Mr James Lafferty, CEO of P & G Philippines immediately contacted me through my cellphone as soon as he read my post in this blog about the incident that happened to me during my run at the MILO 42K Elimination Race last Sunday and he asked me to publish his response about the said incident. He refreshed my memory by telling me that we briefly met in one of the road races in the past. Anyway, I gave him my word that I am going to publish his response immediately as soon as I receive it. And the following is his response:
My name is Jim Lafferty, and I am the “CEO” mentioned in today’s posts concerning volunteers at the Milo Marathon, and the P&G support team. I am presently in the midst of retiring as CEO of P&G Philippines, but I was a participant yesterday in the Milo Marathon with my 18 year old daughter, and have been a driving force in establishing running as a pillar of our corporate fitness program for our employees wellness. And, whilst I am not the world’s most talented runner by any means, I have completed over 25 different international marathons over the years, and my whole family is passionate about running. My wife has also completed 25+ marathons as well as multiple ultramarathons including 2x the Comrades in South Africa. And my 3 eldest children have all competed multiple marathons. I am also a physiologist, prior athletics coach and even today I volunteer coach at Ateneo. So like you sir, marathoning is in our blood!
There has clearly been a great deal of angst concerning the P&G support during the Milo Marathon, so I wanted to provide some perspective to shed further light on the reality of the situation..
- As running is a part of our corporate wellness program, we try to make it accessible to everyone, and not make it elitist in any shape or form. This means broad participation across a wide range of skill and experience levels. We had 104 employees running in the Milo marathon, far and away the largest contingent of the race. Nearly 75% of these were first-time marathoners, who were seeking solely to “finish” the race and without any pre-defined time goal.
- I have both a moral and fiduciary responsibility to look out for the best interests of my employees, particularly as many of them are beginner marathoners. As such an experienced runner as yourself would know, beginners can have a difficult time to manage fluid intake, particularly if a bit overweight and in humid climates such as Manila. The Milo team does a terrific job with the marathon, yet for beginners it is tough to manage the back half of the race with fluid stops every 5 KMs. If I take the world’s largest marathon, Chicago, which I have run 6 times, and which has a high % of first timers, they have fluid stations every 1.5-2.0 KMs for the express purpose of ensuring adequate fluid intake. And this is a race that is run in October each year in average temperatures of 11 degrees!.
- As such, as we choose to support local races in the Philippines, we chose Milo and we worked closely with the Milo folks, over the past 3 years, to gain authorization to place additional aid stations for our beginners. It is not to be “special” or the like—yet simply to ensure our beginners are being cared for as they are not as experienced as the rest of the field. And we do this under the full support and auspices of Milo organizing committee, months in advance.
- There is nothing uncommon about teams having their own aid stations or tents at races. None whatsoever and this is NOT a violation of any rules. I was just again in May at Comrades Marathon in South Africa, the world’s oldest, most prestigious, and largest ultramarathon on the planet with 13,000 runners doing the 90 KMs in 12 hours or less. There were 168 different teams competing, and most had their own aid stations along the route. In Chicago Marathon, there are specific aid stations every 20 meters, the Swiss Embassy has their own aid station for “swiss runners”, then the French, then the Chinese. Nearly every nationality and consulate has their own aid station. And this does not even factor in a husband or wife who stands by the side of the road holding a “goody bag” with a special drink or snack for a loved one. This is a common occurrence and no one should be upset at P&G supporting their runners. In fact, as an avid runner and coach, I applaud when people rise at 4 am to go and work a race and help and support people they care about!
- I suspect the crux of the issue is, if a non “team” runner approaches a team-specific aid station for help, should they get help? My answer is ABSOLUTELY YES and this was what we deployed to our volunteer staff in the days heading up to the Milo Marathon. And, I believe MANY non-P&G runners yesterday would attest to getting help from our aid crew. However, there were cases where we did not help, such as the cases noted in Baldrunner blog site, and for this, I must apologize as retiring head of P&G and as a fellow runner. Its not right and we made a mistake.
At the end of the day, leadership means accepting responsibility. It is unfair to place any blame on the Milo organizers. I can tell you the team at Nestle are world class, they care about putting on a good event, and they are dedicated to the sport and the country. They only wanted to help a large team from P&G, that’s all, to help expand the allure of running to more people. It is also unfair to blame a young employee, who was only trying to do what they felt was right and protect the interests of their fellow employees. The failure was one of a consistent communication message and I take responsibility for these isolated events. I am truly sorry, and I can assure you that this will not happen again.
I would ask that all of the devotees to the outstanding Baldrunner site please not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and allow this one incident to sour their views. Yes, in this case we made a mistake and we shall make amends for it in the future. But there is also much to celebrate. A company taking a lead with its employees to promote actively the great sport of running and a healthy lifestyle. Investing in health. And to many, many runners where we did indeed help.
Thank you and keep up the great work.
CEO, P&G Phils (Ret)
“100 Years from now, it won’t matter what my job title was, how much $ I earned, the size of my house, or if I drove a BMW. Yet, the world may be a different place because I was important in the life of a child”
I did not mention “CEO” in my post, however, it was mentioned by one of the commentors in this blog. Eventually, this will make a closure of the said incident with the hope that we should start initiating the act of “volunteerism” to our runners, most especially in marathon and longer distance races.
My sincerest thanks to Mr Lafferty for taking immediate action on the said incident. “Sir, your apology is accepted!”