This is what I call the Race Organizer’s Dilemma. What is more important, getting more money/profit for your Race or looking for the welfare of your runner-participants? It is a choice of making your Sponsors happy because of their exposure brought about by the event or satisfying the basic needs of your runner-participants so that they will get the worth they have paid for and they will keep coming back for the next edition of the race. In the early days of running during the late 70s and whole decade of the 80s, I could still remember that there was only “one guy” who orchestrated the planning, marketing and actual conduct of the marathon race. It was the RACE ORGANIZER!
Nowadays, during my meetings and consultations with Mr Adi De Los Reyes of E-Ventologists and during the media launching of the 1st QCIM, I found out that there are “two important big bosses” in our present marathon races which I observed also in the planning, preparation and conduct of the 1st Quezon City International Marathon and the SMART 2nd Subic International Marathon. These are the Race Event Manager and the Race Director. The Race Event Manager is responsible of looking for Sponsors and making some Contracts or arrangement with such Sponsors with the end-view of properly marketing the said Sponsor-Corporate entitiy to the public and to the runners. This is where the financial and services/product contribution or support will come in to make the Marathon Race a success. On the other hand, The Race Organizer is the one responsible in the conduct and implementation of the road race. He is responsible on the technical, administrative and logistical support to the race and to the runners & support personnel. This is where detailed plans and implementation on the appropriate volume of water supply needed for the race; the number of cups; the number of tables needed in Aid Stations, the number of Aid Stations, the number of Route Marshals needed and their placements along the route, the availability of timing devices, acceptance of registration forms and processing them; preparation of race bibs and other administrative matters. All the minute things and details in the conduct of the race are the things the Race Organizer should take care—plan and implement! These include, the results, the measurement of the course, and the implementation of rules and regulations that cover the conduct of the race. In short, the Race Event Manager looks for the money and makes sure that products of the Sponsors are well-exposed while the Race Organizer is the one who takes care and look for the welfare of the runners who paid their respective registration fee with the hope that they are treated well during the race.
During a particular major marathon race, the RUNNERS are the Kings and Queens on the Road!!! Depending on the distance of the Road Race, the runners actually “own the road” during the race. As a veteran runner, I consider the following basic components of a road race which most of the runners would like to be satisfied—(1) Hydration—provide Water Aid Station at the Starting Line/Finish Line and every 2.5 to 3 Kilometers of the route. Runners need a lot of water and water cups; (2) Accurate Distance—Do not conduct a Half-Marathon Race if the actual distance is 17+ Kilometers. Runners prepare or train for an specific distance in a Road Race. It could be a 3K, 5K, 10K, 10 Miles, 15K, 20K or Half-Marathon. If a race is not properly measured, the runner feels that he/she was shortchanged! (3) Digital Clock/Timing Device at The Finish Line & Race Results—Every runner competes with himself and with other runners. The finish time is the most important parameter that measures the performance of every runner. (4) Safety & Route Assistance—This is the reason why there are Route Marshals along the route. They are also on the road to make sure that the route is clear from any vehicles and provide protection to the runners. This includes also Medical & First Aid personnel who sees to it that proper medical attention must be given to runners with medical or health problem during the conduct of the race.
I really don’t care about the “freebies” being given by the Sponsors at the Finish Line! I only need the usual Certificate and/or Finisher’s Medal and a “cold” water or Sports Drinks after crossing the Finish Line! And if I win in any category, I would like to be awarded of my prize during the awarding ceremony and not after a day or days or a week after the road race! Finally, the race results should be published immediately.
With the conduct of the SMART 2nd Subic International Marathon on the other weekend, most of the runners to include myself complained about how the race was conducted. Almost all the complaints point to the responsibility of the Race Organizer. I wonder what Retired Chief Superintendent Samuel Tucay, the Race Organizer of the said event being the Father/Founder of the Subic International Marathon, is thinking right now on how to satisfy or “damage control” the angst and frustrations of the runners who competed in the Marathon Race and those who participated on the next day’s “side events”. Sam, my friend, we need an Official Statement from you!
The first person whom I gave my feedback about the Marathon Race after the Finish Line was Adi De Los Reyes, the one whom I’ve been meeting before the conduct of the race. He voluntarily explained to me the reasons why there were lack of water supply and other support needs for the runners as something went wrong on the “coordination” made between the SCTEX officials and to the security personnel of the highway as more supply of water and sports drinks were not allowed to enter the highway during the race. They got approval for the deployment of six (6) lighting domes but only two (2) were deployed during the race. Somebody forgot to place the Kilometer Markings along the route as these were prepared and available at the Registration Office at the back of the Remy Field. However, he could not explain to me why they lack the supposed number of water aid stations and how come the water tables were too short for 700+ runners. Despite my frustrations, I still congratulated Adi and the SMART Sports’ officials for coming up with a different concept of Marathon Race outside Metro Manila and for their corporate support in road running. Since I did not receive any cold Beer at the finish line, I decided to leave the Remy Field while the other runners were arriving and prepared for the next race the following morning, the ADIDAS King of the Road Half-Marathon at The Fort.
As I was leaving the Subic Freeport, I could still see lots of runners limping, walking, and slowly jogging along the route up to the Tipo Tollway Booth without any lights or illumination on the road. I was very luck that I was running among the first one-thirds of the runners that I was able to drink a cup or two of water in every water station and did not have any problem at all due to the support I got from my Support Team. I realized that the runners after me were not able to get the much-needed water supply in these water stations. Starting last Monday, I was already reading a lot of negative things about the conduct of the SIM from the runner-bloggers and from other runners.
