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 A 'Grim'sby Experience

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WJP Posted - February 18 2018 : 13:11:23
Ok, a long post...

Want to preface this by saying I don’t like to complain about a product or event, especially online, and especially about a running event, as I know how much time and effort goes into organizing and directing them. That being said, I want to describe a less than thrilling experience at this morning’s Grimsby Half Marathon. I don’t want to rip the entire event as I’m sure many people there worked hard and had the best intentions, but I experienced three big problems:

Problem #1: I, along with a couple of runners, was sent (or more like not told we were going) the wrong way. About 4k into the race, I was in the 2nd pack, we were 3rd thru 5th place at that point, about 30 secs off the 2 leaders. We were never told nor did we see an obvious sign to take a right turn, and missed a small loop we were supposed to do. We only found out when we saw and heard the lead pair coming up from a side road behind us…

Problem #2: To add insult to injury, the lead marshal on his bicycle actually yells at us for ‘not turning, back there!’ When one of my co-runners tells him that no one told us, the guy says ‘didn’t you see the others turn!’ Um no, because we were ahead of them and we did not see the leaders turn.
So the three of us ended up doubling back, all of us pissed, back to the turn to stay on the course. One of the guys had GPS and said we added about 600 meters - probably adding at least a couple minutes - onto our run. One of the guys in my pack ended up dropping out a couple miles later because he was so aggravated. The other runner and I finished, salvaging something.

Problem #3 (the biggest one) was the response from the race director (we assumed she was) to us. The runner who dropped out, he was an experienced elite masters runner, explained (politely, he was Canadian after all) the course issues and how we were sent the wrong way. Her response was to meekly point out to him that there was a course marker (none of us saw it if there was one). All we could do was throw our hands up. We weren’t expecting nor asking for a change in race results, just some acknowledgement and a willingness to fix it in the future.

So here’s my rant: the biggest issue for the three of us who were sent the wrong way was not about placings and awards - this isn’t the Olympics or anything - but that the race didn’t provide the basic requirements of a road race: clear marshaling and directions on the course. And this wasn’t an inexpensive race. Their response was just what not to do in customer service: not taking any responsibility or acknowledging a mistake.

The event seems to want to reach out to Western NY since it lists in Buffalorunners, this is just some constructive feedback to the organizers. I like small town races, I support them, but I also expect them to provide an organized race.

Some lessons...
This probably goes without saying, but some recommendations to would-be race directors (or even experienced ones):
*Encourage all course marshals to give course directions to all runners, even if those directions seem obvious. Runners are not in a ‘right frame of mind’ during a race, nothing is obvious to them.
*If your primary thought is that race participants are a nuisance, you shouldn’t be in the road racing business.
*If as a race director, you’re not a ‘people’ person, then find and designate a ‘people’ person(s) (most likely volunteers) to be the contact for runners before or during the race.

These suggestions probably are obvious to race directors, but weren’t at this morning’s event.

...whew, now I’m going to get some beer...
Jim P
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WJP Posted - February 20 2018 : 11:16:06
Hey Paul, I've heard that point, that runners are ultimately responsible for knowing the course and that's a fair point. I agree that runners should study the course, especially if it's the first time running it. At the same time, I think it's reasonable to expect a well marked course and good guidance on the course, if I'm paying for it. If I don't get to the starting line on time or if I don't bring proper racing gear, for example, then that's my fault. If I were doing orienteering or a trail race in the woods, I would be more obsessive about knowing the map. When I go to a 'destination' race, I don't plan to race but simply run and enjoy the view and surroundings, and not as concerned about being sent the wrong way. If I'm racing in a road race, I'm forced to be focused on how body is doing and the road and people in front of me, and can't afford to waste energy on other things. Even if I have a good idea of the course, I'm really at the mercy of the course marshal, especially in a complicated course like this one where several races overlap.
I guess I feel like those are reasonable expectations of a road race, others may differ. In the end, each person just has to decide what they would or wouldn't tolerate in a race. Hope the training's going well this winter, Paul, and a great run at Lockport!
pauljnoe Posted - February 20 2018 : 10:48:13
Reminds me of 2016 Lindsey's Legacy- where Josh B (I think he was in 6th place) missed the right hand turn (no one there to direct him to turn!!) and then the entire rest of the field followed him for a 3.5mile 5K! Afterwards it was pointed out by some that the runners are ultimately responsible for "knowing the course" (studying the PDF thing on the website??) - which, I suppose, is true. Of course, runners can always vote with their money when a race director does not make ABSOLUTELY SURE important turns are talked about at the starting line...well marked...and attended by a knowledgeable person willing to do some pointing! Very sorry this happened to you Jim- from the posted times 600 meters less and you likely would have won the race!

Paul J Noe
WJP Posted - February 18 2018 : 15:00:35
I would just add that if their response weren't so poor, I probably would have just let this go.
WJP Posted - February 18 2018 : 14:46:53
Originally posted by Jan J.

Very well said, Jim. I only ran this race once, about a dozen years ago, and there were some minor problems then, not nearly as bad as the ones that you guys encountered today, but I guess enough to keep me away, since I never went back.

Jan J.

Hey Jan, as I said elsewhere, it was quite an experience. Of course, not the end of the world, just wanted to give them some feedback - they seemed a bit in over their heads, and to give a review for the rest of us.
Jan J. Posted - February 18 2018 : 14:11:38
Very well said, Jim. I only ran this race once, about a dozen years ago, and there were some minor problems then, not nearly as bad as the ones that you guys encountered today, but I guess enough to keep me away, since I never went back.

Jan J.

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