Open Letter To Race Directors From the Back of the Pack

Dear Race Directors Everywhere,

Hi there, it’s Amanda, April and Patty.  We run your races.

Can you hear us? We’re talking to you from the back of the pack. We shouldn’t have to yell because the cheering fans have long left. The bands are packing up as we go by. Heck, even the police cars are sparse and we don’t have to yell over any sirens.

We’ll try to speak up, but our throats are a little dry because we’re working HARD here. Got any water?

Oooohhh… about that.  Yeah, we see the tables are packed up and the only water cups left are the few on the ground that the volunteers missed.

Amanda says:  Never mind the Gatorade, and cold water is a pipe dream.  Good thing I bring my own.

We’re gonna talk to you about the back of the pack.  Sure, sure, you read Heather’s account this week.  And trust us, we’re GLAD you did.  We loved what she wrote and appreciated her honesty and candor.   But she’s not one of US.  She’s not the typical slower runner who is just trying to beat the course cut off time.  She’s not scouting out courses with generous finish times months in advance to make sure she won’t get picked up.  She has the gift (that I’m sure she works hard for!) of speed that those of us in the back don’t have yet.

We’re not taking anything away from her and truth be told, Shenanigans has a blogger crush on her for voicing what she saw.

She didn’t have to say anything.   She was there as an invited Runner’s World blogger.  Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Gu, right?  But she spoke up in a very public manner and was heard.

Heather, we in the back say thank you.


She’s not one of us.  And that is really the point of this post and an issue that’s being overlooked in all this.

This issue isn’t new.  It isn’t isolated to this Runner’s World race.  And for farks sake, it isn’t fair!

It’s been voiced before.  It’s been talked about in blogs before.  Runners email and write letters to complain.


But then a faster runner speaks up and it’s like… whoooaaaa… maybe we should get on that.

ShenanigansPatty says:  Y’all… I call Shenanigans on that crap.

Again- no disrespect to Heather.  We believe Heather was the right person at the right time because she had the contacts to share this information.  But you know…

Patty & April say:  Hey, Runner’s World, we were free this weekend.  Just sayin’… call us!  We have blogs and run a little bit.  Ahem.

We’d love to be invited to a race series.  Frankly, Race Directors, our readers make up your race ranks.  People that look like us and run slowly like us.  But that doesn’t happen.

Because we are mid to back of the packers.

Look… it doesn’t even have to be US (though we are super fun and adorable!)  Having been around a few “magical” races and series and seeing which bloggers do routinely get invited as guests it’s clear that the middle and back of the pack bloggers are woefully under represented.

We found this on the Runner’s World comment section and HOOO-AH… Jeremy nailed it.

Jeremy Farrington: (who blogs at The Under 5 Club)  …  They didn’t want “Back of the Pack” runners; they wanted fast runners who, for whatever reason (usually scatological), were in the back. In other words, they didn’t live there, they were just visiting. And pooping in my backyard. With all due respect to Heather Gannoe, the Dispiriting Experience at the Back of the Pack article is written about a “front half of the pack runner” who was just visiting the back of the pack due to illness and 9.3 miles run the day before. Even in an article to reach out to Back of the Pack Runners, we are excluded. Perhaps this is something to consider to improve our experience.


Maybe some folks out there think it’s our fault for taking on more than we should. We should just “get faster” if we don’t like being back here.

Solid point.

You know what? We’re probably working on that.  Hint:  WE ARE WORKING ON THAT.

Amanda said: “I want to go slower” said no runner, ever.  It’s hot out here, yo.

Back Amanda

Here’s the thing.

We ARE runners. We ARE paying the same race fees as the winners. And we aren’t alone. The fact is, there’s more of us in the back than there are front runners. Check the stats: there’s more runners racing and overall the fields are getting slower.

And how do we stay motivated and work on our speed?  By running more.  And by running races.  By paying fees and dreaming of that feeling of crossing the finish line and receiving the shiny bling that says we EFFIN’ DID IT.

April Space Coast
Speaking of paying those fees… do any of the back of the packers get refunds when a race runs out of water or food or the headliner band is packing up and leaving before  they cross the finish?

Yeah.  We don’t.

What we actually do is supplement the front and mid packers’ race experience with our money and often get a lesser race.

