A Few Comments on Our 2011 Manitoba Marathon Experience

This post has been in the works since June. First I had to get over my sheer exasperation about the whole event, I thought I should cool down before writing it… then I was tipped over the edge this week when I received a survey email – I’ll describe why later on. 😉

I’ve been working on a post discussing my thoughts on several of our race experiences, and I was going to roll this issue into that post, but decided this event deserved a post of it’s own. Bruce and I both participated in the Manitoba Marathon in June of this year, registered to run the full marathon. Although I finished the race and he did not, both of us had some issues with the way in which the race was organized, and athletes were treated. Here are our observations.

The Manitoba Marathon website and handbook advertises that if for some reason you are unable to complete your event, there is a “exit with dignity” program. Right on Page 39 of this year’s marathon handbook found in each runner’s shwag bag is the following information:

“Should you decide to withdraw from the race, please report to a Volunteer at one of our Hospitality Stations. Please stay with the medical personnel at that station where transportation to the University Stadium will be arranged for you. Upon your return, access to Medical services and refreshments are available in the Manitoba Lotteries Hospitality Square.”

This sounds pretty good, right? Very clear and straightforward – if you have a problem, you will be brought back to the University (which is where the marathon both starts and ends). Well, let me tell you about Bruce’s undignified exit.

Bruce started the Manitoba Marathon this year very under-trained after suffering a series of injuries throughout the spring training season. Right up to the day before the race, he figured he’d withdraw. Then he bought a knee brace, ran a few miles pain free, and decided to at least try to run the distance. He figured, if he had to drop out, he’s be OK. After all, the book said so, right?

He started off strong, and until mile 9, he was keeping up with the 4:00 race pace bunny. At that point, though, he started to fall off the pace, taking more and more walk breaks. I caught up with him at the mile 13 water station, where he told me he was going to withdraw from the race. He encouraged me to continue on and run my race, so I did – assuming he’d be just fine. From this point of the story, I’m telling you what Bruce told me after the race – I was off running, and not aware of the challenges he was about to encounter getting back to the starting line!

At mile 13, he approached the aid station volunteers/workers and told them he needed to withdraw. They assess his physical condition (did he need immediate attention/an ambulance), and once they were sure he was OK, they put him in a vehicle. He thought he would be taken back to the University, the Marathon start and end point. Unfortunately, that is NOT what happened. He was dropped off at Mile 15, which was the closest relay exchange point. Now, there were supposed to be shuttle buses moving between the relay points. However, there were two problems with this:

1) Bruce waited for over half an hour, and talked to people who had been waiting for over an hour(!), and none of those people saw any sign of any buses.
2) The buses were running between the relay points – so even if he’d gotten ON a bus, he would have wound up back at mile 10! Then he would have had to either wait for another bus (which would have taken him to mile 6….), or found another way back to the University!

So, since he had a cell phone, Bruce called a taxi. Once he was picked up, he then had to go… home! Because dressed in running gear, on a race course where he expected to be able to exit with dignity, he had no cash and no credit cards! He didn’t even have ID.

After a cab ride home, Bruce then grabbed our second vehicle, drove to one of the shuttle parking locations, waited for a shuttle bus back to the University, and finally arrived back at the stadium… minutes after I had crossed the finish line. Very disappointing on so many levels.

My race experience was different. I had a good race. It was hot, but I paced myself, and I finished in 4:40:06. There were plenty of water stations, the course was nice, all in all, I was pleased, until the end.

After running 26.2 miles, for the first time, I was exhausted. I was ready to fall down. I was upright, and smiling, and not in need of medical, but… the post race area was a disaster. In previous years, the race ended by running around the last half of a 400m track, and full marathoners ran into the infield, which was reserved for them only. There they received special foods, massages, medical attention, etc. They were separate from the crowds of half marathoners, walkers, spectators, etc.

This year, everyone who crossed the line was directed to run past the oval (don’t forget to pick up your finisher’s t-shirt at the end!), negotiate through crowds of hundreds of people to attempt to find the food tents, weave in and out of runners, walkers, kids, dogs, strollers… it was chaos. I mean, I’m glad I didn’t need medical, I’m not sure I could have got to it! The adrenaline wore off about 50 metres after crossing the line, and I could hardly see straight, never mind walk straight. I would have killed to sit down, but there was no possibility of doing that anywhere.

