For some people, racing is the reason they run*. For others, it is just a measuring stick to be pulled out intermittently and held against past efforts. Of course, there are many other reasons to race, but it is safe to say we all expect the same things from an event. The first being, a well-marked course. It is hard to get going without direction. Secondly, a well measured course. It does not necessarily have to be an exact 10K, as long as the race director makes it clear we will be traversing 6.4 miles. Third, uninterrupted. How would it be possible to measure true effort and speed when there are not supposed to be breaks?
That is the subject of this particular post. Is it ever appropriate to be forced to stop during a race? How would you feel about it? In a fun run, advertised and described (and charged) as such, I would take no offense to stopping at an intersection or two. The very term ‘fun run’ describes it as a casual affair and it should be approached as such. But there would be no complaining if it happened to be a very well-marked, professionally timed, speedy course with no obstructions. Those are my personal favorite kind of fun run.
It seems in the last couple years there has been a recurring problem of racers being stopped by trains. Thankfully, I have not experienced that in a race, because that would result in a Hulk-like rage leaving the surrounding area resembling Tokyo after the most recent visit from Godzilla. In a race where I was pacing my sister, we caught the tail end of a train and had to wait a couple of minutes. Even though she paused her watch, she was a bit peeved that the race effort was ruined.
When it comes to the big races (especially Portland) where I personally have to drive an hour or so to attend in the hopes of going up against some fast people, a decent amount of training can be focused on one event. It is hopeful that the training plus a perfect storm of competition, good course, agreeable weather, etc, will combine for the maximum output and a great time. A failure by the race director to ensure that the race course was in fact, clear and closed off for the event would definitely sour me towards that race and deter me from returning.
There has been a few occasions in other smaller races where the volunteers or police officers have failed to stop traffic, which is unsafe as well. In races where I see people standing at street crossings, I automatically assume they are there to ensure I can cross safely at my current speed. When running hard enough, or in the zone, there have been times where I was halfway through the intersection before I realized it was a bad idea. Usually when this occurs I will make a point to personally approach the race director afterwards and let them know when and where the incident happened and ask them to rectify the issue before the next event. Most of the time, it does not happen again, but if it does, there have been a couple of races I had to deem as unsafe and not return to.
Your turn now. Do you think there should be some leeway in regards to rail crossings? Should race directors always arrange to have the routes clear of cars, or at least yield to participants?
*Disclaimer: Regardless of pace, be it 6 or 12 minute miles, racing is determined by the runner, not a certain speed. It goes without saying that even the slowest jogger is faster than the person waiting for a train.