energy. 

During the first couple of miles felt so good to finally be moving that I did feel like I was restraining myself. Later, I realized that I should have tried harder to hold back, because I was going faster than my goal pace for the entire first 5k, when it is important not to waste energy. Maybe I was rushing to pass my family, who was waiting for me to pass them in front of Scotty’s Lakehouse, where they ate breakfast after I got to wave to them. I’m glad they had a chance to have a fun breakfast, but I would like to have been able to join them! 

Shortly after that point, I started to go downhill. I started feeling tired, and never seemed to be able to find any energy boost. Slowing down helped, but even that can be an effort because it requires concentration. At the halfway point, which was at the southern end of the reservoir, I threw in the towel. Courageous Drive has a rather steep, long hill, and I just could not live up to the name of the street. I took the first of several walking breaks until I reached the top of the hill. And once you take the first walk break, your pride is so shot that it’s hard to keep going. After that point, it is too easy to say I can’t do any more hills, and then just walk all the rest of them. Which is pretty much what I did. Oh well. At least I finished! 

I was passed by a lot of kids from Belzer Middle School. These kids show up at all the local races, and it’s really cool to see them, even when they blaze past you. Their parents wear bright T‑shirts and cheer loudly for their kids. I’m proud of them too, and I always wish I had started running sooner, like them. More good programs like theirs are what Indianapolis needs to get out of the unhealthy slump we’re in. This morning’s news cited the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual list of the cities with the healthiest lifestyles, on which Indianapolis fell embarrassingly from 36th to 44th place.

While my own effort was weak, the race was well run. The medal and shirt were nice (last year’s shirt was weirdly defective, with misproportioned dimensions and unmatched sleeve lengths), the volunteers were friendly and helpful, and hey, who doesn’t like starting off a race with SpongeBob SquarePants waving at you from a boat?

Mini-Marathon Training Series 10k 2010

Today was the second in a series of three training runs for the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. The weather conditions were good for the most part. The air was really crisp at the start, below 30°F. This is in that funny region between shorts and pants weather. I opted for the latter, and except for standing around waiting for the race to start, I think either would have been fine. I had some lightweight gloves but took them off with a couple miles to go.

The sky was clear, and the sun is rising earlier these days, so the sun was in our eyes a lot. However, I prefer that to dreary cloudy days any time. It seems like we have not seen the sun around here for an entire month. The humidity at the start felt pretty high, and combined with the somewhat chilly temperature, my trachea felt like it was getting lined with frost. I could see the breath of everyone around me. 

And let me get something off my chest. I like runners. I like being a runner. I think most runners are neat people. On the whole, they’re cheerful, respectful, and friendly. Of course there has to be the occasional spoiler, and one made himself known today: the starting horn shover.

For the last 15 years, most races of any size have used RFID timing, which times runners based on their actual net time between the start and finish lines. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re lined up in the front row or halfway back. Each runner’s clock does not start until he reaches the start line. So why the shoving? I would hope for his sake that he planned on winning the race if he was going to shove me out of his way, but he only finished a few seconds ahead of me. It was hard to bite my tongue, but saying something would not have done much good, especially considering how I just said I like runners because they’re friendly! 

Speaking of RFID timing, I’m happy to see that the race organizers appear to have dropped the cheap, flimsy, crummy ChronoTrack D‑tag disposable timing tags. D‑tags are too vulnerable to damage. Instead, today’s race bibs had two RFID tags permanently attached. The tags appear to be based on the same UPM Raflatac DogBone UHF tag product as the ChronoTrack product, but away from runners’ feet, where they are prone to get snagged, bent, or lost. Presumably the additional distance from the antennas on the street to the RFID tag on the bib makes them less reliable, so adding a second tag makes up the difference. I wonder what the actual difference in reliability is. 

I feel worse and worse about the amount of waste produced during a race. Between four water stations and the finish line, each runner had the opportunity to take five paper cups and a plastic water bottle. Multiply that by 1,700 runners for today’s event, and that’s a lot of waste. The volunteers always do a great job of cleaning up, so it’s not litter that bothers me, it’s the waste. Maybe it’s time that I just use my own water bottle and hydration belt so it doesn’t contribute to the waste. I am not sure why I have resisted in the past, because carrying my own water or Gatorade never bothers me when I run alone. Okay, new resolution, then.

