Monday, September 21, 2009

The information gap in racing


I was thinking about how I stumbled upon that 5K race yesterday and the fact that in this age of ubiquitous connectivity to the web how often information about events doesn't reach runners. Yesterday's 5K,
whose route came within blocks of my home, was unknown to me and would have remained that way if I hadn't gone in that direction on Sunday's run. The bigger events, like the Long Island Marathon Series, are well promoted and documented. They even had course maps on their website to provide runners an idea of the route. The LI Marathon website itself was marginal with pages that went nowhere and lots of missing information. All the same, with their booths at fairs, festivals and at other races, along with a complement of newspaper ads, the event was hard to miss.

I've run four races this year and have at least two more scheduled. In two cases there were course maps available, one easy to find and another that required some Google skills. I was extremely curious to
see the course for the New Hyde Park 8K race last June but the site had no map and little information about the race itself. In fact, online registration wasn't available until about a week prior to race. Before that the online registration had been set up for 2008. On race day the organizers were working diligently to trace and print course maps using Gmaps and I wondered why they waited until an hour before the race to do that. It was a great event but it would have been better had they made this information available earlier. My most recent race, the Dirty Sock 10K, was really well done and their website had everything I needed to know to prepare for it. I tried to participate in an LIRRC race last week but the information gaps did me in. Another event the same day blocked access to the race start that was defined on the LIRRC website and I wasn't familiar enough with the park to find my way in time.

I was online yesterday and came across the USATF site that has a page that lists certified courses with hand drawn maps. I found the New Hyde Park race included in this direction. It would have been a simple thing for that races website to point to it. With MapMyRun, Gmaps, Garmin Connect and many other mashups to Google and Microsoft's mapping applications you'd expect to find a lot more course information available online. If I had the time I'd create a "MapMyRace" site to allow runners to see the course and its elevations to help them with their training strategy. I realize that maintaining a website is challenge and keeping one up to date is tough when it isn't your core point of focus. It's situations like yesterday that make me wonder couldn't they have tried a little harder?

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