Because political strife is not enough here in jolly Wisconsin, we're adding war of the athletes to the mix. Last weekend, the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon was black-flagged two-and-a-half hours into the race because of excessive heat and unsafe conditions. The medical tents were getting overwhelmed with distressed runners. Sounds like a super good idea to continue on with the race, right?
In the day or two following that, the Madison Marathon began talks of a possible cancellation for this Sunday's marathon. Temperatures are expected to hit the mid-nineties. And in case you weren't aware, this is Wisconsin. WISCONSIN, where mid-nineties aren't likely until July. It takes some time to acclimate to that heat. Some can certainly do it just fine. Others, not so much.
People immediately began blasting the race organizers for even considering cancelling the race for heat. They were getting downright ugly. HOW DARE YOU CANCEL? I've been training! WHAT ABOUT MY MONEY? I've run in worse conditions before! THIS IS RIDICULOUS! People should know their own bodies! ME, ME, ME!
Anyone shocked that people are concerned with only themselves? Me neither.
Here's the thing: No one wants to make the unpopular decision. Do you really think the race directors are at home, laughing, rolling around in your money, and hanging your unused marathon medals from the rafters?
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
The popular arguments are this:
1. THIS IS BULLSHIT, I'VE RUN IN HOTTER CONDITIONS THAN THIS. To which I say: Good for you. Have fun.
2. THIS IS BULLSHIT, I KNOW MY OWN BODY AND RUNNERS SHOULD BE SMART ENOUGH TO RACE SMART AND NOT DIE. To which I say: Of course. I bet the firefighter who collapsed and died 500 yards from the Chicago Marathon finish line in October thought he knew his body, too. Also, the race organizers aren't making the decision based on YOU, they are making the decision based on THOUSANDS of you's. I know it's hard, but not everyone is as super smart and as elite of an athlete as you are. I bow to you.
3. THIS IS BULLSHIT, BRING IN MORE MEDICAL STAFF TO BE PREPARED! To which I say: Really? Bring in MORE medical staff to prepare for all of the extra people who are going to become distressed in the heat? Rather than avoid that altogether? ALSO! I know it sounds crazy, but Madison is an actual municipality with OTHER (gasp!) people living in it. Turns out, the entire population of Madison will not be running the marathon, where all of the medical attention would then be focused. So, if one of those silly "other" people needs medical help, THERE WILL BE NO ONE AROUND TO HELP THEM BECAUSE ALL OF THE MEDICS WILL BE OVERWHELMED WITH DOWNED RUNNERS, WHO WILL THEN BE OVERWHELMING THE AREA HEALTH FACILITIES. Which means your grandma will die when she has a heart attack on Sunday. Oopsie!
4. THIS IS BULLSHIT, TEXAS IS STILL RUNNING RACES IN THE HEAT! To which I say: Texas. Really? The two are so similar in regular, annual climate. TEXAS IS HOT IN DECEMBER, TOO. THIS IS NOT TEXAS.
5. THIS IS BULLSHIT, MAKE THE RACE EARLIER IN THE DAY! To which I say: You've clearly never handled the logistics of an event with thousands of participants, thousands of volunteers and a lot on the line. Know what? Neither have I, but I'm not a jerk, and I live in the real world, where you can't just snap your fingers and make everything exactly how you want it.
6: THIS IS BULLSHIT AND IS ALL ABOUT ME! To which I say: I hate you.
Honestly, I'm kind of disgusted with the reaction of people. Not everyone is elite, not everyone knows their bodies well enough, and even if they do, most of us are a stubborn bunch, physically, and we won't know we're in trouble until we are. The race organizers had to make an incredibly unpopular decision, and spent the week finding the right answer. Sure, maybe you're a superstar athlete, and maybe you'd be just fine, and you'd cross that finish line with a smirk on your face. But you know, this isn't just about you.
My heart hurts for the likely hundreds of runners who had dreams of crossing the finish line of their first marathon this weekend. They trained, they hurt, they paid money. Crossing that finish line is an amazing moment. AMAZING. Several of my friends are those people. There is no way to get over that disappointment. But you can take that disappointment and turn it into determination. There are always going to be marathons to be run. They will be strong, and that moment will be theirs when the time is right.
The Madison Marathon has a responsibility to this community, to itself and to the thousands of participants. They made the unpopular decision, and I respect them even more for it.
[steps off soapbox]