Be sure to add your blog to my blog list -- Click HERE or blog list above to add your blog!

Nov 23, 2012

Detroit Turkey Trot 2012 Race Review

Short Version:

Finished in 48:33(Official Chip time)
Overall place:  677/7695; top 10%
AG(M40-44) 59/439

Overall Men:  557/3727

Overall the worst race organization I've ever ran in a race.  I love the course because I love running in downtown Detroit but changes must be made or I'll never be back.  And nobody should blame it on the crowd because that can be managed better.  Great weather conditions with the start in the mid 40's.
Registration/Packet Pick Up
This was the simplest part of the race.  Register on-line to select your race.  E-mail confirmation sent to confirm you were registered and you were all set.  You could also go on their website and confirm your registration as well.  Runners without internet access could sign up by mail too.  You could also register the day of the race.  There were people at the race registering that morning but I can't believe the race even allows it with the amount of people that run this race.  It's the largest race in Michigan when figuring in all three races including the 10k, 5k and one mile - 22,100 registered!!!

In regards to packet pick up, you could pick up your bib and shirt at a number of locations about three weeks before the race.  Just show up at the allotted times and give them your name and they assign you a bib right there.  Because of this, it didn't matter what location you went to.  I liked this feature since my pickup was only about 4 miles from my home.  Frankly, if I had to go to downtown Detroit to pick up the packet before the race, I probably would not sign up for it.  The only issue I had when picking up my packet is that the volunteers that were supposed to show up, didn't.  This left the bank employees there to do it but they got through it just fine.  I only had to wait about 3 minutes.  Very easy process.

Since I've run the Turkey Trot before, I knew that things would be busy and traffic would get backed up.  
Waiting to park....
sorry for the pic quality - iphone at nice = bad pic
I was expecting it so I left my home about 5:30am and got in my parking spot around 6:45am.  It actually worked out Ok but the freeway at Cobo Hall where the race start is located was backed up.  I can only imagine what it was like by 7am but the race warned everyone ahead of time to get in your parking spot by 6:30am to ensure you didn't miss the race.  

Start Area
Because the start area is on Woodward & Jefferson, I was able to wait with the thousands of other runners in Cobo Hall until the race started.  I had a chance to go use a real bathroom - a bonus in any race.  The lines were huge but moved quickly(at least for the men)  They had the one mile go off first right by Cobo so that helped clear out some of the people as well.  I waited until about 7:30 and headed over to the start line.  It was just two blocks up and one block over.  Having Cobo open for the runners is especially great when it's frigid outside which it clearly was not this year(in the 40's to start)
Waiting at Cobo Hall before the race with thousands of runners
More runners at Cobo Hall waiting to race
View on the walk over to the race start - Ren Cen(GM headquarters)
Notice the traffic still(some race/some parade)
Runners walking to the start line
This was a steady line of people for at least 15 minutes
This is really where things took a turn for the worse in regards to the race.  There were several "waves" indicating where you should be but I didn't realize I went into the wrong one.  
Starting line - oops I'm in the wrong one - too far back
Quick pic before I moved to my correct corral.
No worries - I moved up and got into my correct corral which was the "comet" wave.  Last time I ran the race(2010), it was set up to just line up where you wanted and it was a complete mess.  I thought this year would be better with the waves but I was mistaken. I'm ready to race.  I'm in the correct wave
Too bad so many others are not.
The biggest issue from this is that there are almost 20,000 people running the race and many do not pay attention(or frankly don't care) to where they should be.  While the different "wave" areas were Comet(5-8 minute mile), Blitzen(8-9:30 minute mile), Dasher(9:30-11 minute mile) and Prancer(11+ minute mile), they also had the  Rudolph wave for walkers and many decided to go wherever they wanted to line up.   I signed up for the Comet group and based on my pace, it's exactly where I should have been.

My personal opinion is that if the race is not going to enforce the wave areas(and they were split off separately), then what's the point in having them?  I blame runners too for not going to their correct wave but it's the race management's responsibility to make sure this is organized correctly.  

