Sunday, February 15, 2009

48th Annual Washington's Birthday Marathon and Marathon Relay Report

48th Annual Washington's Birthday Marathon and Marathon Relay

First leg: 9.7 miles (Jeanne)
Second leg: 7.3 miles (Z.)
Third leg: 9.2 miles (S.)

You will note, should you click through to say, the volunteers page, this:
* The Course closes at 4:30 pm (6 hours after the start time). *

Or say that you look at the FAQ, you will learn this:
Q. Is there an early start?
A. Yes. If you expect to take over 6 hours, please consider joining the 9:30 group. Our volunteers cannot be asked to be out beyond that. An announcement to head for the start will be made at the registration table about 9:15. If you join this group, you will be out of contention for an overall or age-group award. (An exception may be made for men over 70 and women over 60.) There is no early start for the relay.
and scrolling further down the page, you will see this:

Q. Is there an "early start" for the marathon relay?
A. No. All relay runners must have their first runner start at 10:30 a.m. There has never been a relay team to take more than 6 hours.
What you won't see anywhere, is any notice that the "COURSE WILL BE CLOSED TO ALL RUNNERS AT 2 P.M."

Because? It doesn't say that.

This is a lovely marathon course, through open fields and woodlands out in Greenbelt, Md. It's a 3-loop course. The weather was perfect, in the 40s, blue skies, sun, if a bit windy.

There were some serious uphills, but then some lovely downhills too. Lucky for me, my two teammates were not interested in setting any records, and we anticipated a finish close to 6 hours.

I struggled through and finished 9.7 miles in 1:51
.7 8:33

an 11:30/min mile. Not my best, but not my worst.

Z. did her 7.3 miles and finished up mile 17 around 2 p.m.

Then S. took off for her 9.2 miles. Z. and I headed for the car to drive to the finish, but before we got there S. came running back, yelling that "the course was closed!"

We had noticed that the race marshalls had taken down the time clock before Z. had even run in. Now they had told S. that the "course was closed." WTF?

S., after standing around for 4 hours waiting her turn, was a wee bit perturbed. And we were all confused. What the hell just happened? When S. was turned back so was some guy who had flown in from Wisconsin just to run this small marathon, which is a Boston qualifier. Can you imagine??

We finally located the race director, after some fruitless encounters with several race marshals, none of whom had heard anything about the course being closed. The RD also said that the course did NOT close at 2, that that info was just wrong, and was transmitted by ham radio operators to the race marshals, and that even had the course closed at 2, no runner would be stopped from running. Runners would just no longer be supported—but would never be told they could not run.

So, we were not happy campers.

The RD was understandably upset, and asked what he could do. I asked for only three things: an apology (since no one had said those magic soothing words), a refund, and not to be listed as DNF since it was their mistake.

I feel sorry for the RD. This is the 48th year of this race, so I feel bad that this happened on his watch. I feel bad for S. who stood around all morning pumping herself up to race, but I really feel sorry for that poor guy from Wisconsin.

Filed under "S*** happens."


Kelly said...

Wow. I'm appaulled. That sucks big time, and I would be super pissed. You're being a good sport about it, though.

SuperSnail said...

It really pissed me off but a wise man told me to let it go.

But that poor guy from Wisconsin...

peter said...

To the team, and to SuperStar SuperSnail, from a VP of the club, I am sorry. (To the Badger guy too!). Jeanne, you did a really good job on your leg, as I told you yesterday before I even knew your time, you are running really well. You should be proud of your run on this tough course! Excellent report! Your anger is understandable and the situation was regrettable. I know the person most associated with the relay administration was mortified and distressed at the occurence. Once again Sheriece, sorry! Come run with our 10K Program or 10-Mile Program, we'll treat you right!

Jon (was) in Michigan said...

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!

You have a cooler head than me, because I would be looking for someone to scream at. Nobody was told the course closed at 2 pm but everyone closed it anyway? Ham radio operators? They got their info from Ham radio operators? Are they serious? Did aliens and possessed rottweilers tell them to close the race too?

