More than 6,500 people participated in the inaugural Rock ‘n Sole on Sunday, creating 6,500 opinions on how to improve the races that the director contritely admits were seriously flawed.
I’ve participated in other races – notably the Madison Marathon – where the medical tent filled up quickly with runners needing IV solutions because of dehydration and heat exhaustion. I’ve also put myself in a bad situation and made a late-night trip to an emergency room by pushing myself beyond my body’s capacity.
Those experiences give me a veteran’s perspective on the trial and error in endurance sports.
Now recovered, somewhat, from a tough half-marathon in the difficult conditions on Sunday, here are my thoughts on the Rock ‘n Sole.
(Also, check out this post by Trenni Kusnierek, the WTMJ-AM 620 sportscaster who passed me at the 12-mile mark)
Hydration: The lack of cups and fluids on the course is inexcusable, as many participants have noted. That’s easily correctable, and I would expect the problem to be solved next year. The focus needs to be on the participants in the middle and back of the pack.
On that note, I also think participants should take steps to ensure they have a back up (water bottle, Camelbak, etc.), they have trained sufficiently, and adjust to the conditions.
The numbers: In hindsight, it probably would have been wise to cap the field at 5,000 and allow the logistical flaws to be worked out without the overwhelming numbers. Even in year two, a limit on the field would give organizers a firm number for planning - supplies, shirts etc. - weeks before the start date.
The Hoan: Organizers of both the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts and the Rock ‘n Sole cited a lack of time for set up on the bridge as a problem that prevented a smooth start and flow of traffic early in the events. The arrangements with the Department of Transportation should allow for more time for those logistics. Traffic volumes on the bridge are light in the early-morning, and it seems the organizers should have access at first daylight, if not earlier.
The distance: Again in hindsight, the first running of the Rock ‘n Sole would have been easier to manage as a 10K without the half-marathon. The attraction of the longer race is clear: the half-marathon is the fast-growing distance in running. But the staging of start times for the two races and the longer run were pitfalls that could have been avoided in the first go.
Go south: Running the half-marathon course through the Bay View neighborhood and returning along the Oak Leaf Trail through South Shore Park would provide more shaded areas and more crowd support. Lincoln Memorial Dr. is a beautiful place to run, but it lacks the atmosphere created when people stand in their front yards and offer cheers, cold liquids and a good dousing from a garden hose.
Plus, the half-marathon finish would include that blast down the Hoan back to the Summerfest grounds.