I didn’t quite meet my 45 minute goal time today, but I’m not too disappointed. I was under the weather for a solid two months during the winter, so it’s taking a while to get back up to speed. I am a little concerned about being ready for the IU Mini in just four weeks, but I don’t plan on setting any records there, either. Just to finish, enjoy the ride and have a nice visit with our friends in Bloomington that weekend.

Spring is clearly on its way, and we’re ready.

View in Google Earth (16 kB KML)

Official race results

View in Garmin Connect

View 2010-03-06 Mini-Marathon Training Series 10k in a larger map

2010 Mini-Marathon Training Series 5k

I was not looking forward to the first race of the new year! Weather forecasts promised that it would be very cold, so at least I was prepared for that. This morning as I was getting ready to head out, I received an Indianapolis Knozone email (the first since early last summer) warning about elevated levels of fine particles in the air. Great, so it was going to be 12° and foggy, with the added bonus of hazardous dust. Sounds like a fine morning in the making.

As usual with the Mini and its associated training series, the event was well organized and everything flowed smoothly. Saturn was conspicuously absent as a sponsor, but I suppose being run out of business will have that effect. In the place of the sponsor’s cars was a big American Red Cross van, whose EMTs were hopefully not needed throughout the morning. I appreciated that Ortho Indy was handing out headband/earmuffs to participants who had registered for all three of the training series races. I took advantage of it!

The streets were dry and almost completely free of ice in the travel lanes. Of course there were patches near intersections, but volunteers helpfully yelled out for people to take care in certain places.

Per my usual early season folly, I went out way too fast in the first half mile (hey, it was cold, and I was trying hard to warm up), but then had the good sense to rein it in. My nerd watch tracks are in the map below.

View in Google Earth (12 kB KML)

View in Garmin Connect

View 2010-02-13 Mini-Marathon Training Series 5k in a larger map

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

IMMlogoNEW09Yesterday was the second running of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Emily and I were able to participate this year. While we were both successful in that we finished and are able to walk and negotiate stairs, neither of us was as prepared as we would have liked. Overall, this race was not our favorite, but it highlights how much organization goes into the majority of these events.

As much as we sincerely appreciate the many volunteers who make these events possible, it just seemed that in general, the Monumental Marathon volunteers did not receive enough training for this event. The race’s organizers are known for their professional production of other local events, but it just didn’t seem to come together this time. I did not attend the packet pickup, but Emily reports that it was not up to the level of what we’ve come to expect from the highly organized races that we have attended here and elsewhere. There was insufficient space available for the participants who were trying to pick up their materials, and the volunteers did not seem to have answers to some questions about the t‑shirts.

While it is a pleasant surprise when a race gives out a technical t‑shirt instead of a cotton one, it was a source of frustration this time. Cotton and technical shirts fit differently, so knowing what type of shirt will be offered usually has an influence on what size participants should request. Particularly so when the shirts are not only technical, but in men’s or women’s varieties too. The Monumental Marathon was one of these events where the shirts were a surprise upgrade. As a result, both Emily and I wound up with the wrong size shirt. The volunteers were unable to assist with shirt exchanges, and told participants to return after the race and attempt an exchange later. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be impossible because there were no leftover shirts after the race. 

Saturday morning, we parked in the Circle Centre garage, directly above Steak & Shake. The overpowering smell of onion rings was strong temptation to just skip the whole event, and I don’t even like Steak & Shake. (As a side note, the only other location that truly smelled awesome during the race was Shapiro’s Deli. I haven’t been to Shapiro’s in many years, and while I thought it was okay, I have had no real need to go back. But for whatever reason, it smelled great on Saturday morning. This calls to mind a contrast with last year’s Marine Corps Marathon, in which miles 21–24 or so were through Crystal City, with dozens of TGI-McAppblebee’s type chains filling the air with fried smells. And at that point in that race, it was enough to turn my stomach.)

The race got off to a pretty good start. It was a bit chilly at the start — the good kind of chilly, since it always feels 20° warmer when you’re running. Despite the field size being about the same as for the Air Force Marathon, the start of this race was quite a bit more crowded due to the narrower city streets. Seeing the condition of the downtown streets up close after not having run or driven on them for a long time, they have really gone to pot. The streets are an absolute mess, which is concerning, since winter is right around the corner. Perhaps it was the streets that were chosen for this particular race course, but it seems like the course was threatening us at each turn, whether we were dodging construction barricades or potholes trying to twist our ankles. Much of the downtown section only had two lanes available to runners, so the squeezing and tripping continued for a disconcerting length of time.

