Monday, May 21

Blame game

You may have heard that the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon closed down their race after only 2:35. The reason? High temperatures sent about 20 people to the emergency room and dozens more were evaluated on-site for heat illness.

People are questioning whether or not the race should have been suspended.
People are questioning whether or not the race should have even started.

I will not knock a race director for making a judgement on the side of safety.

That said - I think there's a larger issue at play here:
Did runners start losing their sense of personal responsibility?
Isn't it every runner's duty to know the signs of heat illness and react accordingly (i.e. before it becomes a medical crisis)?

I know that there are negligent organizers in the world, and I would not want to race with one of them. And cancelling a race for a hurricane, blizzard, tornado, or heat wave is perfectly logical.

But the blame game lately seems to be shifting the balance - especially for warmer than "expected" weather - away from runners and onto the shoulders of race organizers. In reality, a race director will never know if my personal "too hot" is 70 degrees or 85. It should be my responsibility to know my limits and plan/react accordingly. If I feel taxed by the weather, it should be me who is smart enough to slow down, walk, dunk my head in an ice bucket, or DNF.

Yes, even DNF is an option. The shot fired from a starting gun is merely a signal. No one points it at a runner's head and says "You will finish!"

So, in general, my mental math looks something like this:
  • A race that runs out of water = organizer's fault
  • A runner who pushes too hard and gets hurt = runner's fault
In reality, situations are rarely so clear-cut, but I worry that if this blame-game trend continues, we'll soon be left only with December races in Seattle. (Oh, but then there would be rain...)

What's your take on calling off or cancelling races on account of the weather?


  1. I feel sorry for back of the pack slow runners like me who hydrated appropriately and took appropriate actions to ensure they didn't overheat.

  2. I'm actually going to be blogging about this myself tomorrow. I don't think it's as simple as "where to place the blame." Yes, runners should be more prepared for the weather and should take responsibility themselves - but I've seen a few major races that saw higher-than-expected heat, and the race directors had dropped the ball. People take more water (to pour over themselves, to drink) when it's super hot, and preparing for an 85 degree race when you're expecting a 50 degree race (ahem, Chicago, ahem) is a considerable difference. You pay $150ish expecting water on the course - and it's not just the lack of water, it's the total clusterfuck that happens at every "aid" station. I've never known a single runner who ran a race that was canceled and wasn't upset about it. Ask the runners doing the event for their opinions and don't listen to the crowds.

  3. I ran four marathons in the 80's this year - including Boston! - and they were mostly handled well. The Publix marathon was in the 70's at the start and quickly climbed into the 80's, but directors took care to provide ice, cold sponges, and even wet towels for finishers. Boston allowed runners to defer and increased water and supplies. The two little podunk races I ran in the heat didn't make any changes, but hey - when you run a tiny race you know you aren't getting a lot of amenities.
    Any way, none of those races had a death and none had an inordinate number of hospitalizations. Bettter preparation should prevent a cancelation.

  4. From what I understand, the race director was prepared - sent notices in advance, added additional water stations (none of which ran out of water), etc... but was getting rumors (now proven to be false) that sick runners were "overwhelming" local hospitals.

    I just worry that this is the next domino in the wave of "oh, it's hot, let's cancel before we get sued." If that starts, we'll never have a race on the Gulf Coast again.

  5. I have a post on this tomorrow (Wednesday). I think you bring up some valid points, but I think there are some less obvious things we need to look at.


Penny for your thoughts?