NYRR puts on quality events. Is its 10K better or worse than anyone else’s? Objectively speaking, probably worse:

  • The Crowds. As I’ve aged and, more importantly, slowed, I find myself farther and farther back.  I pretty much only run Club races, which are denser at the front than other races, and finishing between 200th and 250th. On the course, it’s congested. Not overly so, but enough to be annoying. I can’t imagine what it’s like behind me.
  • The Corrals. NYRR has done a good job of segregating runners by ability, at least based on past, if stale, racing-times. One has to get into one’s corral, however, about 15 minutes before the start. I speak of the blue corral. I don’t know how much more congested things get behind, but it can’t be better. So one is locked into a bunch of people, with little room to move. This is especially bad in cold and wet weather when in just a singlet or even a single long-sleeve layer in January and in hot, sunny weather when you’re exposed to the sun.
  • Limited Warm-Up. Since one must be in the corral so early, one must just stand for the final 15 minutes before the start. This works nicely to defuse one’s enthusiasm for the race-to-come, in addition to whatever physical things that happen.
  • Capping. This is actually a good thing. Unless you want to run a race and it’s closed to you. But, apropos to the above, Scotland was capped and still had 8,500 finishers.

On the plus side:

  • Promptness. The races start on time.
  • Certification. The course is generally certified. I’ve noticed, though, that the cones marking the courses in Central Park seem to be randomly placed. A little research suggests that the course is in fact measured by the rec lane and 1/2 of the center lane. But a look at USATF’s course-certification site shows few NYRR courses, and many of the ones there are quite old. I couldn’t, for example, find the course used for the Scotland Run or Healthy-Kidney 10Ks. (Here’s the list of certified courses in New York, New York.)
  • Timing. Races are timed by D- or B-tags and get up promptly.
  • Price. Races are not expensive, at least for NYRR-members who register early.
  • Ease-of-Access. If you live in Manhattan, the races are easy to get to. For me, in Westchester, I find it easy enough to drive and park at Marcus Garvey Park and either jog or take the subway to the start.
  • Baggage check. You can check your bags.

On the I-could-go-either-way side:

  • The giving of awards at the race doesn’t seem to happen. So one needn’t wait around and feel obligated to wait around. Instead one can go to NYRR after the race, for 30 days, and pick it up. The awards, however, are pretty much the same for each race, a bit of plexiglass that is recycled if not picked up. The exception is the Marathon, for which one gets a Tiffany plate. But even that, in my experience, isn’t mailed; it has to be picked up.

My alternate universe is local races in Westchester, but I’m sure it’s like this pretty much everywhere. Take this Sunday. Although I won’t be running it, the Rye Derby is a 5-miler. Nice crowd, with some über-fast people at the front. You can park nearby (there’s no baggage-check so that’s where you put your stuff), jog around and do some strides right before the start, people pretty much line up where they’re supposed to, horn goes, splits at every mile, non-certified but fairly accurate (I think) course, and water stops. Now Rye is one of the top races in Westchester, but most of this stuff appears at most of our races.

Wow. It seems pretty straight-forward. Why would I want to put up with the hassle that unavoidably characterizes NYRR races — and because it’s inevitable it’s not NYRR’s fault — when I can the same thing elsewhere? For me, that reason is simple, the Club series. It’s where the top local guys in my age-group show up. Which explains why I don’t particularly care about the non-Club NYRR races.

But but-for the Club series, I wouldn’t bother.

Now there are some who will say that NYRR bears some responsibility, that’s it’s 9 + 1 program has created artificial demand and thus artificial congestion. Perhaps. In the end, though, it is what it is. Sadly I think that NYRR has a mission that differs from that of NYRRC. I’ll get into that some other time.