Some other complaints that I need to get off my chest focus on the water tables. 

  1. Again, we recognize that volunteers perform an essential role in making big events possible, and their gift of time is much appreciated. They usually are so good at doing things like passing out water that you really notice when they haven’t been trained how to do it effectively. At the worst water station, the volunteers were sitting in folding chairs behind the water table, expecting runners to stop and get their own cup of water. This is helpful how? 
  2. Water tables can’t be secrets! They need to be marked in advance with signs or hollering volunteers so that runners can maneuver over to get their water or Gatorade in a more or less orderly fashion so nobody gets hurt. This race was large enough that water stations should be on both sides of the course, or at least the for first part of the course where the full and half marathons shared the same route. I inadvertently skipped three of the first four water stations because I did not see them until I was right on top of them. From the grumbles of other runners around me, I knew that I was not the only one. After missing so many, I actually exited the course and doubled back at one station on 38th street so I could finally get some water.
  3. Space them out! Having just one short table with water and Gatorade at each stop meant a lot of crowding and tripping. Concentrating all that traffic into the same area is pretty dangerous. By spacing out the fluids, it is easier to get out, get your cup, and get back into the flow safely.
  4. I absolutely do not mean to overgeneralize about inadequately-trained volunteers. There were numerous others who were not as taxed, and who were so helpful in cleaning up and directing traffic. I hope that other runners also make an attempt to thank as many volunteers as we can as we pass by.

Water table rants aside, things improved after the first few miles. Public safety officers were professional as always. It is a very helpful feeling to know that they are defending us against frustrated and inattentive drivers. It was neat running through neighborhoods that I have not visited for a long time, especially seeing the beautiful fall colors (or what remained of them) and impractically expensive houses on Pennsylvania and Washington Streets. 

By mile 16, I was having my usual thoughts about how “I’m ready for this to be over.” The scenery around Butler was very nice, I am sure, but I started feeling myself fade by the time we reached the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The stretch along White River Parkway — miles 19 and 20 — were completely devoid of any spectators, whose presence I would have appreciated so much. There was nothing but a long line of angry traffic in the opposite lane. I did get a passive-aggressive boost by giving a cheer and a thumbs-up (just a thumb, no fingers) to one particular driver of a brown Buick who was leaning on her horn out of frustration for having chosen to drive in race traffic despite signs warning about Saturday morning traffic restrictions.

Ironic how the same folks that complain about Indy not being a world class city are also angry re: marathon traffic. Get out and walk.” — Neal Brown

Due to a combination of my own unpreparedness and to an absence of support from people cheering along the second half (to a marathoner, the last 6 miles is the second “half”), I decided at the point that we turned onto Fall Creek Parkway that I would allow myself a walk break starting just after the turn onto Meridian Street. My right foot had developed a wicked blister in the arch area, and my gait was suffering as a result. My left foot felt like I was starting to lose a toenail. Too much information? Sorry, suffice it to say that I was tired and hurting.

Having looked at the race course before hand, I thought I could stick it out for a few more minutes before taking a breather. Except Fall Creek Parkway kept slogging on. Finally, Meridian Street came, and I walked the next 2 ½ miles. I was so disappointed to have to give up, but I kept in mind that my goal was just to finish, since I was in no way prepared to set any personal records that day. It was enough to run a second marathon this year, making up for two years ago, when I skipped one. There were quite a few runners who stopped at about the same time I did, and I felt so bad for them, knowing they were in the same boat. They were doing so well, but running the whole way just wasn’t going to happen that day. 

Initially I just thought I’d walk for a mile and then start running again. I tried just that, and literally after the first step I knew that was a bad idea, so I just kept walking. Another mile later, I tried again but the same thing happened. The wind had picked up also as the morning continued. By this point I was headed into the wind, which was gusting to 30 mph. This made walking surprisingly difficult in places, with the bank of the road, potholes, and my gimpy gait. Spectators had returned to the course along Meridian Street, such a welcome change. Even though I was trudging along at a relatively brisk walking pace, the spectators were cheerful and supportive. Thanks! 

By the time I rounded Monument Circle, only the last half mile of the course remained, so I forced myself to start running, because by God I was going to be running across that finish line. Unfortunately I chose to start running just as an event photographer sprang up in front of me, so that photo is bound to have a nasty expression on my face! Yeah, I’ll be sure and spring $40 to get a copy of that one!

