How Exactly Does a Race Run Out of Medals? We know the answer.
October 30, 2013
Last weekend thousands of runners (23,481 was the unofficial number), completed the Marine Corps Marathon. Unfortunately about 300 of those finisher's didn't receive a medal.
And then begins the social media shit storm.
How in God's name could a race run out of medals, water or anything for that matter?? Well, race directing and, specifically nailing down the numbers can be pretty difficult.
In a Runner's World article, the race director of the Marine Corps Marathon explains what exactly happened and how those 300 people were left medal-less.
Imagine this. You're planning a house party. You invited all of your friends and family members. You've set up an Evite page for people to RSVP. You've been planning this party for a year, so you feel like you have a pretty good handle on everything. You've asked your guests to RSVP as early as possible so you can make sure you order enough food and party favors. Three months prior to the party, you have to place an order for the cake and super cool party favors that are being custom made by an Etsy vendor. It's important that you have accurate numbers because the party favors take 8 weeks to produce.
You've invited roughly 300 people, but only 150 have RSVP'ed. On top of that you know that some people will bring guests that aren't accounted for. You know your family members are flaky and won't RSVP or won't show up at all. Most of your friends have RSVP'ed, but they also go overboard on the snacks and will take extra party favors. So how much should you order? You don't want to order too much as it would be a waste of money, but you obviously want to have enough for everyone. You just bought a new house so you can't afford to waste one penny.
Now, times this by 30 and you have an extremely large party with a lot of different factors.
As a race director, this is pretty much the scenario we're dealing with. We have super small margins, but yet 60% of race participants wait until the last minute to register. And by last minute I mean the day before the race. Not only that, but unforeseen things happen. Like, having a box of race medals go missing (true story), or they are damaged, or delayed shipping, the list can go on and on. Here's some other factors you probably haven't thought about:
If you get how the medal scenario can go wrong, you're ahead of the game. But what about water, snacks, etc? Ah! Also a tough number to nail accurately. Race directors typically err on the side of caution and order way more water than actually necessary. If we're lucky, it's donated. If not, that's an added expense on top of the other thousands of dollars it takes to put on a race. So how can it go wrong? Weather can affect the amount of water people consume which throws off numbers. Also, if spectators get into the stash, it can definitely cause a problem.
As much as you try to plan, mistakes happen. And it can happen to the best of them. I've seen it over and over again.
I accidently fell into race directing, so I've had to learn how to make sure there's enough of everything and it hasn't been easy. And I've been shitted on plenty. And yes, planning better and planning for more IS important. But, in the words of Forest Gump, "Shit happens." No race director intentionally doesn't order enough medals or water. And most times when things go wrong, there's an extreme situation that has occured that you have no clue about.
I've also been on the other end of things and have finished a race with no water to be found. It sucks. I know. And I've complained about how horrible the race is and vowed to never do it again. But the more races I'm a part of, the more compassion and understanding I have. It sucks for you and it sucks for the race director. And let me assure you, after a bad race, no race directors sleeps well in the weeks following the event. We're probably more disappointed than you are.
So, all that to say, if a race has a good reputation and has one slip up or if a race is new on scene (they are probably learning the ropes), give them a break and chalk it up to some unforseen circumstances.
Alright, I'm bracing myself for the backlash! What are your thoughts?