The general question is what are the basics requirements for a good road race.
Beyond that, specifically what should a road race that advertises on LetsRun.com guarantee its participants.
The December 6-7 weekend was not a good one for big road races.
First up was RNR Vegas Marathon. Perhaps we should say half-marathon because this post says there were 36,000 in the half and 8,000 in the full: http://runitfast.com/2011/12/05/the-nightmare-on-the-strip-rock-n-roll-las-vegas-marathon-half-marathon-full-of-sin/
Logistically it was a disaster. Marathoners merging into half-marathoners, chaos, etc. A mob scene at the Mandalay Bay after the finish. Then a bunch of people got sick afterwards and have blamed the water served out of garbage cans (common at a lot of races). Hysteria then set in and now they are even testing fecal samples to see if it was caused from the water. This writer for the Vegas paper has a good take on it. He thinks the water story is complete bs but says the race was a disaster.
The next day in DC, really Maryland, was the Hot Chocolate 15k owned by RAM Racing, which is doing local advertising on LetsRun, and it was a disaster as well.
Inadequate parking, which led to miles and miles of backups on the highway. People abandoning their cars to get to the race. That led to the races being delayed over an hour, people standing around in the freezing cold, the course was then altered, walkers starting ahead of runners, etc.
Washington Post article:
Here is a blog by an LRC visitor who said she knew beforehand the race was going to be a disaster just because of the numbers (20,000 people is supposedly way too many for this location) http://wellimtryingtorun.blogspot.com/2011/12/race-report-hot-chocolate-15k-december.html
The common denominator is both races logistically were not prepared for the numbers they had. Both also put out apologies many deemed inadequate.
Both race organizers are excellent at marketing, getting numbers (I had never heard of RAM before they came to LRC to advertise but they got 20,000 for this event and I think this was their first race outside of the Midwest), and perhaps just as importantly getting cities to let them take over their roads. (I think that is one reason races that are mostly half marathons call themselves marathons. Every city feels it needs at least one marathon).
Both organizers are two of just a handful of nationwide for profit groups putting on races. Competitor Group which runs the Rock N Roll series is owned by a private equity group and RAM Racing owns the Hot Chocolate Series and is expanding out of their Chicago base.
So what are the basic requirements for a race and what should be guaranteed if it goes wrong? Maybe we should create an LRC seal of approval for races if they guarantee certain things.
At the very least, I can go to RAM and say, "if you want to advertise on LRC for your upcoming races you need to guarantee X, Y, and Z".
Personally, these events are first and foremost races so I think a certified course should be a thing races of this size have, but that does not address logistical concerns. Post away or email me directly.