Event: 2016 Bucks County 10-Miler
Event Date: May 1, 2016
Event Location: Washington Crossing Historic Park, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania
Guest Contributors Stephanie Jose & Seth Perry.
Stephanie and Seth are proud Hoyas from Georgetown University who live and die with Georgetown Basketball every winter and spring (but lately its been mostly suffering). Seth’s proud roots go all the way to the Buckeye State of Ohio, and Stephanie is originally a native of Northeast Pennsylvania, but they now live in Princeton, New Jersey. You can check out Stephanie’s take on the 2015 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in Washington, D.C.
There was no gaudy race expo, no officious attempt to pump us up at the start, no pretending that we were about to defeat cancer, restless-leg syndrome, or our own personal demons. We didn’t hear “Don’t Stop Believin’” even once. The course was about as crowded as a small-town sidewalk on a cloudy day, not a Beijing subway. No strollers. The medal is shaped like the Death Star and didn’t even cost extra. At the end there were tater tots.
The 2016 Bucks County Ten Miler was, in a word, perfect.
A Little About the Event
The race, hosted by runBucks.com, took place in Washington Crossing Historic Park, which commemorates the spot on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River where Washington assembled his army to cross into New Jersey. You know, like in the painting. It was something less than 50 degrees out and it rained on us the entire time; the park turned into a muddy mess. This only added to the perfect mood, somehow. Do you know who else didn’t give a shit about the rain and the mud? George effing Washington.
We knew we were in for something special based on the emails the race directors sent out over the week or so preceding the race. They had an … improvisational tone that made it feel like a person rather than a robot was communicating with us. The runners’ guide (which hilariously took the directors a few tries to get out to us) also reflected this tone. Here’s an example of a typical line:
“BUCKS COUNTY IS IN PENNSYLVANIA. CHECK YOUR GPS DIRECTIONS IN ADVANCE.”
“PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE EMERGENCY NUMBER BECAUSE YOU ARE LOST IN NEW JERSEY MINUTES BEFORE THE START.”
Above all, it was the irreverent, DIY feel of the event that made it ideal for us. In a display of perfect sanity and respect for runners, we were permitted to pick up our race packets on race morning, right there in a park shelter at the start line, no extra charge. The “packet,” moreover, consisted of a bib and four safety pins. We could say that we missed the gym coupons and the beet juice and the pressed-birdseed snacks of other race packets, but we’d be lying. A pre-race announcement let us know that the turn from the park onto the towpath had flooded, “so, uh…good luck with that.” (The assembled runners had a healthy laugh at that line.) It should be said that however the communications came across, the organizers did have the major race needs nailed: chip timing, a start and finish-line setup, good course support, and medical personnel in case it was needed.
The Race Itself
The five waves of runners were staged at 30-second intervals. We walked out of the park shelter, lined up, listened to a workmanlike rendition of the national anthem played on a trumpet, and then we started running. “Bag check” consisted of chucking your bag under a designated tent as you crossed the start line. (To be fair, the car keys stayed in a jacket pocket.)
The course was an out-and-back run along the Delaware Canal State Park towpath, which, as the race website helpfully pointed out, was built in 1832. It made for some muddy single-file running, with some puddle-jumping and dodging for variety. By most organizers’ standards, the course could have held about eight times as many people, but the good people of runBucks.com actually made an effort to keep it small, capping registration at 500. Also, to be fair, the weather probably caused a lot of people to stay in bed – the results list shows just 242 finishers. Not everyone is George Washington.
There was a Star Wars theme, it being close to May the Fourth. The mile markers had punny little tie-ins (the best was 7 for “Spoiler Alert”; we won’t say whose surprised face was on it). A water station was christened Dagobah. A handful of people came in costume. The overall effect was homey and welcoming, not oppressively corporate. It was what we, at least, really want when we sign up for one of these: we had fun. We had a good run, outside, in a place we wouldn’t normally run, with a community of people sharing the same kind-of-silly goal of running ten miles without going anywhere.
The Big Pay-Off
And at the end there were tater tots. There was, actually, a full, amazing spread of food, all labeled with Star-Wars-themed names. There was someone manning a grill turning out Hanburgers. The Obi-Wan Kebabs were the best. We skipped the Jar Jar (sausage) Links, though, assuming them to be made of racism and ruined childhoods.
In sum, the whole thing demonstrated to us that there are small, well-run, runner-respecting races out there worth paying for. Actually, worth paying more for – at $55, considering the food and the general awesomeness, we would venture to suggest that runBucks.com should raise their prices. We’ll be looking into their other races, but we kind of hope no one else does…
The Post Script
As if this race wasn’t already a big enough winner, the race director had this to share with participants in a post race email:
I wanted to take the opportunity to again thank you all for participating in the 2016 Bucks County Ten Miler. I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive, and did not sleep well race morning. Your happy attitudes made the day fun. Amazing how much different the right attitude can make a cold, grey, rainy day a fun run in the muddles and puddles! And I was afraid you’d all be upset by the 7 Mile sign….
As for the medals, I’m extremely sorry to those who did not get them on race day. It was not an issue of running out. We ordered (350) based on the preregistration numbers 6 weeks before the race. The note about running out in the Runners Guide was for the potential for more than 30 people to register on race day. Well 45 people did NOT start, which made that a non-issue. I signed for a 6 of 7 box shipment early in the week and only opened the first box I found with finisher medals for Sunday’s race, and packet what I thought was the unopened box of medals. It was not the other box.
After tracking the package on Monday morning, UPS does not have record of delivering that one box to our shop. The shipment is currently “under investigation” As soon as it shows up we’ll get them out to you as quickly as possible. I’ve already spoken to the supplier who is more than willing to help make this situation right. I don’t know how to rectify this situation any better or any more quickly than I am trying to do. I am open to suggestions. I do take full responsibility, and again apologize. I take the fact that you’ve decided to spend your hard earned money at our events as a sacred trust. And it’s not a good feeling knowing I let you down.
I do hope that this doesn’t taint the positive experience you all seemed to have Sunday. The smiles were refreshing.
Thank you again,
Needless to say, this event is winning over Casual Runners from start to finish!
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