When I ran the Flying Pig marathon, they had volunteers checking your bib.  If you didn't have the correct bib, you didn't get in the corral you signed up for.  THAT's the way a start area should be done.  It was very disappointing to see all the people that didn't belong in the "Comet" wave including family, strollers, dogs.  Not too many 6 year olds running a sub 8 minute mile.  While I understand this is a "family oriented" run, please race organizers, change the rules and don't allow these things in a faster paced wave or don't allow them at all.  In addition, it probably makes sense to start the race further along on Woodward as, once again, there were runners that were backing up to Jefferson.  It could easily be changed as the turn around later in the race could be adjusted to allow for the same distance.

The course was similar to what I've run in the past.  I love running downtown Detroit and this course does not disappoint.  It's a nice course overall and you get good views of the city while running it.  It's one of the main reasons that I go to the race.  That being said, they could change the route to make it better for the start/finish areas.
Detroit Turkey Trot course via Garmin
Unfortunately, the course was not well marked.  Because there is a split for the 5k/10k courses, there needs to be a HUGE sign pointing the direction to go.  If you have ever run the Detroit marathon, it's very clear where the split between the half and full are and this is what they need for the Turkey Trot.  I was lucky enough to hear a volunteer calling out to turn right at the split(for 10k) but I know this was also an issue in the past where runners did not hear it and ended up running the 5k in error.  Of course, I don't wear headphones so I didn't miss it but they needed more signs.  I also think that because of the size of the race, headphones should not be allowed.  There's way to many people in the race to be wearing headphones and it's frankly not safe.  Overall though, I love the course.

It started off quite slow and I had to run around an incredible number of people.  Of course, had they been where they were supposed to be running, I would not have had to do that as much but it slowed me down quite a bit.  I was a little worried about my knee as it has been giving me issues but overall, I felt good and really did not push things too hard.  I really could have pushed it harder but I didn't see the need to since I'm not really even training for anything at this time.  Given what happened at the finish, which you will read below, I'm glad I didn't push it harder.  We had an incredible day for weather with temps in the mid 40's to start and finishing in the low 50's.  Probably one of the best days weather wise on Thanksgiving.  Here's a look at how slow things were at the start and finish:
See how slow it was at the start and finish.  Super flat course.
Ah, yeah, extremely slow at the start.
Note I turned off the Garmin early(0.02) in error
Just shows you how slow the finish was given the time difference.
Running on Woodward near Comerica Park/Fox Theatre
This is why I like this race!
Beautiful sun coming up
MGM Grand Casino(and the only port-o-potties I saw the entire time including start/finish)
Second turn around in the course in Corktown
Heading back to downtown
Back in downtown
Love running downtown Detroit
Almost to Cobo.  This area was packed with runners but it's hard to tell from this picture
Slight hill at Cobo
Slight downhill near cobo
As you may have noticed, I'm starting to get used to carrying my camera on the run.  Not all the photos are perfect but I'm working on improving my photos while still maintaining a consistent speed.  For the record, when I take pictures on the course, I don't slow down so I'm not causing issues on the course.

Aid Stations
There seemed to be plenty of aid stations on the course as I had seen water stops at plenty of spots.  I carried water so I can't remember how many there were but more than enough.  I would say for the number of runners though, there were not enough volunteers out there at these stops.  One water stop I only saw four volunteers.  Not only is that not fair to the runners, it's not fair to the volunteers.  They also had a Candy Cane and Cookie aid station which I think is a fun idea although most of the runners at my pace didn't grab anything since really, who is going to eat a cookie during a 10k run?  It was a fun idea nonetheless.