It’s true- you need us.  If you think race fees are outrageous now (lookin’ at you, runDisney) just imagine the cost if Corrals I-P didn’t even exist at the Princess Half Marathon.  Mind blown, right?

When a race packs up, closes the course, and basically leaves us out there unsupported while we are within the advertised time limits?

April says:  I don’t get it.  It’s confusing.

Patty says:  Confusing?  It’s BS.  Complete and total BS.

If the course is advertised to be open for 3:30 from the start then it should be open and fully supported for that time and any runners who fall behind should be picked up or checked on for safety. It’s not special treatment to support ALL the runners within the time limit advertised. 

Come on, MAN!

We’ve had friends left in swamps during trail races, stuck without transportation back to their cars, and delayed on the course by traffic whizzing past them.  Most of these stories are seasoned runners: but think about the runner who was out there for the first time.  Is this how we want them to be introduced to our fabulous sport?  Just because they are slow?

Amanda says:  Do you know how BORING it is to run slowly?

April says:  Yeah!  I learned that at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Patty says:  Heeeeyyy… you ran with ME at the Tinker Bell… did you just call me boring?  Good thing I don’t offend easily, friend.  😉

club 33 china
In respect to Runner’s World, we thank you for acknowledging Heather’s experience and vowing to take a look at things in your races.  Side note: there’s a whole consumer group you are missing when you write your articles and review your products.  A 3-4 hour marathoner is VASTLY different than a 6-7 hour marathoner.  We need different fuel, different gear, different mental strategies, different training: because our races are different than the front.  You could try to include us not only in your races but also in your magazine.

If you want to know what the back of the pack is really like from runners who live there, come run with us.  We’d love it.

back of the packAmanda, April, & Patty



EDIT 6/13/2014 8:31am MT:  Hard core crush on Heather.  If you don’t follow her blog, do it.  Her follow up is just as awesome as her original post. 


  • Shannon says:

    This is so true. I think race directors need to prep the volunteers ahead of time that the course limit is, blah blah blah and how important it is that they stick to their posts for every single runner. They can also explain how inspirational that back of the pack is. It’s all about the volunteers IMO. Get them on board and it can really change the experience.

  • YES! YES A thousand times YES! I love this post and you are speaking the truth! From a runner (ish) who has came in dead last….twice!

  • Thanks for posting this Patty! I don’t usually have this experience as a mid-packer normally, but it tweaked me that I’ve read SO MANY blogs and comments and e-mails about people who do (including Amanda’s guest post that you linked to) and the response is…. crickets chirping. A normally fast runner experiences it and speaks out and the world rises up in revolt. I’m glad the topic is being discussed finally and hope it leads to positive changes but I wish that this wasn’t one more example of runners who don’t “look” like stereotypical runners being dismissed and made to feel like they aren’t legitimate runners. Keep on running, ya’ll!
    April at RunTheGreatWideSomewhere recently posted…Five Things I Learned About Myself From RunningMy Profile

  • Jen says:

    LOL. This is not the first blog post I’ve read that was unimpressed by the perspective of a fast runner visiting the back of the pack.
    When I was with the American Stroke Association’s training team, we had a guy who was a multiple stroke survivor and walked with a cane. One year, insisted on doing the Long Beach full marathon right after finishing chemo. This was a man who nobody could talk out of anything. Anyway, a bunch of us stuck around after running the event to wait for him. It took him like eight hours to walk it. I backtracked to join in for the last mile in and the whole finish was being torn down. Everyone had gone home. The ASA program director had gotten a medal for him ahead of time or else he would not have gotten one at all. Now, this was an isolated situation and I’m pretty sure he was well past the time limit, but sometimes when a person does something pretty spectacular, there should be some support.
    So, yeah. It’s a very different experience to do a marathon at 5,6, even seven hours than to do it in four. If these organizations want the money and encourage everyone in, they need to understand that there are many categories of participants out there.

  • Lisa says:

    Say it loud, say it proud!!!! I’ve dealt with this issue for over a year but it doesn’t matter when a chunky slow runner complains, just when petite fast runner has 1 bad experience.

