I have yet to post any of my thoughts on the Chicago Marathon fiasco because I really wanted to read some of the stories, blog comments, etc...before I spouted off, but I have grown more and more upset over the past few days, so I think it's time to share a few thoughts.
I was not in Chicago for the marathon, so I was not able to experience the events first-hand (I was, though, supposed to be in Chicago for a certain un-named baseball team's playoff game scheduled for that day...but they never got that far...sigh...). My thoughts come from what I have heard, read, seen...and from my experience as a race director.
Let me say, as someone who has been a race director for most of the past decade, I am EXTREMELY offended by the comments of race officials, LaSalle Bank officials, and columnists and editorial writers of the Chicago Tribune who basically have blamed the runners for the meltdown on Sunday. They have given various excuses, including: A) runner's created "logjams" at water stops (well,...duh?); B) runners took too many waters for drinking, dumping over their heads, etc...; C) mid to back-of-the-pack runners were too fat, were not in good enough shape, or should have had the sense to get off the course.
I do not know Race Director Carey Pinkowski. I do, though, know several people who know him very well, and they speak of him very highly. Because of that, and what he has done to make this marathon one of the top five in the world, I have had a great deal of respect and admiration for him.
That being said, his public relations skills seem to be incredibly poor. Public Relations 101 says that you offer up the mea culpa on the heals of something like this. Say we screwed up. Say we underestimated the impact the weather would have on water stops. Say that race officials should have been better prepared.
BUT DON'T SAY: "Is there anything we could have done better? No...I'm very proud of the way things went."
I am sure Mr. Pinkowski is a very fine fellow, and I am sure this race will recover just fine, but his reaction to this year's race, as portrayed through the media, seems way off base.
As a race director, I AM ASHAMED of the way things went and I am just an observer who has nothing to do with organizing this race.
Runners are a very forgiving lot...but you gotta ask for the forgiveness!!!!!
Another thing that really torques me is that I read today that race officials have already concluded an "investigation" into Sunday's race and have determined they did all they could.
That is just BS!
This is a multi, multi million dollar race owned by one of the largest banks in the country (Bank of America now owns LaSalle). They should bring in an outside auditing firm. Thoroughly interview race and city officials, volunteers, runners, spectators, etc....then publicly release the results. Don't tell anyone you did your own "investigation" and it is done three days after the race!
One thing I have learned over the past few years: in today's technology age of blogs, the Internet, camera phones, text messaging, and Ipods...you can't hide anything. If you say that the water stops were adequately stocked, well guess what, I have news for ya...thousands of runners are telling you different and they have the video to prove it. Just go to YouTube and search for the 2007 Chicago Marathon. There are plenty of videos of the confusion.
I think there are plenty of things that need to be vigorously reviewed in light of this disaster (things we will review and implement with our very own Lincoln Memorial race committee for that matter). Doing a better job informing participants of race instructions and contingency plans; having rock solid communications with your volunteers on the course; having adequate supplies, etc...
And, yes, I think all runners need to educate themselves on what their fitness level is and how they recognize signs that they are in trouble. I think charity training groups such as Team in Training (and even groups like the Half Wits and Abe's Army) also bear a huge responsibility. These groups need to educate their charges on an wide-range of topics related to long-distance running. These are groups that have contributed to the surge of participants in these events and they also need to review how they do things.
A huge shout-out needs to go to the spectators and supporters along the route who kept runners going. I read accounts of people buying water and sports drink on their own and handing it out to runners; of people bringing out dozens of bags of ice; of people turning on their sprinklers to cool runners. I believe people are inherently good in nature...and these people prove me right.
I guess in conclusion, I would just apologize to all who participated in the 2007 Chicago Marathon. As a race director, I don't think this should ever happen...but when it does happen, runners should expect a heart-felt apology from those in charge!
Let's hear what y'all think...
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