Finish Area
This was probably the biggest mistake of the entire race.  Last time I ran the race, the finish area got a bit backed up but not like it did this year.  Runners were walking at the end of the race before the finish.  Yes, I'm not kidding, people had to walk because things got so backed up.  I stopped my Garmin at the first timing mat thinking that was the end but we still had more to go but could not go anywhere.  I'm told that it got even worse as more people started to come in.  
Things like this on the course, while cool to see, are frustrating if you want to actually run the race.
Yes, four runners were pushing this.
Note I am walking here.  See the clock ahead to the left.
Walking at the finish line.  That's a first for me(and hopefully the last)
I would say that if you kept at least my pace or less, you were affected by it but not like some of the people in the 9+ pace group.  This back up was unacceptable.  Nobody should have to walk at the finish because of a backup.  Now please don't get me wrong, I understand this is a "fun run" but there is no reason, in my opinion, to even have the finish right at Cobo Hall.  I also understand that the food is there as well, but jeez, we could walk back to it if needed or put it someplace else.  The race organizers need to find a better place to finish the race.  I'm sure with the parade getting ready and people coming in for the Lions game does not make logistics easy, but something has to change or they are going to start losing runners in future years.

One thing that really slowed things down was the race medals.  There were many volunteers handing out medals but I don't think many runners realized that everyone was going to the first two or three volunteers.  Many of the volunteers were sitting there with nothing to do because most runners had their medal by the time they got to where they were standing.
Still in line waiting for the medal and to get into Cobo Hall for food
Huge back up but at least we're past the finish line; not true for those behind us.
It would have been very easy to hand out the medals inside of Cobo Hall.  I don't really need it right when I cross the finish line.  It would have helped not back up the place if runners would have received their medals after they went through the food lines.  Apparently, the race also ran out of medals as well.  I don't understand how this can even happen?  You have a certain amount of people registered, you buy a certain amount of race medals.  Nobody gets a medal that does not have a bib.  Seems pretty simple to me.  Purchase more medals than registrations to ensure you don't run out.  The race organization did tell everyone that did not get a medal that more would be ordered so everyone would get one soon.  At least they are correcting the issue.  I'm sure many of the kids who raced were extremely disappointed not to get their medal and I felt bad after reading about it when I got home.  Many adults were upset too(for themselves) but frankly it's not that big a deal for an adult as long as the race is making good on it later.

After the finish, we lined up to get food the race was offering.  They offered bananas, apples, pretzels, cookies, candy canes and bagels.  
Waiting in line to get food
Here's the food line
There was also water but the water was still mostly packaged up when I got there.  Why it was not ready the day before I don't know.  In addition to the finish line food, you received a long sleeve tech shirt, a race medal, police support on the roads along with the candy cane/cookies on the course.
Tech shirt; many don't like it.  It's Ok - not my favorite either
Sticking to two colors is much better in my opinion.
Race medal - awesome!
Great design for the medal - love it.   Well done.
Back of medal
The organization of the registration and packet pick-up was good.  However, from the start line confusion to the course not marked enough, from not enough volunteers to not enough port-o-potties(I didn't even see any except on the course) and the completely unacceptable finish line back up.  This was the most disorganized race I've ever run.

Now I want to make it clear that I was not expecting to PR at this race.  It's way too large of a race, there's too many new runners/walkers to even think of trying to PR at a race of this size but that does not excuse all the errors that happened today.  It's clear that the race organization needs to either get someone else to organize the race or find some additional individuals that have an interest in trying to make the race better.  It seems that they hold up their hands and say, "Hey, its a large race, what can we do?" to which I say fix the issues or risk losing runners to your race for next year.  Please learn from your mistakes and make it better.  As for me, will I run it again?  Probably but I don't think I'll be running it anytime soon(not next year for sure) until I get a clear picture that things have improved. 
Another race completed!
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I paid for my own entry into this race and was not compensated in any way for this review.  All opinions in the race review are my own.


  1. Totally agree. I am shocked that there were families with kids, dogs and strollers in the Comet wave! But by your photos the course looked much less crowded for you. It was beyond packed by the time we took off and at the turn around we were walking too. Lots of improvements need to occur.

  2. Yeah, I'm with you. I won't be doing it until at least the 35th, if I'm still running then. I got down there about 6:30, and I didn't get parked until 7:45, which was when my wave was supposed to start. I probably didn't get to the race start until after 8:15, and by then all the bibs were mixed in and running. I couldn't get around people very easily, but I still actually had a PR intact until I hit the wall of people at the finish, and I was there walking for about 7 minutes. Then when I got through that madness, they were either out of water or temporarily without it. The lack of volunteers was pretty expected. They had been begging for more at the last minute.