  • Loved this!! I totally agree that races should NOT be allowed to pack up before their allotted race cut-off times. I would like to give a shout out to the Ragnar Trail races. I worked the one in Snowmass, CO last weekend and the race directors were very clear in saying that we must celebrate all runners and nobody packs up until the last runner crosses that finish line. YES! I can’t tell you how happy that made me. All races should be like that!

  • Christina B says:

    I’ve crossed dead last twice in a race. and sometimes I’m the only one around, I don’t know the course by heart and there’s NO ONE to tell me where to go, I slow down to figure it out and it makes me slower. COME ON people!

  • Gigi says:

    A – f$%^ing – men!! I have had the finish line be pulled up as I was approaching at the 2:50 mark of a race that was a 3 hour limit! a-holes. I can not even count the amount of times I have not had water at the end…….before the cut off time!!!

  • amy says:

    Great post. Thank you!

  • Flower says:

    Love, Love, Love this. I ran for years before I actually realized I could reach out to the race director, (yeah, I’m super smart, I know), anyhow, nowadays, if I run a race and I’m not happy with how something was handled, I email or phone the race director. Depending on how said race director responds is how I determine if I run the race again and I love to share that info with all my friends, in real life, on facebook, on twitter, on instagram, on my blog… get the point.

  • Great article girls! You gals are great runners regardless but I completely agree with everything you said. I also wanted to add that Heather did not get invited to run RW heartbreak half because she is fast or because she is a blogger (which she is both). She won a contest that was put on when we were all at the RW festival in PA last fall. She indeed is a great runner though. I am headed there to read her post now.

  • You guys are awesome! Can we be best friends? I will right off the bat tell you I am not a front or back of the pack runner. More like mid back. But I too feel there is a level you have to be at in order to be acknowledged by the race organizers, products vendors etc. I think that mark is a sub 2 Half and a sub 4 Full. Who does that? Not this girl! But I still faithfully have signed up for over 12 races in 2014 because I love the sport and how it makes ME feel.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing and I hope someone takes notice!

  • Brandy says:

    I ran my first marathon last year, the WDW marathon. I was coming off a sore IT band and it was extremely hot. We had a heat advisory and I was worried about the heat. I was well within the time limit AND people finished over an hour behind me, after the cut off. They ran out of cliff shots at mile 18 before I got to it.

  • Pam says:

    Well said Patty. Heather may have written a post that would get attention, but only because she was comped the weekend and races by Runners World. They and all the fast front of the pack people would follow their blogs. I love all runners equally, but feel that your post is far more meaningful than hers. because that is where you run. Shame that race directors don’t seem to get that fact….money is important and the last 1/3 of a race should receive equal treatment.

  • Larisa @ 0to26point2 says:

    Great post. You have a very valid point in your post. Here is my response to some of the issues you speak of… My response to the “Back of the Pack” runners from a “Back of the Pack” runner…

  • Great post! I’ve had so many of these thoughts, but could have never written it as eloquently as you did. Unless race directors want to start charging more for faster runners, all runners should be treated equally, no matter how fast or slow they are. All runners are entitled to the same race benefits, no matter their speed.

    When I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll USA back in March, I heard that many of the back of the pack marathoners ran to an already dismantled finish line area, I ran the half marathon, so I didn’t encounter this issue, but I feel so bad for the slower marathoners that did face this. What a horrible way to end a race!
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…Friday Five – June 13th – Father’s Day TributeMy Profile

  • nicole says:

    A-friggin-men! 5 1/2 hours to finish Tough Mudder and everything was packed up and gone when I got back to the finish line. My team had to RUN to make it to the last shuttlebus back to our car. Rugged Maniac was packed up (including the fire hoses to clean us all off) and they were cleaning up the course when I finished the last wave of the day in 1 hour. What the hell?

  • Mary says:

    No offense, but the “she’s not one of us” BS is the same thing you experience (and I experience) as back of the packers. Yes, she isn’t typically in the back, but doesn’t that make it even more eye-opening? I mean, I’m used to being at the back and having things close down, she wasn’t used to that and it makes it much more of a noticeable difference than for those of us who are just used to things being this way.

