Last weekend the Ironman Kansas was held in Lawrence, Kansas. The 70.3 mile race involving swimming (1.2 miles), cycling (56 miles), and running (13.1 miles) was a great success. Participants had wonderful things to say about the volunteers, the community, the course, and the overall organization. I am sure there were other comments that were not as positive as there are in every race. However the real issue at hand is that weather played a factor in cutting short the event during the running portion of the race. Many participants did not finish the full course and the course was shut down due to rain and lightning. Newspaper reports (Lawrence Journal World) stated that 60% of the field had finished before the race was stopped. In this world class event, what do you do when the weather is a threat? Many participants were not happy that the race was stopped. Others stated that they had a good day and would come back to Kansas again. (No I won't play the Wizard of Oz card here)
As a race director, it is their job to insure the safety of all involved. Participants, volunteers, and spectators. Is it fair to cancel an event because of weather? No! Is it the right thing to do? That's where you get the most discussion. Many of us would rather run in any type of weather and look danger in the eye and say "Let's go". In my training runs, it takes everything I have to get off the road when bad weather strikes. Eventually I come around and give in. Do I like it? No! Is it the right thing to do? More discussion. Look back to the bumbling decision making of the race director of the 2007 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Due to the heat, the race was canceled midway during the race. Debate still surges on about that call. I was personally caught in the middle of that one along with my son and several of our running group friends. These are two different stories and circumstances.
The Ironman Kansas could not control the storm danger that it faced and in my opinion made the right decision by stopping the race. It was a severe storm that could have very bad implications for all those involved. It is just too dangerous to be outside in Kansas (or anywhere else) during a severe storm. However, the Chicago decision to stop the race in October 2007 due to the heat will always be debated. Lack of preparation and proper stocking of aid stations for all participants not just the elite was a major factor in the cause of why it was stopped. Some people had no problems with the heat. But there were many people that had heat related problems. Medical attention was sought. It is always difficult to tell how your body is going to react to heat or cold on any given day. Race officials did not have a plan to facilitate the onslaught of the heat that they knew was coming a week before the race. The Ironman Kansas officials had about an hour to see that the storm that was fast approaching was going to have an impact on their event. They did what they had to do. Protect those involved. Yes, disappointment will always remain about the shortened distance. But one thought remains, at least there were no deaths or weather related injuries.
Solutions? I am sure if people got together and really thought about it, there would be a way to resume a race after a rain delay. Other sports have figured it out, why not these? Would it make sense to develop a system if during the last part of the race that has been canceled, a team of volunteers is sent out to warn participants and give them a flag or marker to mark where they are so that after the storm passes they can go back out to that point and resume the race? Would that be fair? Are there problems with that concept? Sure to both of those questions. It could be a no win situation. Race directors need to protect those involved. Is it our decision as participants? No! We lost our sense about things like that a long time ago.
Forward we go! May you roads and trails be happy and safe!