Well, it was about what I expected…

Ok, Joe Taricani of The Marathon Show scored an interview with Peter Englehart, CEO of Competitor Group in the wake of the RnR Las Vegas debacle. On my way to work this morning I listened to the whole thing…and anyone who I passed while walking on the street or who was on the subway with me could tell you I was incredulous. FWIW, Englehart claims he ran the half himself (and indeed he shows in the finishers’ results in spite of not a single mid-course mat registering for him while some others who ran the full but were not picked up by one mat are listed in the “diverted” category…though others don’t have a time recorded for that mat and are not listed as “diverted” – though Englehart didn’t say in what corral he started.

As a note, I did not run this race. However, I have friends who did (and one who is an experienced runner summed up her experience by saying “I feel lucky I made it through alive.” OUCH!), I have experienced the chaos of a RnR event myself, and I have other friends who have had negative experiences at their events in Philadelphia, in Vegas last year, and in other places. Not to the degree of the Vegas Horror Show, but still, things that are concerning.

While I do give Competitor credit for letting someone talk about it, the interview was about what I expected. Overall I think Joe (I love him, but he definitely seems to have drunk too much Competitor Kool-Aid) was far too worried about ticking him off to really ask the hard questions or push him on the non-answers or answers that simply didn’t make sense. And since the only change in the event from the past was the timing, I refuse to engage in the silliness of calling it “inaugural”. Some highlights (or perhaps I should say lowlights)…

1) Blaming the new runners for the chaos. I’m sorry, but if you’re this big organization that prides itself on bringing in new people to the sport by giving them an alternative to the more “serious” races (ok…that may be phrased wrong, but the races from what I can tell do definitely have a party atmosphere moreso than even Disney), then you should darn well have methods to help the new runners understand what to do. And you could start with corral enforcement. Saying “Oh the new runners got antsy and jumped corrals” doesn’t fly. Bibs should be checked going into corrals through controlled entrances and that’s that. (I know for a fact that they were not checked going into corrals at the NYC 10K.) Also? How about actually requiring proof of time and making the bib-change stickers something that would be difficult for someone to forge? Competitor doesn’t require proof of time for a corral change – people are routinely asked “What corral do you want to be in?” As for people “jumping ahead” and thereby ruining the wave start, Competitor can come to any RunDisney race and watch the corral release procedure as far as I’m concerned. At W&D I was in the front of my corral and the volunteers and/or staff there were VERY clear on what the procedure would be and did not allow anyone to “jump”. Those of us on the front line were told to link arms as the corral in front of us took off. At a given signal we moved forward to the starting line to await our own start. Very organized and non-chaotic. And I can guarantee you there were plenty of “antsy runners” at that race too.

2) “Every race gets their water from hydrants”. Um, NO. NYRR races are watered using Poland Spring water. Disney races are watered using Dasani. “Every race” does not use hydrant water. I felt his answer to this was unacceptable. More than one person -experienced runners at that – has talked about feeling and in some cases getting violently ill ON THE COURSE after ingesting the water. Water that was reportedly drawn yes, from FIRE HYDRANTS and according to some had a distinct and heavy taste of bleach. Now, I know there is a formula for purifying water with bleach, but it should not result in you tasting it. And to say that the volunteers just walked away? Trust me, if supplies are there, a runner is capable of pouring his or her own water. And Joe didn’t even touch on the fact that they ran out of Cytomax.

3) And then the medals… Englehart’s statement? “We knew there was a shortage of medals going into the race.” And then he tried to blame it on China and how long it takes to order them and get them here. Couple of thoughts. First, have a race cap. If you allow unlimited on-site registrations as they reportedly did, of course you’re going to have a shortage of medals. If you know it takes 4-6-8 weeks to get the medals from China, set your cap, enforce the switching from half to full if applicable deadline, and order your medals. If you don’t reach your cap or switch total and want to extend the switch, that’s fine…but keep it at the cap and switch total. Then you know how many medals you will have and there shouldn’t be a problem. And I’m sorry…I’ve said it before and I know there are people who don’t agree with me, but if you decide mid-course to switch from the full to the half, you are a DNF with a nice 13.1 mile training run. You didn’t complete the race you were registered for and did not follow procedure to change to the shorter distance, therefore you are a DNF. No medal should be earned or expected. And second, if you know going in that there will be a shortage, ANNOUNCE IT IN ADVANCE! Although given the whole corral debacle being blamed on antsy new runners already, that could have created the stampede several people I’ve heard from feared would happen anyway. So maybe in this case that’s a good thing.

And then this shocker. Englehart claims that he’s unaware of their policy of shuttling runners behind the cut-off closer to the finish and letting them complete the race. Mr. Peter Englehart needs to read his own company’s website. I searched on several of their race pages and on all of them it says this:
“If a participant’s pace falls below the course time limit, they have a few options:
“* Increase their pace to stay within the event minimum pace;
* Board a “sag wagon” shuttle to move forward on the course, where they may continue to participate in the event, maintaining the minimum pace required; or
“* If the participant cannot continue, they may board a sag wagon to be dropped off at the next shuttle location, at a nearby medical station. The participant will be seen by a Medical Team captain to be cleared for the medical shuttle to transport the participant to the finish line.

Should I repeat that bolded part again Mr. Englehart? One stated option if a participant falls below the required pace is this: “Board a “sag wagon” shuttle to move forward on the course, where they may continue to participate in the event, maintaining the minimum pace required.”

It is on your website! It is your company’s policy! If you are that clueless about your policies, there needs to be much better communication in the organization. The CEO should be aware of all the race policies and procedures. IMHO anyway.

Yes a DNF isn’t a fun thing. Knock wood I haven’t had it happen to me yet. I was in tears watching the marathon episode of The Biggest Loser this week (stay tuned for a post on that) as the doctor was pulling Joe and Joe was wanting to continue. When you work hard and train hard for something and then for whatever reason you can’t finish it, yes, it’s heartbreaking. But that is a part of running. I know that when – not if, because I don’t believe that I can get through an entire running career with no DNF – it happens to me I will be upset, but I hope and pray that I can be gracious and see it as a learning experience. And I know I personally would not accept a medal for an event if I did not complete the distance. They are called finisher medals for a reason…and if you didn’t complete the entire distance under your own power, then IMHO you are not a finisher OF THAT EVENT. Now, if it’s a “participant medal” that’s something else all together and that’s unrelated to this discussion,

So basically my thoughts? We really didn’t learn anything new.

But it did cement one thing for me…

I will NEVER do another RnR or Competitor Group event. My life is worth more than any of their events could ever be.

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4 thoughts on “Well, it was about what I expected…

  1. I ran the Vegas half this past weekend, and I have similar complaints. The medal issues and crowds aside (which were annoying and unfortunate for sure) my biggest complaints are all the factors that affected health and safety. Along the course, I got ZERO Cytomax, and two water stations were broken down before I even got there. And I am not one of the slower runners.

    The finish line was another disaster. A bottleneck caused by the finisher photo station held up runners, which was BEFORE the water and food, and already-dehydrated runners were unable to get through, causing people to be sick and faint in the crowds.

    I’m not usually one to blame the race directors when I don’t have a great race, but in this case things that should have been considered for the health and safety of runners appear to have been overlooked, and that’s not okay.

    • I’m glad you had a good experience. You’re one of the few I’ve heard from. Sadly more are along the lines of my friend who feels lucky to have escaped with her life.

      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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