Egads. Are they the same people that organized that marathon in Chicago that had two mile 23's? I would cross that one off the list for next year.

Calyx Meredith said...

How frustrating that must have been! I'm sorry for your friend S and definitely for the guy from Wisconsin. Seems you had a great attitude though. "Filed under S*** happens" indeed!

Runner Susan said...

that really bites.

ShirleyPerly said...

Yikes, that stinks! And being someone who travels long and far to do races, I really feel bad for that Wisconsin guy. Time is running out for him if he wants to qualify and run Boston this year ...

Hope something like that never happens to anyone else!

Anonymous said...

What happened was clearly wrong, but not that dire for the gentleman from Wisconsin. Registration for the 2009 Boston Marathon closed on January 26, so even if he had run his qualifying time, he could not have run this year's race. That means that he has the rest of 2009 (and part of 2010) to qualify for the 2010 race. There was only one male from Wisconsin who signed up for the race. He finished in a bit over 5 hours, so he did not qualify for Boston. He did, however, win his age group. According to athlinks, this was his FOURTH marathon of this year (the others were in LA, AZ, and MS).

jeanne said...

thanks anonymous! but now i'm left wondering how he managed to finish his run after being told the course was closed. it gets stranger and stranger....

Rhea said...

Wow. My head is steaming and I didn't even run the race. If I was that guy from Wisconsin I would have made a stink big time.

SuperSnail said...

If this is the 75 year old Wisconsin guy that I saw at mile 17 at 2:03pm (3.5 hours into the race), I congratulate him for running the final 9 miles in 90 minutes (after running the first 17 @ 12:35min/mi).

When I last saw him the race marshals were directing him to go straight to the finish line (2 miles away) without completing the final loop.

Fishy but whatever.

For every bad taste you get in your mouth, there's some fantabulous person like Peter to make it all better.

Thanks P! It was nice having you there to tell us we weren't all crazy.

Kelly said...

I got my plan from

They have ones that are centered around your "weak" event too.

Kelly Martin said...

For Jon:

It's pretty common for marathons and similar events to receive communications support from local amateur radio groups. The club I'm a member of provides support for an annual Thanksgiving event, and another nearby club provides support for a bicycle race in the summer sometime.

I'm pretty certain we don't have any aliens in our membership. Not so sure about possessed rottweilers, though.

Old School Runner said...

You should leave your comments on the site. I saw that the race has had organizational challenges in the past.

IHateToast said...

glad you kept your cool and just filed it under shappens. i mean, no one lost a house to a bush fire. no one died because of it. no one lost their job because they didn't finish.

i have a hard time not snapping. easier to be stoic as a blog reader. i'm impressed with your cool.

Karsten said...

Found this post via Google Blog Search, and wow, is this disappointing to read.

Even assuming that the volunteers were closing the course in a "rolling" fashion, they should not have shut things down at the relay exchange point after 3½ hours. Running an evenly-paced six hour marathon would put a runner at the 17 mile mark (where the relay exchange point was) in about 3 hours 54 minutes. So if the course was supposed to be open for six hours, the relay exchange point should not have been packed up until at least 2:25 PM, and the water stop there should've remained open until shortly after 4 PM.

Sounds like this was a case of serious miscommunication among the organizers and volunteers... or perhaps it's an example of an "old school" marathon mentality which is unfriendly to runners taking five or six hours to complete a marathon.

I'm not sure which race director you talked to... The event actually has two. Pat Brown is the director of the overall marathon, while Bob Platt is in charge of the relay. Whichever one you talked to, I'd make sure you let the other one know about the problems as well.

I had a great day on Sunday myself, so I'm sorry to read that other folks encountered problems. Good luck in your future races!

Susan said...

Sooooooo sorry! Really. Yikes!

But... at least... you did great! I would really like to be part of a relay team one day.

Rainmaker said...

Eek. That sucks. Well, if it's any consolation for the guy from Wisconsin - Boston closed waaaay earlier this year (mid-Jan), so he wouldn't have been able to run this year anyway. :(

That still sucks though big time, as you train for it and that's the pinacle of that you're doing.