In the majority of races I’ve done this year, the temperatures have been uncharacteristically higher than normal. This didn’t start within the last few weeks. During the Mississippi Blues Marathon, held in early January, many were concerned with the conditions. Isn’t this ordinarily a cool and sometimes cold race?
The Germantown Half Marathon experienced hot and humid temperatures, too. Runners were in town from across the country for the 54th Annual RRCA National Convention. I wasn’t as concerned for myself as I was for those that were not from the South and were not accustomed to the humidity.
The Little Rock Marathon was unseasonably hot and many weren’t prepared for the onslaught of rising temperatures that followed. Race directors and organizers can control almost everything except for the weather. They can communicate to the participants about running slower and staying hydrated. As runners we are going to listen and take heed to their suggestions, right? If you don’t know of at least one stubborn runner, it’s probably you.
As I watched the Boston Marathon, I could see how the heat affected the elite runners. The heat doesn’t care how fast you run or how physically fit you are. The Boston Athletic Association said, “If you choose to run, run safely above all else. Speed can kill. Heat stroke is a serious issue and is related to intensity of running as well as the heat and humidity.”
The Cellcom Green Bay Marathon was cancelled in a little over 2.5 hours after the race commenced. Runners were going down as early as mile 2. The Madison Marathon decided to be preemptive by cancelling the marathon the Friday prior to the race, but still allowed the half marathon to continue. Although many complained the day of the race about the cool temperatures, many retracted those statements as they battled the heat and clung to every aid station available.
What is there to make of all of this? Should Race Directors (RDs) continue to cancel races? What about the months of training put in by the runners? What about the investment of time from the staff, medical personnel, volunteers, etc.? What about travel arrangements? Will I get my money back? Didn’t everyone sign a waiver? I guess no one has any personal responsibility these days. Let’s not punish the “unfit” athletes. I can and DID finish! By the way, where is my time?
I have heard these comments and questions quite often. The questions that I ask myself are, “Will there not be other races?” and “Is it really worth someone’s life?” We can become narrow-minded and enthralled with our own goals and endeavors that we forget about being human. We question the legitimacy of a decision that could inevitably save lives. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for crippling a city’s medical infrastructure, just so I could cross off another state. No one wakes up and thinks, “I feel like I’m going to pass out around mile 5 today and possibly die.” I heard Sean Ryan, RD for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon say, “I’d rather disappoint thousands of them [runners] than endure even one death.”
There is no perfect answer. You can’t predict what will happen. At the end of the day the decision to sign up for a race that you very well know can be cancelled is yours. If you chose to do so, that is your prerogative, but once you sign-up, all you can do is hope the conditions will be in your favor. It’s all a matter of chance and luck. It could be the weather this time, but there are worse things that can happen.
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya?”
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