I got lucky – I managed to grab a chocolate milk, found Bruce and my parents, and they got me on a shuttle bus to get back to the car to go home. I’m not sure how I would have done had I been running it alone as I have done several half marathons in the past. To say my post race experience was disappointing was an understatement.

And why am I choosing to post this piece now? Well, this week the Manitoba Marathon emailed me a survey. this is what the email read:

Good Afternoon Manitoba Marathon Participants!

With the New Year just around the corner preparations are already underway for the 2012 installment of the Manitoba Marathon. We are constantly looking at ways to improve our event, and as such we were hoping you could help us with a short participant survey.

Everyone who responds will be automatically entered into a draw for a prize pack from one of our fantastic sponsors!

Thank you for being a part of he 2011 Manitoba Marathon…and thank you in advance for helping us out with this important part of our planning process!

I thought I would finally have the opportunity to tell them what I thought could have been done better. Instead, the survey consisted of 6 questions about the marketing of the race. Can better marketing improve the race? Perhaps… but how can they improve the race if they aren’t aware of what went wrong? These questions will not tell them that.

So yes, I’m using my blog for a personal vent. I’m disappointed in the Manitoba Marathon. I’ve run lots of races. None of them are perfect. But lots of them have done a better job than this one.

Goals update:

Swimming lesson? Yes. Scheduling issues? A little. Tasks list? Not even close!

Goals for today:

1) 1 workout
2) Task list!
3) Go to see Breaking Dawn!

Goals for Thursday:

1) 1 workout
2) Prep 20 more Christmas packages for work
3) 1 blog post
4) Make 1 batch of Christmas baking

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6 Responses to A Few Comments on Our 2011 Manitoba Marathon Experience

  1. auntiekim says:

    Wow this really sounds horrible. This 5K Turkey Trot is the only organized event I’ve ever been to, so that’s the only thing I have to compare it to. Not sure if you saw my post but people were stopping as soon as they crossed the finish line and it very quickly backed up about 2 full minutes prior to the finish line. People were STOPPED. We all just got emails apologizing for the delay. Apparently this was hands down the largest turnout they’d ever had and they weren’t quite prepared. Yay, because it was for charity but there were some serious runners who were unhappy.

    I’m so sorry for your husband and the others who did not finish. That doesn’t sound well planned at all. I would have been furious. What’s a race pace bunny?? And do people normally walk as part of their marathon? This is all so new to me and I’m so fascinated by it all. Will you be running again this year? Is your husband ok now? And did you enjoy Bella’s wedding dress? I’m not into those movies but I saw the dress and she looked stunning!

    • Kris says:

      Yeah the whole organization thing was very disappointing. Bruce is fine now though. 🙂 And walking during the marathon is quite common – some people are dedicated run/walk folks – run 10 minutes, walk 1. Jeff Galoway is a famous runner/coach who advocates the method. A pace bunny is an experienced runner who is often provided by the race (our are volunteers provided by a local running store) who aim to lead their group to a certain finish time. So Bruce was running with the 4 hour pace bunny; they would have maintained a pace to finish the race in 4 hours. Pace bunnies are awesome – super helpful for pacing and motivation!

      The Turkey trot backup would definitely drive some serious runners crazy, but in a run like that, I would consider it a “fun run” type event – lots of people run those 5k races just for the fun and activity!

      I’m definitely running more in 2012 – I have the Disney Marathon on January 8, then I’m mostly doing half marathons in the spring. My planned goal race for the season is a half Ironman triathlon on July. Fingers crossed!

      And the dress was amazing – she looked beautiful! Even Bruce enjoyed the movie – there was a fair bit of action and fights scenes with the wolves.

      • auntiekim says:

        Well thanks for the education! I had no idea that people walked during marathons and I love this idea of a pace bunny. I didn’t realize Disney did a full marathon. I just heard about the half marathon at Disneyland a few months ago. Jim and I have made that our ultimate long term goal, but I don’t see a full marathon in the picture for us. But…who knows. Have fun. I love Disney!

        The people at the Turkey Trot who were mad were the 10K runners, but I agree…you should pretty much assume that this is a fun run and get in the spirit. I was really happy to hear the turnout was so much larger than last year!

        Have a good day!!

  2. Maren says:

    Hi there! I just found my way into your blog after the comment you left me! I love it! I will definitely be adding you to my blog roll and be returning. 🙂

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