Oh, and about that last half mile! Again with the course complaints, I’m glad I was prepared for the last few turns. This was one of those courses where you get SOCLOSE to the finish, only to be forced into a turn that takes you some five blocks farther before turning back to the finish at the rear of the capitol building. 

That stretch of walking added about 13 minutes to my time, according to my running pace just before and after the walking, but at least I didn’t seize up, and I could still move enough to rake leaves and mow the lawn later that day. Made it!

forerunner Race profile on Garmin Connect

kml Monumental Marathon in Google Earth (74 kB)

View 2009-11-07 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in a larger map

Pirated radio waves

I like to wade through the mountain of data that my GPS watch collects during races. I found something interesting while looking at the data from the USAF marathon: someone else’s heart rate. This is not uncommon, especially when there are thousands of people crammed into the starting area of a race. Heart rate monitor receivers pick up whatever is the strongest nearby signal, and if you are not wearing a HRM transmitter of your own, there’s a pretty good chance that someone around you might be wearing a compatible model.


From the graph above, it looks like I picked up three stray HRM signals (shown by the red line). For most of the first mile, I was running near a robot whose heart rate was under 80 bpm (either that or the signal was intermittent). Then a short time later I picked up another signal for another mile or so. Then finally I picked up another for a very short time before the 3 mile marker.

Is this what is meant by a sense of community among runners?

Pictures from the USAF Marathon

Brightroom published their photos from the USAF Marathon. Note, these are Brightroom’s pictures, not mine. I’m not distributing them, just telling people where to get them. Once again, what a pretty morning we had for a race!

Air Force Marathon 2009

Saturday was a beautiful day for a marathon! The weather was ideal: cool at the start, with a light breeze.

As with most major running events, this one was well organized, well staffed, and well supplied. I only have one minor complaint about the race expo, and that is the selection of the halls of the Nutter Center as the location. We probably went to packet pickup at the peak time, but we had little other choice, because of our arrival schedule in Dayton. 10,000 people do not fit well in the concourse of a basketball arena, especially when the flow of people is choked by vendors filling up the walkway with their merchandise.

Given our experience with the absurdly long 2+ hour waits for buses at last year’s Marine Corps Marathon, I also was hoping for more detail in the printed literature about the parking shuttle schedules for race day. (The last thing you want is to be on the far side of the Pentagon’s 67 acre parking lot when the starting gun goes off!) I tried to just trust that this race would be better, and indeed it was. (The volunteer who was staffing our pickup point on race morning was having frazzled exchanges on her radio because we had to wait almost five whole minutes!) We followed the suggestion to arrive an hour before the start, and we were just fine.

5.  The finish lineWe were treated to an impressive flyover (“the sound of freedom,” as those in the Air Force apparently like to call it), paratroopers unfurling enormous POW and American flags; and the woman who sang the national anthem did a truly beautiful job. I was struck by the respect of the crowd. Every single individual who was present was absolutely silent and attentive during the anthem.

I cannot think of the last time I had so much room at the start of a race. Participants, at least the ones who started near me, did a good job observing the pace lineup, so there was no shuffling and tripping over feet as runners jockeyed for their chosen pace. This made for an unusually pleasant start.

The first couple of miles seemed like one very long and continuous, but relatively gentle uphill climb. While the wheeled athletes were given a few minutes’ head start, the initial hills caused several of them to get a slow start, and I passed some early in the race. I chuckled to myself, because I knew that in just a few minutes, they would be screaming past me again. remainsI enjoyed making mental notes of the things I would have pointed out to my son, had I been pushing him in the jogging stroller: lots of geese, two fire stations, a flock of starlings trying to intimidate a hawk, construction equipment, police cars, rusting remains of old aircraft, and more. Most of the participants were silent, so the early part of the race had a meditative feel, just the sounds of birds and feet interrupted the quiet morning. Perfect!

There was a great turnout of folks in the Fairborn section, with people lining both sides of Main, Grand, and Broad streets. I called out to some diners enjoying a delicious looking breakfast at their the sidewalk table that they were being pretty unfair. Residents had lots of patriotic decorations that boosted the festive environment, as well.

