Welp, The First Marathon Of My New Project Was Cancelled… – Part 1 (Trying To Get Out Of DC)

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Clearwater cancellationOriginally, this was supposed to be a multi-part series, but it’s just not all that important, so I’m gonna just make it one loooong post that you can read if you happen to feel like it (but it’s not all that important).

So, the women’s march was insanely ridiculously unbelievably crowded. And it was really hard to weave our way through the crowd back to Fareed’s house – but we did.

I basically had enough time to pee and grab my bag and get out – because I had to catch my flight.

By the time we got back to his place, there was basically no room for error.

Taking public transport was gonna take too long. Phones weren’t working quite as well, I think, because of the incredible amount of people overrunning DC all using their phones at once.

So, I couldn’t even get my uber app to open. So, I tried Lyft. And because of the giant(!) (GIANT!) surge prices, it was going to be $200(!) to get to the airport.

It was going to cost me more to get to the airport than it was to fly from DC to Tampa. (Eeesh.)

But at that point, I really had no other options. It was very cute because Fareed and friends went into overdrive googling and trying other apps, seeing if we could call a cab, all of that. And we couldn’t get ahold of a cab company. It was too late for a Super Shuttle. I was out of options.

And at that point, even though I did not want to spend that money, I’d already registered for the marathon, and booked the hotel, and bought some plane tickets.

Actually, because it was a pretty inexpensive trip (and my outbound plane ticket could be changed, because it was Southwest…), and because I knew I had room in the schedule for other races later… I almost just gave up and stayed in DC and called it a day.

But no.

I didn’t want my second race weekend into the project to be me procrastinating. I know how hard this year is gonna be. And this is a full marathon. So, I need to get these miles in…

Well…

I get to the airport just baaaaaaarely in time. In fact, not even in time. Because I feel like a total jerk weaving through all these lovely people in pink hats at security. “Hi! I’m so sorry! It was so hard getting through the march. I have 25 minutes ’til my plane leaves. Could I pretty please cut?” And everyone was so so so sweet about it. (Of course everyone was in a fantastic giving mood after such a lovely heartening day.)

And I know that I always let the people in a rush go through. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I still felt bad doing it. But I did. Because I had to. And thankfully people allowed it.

And I made it in time.

Then I got on the plane.

And there happened to be a woman on my flight who was already sitting (which I was in the backed up line in the aisle) who was doing the race! And she told me she heard a rumor it might have been cancelled.

What?! I wondered. We didn’t really get a chance to go into it because the line started moving and I moved forward away from her seat.

So, I checked my emails to see if I’d been alerted. Nope. Checked the official race website to see if there was any notice on that. Nope. I even gave twitter a quick check. Nothing there either.

Okay then. Well, it’s almost certainly not cancelled then, right?

I know sometimes rumors get slightly out of hand and spread a little. And runners can get nervous sometimes. (After all, we train and pay to do these races, and make plans that surround them, and tell our friends and families.)… So, anything that threatens the weekend we had planned doesn’t feel so super great.

So, I think a rumor has just spread. But it’s gotta be fine…

medal still wrapped upI hope.

I sleep through the flight. Get to the airport and then book it on down to the hotel. (I wanted to get there as fast as possible, because I just wanted as much sweet sweet sleep before the race as I could get.)

And when I checked in, the front desk clerk told me, “You know the race is cancelled, right?”

WHAT?!

I ended up running into some runners in the lobbies. Everybody was upset. One woman even checked out and just left for the airport – even knowing she couldn’t get another flight for like 6 hours, at least. “I just don’t want to be here anymore.” And she left.

It was fun to commiserate, at least. And since we didn’t have to be up early, a bunch of us stayed up pretty late.

Once I got to my room, I took a little looksie on Facebook to see if anybody was talking about everything.

I was going to try to write out here how I felt or how that conversation went… It’s so much easier to just post the screenshots.

FB post 1FB post 2FB post 3FB post 4I didn’t really super want to get my shirt and medal for this race, because what in the world am I going to do with it?

But, I was already all the way there in Florida within walking distance of the start. I might as well go down there and grab my stuff – especially since I was still up at 5:30am after all the all-night complaining/commiserating haha.

Now, a smart person would’ve immediately corrected course and figured out the race within a two-hour radius that day and done that one.

And someone did point out that race on Facebook. And I started to look into it a little. But I was tired and didn’t know the easiest way to go so far – seemed too expensive to take a rideshare vehicle. And I was so tired, I didn’t think it would’ve been super safe for me to get get a car and drive it. And on and on and on. Blah blah blah – stuff that could’ve been figured out, but I didn’t.