  3. Wow, that DOES sound like a mess! I would be pissed if I had to walk at the end!

  4. First of all, great race review. Very well written and documented with all the photos.

    Secondly, I don't blame you for being so frustrated with the race. With 22K runners, it needs a ton more support or limit the number of registrants. And the walking at the finish is UNACCEPTABLE!

    I love the views you shared in your photos, and it makes me want to run in downtown Detroit, but not in this race.

  5. I'm a big sucker for the shirt rather than the medal (as I promised, my post on liking shirts more than medals, where I mention your medal displays:

    It seems to me that the turkey trot has totally become an "everybody's race". Everybody I talk to is running it. I love my holiday runs, but I think I'm going to stick to the empty suburban streets rather than going downtown.

  6. woah. sounds bad. and I wouldn't do the race again either. The thing is that the race directors will continue to not improve things because enough people will "give it another try" Or there will be plenty of newbies who think it's normal for a race to be that badly ran considering the amount of people. (I've heard that excuse for the Ram Racing Hot Chocolate crap here in IL)

    1. Yes, I have heard of the group you talk about Michele. I would not run that race because of what I've heard from you and others.

  7. Jeff and all runners: There WAS CROWD CONTROL, I am a runner and I was working at the Jefferson area of the corrals, let me tell you that we were inforcing the bib corrals until we where mobbed, yes, I tried to stoo runners from jumping over the barricade but on top of beong yelled "bitch" and other things, people didnt care.
    At sone point people throwed the barticade (to cut short to their corrals or go to any corral), and I had to step aside. People poured through the barricade of jefferson and moved forward passing under the tapes that separte corrals. The other volunteer and guys in te entrance of the corrals where outnumbered by angry anxious runners wanting to entrr the corrals areas. I think is an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully no disgraces but the race took mire than they could handle.But there was crowd control, but you can not stand to stop an angry crowd. I am a runner but I think that safety should be first, the race should CAP.

    1. Perhaps that is one of the ways to fix the issue is through a CAP. I don't disagree with it. Please understand that I'm in NO WAY BLAMING the volunteers for the race as you can only do what you can do. The issue is related to race organization. As I said in my review - I also blame runners for not following the rules.

  8. Jeff, You stated that the bibs should be checked, to make sure everyone is in the correct corral. That is fine, but a number of people that had pre registered, received Rudolf bibs, when they registered for Dasher, or higher! They were told, by race officials, that is all they had left! And not only did they run out of medals, they also ran out of food! We were told, they had 20,000 registered, and figure a percentage do not show up....they order enough to medals and food, counting on less people showing up!

    1. Again it comes back to better race management. My statement for bibs being checked relates to how things "should" be done. This was not being done and apparently could not be done if race staff was allegedly telling runners to use a bib for an incorrect wave. It's hard for me to comment on it because I received the proper bib that I registered for. Had I received a different bib for what I registered for, I would have been e-mailing the race director ahead of time expressing my concern over it. Without us telling the race director, it's hard for them to fix it. In regards to food and water running out - no excuse.

      I'm certain the weather played a role in this as well. Since it was so nice, more people came out that day.

  9. Volunteers: As you don't plan to run this in the near future, can you be counted on to volunteer to help with the race next year? Races always need volunteers, but it is unfortunate that many runners can't seem to fit any race support into their schedules. How many races have the runners commenting--and Detroit Runner--volunteered to work?

    Toilets: There were plenty of portable toilets on the course. Particularly the 10K extension. Toilets near the Michigan Avenue water station, at Rosa Parks and Michigan, at Howard and Rosa Parks, near Brooklyn and Michigan, plus others that I missed seeing.

    Bib Categories: How would you suggest to better police the online registration when people sign up and select a category? (On race day, if you volunteer that's one additional person to help enforce bib/corral admission.)