  • Wow, spot on! I guess I am a mid-packer from the description as I am still chasing the 5 hour marathon. Still on my fastest marathon to date I came in to a single table of warm water bottles (sans Powerade), a single table of 5 whole large pizzas still available and the finish line being packed up except for the timing strip and corral chute. When we took off that morning the back corrals didn’t even know they had sung the national anthem as there were no speakers past Corral C…sad. I don’t think the prices would go up if all the mid to back of the pack runners didn’t show up…there just wouldn’t be a race.

  • KRay says:

    While I think that this is a great article and that you have many valuable points – I feel like so much of it is spent talking negatively about Heather’s article – and that’s totally not the point! (For objectivity’s sake – I had never heard of your blog OR Heather’s blog until I stumbled upon your writing.)

    I completely understand what you MEANT to say, and you didn’t mean it in a hostile way at all, but a better way to say that would have just been: “We read Heather’s article. We completely agree with everything she says and as true BOP-ers, we have some points to add!” Otherwise it just sounds spiteful.

  • Anne says:

    Thank you for sticking up for all of us back of the pack-ers! It is about time that the race directors take notice of us.

  • Sarah says:

    I am definitely a back of the pack runner. Finished my second full marathon recently at 7:29. My first was 6:46. And I agree completely with what the authors have said. I worked my @ss off for 7.5 hours and I don’t get any food at the end? If anyone needs food, it’s someone who just ran for 7.5 hours!! I heard that in Paris for one of their races, the last person gets champagne and roses. I wish race personnel would adopt their line of thinking. Us who are at the back of pack go through so much to even get to the back of pack that we should be rewarded for our efforts as opposed to being penalized.

  • Greg says:

    Well said Patty, Amanda, and April! As a mid to back of the packer myself, the main problem I’ve encountered is lack of water at the end of races. I’m still upset with the folks at the OC Half Marathon this year when they only had half a table of small water cups for us finishers. Then, the volunteers denied us the bottles of Gatorade telling us that they were reserved for the full marathon finishers. The problem is that the race day was so hot and those of us who finished the half marathon towards the back of the pack had to deal with all that heat and all they had for us was small cups of warm water? No thank you!

    All I can say to this blog post is…preach it sista!
    Greg recently posted…Disneyland Half Marathon Medals Revealed and a Virtual Trip to DisneylandMy Profile

  • Duane D. says:

    Hi A, A&P!
    As a non-volunteer, non-race director, I can only imagine that organizing any race much less a half marathon or marathon, where you must secure volunteers for many hours is a daunting task.
    As a non-volunteer non-race director, I have a stunningly brilliant idea: We could all volunteer for some of those longer races and take responsibility for making sure one of those tables is fully supplied and staffed until the very last runner runs through. :O)

  • Therese says:

    I love this. I’m so tired of reading unnamed blogs who say I had an easy day with 7 minute miles. I would fall down if I ran a 7 minute mile.

  • Melissa Lehman says:

    Dear Amanda, April & Patty,

    I didn’t even know about you 7 minutes ago before I read this article. But I love you.

    That is all.

    :0) Melissa

  • JR says:

    BTW, for those who figure the answer is for us to “just run faster” – the faster we folks at the back of the pack get, the closer the back of the pack gets to you. Then you can enjoy packed-up finish lines and nonexistent water stops.

  • Katherine says:

    I loved this blog. I ran my first 10k this year. My pace was where I had hoped and I beat my target time. But at the 4 mile marker race support was holding up a sign “Your not slow you’re just enjoying the course”. I had an urge to beat him with his own sign.

  • katie says:

    As a back of the pack runner myself i enjoyed your blog posting. Many times i have crossed the finish line to have little to nothing left, sometimes including the medals. Since most, if not all back of the pack runners are over looked, I’ll invite you, actually all three of you, Amanda, Patty and April, to compete in the Great Wall of China Marathon. You each have a free entry to our race and since our race is in China, we will leave the invite open to run for free when you can make it here, when your schedule permits, 2015, or beyond. In return, i’ll be there waiting for you and other runners to the very end. Let us know!