Instead, I went down and got my packet, and talked with the man from the Facebook comments.

He was nicer in real life. (Of course. People usually are.) But he still held his ground a bit.

He kept explaining that there wasn’t time to send an email until many, many hours later because
a) He had to order and pickup the sign for the expo.
b) Packet pick-up was so swamped that they didn’t have the time during those hours.

…But here are my two issues.

  1. Who cares about printing a sign? Having a sign printed, I feel, is one of the least of your worries. Write something huge in sharpie if you need to. If the sign is keeping you from sending an email – an email is so much more important.
  2. Packet pick-up is now a moot thing. There’s not even a reason to have it anymore. My feeling was that if people had actually known the race was cancelled that I would assume only half or even fewer people would actually show up. (Because why would they?)

Basically, we just had very differing views of the situation. His view was that he was trying to problem solve as fast as possible, and to him the way to problem solve was to turn the race into a “virtual race.”

It sounded like he made the assumption everyone would still want to do it – they’d still want their shirt and medal and would just do the mileage on their own.

I mean, okay. I guess I kinda sorta see that, maybe. But I’m not paying tons of money to fly to Florida just to get a medal for a virtual race. That seems very silly and kind of defeats the purpose of a virtual race…

Also, as he re-explained to me how a bunch of people who do most (or all) of his races are his Facebook friends, and that word spread quickly among the Florida crowd.

And that’s when I tried to slow down, and still be nice, and just say calmly that I really believed him that word probably did get out quickly in Clearwater. But the people who most needed to know as quickly as possible were the out-of-towners (because they have more plans to potentially change).

Aaaaaanyway, even when I said how the email would’ve helped the people who needed it most, he just told me that he bet I was one of only a few people – and that most people who traveled probably came on Friday. (The race was on Sunday.)

And I said that of course I don’t work for the city or the race. So, I don’t have the data to back this up, but anecdotally, at my hotel, there were numerous people I’d met who’d left for Clearwater after 11:30am (the time he knew of the cancellation).

And he still didn’t really care. No matter what, he was right.

So, we just have difference of opinion on which I guess we just can’t meet in the middle.

I stand firm that based on all races I’ve ever done, email is used as the main communication form. (I set up an entire email address that I just use for race registrations because I know how many katrillions of times they email you.)

I’ve had races cancel before. I’ve had races move the start times because of weather advisories. And do you know what’s happened every single time? I’ve gotten an email. (Or 2. Or 5…. Sometimes they reeeeeally wanna drive it home.)

Anyway…. I was accidentally about to re-lay-out my points here. But you’ve heard them. I think you get the gist.

So, I dunno. The point is, it was a bummer. I could’ve been with my friends in DC, not rushing off, not wasting money. But alas, I was not.

I do always adore any chance to sleep in a hotel bed, though. And I looooved the amazing breakfast at my dope hotel. (Residence Inn for the win.)

p.s. What did I ultimately do with the medal and stuff? Well… here’s “part 3” (if they were separated out):

Some people decided to do their mileage that morning to “earn” their medal. (Quotes because that’s how people have been phrasing it – not because I’m making a value judgement on whether that’s real or not.)

This was actually a gigantic point of contention with this year’s Dopey Challenge. I wasn’t there, but I read about it. The half marathon was cancelled. So, some people went out and ran 13.1 miles in the middle of their multi-day running adventure, because they wanted to feel they earned their Dopey medals…

And there was soooo much back and forth on running message boards.

Some people were like, “Disney gave me no choice! They cancelled it. And I still wanted to finish. Therefore I went and did it on my own. And I’m counting myself as a Dopey finisher because I did the mileage – even at the location – on the day I was supposed to. That’s gotta be enough.” (I’m inclined to agree with them…)

But then others chimed in. “So you ran around 13 miles? Even with a group of people, that’s a training run, my friend. Races are races for a reason. There’s adrenaline. There’s order. You can’t count every time you run a half or marathon distance as doing a race. That’s ridiculous.”

And I can see that side too.

To me, there was no magical consensus as to the “right” answer. People are choosing to view it however they want.

But because there is so much controversy around the idea of counting it, I chose not to run 26.2 in Clearwater by myself and count it as a marathon.

I do not begrudge or judge the people who do. Again, I’m more in that camp than the other one.

But because I’m doing a gigantic project (and it’s for charity), I don’t want anything that happens to have an asterisk next to it of any reason why it maybe wouldn’t be counted as actually real.

For me, I thought that day could be better used to catch up on sleep – which is what I did.

