Open Letter to Race Directors

20 03 2008

(After taking a fall at the Runnin’ of the Green, this is what I came up with … it’s a first draft )

Dear Race Directors –

I’d like to begin this with letting you know there is a bit of a problem in many races which needs to be cleared up before some serious accidents happen.

I’m a 43 year old beginning racewalker.  I walk races from 5k – Marathon at an average of 12 – 13 minute miles.  I love competing, however I’m currently injured because of being tripped by dogs in a local 7K – which the brochure mentions, along with strollers and headphones, aren’t allowed.

As a dog owner, proud Aunt and audio engineer for over 20 years, I love my dog, kids and music.  None of which, however, come to races with me. I am growing increasingly disenchanted with the fact that runners & walkers are allowed to flagrantly disregard the stated rules by forcing upon those of us who do abide their distractions.

In my just over a year of racing, I’ve been pushed around by strollers, knocked off a course by people in headphones and slipped in more dog droppings than I think is fair.  I pay my race fees to race not participate in an obstacle course but to challenge myself against runners and other racewalkers!  I’ve come to learn that no matter how politely I try to let my fellow participants know I’m coming up behind them to pass, if they’re consumed in their music – they cannot hear me.  People with their strollers – double and single wide – just seem to expect that others will get out of their way out of fear of being steamrolled.  Dog owners are under the mistaken believe that Fido will not take a crap in the middle of the course, and will not fight with other dogs, take off after a squirrel, or trip human participants.  They also are under the mistaken belief that all racers like and do not feardogs!  By ignoring your own statements in brochures, you’re exchanging safety for the majority of participants for the comfort for the handful of participants whom believe rules aren’t for them … or is it profit margins?  

The Bolder Boulder is so huge that they will *not* allow people with their dogs (unless leading the blind) or strollers.  People try to get around the rules, and they’re not allowed to participate.  The USATF has ruled that headphones are not allowed in their races and people will be disqualified for wearing them.  It’s a security issue.  Smaller, more easily controlled, events don’t have medical on every mile to make certain that those injured by slipping in dog refuse or being ankled by the thin filament of extender leashes are OK.

Just when are you going to abide by your own rules printed in your pamphlets?  Do you just see the words as nothing more than satisfying a legal requirement?  Are you too afraid of losing income from these people if they’re not allowed to be so selfish as to compromise the event for other racers?  Do you not really care about those of us whom aren’t at the very front of the pack, but trying very hard to better ourselves?  We are, you understand, the ones who will continue to repeat events to get better times.  We’re the ones who are operating off of pure heart because when we finish many times the ‘snacks’ that were promised are long gone.

Here’s an idea for you to keep your profit margin: I’m a single person who pays my entrance fee, receives my number and has the expectation of a fair and timed event.  As long as the event is fair and well-run, I, like many of my friends whom have been doing this longer, will continue to return.  Why not require that all in the race do the same?  If a participant wants to bring their dog, they have to enter that dog into the race.  If someone wants to push their darling child in the event, that child must be entered in the race.  We’re still going to have to go around those people when we’re racing, therefore, they’re still involved in the event.  If, like in one event I was in, you’ve got a family who decides to bring both their dogs and three kids in strollers AND you’re charging, say $25 for pre-event registration and $30 for day of, you’ll make the following:
Parents – registering early:          $50.00
Dogs – Brought day of race:            60.00 *2 dogs*
Children – Forgot babysitter:         90.00  *3 children*

TOTAL:                                            $200.00

Just because the child is under 4 years old and in a stroller, doesn’t mean that they’re going to stayin that stroller.  If the stroller tips or they climb out and injure themselves or other racers, does your insurance cover you still?

As I dab more hydrogen peroxide on my skinned up knee, hip, shoulder and hands, I sincerely hope this is going to change.

E. Shepard



2 responses

24 03 2008
Walking Tom

Lizzy, you have done a nice job of putting the facts on the line. The only part I disagree with is giving ANYONE a license to bring their dog, stroller, headphones or trekking poles on the race course. They are a danger to others and themselves, and charging them extra does not reduce the danger they create for all!

Offenders should simply be removed – by the first race official who sees them. No questions, no arguments, no debate, and NO REFUND. Just get them off the course, they knew the rules and chose to ignore them.


ps – Glad your injuries were not more severe, sorry you were injured at all.

24 03 2008

Just finished your letter to race directors, As a race director may > I answer? I agree with your thoughts and wish it was as simple as you suggest, but there are many things I think you might be missing.

First and foremost races are held on public streets, while I wish I could force the removal of a participant with a dog I have no recourse to do so, I can ASK them to not do that, I can ASK them to go to the back to as to not be in anyones way, I CAN keep track of their number and refuse to accept their entry next year.
Just like bandits, not really much any race director can do about them.
Also just before a race begins, do you really think I have time to look over everyone at the starting line to see who I need to talk to? Do you know how busy and stressful putting on a race is? And sure I could have volunteers do it, but again how many races have you participated in and how many have you volunteered for? I spend more time begging people to volunteer than any other aspect of the event planning.
I respect all the participants, but with fewer and fewer people wanting to help, permit costs going higher and higher, you will see more and more events going away, as more and more people complain but less and less willing to help.
As for the issue of food at the end, that is more controlable and I agree they need to fix that, again you know how eats most of the food, NOT the faster participants, but the spectators who have not even paid, for some reason they feel since they took time to come watch their friend/spouse/etc that entitles them to free food, again my volunteers try hard to control, but they get busy at times and people just help themselves. I have gone to in larger races corralling the finish line so only finishers are inside it to protect them and the finish refresments, but then I get yelled at by family that want to be with their participant at the finish. What can I do, I cannot make everyone happy. Truly wish I could.
Sorry this got so long. I just wanted you to understand it’s not that we don’t care or don’t try.

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