Monday, August 27, 2012

New York, New York...The NYRR's Very Bad Idea

"Everyone wins the marathon. We all have the same feeling at the start—nervous, anxious, excited. It is a broader, richer, and even with twenty-seven thousand people—more intimate experience than I found when racing in track. New York is the marathon that all the biggest stars want to win, but has also been the stage for an array of human stories more vast than any other sporting event. " ~ Grete Waitz 
Late last week the New York Road Runners announced a new and, in my opinion, bad policy change concerning bag check at this year's New York City Marathon:


New 2012 ING New York City Marathon No-Baggage Policy to Ease Post-Finish Congestion

For 2012, under a new policy designed to ease finish-line congestion, runners will no longer check baggage at the start of the race, and there will be no baggage retrieval after the finish.
Our primary objective is to provide our runners with the safest and best possible race-day experience. We have received overwhelming feedback from our runners about the need to address the issue of post-race congestion and waiting time to exit Central Park. In response, and in close consultation with New York City agencies, the new No-Baggage Policy was developed over several years to provide a better and safer post-finish experience.
In order to minimize inconvenience to our runners, NYRR has invested in a number of enhancements, including:
  • The Marathon Finish Line Poncho, a water-repellent, hooded, and fleece-lined garment to be handed out to every finisher
  • Establishing NYRR "Call Home" stations at the start and post-finish so runners can communicate with friends and family
  • A new and improved Family Reunion area near the runner exit
  • Increasing the number of wave starts from three to four to reduce runner density along the course and at the finish line.
Additionally, in a shared commitment to giving back to the local community, much of the clothing left behind at the start will be donated to charity through a partnership with New York/New Jersey Goodwill Industries and UPS.
We understand that the No-Baggage Policy is a major change for our runners, and we want to do everything we can to keep you comfortable and happy before and after your race.


Our concession prize??? This lovely hunter-orange fleece lined poncho! Seriously?? Couldn't they have just given us a nice, simple "jogging suit" or something?

From my perusal of the comments on various running sites and the NYCM Facebook page ( ), I'd say that most runners are mighty pissed about this sudden change in policy. The NYRR has already acquiring a bad reputation as greedy - charging $255.00 for US runners and a hundred or so bucks more for international runners, all while signing very lucrative TV deal with ESPN ( ). This new and "improved" policy is simply making matters worse. NYRR makes more money and the runners get charged even more for even less! When I checked last, there were 618 comments about this change on their facebook page. Every single one of them was negative! And there's now a petition campaign set up set up to show the NYRR how much we RUNNERS(!) detest this policy:

Now all of this is being done, they claim, for the sake of the runners.The finish area and the long walk away from the finish area turns into a weaving, stumbling traffic jam of dazed runners. Supposedly, this change in policy will shorten exit time by 30 minutes. But from the many stories I've heard from runners with years of experience running NYC, the bag check lines are NOT the issue. Tired runners are the issue - and a lot of them. Many say that once they made their way to the UPS trucks to retrieve their bags the wait was minimal. I just don't buy their story.


So what's a runner to do. Well we're all already committed to the tune of $255.00 and so suck it up, we must.For questions and concerns the kind NYRR directs us to the helpful Q & A section of the website - Where are basically told that we are on our own:
What should I wear to the start?
Warm, water-resistant clothing is recommended for the staging area, which is outdoors. We recommend that you start to set aside clothing now to wear to the start and donate. We will be providing updates and tips from our Medical Director on how to stay warm at the start.
So we better go buy some warm clothes from Goodwill to leave behind which will then be donated to Goodwill. I know I sound like a cheap grouch saying this, but even when I buy stuff at Goodwill, I like to keep it because, well, last I checked, money doesn't grow on trees. Okay - I guess I can deal with this, but the issue is why do I have to deal with this. Is this about the runners or the NYRR?

And hopefully conditions will not look like this because the Fort Wadsworth staging area does not have any shelter. Next time I guess I need to qualify for the VIP treatment that the REAL runners get - Heated tents with complimentary breakfast and pipping hot coffee.  Running The Red Carpet
How can I get warm and dry after the race?
You'll receive your Heatsheet very soon after crossing the finish line, and then your Marathon Finish Line Poncho (fits women and men from under 5' to over 6') shortly after that. We also recommend that those of you who have a friend or family member meeting you in Family Reunion have them bring along warm, dry clothes.
I guess those of us who may be traveling alone to the race (and I'm doing this for financial reasons) and won't have family support are just gonna have to make due with the hideous poncho.
How am I supposed to get to my home or hotel without any money or Metrocard? You can carry a credit card, Metrocard, and/or cash in a pocket, wristband, armband, or small waist pack, or have your friends and family meet you at Family Reunion or a nearby location and give you the items you need.
And if we need to rely on mass transit we better carry some cash or a credit card!  Supposedly the subways are free - but some of us are coming in from New Jersey. NJ Transit is not free. Now, when I race I carry as little as possible - I wear as little as possible, because, well, this isn't a training run it's a race even for those of us who are pretty darn slow.Somehow I doubt that the elites have to carry a credit card in their shorts. Oh, come on people! Who and what is this all about.

There's two real questions/issues that I keep coming back to: 1) Why is the NYRR making things MORE difficult for the runners?, and 2) Why make people upset and poison the whole atmosphere of the race. When we sign up, we know that the NYCM is a logistical challenge, but this makes it more difficult. The feeling most runners seem to be expressing is that this whole policy change is not actually about the runners and the race is no longer about the runners. The feeling is that the NYRR has lost the vision. This is supposed to be about the runners and the community. This is supposed to be the biggest and best marathon in the world. What a disappointment when the runners aren't put first.

I've wanted to run NYC since I was a 16 year old track and cross country runner, standing with my father in Central Park, watching Grete Waitz fly by. Has the spirit changed?

I doubt Fred Lebow is smiling down on these proceedings.


  1. Your comment about the baggage claim not being the problem is spot on. There was virtually no wait for me to claim my bag last year. None. Zip. Zilch. Maybe those who finished later than me had to wait some, but the wait looked minimal and I didn't hear anyone complain about it. This decision leaves me scratching my head and glad I ran last year. Never again.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Kim. I've heard this from a lot of runners, some of whom have run dozens of NYs - from the days when things were smaller and easier to the present. Given these stories, this change just does not make sense!


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