Post race after-party leaves sour taste

A post-race dinner has left a sour taste for some after the Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon on Saturday when guests were forced to sit on the floor to eat their meals.

First-time race participant Jono Scott, of Christchurch, said the Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon Makana Confections Finishing Toast was the "most disorganised after-party" he had been to.

"There were so many things they could have done better. I spoke to others who were at previous ones and they said this was by far the worst," he said.

Scott spent about 45 minutes outside the Marlborough Convention Centre waiting with hundreds of others who were evacuated during a fire alarm not long after the event started.

"On top of that there weren't enough tables and chairs for everybody, so we ended up grabbing tables and chairs ourselves out of the closet to use. When you've just run 21k you didn't really want to stand up to eat."

Following the evacuation, guests went inside to line up for their choice of five or six meal options, some of which ran out, Scott said.

Scenic Hotels human resource manager Matt McLean said service for the night had been disrupted by the alarm.

"As soon as we came back in, all 800 people went straight to the food stalls, and the chefs had to start cooking again. It's unfortunate, and it's not an excuse but they all went back into the building at the same time as the guests," he said.

The centre had hosted the event for the past seven or eight years, and food service usually happened over a longer period of time, he said.

Third-time half marathon runner Wellington woman Sharne Fairbrother said the race itself was once again "really well" organised, but her first Finishing Toast dinner was the opposite.

"Once we had been inside the venue for just over an hour we decided we didn't want to sit on the floor in the foyer and eat so we left and went to another local restaurant for a meal," she said.

McLean said seating was available for 250 people on Saturday night, as it was not intended to be a sit-down event.

The seating decision was made by Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon organisers, he said.

Half marathon co-organiser Chris Shaw said they did not want to say too much until after their debrief with the convention centre tomorrow, other than that they were "hugely disappointed".

"We put a massive amount of effort into the race and to have the evening turn out like that is gutting.

"We know people travel a long way and it's an expensive weekend and we want to respect that . . . if those people are upset they can't imagine how upset we are," Shaw said.

The Marlborough Express