I always enjoy the lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Mini, so I expected to enjoy running down a stretch of real USAF taxiway during this race. However, this segment came in the second half of the race, so the long, straight slog with no shade and no breeze was not very enjoyable. pylonsI tried to make it fun by crossing over the pylons onto the taxiway itself, rather than the shoulder, but it was hard to get very excited. (See my track line at right: the other side of the yellow paint line wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.) While I was running this stretch, there was what appeared to be a replica of a Wright Flyer flying overhead. While it was neat to see, it buzzed around so slowly that it reminded me of how slowly I felt I was going.

In contrast, the volunteers staffing the aid stations in this stretch did a wonderful job combating the monotony of the second half of the course. They were amazingly friendly and enthusiastic. After the taxiway, the route along the tree-lined Bayou Road and Patrol Roads was a most welcome change. Four of the last six miles retraced an earlier portion of the route, following a downhill and steeply banked Highway 444. This caused more eccentric motion in my quads and stressed my ankles more than I was accustomed to, so this is definitely an area that I will need to focus on in training for other long races. (The only problem: where to find hills and banked curves in Fishers?)

Dayton area race spectators should be made aware that there was not enough cowbell. We need our cowbell! I had the unexpected treat of seeing my family near the 22 mile marker. David could have been ringing his cowbell, but he had been too busy using it as a digger. Still, what a welcome boost to see them!

This course had a ton of aid stations. I never wanted for more fluids or gel packets. There must have been more than one per mile on average. I could have handled a less offensive flavor than chocolate gel packets, but I certainly would rather have that than nothing, or to fuss with carrying my own with me.

finishWhat a welcome sight the finish line was! As with the Marine Corps Marathon, the finish line was in sight long before we actually reached it, but this year there were no cruel tricks like a steep uphill climb to the finish. Instead, the last tenth of a mile passed under the wings of several of the aircraft at the Air Force Museum, which I found to be a fun way to finish. As expected, the finish area was congested, but not the worst I have seen. After milling around and picking up lots of goodies, I started to look for my family. Because I finished earlier than I thought (yay new PR), I was looking for a while. The slow shuffling wasn’t the wisest thing I could have done, and the price I paid for not stretching better was the sudden onset of the worst muscle cramps I have ever experienced. I was instantly and completely immobilized. Watching the knots form visibly as my calf muscles seized up completely solid and rock hard, combined with the shooting pain, was impressive if not exactly comfortable. I didn’t know that muscles could even do that. Two anonymous good samaritans came to my rescue and helped loosen my legs, and their beating and kneading hurt even worse, but they quickly worked it out. They were yet another example of the great people who make up the running community.

All told, the USAF put on a great event. It was great to be there with my supportive family. We’ll see if Emily plans to write about her experience also.

kmlAir Force Marathon in Google Earth (157 kB)

Geist Half Marathon 2009

This race was pretty good overall. The whole prior week I was expecting a rainy morning, so I did not get as mentally engaged as I should have been. The weather did turn out to be quite humid, but the temperature and wind were not bad. The t‑shirts were upgraded to long-sleeved tech shirts at the last minute, which was an unexpected nicety. However, had I paid the extra $26 to participate in their Month of May Marathon Club, I would have been irritated, since one of the perks of the extra fee was supposed to be an upgraded tech shirt. 

Last year, there was no additional charge for the Month of May Marathon Club, so that was another reason why I did not participate. I definitely do not think it would be worth the money for such a low-value benefit. 

This race seems to be positioning itself as a “premium” race, what with the fancy shirt, running through all the rich neighborhoods, offering a low-value voluntary upcharge, etc. For a premium race, it seems like they should be giving out gel packets too. Why not? 

I appreciate that the organizers of the Geist Half did not use the increasingly popular D‑tag timing system. D‑tags are flimsy and unreliable, in my opinion. While I admit that I do not have access to reliability statistics, they almost certainly cannot be as reliable as other systems. I’ve used them at least half a dozen times since October 2008 and witnessed more failures than I have seen in years of racing with other timing systems. My sister in law received no official time for her first marathon (what a drag!) because the D‑tag broke while she was removing it from her bib, and I have seen D‑tags lying in the street along the course because they fell off runners’ shoes. 

There was some fun at the starting line, with SpongeBob SquarePants in a boat to see everyone off. The announcer called out for SpongeBob to wave at the crowd, and it took him a good 15 seconds to get himself into a standing position. I found that pretty funny. Also, there was a very nicely done missing man formation flyover. 

View 2009-05-16 Geist Half Marathon in a larger map