    Parking: I saw lines for parking structures one block away from fairly empty surface lots with staff waiting to admit cars--at 6:30 AM.

    Headphones: Runners will wear headphones whether allowed or not. I have also witnessed runners causing jams or obstacles when attempting to take pictures and videos. Did you step off the course to take pictures, if you paused to do so? (While walking, not such a big deal.)

  10. I have volunteered for a race and you can read about it here if you are interested. I would agree that more runners , including myself, need to volunteer more but I also know there are many happy to help. Regardless of me or anyone else volunteering is not the issue, these things need to be worked out ahead of schedule with a race of this size. For the record, I appreciate every single volunteer out there regardless of my experience with a race. It the volunteers that help make the race.

    Toilets - I'm not disputing there were more toilets on the course(I even have one in the picture above and it's the only one I saw) but I know my way around a race and at almost every race I run, there are a tremendous amount of port-o-potties at the start/finish area. Perhaps they were there but I did not see them nor any signs pointing to where they were either. I know the runners appreciated using the real bathrooms in Cobo as I did as well.

    Bib Categories - I'm not sure I understand the question on this. If they sign up, they receive a bib stating the wave they are to be in. No bib, no entrance. I understand some will sign up for a faster pace than they actually run and there is no way to fix that. I'm more concerned about people getting in the wave that don't even have the correct bib on. If they have a walker bib, they need to be in that wave - no exceptions. Of course, there would need to be a huge amount of volunteers at the start line to keep this in order. When I ran the Flying Pig marathon, they used some kind of Army reserve unit to help. Perhaps being in uniform demanded more respect than what the Detroit volunteers received(based on previous comments)

    Parking - I completely agree here. I never stated there was no parking. In fact, there is plenty of parking. Runners that got there late had to wait in traffic and got to the race late. It's their fault. The race was very upfront about it as I indicated in my review.

    Headphones - I understand this is difficult to police in a race of this size but just stating they are not allowed will cut down the number of people that will do it. In addition, I did not step off course to take the pictures on the course. I run my same pace whether I'm taking a picture or not(some come out good; some don't) and you can see that I maintained my pace because I've posted my splits showing the pace. I signed up for Comet and my pace remained under 8 per minute except at the start which is because of the need to run around slower runner.

    While I appreciate the comment, please understand my race reviews are not here to fix all the issues and/or justify what I do. They are there to show my experience at the race(good or bad) and hopefully race management uses my constructive criticism to make the race better. Since it appears you might be involved in the race management(you posted Anonymous so I don't know), my suggestion is to read it and learn from it to improve the race for next year. I'd love to say that I'm the only one who felt this way but all you need to do is review comments on the races Facebook page to understand that people were not happy and that things need to be fixed to make a more enjoyable experience for all.

    1. Not race management but a race volunteer. (I volunteer from Dexter to Lansing to Flint to the East Side.) I have been in bad race situations both as a runner and volunteer.

      I should have asked you first if you sent your comments to race management or simply posted them here. I almost always send feedback to race management or talk with them for any race I run. Giving kudos where due, kicks when deserved (ex: Dexter-to-Ann Arbor 2011 half marathon water). It doesn't help if comments serve only to inflame others while never giving feedback directly to the responsible parties.

      Thanks for volunteering. Races can't happen without volunteers. I try to volunteer for about 10 races each year, trying to volunteer once for each race I run. So with about 20 events each year, I have seen many successes, flubs, and failures.

  11. I found the finish line situation quite frustrating as well (we could barely walk to it; instead, we were at an all-out stand-still for a few minutes), so I'm not sure if I'll be running this one again next year. But, I did want to say to the folks who do run it again that parking at the MGM Casino was SUPER fast and easy (and FREE!). We didn't even get to Detroit until 7:20 am and were able to quickly get a parking spot and make it to the starting line to start at 7:45 am.

    1. Great tip Kate. Thanks for the input for runners for next year.

  12. I can’t believe focusing long enough to research; much less write this kind of article. You’ve outdone yourself with this material without a doubt. It is one of the greatest contents. Law