  • Linda says:

    Thank you, Heather, Amanda, April, and Patty, for saying things that are long, long overdue. Most of us back of the packers if not all of us are doing the very best we can and working hard to keep where we are or to improve. Some of us have taken up running quite late in life to improve our health. It is disheartening to pay the same amount as those at the front and receive far fewer services. The lack of entertainment is bad enough, but I’m talking about the basics. I’ve done 7 half marathons so far this year, and two of them ran out of water bottles at the finish line and three ran out of those important carbs. Several ran out of water at one or more water stations on the course. Come on! You know exactly how many people you collected money from–buy enough supplies. It is unacceptable to run out of these things, and it could be dangerous. I should not have to hope there is a store nearby that has water and carbs. It is particularly ironic when a race tweets that it is going to be hot so be sure to hydrate in the days before the race and then runs out of water. Please, please listen to all these voices.

  • jeanae says:

    Omg YES!
    I love to run, but I am so much slower than most of my professional, I could run a marathon in my sleep, runner friends. It seems that race organizers, and the majority of the running articles, focus on the power finishers, and forget about the finesse finishers 🙂 That’s right: I may not be one of the first to finish, but I finish with finesse.
    jeanae recently posted…#Review: Shazzy FitnessMy Profile

  • Oh. I love this. I don’t always run races because of this whole thing. I feel like I’ll BE that left behind person. Yes. I get you. I am you. Only slower. 😉

  • Sarah says:

    From a fellow Back of the Packer, I love you all. Your writing is awesome. Thank you. I just finished my first half marathon as the Back of the Pack. They were EXTREMELY supportive, welcoming, & accommodating. They not only had plenty of water & Gatorade & ice & towels & support & left the finish line counters for me, but they had a whole cheering squad. I highly recommend the Hatfield & McCoy races in June each year.

  • Connie says:

    I wish every race director would read this. In fact, I’m about to email a link to one. I just ran the Firecracker 10 miler on Daytona Beach on Fourth of July. Zero water at the finish line. Just empty blue kiddie swimming pools where water used to be. I finished in 2:15. People came in for at least another 40 minutes. It’s Florida. July. Full sun. Unacceptable. In addition, many people had no chip times and when I reported this, since I wasn’t eligible for an age group award, there was no interest in fixing it. “Sorry for the inconvenience” and somehow I shouldn’t care because the race raised money for a good cause. Never again, Daytona Beach Track Club. You and your races are dead to me.

  • Tara says:

    Thank you. I have been on more than one course that had very limited supplies as I was coming through and I have been an under 5 marathoner. Every single person on any race course is working hard, has paid the same fee and deserves the same treatment if they are in the advertised time. And Runners World, pay attention, I have often read articles that talk about anything over a 7 minute mile as if it is a snails pace. The last half marathon I did I came in at 1:54, an 8:44 pace – and a 15 minute PR, I was over the moon and it was FAST – whatever you and some of your readers think. That year I went on to complete a half and full ironman (winning my age group in the IM), you might want me and my kind as readers. I get frustrated with your attention only to really speedy folks and go on loooooon hiatuses from your magazine. Like I said, pay attention, there are a lot of us out here.
    Tara recently posted…Todays Theme: How I got off sugarMy Profile

  • Nancy Toby says:

    Excellent piece. None of this should be news to any competent race director. See, for example, 2005:

  • Running Girl says:

    Great post. For me – All I ever wanted apart from finishing a race is to get the photographer to hang around and take my pic crossing the finish line but they are usually long gone…

  • Alana says:

    I found your post after reading the Runners World article. Yesterday I had such a discouraging experience at a 5K race, it was my first race since being diagnosed with heart disease two years ago and I was so happy to have worked myself back to being healthy and being able to run a 5K. I finished in the last 15 runners in the entire pack, which is fine. What is not fine is that as I was finishing the race, people were packing up fuel stations and there was nobody there to direct me where to go, and I ended up leading the people behind me in the wrong direction for about 15 seconds before someone came out yelling “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!” I burst into tears. The people behind me started yelling at the person that there was nobody left to direct us. I am going to be upset about that for a while I think, even though I finished the race.

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Patty Holliday

Patty is a 40-ish mother of four living in Virginia. A bit geeky, sometimes sarcastic, lover of a candid confession. She's trying to love running, she swears. But much like her marathon, it’s taking a very long time. Ahem. She's searching for the perfect way to balance family, work, travel, and fitness. Perfect defined as high on fun, low on guilt.

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