29 October 2009

An "International" race that was not

(This runner is not fond of vilifying races. The joy, after all, is in running. Races, to him, are more of a venue for fellowship to meet old and new running friends. SIM is an exception however. And of course, he is mindful of his previous post when he said "I wonder why I have this weird feeling that SIM 2009 is by far going to be the largest and prestigious race. Well, this remains to be seen". Well, that was it. The operative phrase being "this remains to be seen".)

There are race reports out there now on SIM 2009. It is pretty obvious now that one of the things that marred SIM is the lack of water during the race both in the 42K and shorter races the next day. It reminds us how the first Mizuno race was conducted and how the running community reacted almost angrily then to point of being violent during the race. It happened again. Indeed, history repeats itself. To quote Ronnie in his blog - "Water drought in every race is a major sin" on the recently-held QCIM. I could not agree more.

Which brings us to the question why the race organizer of SIM even bothered to append the word "International" when the race itself did not even come close to being international (like there were no timing chips!). It is redundant or superfluous. The names of Major Fours of marathon (Boston, NYC, Chicago and Berlin) do not contain "International" but they are international by standard by the mere fact that thousands of runners run these races year after year after year. They are even dream races for some of us runners.

Did the presence of Kenyan runners during SIM make the race international? I doubt it and to put it on record, I have nothing against Kenyans. They are undoubtedly one of the greatest runners of all time. And who cares about the name of the race anyway? Personally, I don't. You can call it "Fat Ass" race or "Bulangengo" race. We runners could care less. It is how the race is put up or organized that we do take note, register, run, praise and come back to run it again.

This will surprise some of you. Would you believe that some people and race organizers do harbor the idea that the presence of "foreign" runners make the race international? I should know having talked to some race organizers who insisted on even inviting these runners to come and participate. Don't ask me what race I am referring to. Again, I have nothing remotely against runners from other countries. They are our brothers and sisters after all.

Which brings us to another question why organizers would even do that? I have no idea but I was told that these foreign runners collectively serve as a come-on, i.e., to invite more runners and to add prestige to its race. This reasoning is downright absurd, to put it mildly.

If you invite these runners, they will certainly come considering the free airfare and accommodation. Above all, they will win by a HUGE margin over our local athletes. And if you field them against our local athletes (with all due respect), there is no competition to speak of.

This was the trend even last year. Foreign runners sweeping the top wins both in Clark and Subic marathons. The same thing this year. Same delegate of Kenyans winning the races in QCIM and after 2 weeks SIM. In SIM, they even won the 21k distance. Who knows this might happen again during the upcoming Pasig marathon. Look at their finishing time, it was even way below their personal best! It only shows that these are races where setting a personal record or best is not a worthwhile endeavor.

More importantly, I wonder if our organizers do bother to extend the same generosity and courtesy to our equally-talented athletes like shouldering their registration fees, etc. They should not be marginalized.

Moreover, have you observed the same trend in Milo Finals? No. Simply because they don't bother with measly prizes.

So what are the points of this post. The points are:

1. Do not sponsor foreign runners to run your race. Yes, you can invite them but do not pay for their airfares, etc. Let them come here because they want to run your race presumably for some good reasons.

2. Prestige is not synonymous with the presence of foreign runners. It is more than that. Prestige, just like respect, has to be earned.

3. If an organizer cannot even take care as simple as providing runners with plenty of water, they have no right or business to announce a race, collect money from runners and still insist on pushing through with the race.

4. A law should be passed penalizing (jail time, fine, revocation of permits and/or perpetual disqualification) organizers for putting lousy, lame, inconsiderate and/or dangerous races so they will learn from their mistakes and deter others from committing the same folly.

5. Organizers should protect and respect their volunteers manning the aid stations. They take the brunt of runners' anger when, for example, waters ran out during SIM. Imagine hundreds of runners each delivering cussing words to every volunteer which should have been directed to the organizers! Pity. A runner, out of sheer exasperation, reportedly overturned the tables because he needed water so badly. This runner even saw many runners complaining of dehydration and cramps. One runner even shouted at volunteers: "International, international. This race does not even come close to being international!". To me, this is simply irresponsible and dangerous.

6. Put longer tables instead of one or two to place the waters, sports drinks and other stuff. If you know you have hundreds of runners, this only makes sense. Nobody wants to be called stupid anyway.

7. An organizer should only put up a race that he himself would love to run. If they cannot love it, how does he expect his runners to do the same? This is how prestige develops as well.

8. We will understand if you messed up your first race but don't expect us to understand the same mistakes the next time around. Folly knows no bounds.

9. Organizers must have credibility in that if they organize a 42.2k race or an ultra, they themselves have experienced running it. How do you expect your runners to view you if the pupils are even better than the teacher? Money to fund a race or sponsors do not equate to better races.

10. Organizers should learn to love their runners (regardless of speed, talent or even what they wear) like a big family. They should be responsible enough to protect, feed, nourish and respect them. You do this and runners will come back for more.


  1. atty. jon, for the first time, you sound like bugobugo85 and myself! hehehe! however, your points are very valid. i have endorsed this marathon race because of personal and positive reasons but it did not live up to its expectations. the race organizer must be able to issue a statement why the "basics" in road racing were lacking. nice post!

  2. I witnessed many runners in pain and somewhat confused, angry and dazed why there was no water. They seemed to be having difficulty trying to understand what was happening. Volunteers at the stations apologized to every runners to preempt the barrage of complaints. I, on the other hand, did not utter a word because it was not the fault of the volunteers. We should know better.

  3. good fighting words! runners should continue to be critical of how races are conducted. organizers are taking advantage of the situation in that not too many of us are willing to take a contrarian stand, and that they can easily get away with these inadequacies because we are easy to please. the situation has become chronic, and we must not allow this to continue lest we want to see not just a line of injured runners but a pile of dead bodies on the road.

  4. Hi Atty. Jon,
    Any legal remedies for runners?
    Are the promises of race logistics written on the reg forms and websites legally binding?

  5. dapat yata igarote yung mga yan. hawa

  6. Having seen glassy-eyed, dehydrated runners deathly pale at our impromptu aid station at km34, I can only imagine the horrors they had to endure. Best quote i heard from the emcees as the winners were approaching - "The prize for this year's race is $5,000, the same prize given sa Boston Marathon. Now, ka level na natin ang Boston MArathon!" A little research showed the Boston MArathon top prize for 2009 was $150,000. Oh lord wherever did they get that.

  7. I think when they said "prestige" they meant "difficult" :D

    They should've informed runners earlier that they had problems with water and lighting so runners could have at least prepared.

    Anyways I hope they learned a lot with this event.