As far as the t-shirt and medal, my best guess is that I’m going to give it to charity – unless I decide to display it anyway (in however I display all the medals for the 882 project) for the memory of the race that wasn’t.

I’m sorry to get so worked up about arguing and social media here. But they did one more Facebook post.

One of the things said in there is: “Soon after, I started seeing posts on Facebook wondering why they hadn’t received email notification earlier, as if to suggest we were hiding from our athletes, or not being open to them in making our announcements. Some complained right here on Facebook that the “only” word they heard was through Facebook, leaving me to wonder, “wasn’t that enough?””

I don’t want to act like the whole world revolves around me, but I feel a little bit like I’m being sub-Facebooked there… And if I happen to be in the group of people he’s talking about, I certainly wasn’t meaning to suggest he was hiding anything. I’m just saying, I feel like I’m allowed to be upset that an email and website update wasn’t done in a timely fashion.

And the whole “if they’re saying it on Facebook, then they’re reading Facebook” thing… I can’t speak for everyone else, but I was on Facebook because I’d already checked my email and the website and twitter. And heard nothing. And when someone who worked for the hotel and a runner in the lobby said the race was cancelled, I went to one of the only sources I had left. And in answer to the question, no. Of course Facebook isn’t enough. You can’t assume people are on FB all the time, or even that they will see all of their notifications. You can’t assume everyone even has FB. (Someone in my hotel didn’t.)

Just, this idea that there were so many runners to deal with that they didn’t have time for the email… It just makes me think, “You’re not dealing with the real underlying problem that will help you not have people confused over and over…. If you had a big cut in your arm and blood was pouring down, you wouldn’t constantly keep wiping up the blood that was falling onto your forearm (or kitchen floor or whatever). You’d bandage up the source. You’d stop the bleeding. Then you’d clean up. (Otherwise, where are you getting?)

Also, the other place I feel potentially sub-Facebooked is here. “My only regret in how I handled this difficult situation is that I responded to a small handful of overly negative posts and emails, when I was extremely upset after being called a fraud in an email remark.”

I mean, I know it absolutely might not be about me, of course. But it feels a little like it is since I got such a big response. You read the literal exact screenshots of the exchange. Did I come off as rude? You can tell me if I did.

I wasted hundreds of dollars for no reason. I’m *not* mad at them because the city forced them to cancel their race. Their hands were tied. How could I be mad about that? I’m mad that they had information for over 9 hours the day before the race without sending an email about it (the easiest way to make sure everyone would know). I’m upset that my flight didn’t leave until after 6pm. There was ample time for me to find out and not have to go. (And I was not the only person with a story like this.)

And I believe I have a legitimate right to be made about that. But again, please tell me if you think I’m being unreasonable.

I just personally don’t think it has to be an “us against our mean customers” thing. Just an apology for mishandling the situation would’ve made me feel approximately 1,000 times better than just continuing to defend something that could’ve been done better.

And then there’s a big string of contents just totally defending this place. It is totally taking way too much self control (which might not last forever) to not go on there and trying to give a piece of my mind – especially to the person who said, “In this day and age who would register and not follow your social media? It happens!! Get over it! Hurricane Matthew caused cancellation of vero beach in Oct. we are alive…we will live to run again!

Because I just want to explain, “We’re not upset about the weather! We’re upset about ruined weekends and lost money – that didn’t have to be lost. That’s the big part. Had the race found out at 9pm, and we were all already there. Okay. What else could they have done? But that wasn’t the case. They knew for more than a full workday and couldn’t write an email…

I also think it’s such a silly thing to say, “Who would register and not follow your social media”? Um, lots of people. Think of all the people who do over 100 races in a year. Do you think they follow every race? Do you think even if they do that they get every notification? What, people are supposed to live on Facebook? That’s what twitter’s for. 😉

And so I’m trying not to go respond on Facebook because I know it probably won’t lead to anything good or people so staunch in their “Facbeook was enough!” view to see things a different way… But then if I only talk about it here, am I now the one sub-blogging, I suppose?

Aye aye aye aye aye.

Also, I do just want to throw one little note in here that as much as I’m annoyed that I don’t feel like I’m hearing the “voice of reason” or whatever in the comments of that thread, I still am happy the race has people to back them up. I mean, I’d love some admission they could’ve done better. But I am happy the people who run it seem to have a strong support system in the middle of them feeling attacked (whether we meant to “attack” them or not).

Anyway, if you have opinions on this, I’d love to hear. And if not, that’s cool too! Have a great night! The end 🙂

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?