Scottsdale Night Run 2012: Quick Race Review

UPDATE (May 13): According to the Scottsdale Night Run Facebook page, someone stole the first water station. I’m still confused about why someone thinks it’s a good idea to just drop a bunch of stuff off for a race and leave it unattended. That’s still on the race organizers. Take care of your equipment and your venue. People count on you. The race results page also seems weird – I started about three minutes late, and my chip time and my clock time are the same. How does that work”

The 2012 Scottsdale Night Run managed to get one of the most important elements of running a race dead wrong: water.

It’s May in Arizona. That means every water station should be in place before the starting gun ever goes off. I ran past the site of the first station, and volunteers were still carrying the table and water into place. It wasn’t until nearly 5 miles into the race that I saw my first water station.

And there” I got myself two cups of air-temperature water. And, again, it’s May in Arizona. Failure. And potentially dangerous for the people who struggle to complete the distance. I’m not exactly a fast runner, and I started the race a good two minutes late. Yet the water station wasn’t ready to go. Some people behind me were able to get some water, though.

More notable problems: There were no mile markers, and there were long stretches of the course that were completely dark … and over bad pavement. And I still can’t believe any race organizer thinks it’s a good idea to route a running race through Scottsdale’s club district … which is generally full of idling, exhaust-spewing taxis.

The water, though, is the biggest problem with the Scottsdale Night Run. If organizers had gotten everything wrong but the water, I could be somewhat forgiving. But I can’t see signing up for the Scottsdale Night Run again. Not without some guaranteed changes. First, water. Then, course.

I feel bad for the Scottsdale Night Run volunteers who probably endured the wrath of people who needed to vent. The paid folks deserve the blame, not the kind people who did their best and donated their time.


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By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.


  1. This was my first year doing The Night Run. I’m relatively new to running, and also not a fast runner. I read that on their page about the water. And I do agree that seems like a pretty huge fail. I fortunately was running with a Camelbak, so I didn’t even stop at the water stations or notice the problems. But had I not had water, I’m sure I would have pretty desperately needed it by that point because it was quite warm.
    But! I did want to say that beyond that, I really enjoyed the race. I thought that the lighting was actually better than what I expected. But I’m used to running in the dark in the mornings. I can see it being problematic if you’re not used to running in the dark. And I actually enjoyed running through the club district. I thought it was sort of a neat experience since they had half the street cordoned off for us. It was a neat way to see that part of town. I thought the course as a whole was really nice since we got a bit of downtown, residential areas and the park and lake.
    Anyway, I know it’s your blog, but I just thought perhaps for the other-side-of-the-coin’s sake, I’d throw in my two cents.

  2. It’s always good to have someone else pitch in, Laura. I’ve done the Night Run before, so the club district thing might just be “been there, done that” for me. I overheard a few funny conversations from by-standers that made me laugh a bit, though.

    I always used to run with a Camelbak. I switched to a Nathan setup with two small bottles … but I figured for a race as short as an 8k I wouldn’t need it. Lesson learned – I’ll bring it for anything longer than a 5k just in case anything goes haywire (like people stealing water stations!). That’s the first time in 10 years of racing that I’ve seen anything like that happen. Over time, I’ve become kind of minimalist, and it came back to bite me this time.

  3. My name is John Lookabaugh and I am the race co-director for The Night Run. You have some valid points and I take full responsibility and am sorry for the water problem at mile two. What you saw when you ran by was the replacement water station getting set-up. The original was stolen and we will certainly take precautions next year to avoid this. Emergency water (in jugs) was always there, but no cups. Not our plan, but the reality. The water station at mile four was operational for the entire event.

    As for the course – take it or leave it. It is definitely unique and many participants have written us to say that they loved it, especially the twists and turns through the club district. And it is a “night” run, so it is going to be dark in some areas. There will be more prominent mile markers next year, but the course will remain the same – similar to the course which has been used for 25 years. Three state age records were set on this course at this event.

    Sorry about your timing issue. Raceplace Event Systems, our timing company, is the best in the business. The Chronotrack system uses RFID chips attached to your bib. Very rarely is there a problem reading the chip, but this may have happened to you as you crossed the start line. A bib that is not worn in the correct orientation can cause a read failure.

    For what it’s worth, we had many volunteers, including the race directors, who worked very hard to bring this event back. Many of them were RNs from Scottsdale Healthcare. We had no health issues reported other than a scraped knee.

  4. Hello, John. Take this from a guy who’s run races from Seoul to Reykjavik: I want very much to love this race. But I barely even like it, despite being able to walk to the starting line from my house. It might be a good course for the front and back of the pack. In the middle? Not so much fun.

    This was my second running of the Night Run, and the first experience hardly blew me away, either. My wife, a far better racer than I am, has zero desire to sign up for the Night Run next year. So I think you’d do well to put all options on the table to figure out how to improve it. Remember, this race got cancelled in 2010 – that’s because of the costs for police presence along the route, right? So, would a different route not make the event a greater success in raising funds? And just maybe ensure its future?

    Raceplace usually does very well. I like the new system of attaching the chips to bibs – WAY better than the shoes or ankles. And glitches happen – it’s not like I was anywhere near the front. But it was just one more thing that didn’t go well.

    John, I recommend that you take a hard look at what you can do to make the Night Run better. Explore every option, including the route and venue. There may be options that racers would love even more.

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