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Another Hogsback Half Marathon in the books.

This is my 12th year of race directing and its never been easy.  Recently I feel like race directing is getting harder — I don’t know if its rising expenses, more demanding athletes or the fact that I’m just getting older.  Probably its a little bit of all three, although at times I feel like I’m an old lady screaming from my porch while shaking my cane.  Every year about a week before the race I end of having a bit of a mental breakdown and I decide two things:  (1) that I hate everyone; and (2) that I’m never going to race direct again.  Fortunately those feelings pass and inevitably as the runners start to pour across the finish line, I recommit for another year.  2017 was no different, pre-race I was frustrated out of my mind but by the time the gun goes off I know that this is something I love doing.

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While I do get frustrated (especially this year with our issue with race deferrals) there are lots of really positive things about the race:

  • We raised $7,405 for Running for Rescues and $500 for Austin Pets Alive!.  That’s a lot of money, which will help a lot of animals in need.
  • We had a TON of fantastic volunteers.  Every year out volunteers get better and better.  We are so lucky in this respect.  Special thanks go out to Running for Rescues for manning our aid station, the Colebrook Lions Club for providing traffic control, Run 169 for providing tons of registration volunteers, Shaun Gallagher for coordinating parking, Rachel Tambling for taking care of our fantastic pacers, Emily Gianquinto for leading registration and my mom for manning our post-race food.
  • We had a fast race, with some really great performances.  In particular we were able to pay out $250 to Brianna Demers for finishing in under 1:24:00 on the clock (she went on to place 5th at Hartford Marathon last weekend).
  • Even though it rained (Quarter had miserable weather this year as well, we’re due for some good weather in 2018), I think the runners had a really fantastic experience.  Our pacers were all on-point.  We had tons of bike course marshals to support everyone, the aid stations and the finish line were all super well stocked, the race pictures turned out gorgeous and we were still able to give away tons of raffle prizes even with the rain.

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There were lots of positives about the race, but there were also some things that I would like to fix or improve on for 2018:

  • We’re changing the transfer / deferral policy for 2018.  It sucks, but too many runners abused our generous policy so we’re not going to offer deferrals or transfers in 2018.  We work really had to control costs (everyone except for the timing company is a volunteer) and we can’t carry a $3,000 – $4,000 liability from year to year.  If you register for Hogsback during early bird registration the price is $40.  I don’t think there are many half marathons (especially half marathons with fully supported course, really nice shirts, finisher medals, a post race feast and top notch awards) that only cost $40.  I feel really bad about this, the policy caused way too many problems.
  • The early start is amazing.  It gives runners and walkers who need a little more time the opportunity to finish in the fat part of the bell curve and lets us have race without cut off times; we can wait for everyone to finish.  Like the transfer / deferral policy, people abuse the early start as well.  All runners in the early start are expected to take 2:30 or longer to finish the half marathon.  We need them to take 2:30 or longer to ensure that the winner of the race breaks the tape (and not an early start runner) and to make sure that no runners hit major intersections before the time on our permits.  When a runner signs up for the early start, we do a search for their previous race results to confirm that the early start is appropriate.  Its a lot of work.  This year we had two runners come in well below 2:30 and based on our post-race emails to them about what happened, we had to disqualify on of those runners.  It sucked.  We don’t want to disqualify anyone.  I’m not sure what we can do to better polcie this policy in the future, but it remains a struggle.  

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Even though I’ve been doing this for 12 years, every year, every race, and from every runner I learn something new.  So my questions to you dear readers (if you’ve made it this far) are:

  • If you’ve run Hogsback what would you like to see improved?  How can we make the race better for you?
  • If you haven’t run Hogsback but have run a half marathon, what things do you like to see at half marathons?  What has made a previous half marathon super special for you?
  • If you’ve never run a half marathon, what can we as a race do to convince you to run with us?

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

4 Comments

Kate Stallfort · October 17, 2017 at 6:19 pm

I ran your race for the first time this year and loved every minute. I know that as director you deal with many small and large issues, but those were invisible to the runners, so you did your job beautifully. Great race, beautiful course, awesome volunteers with superior course support, gorgeous swag, and delicious abundant food made for a fantastic experience. I will be back with friends!

Mary Sue T. · October 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

I love that you offer an early start. I am slow and an early start would mean that I’m not out there alone on the course while everyone else has left me in the dust.

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · October 20, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    We love the early start too. Because of it we don’t have to have a course cut off and it keeps more of our athletes running together. Make for a better experience for everyone.

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