Through more meetings with Adi and exchanges of e-mails with the officials of the SmartSports, I suggested to them that the Race Organizer must issue or publish an Official Statement in order to explain the reasons why there were so many complaints from most of the runners on the conduct of the Marathon Race. An apology and a promise of improving on the next edition of the race would suffice and dampen the angst and apprehensions of the runners.
Instead of an Official Response or Statement coming from the Race Organizer, I received the following e-mail from Mr Patrick “Pato” Gregorio, Head of the SMART Sports:
SMART SPORTS THANKS SIM 2009 RUNNERS AND ALL PARTNERS
At the outset, we at Smart Sports would like to extend our congratulations to all the runners, most especially to the marathoners of the recently concluded Subic International Marathon 2009. However, it has come to our attention the numerous comments of the participants of SIM 2009 regarding the technical aspect of the race and if there are shortcomings we will make it a point to discuss this with the race organizers. Rest assured to the running community that all these comments, feedbacks and suggestions are carefully being reviewed and will be kept as reference for other marathons Smart will be supporting.
Allow us to take this opportunity to share with the running community the reasons why Smart Sports decided to support SIM:
1. We are a sponsor. Much the same way we will be when we sponsor other marathons
2. We believe in the transformational advocacy of the Philippine National Police through its program director Ret. Gen. Sam Tucay and Chief PNP Jesus Verzosa
3. We realize that through SIM, we will be able to identify Filipino runners that can represent the country in international races. Kudos to the only 2 Filipinos (Hernanie Sore and Alquin Bolivar) to make it in the top ten who gave every ounce of willpower for flag and country
4. We simply want to promote a sport where hundreds and thousands of passionate Filipinos love
5. Sports tourism: to showcase the beauty of the Philippines. Particularly the beauty of SCTEX and Subic Bay
Since Smart Sports has committed to support Philippine marathon in the long run, we ask for the running community’s understanding and patience as Smart is very new to this. Smart has already pledged to support several international marathons for 2010 and we assure the running community that through partnerships with seasoned race organizers, we will make these marathons enjoyable and memorable which running enthusiasts (both local and foreign) can look forward to each year.
Smart – we’re helping sports… we’re helping running…
Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat!
Patrick “Pato” Gregorio
Head – Smart Sports
Thanks “Pato” for coming up with this Statement. There is no doubt that the running community appreciates the interest of SMART Communications in supporting the conduct of road races in the country in the coming years and beyond and possibly, in support to our Elite Runners/National Pool of Runners just like what you are doing to Basketball, Boxing, and Taekwando. We also know that your Chairman & President Manuel V Pangilinan (MVP) is requested by our Country’s Leadership to help and support for our Quest To Our First Gold Medal In The Olympic Games and your decision to promote and support running is the “right direction”.
However, this statement will not satisfy the “bad” experiences of most of the runners in a marathon event which is dubbed to be an “international” sports event and the “most prestigious marathon race in the country”. The running community needs an official statement from the Race Organizer as runners do not blame any Sponsor for a lackluster or “shabby” treatment to its runners and the poor conduct of a running event. Runners will always praise and commend Sponsors because they are the sources of the additional logistics for the runners and Cash Prizes for the Winners!
I personally endorsed (my first time to endorse a Marathon Race in this blogsite) this Marathon Race because of technical and personal reasons and I can safely say that I was able to influence a lot of the “newbies”, the competitive, and the “hardcore” ones to join this race because of its unique concept. Although I was not paid to do the endorsement and for those “consultations” with Adi De Los Reyes, I really wanted to help in promoting running in the country, of which I’ve been doing since I was designated as the Project Director of the DND-AFP Gintong Pangarap-Marathon in 2005.
I just hope that your “Boss” or MVP is getting the “true picture” of what really happened during the SMART 2nd Subic International Marathon. “Pato”, please tell him to browse the blog of the Bald Runner if he wants to know more about Running where he is investing his CSR activities in Sports Excellence. Better yet, it would be nice to bring the Bald Runner to the “Boss”/MVP.
So, we go back again to the basic question, as a Race Organizer, whom are you going to satisfy the most? The Sponsors that give you the money & additional logistics and advertise your event or The Runners that pay the Registration Fee? Road Racing is a Business Endeavor and that is a fact! If you want to take more profit out of the event, you can get as many Sponsors you can gather to support the event who will subsidize on your winners’ prizes; logistics like water, sports drinks, water cups, tables, tents; use or rent for timing clocks & results; race bibs & singlets; medals, certificates, and other “freebies”. Sponsors also maximizes the awareness and interest of the public to support the said event. On the other hand, the Race Organizer can also get as many registered runners as he can because more runners means more profit also! As the runner-participant registers to a road race and pays his registration fee, he/she is assured that he/she will have enough water & water cups during the race and assured of safety & medical attention while running along the road as he/she knows there will be marshals to protect and show the route of the race and medical team to assist in case of emergency incidents.
In Major Marathon Races dubbed as International Marathon Events, there is only “one and only one boss”. It is the Race Director or what we are known to call as the Race Organizer. So if a Race fucks up, it is the responsibility of the Race Organizer to explain to the runners the reason/s why things happened. That’s the plain and simple way of conducting a race!
Have you observe that most of the road races that fucked up last year and this year, the Race Organizer did not have the “balls” to explain to the runners why things happened with so many complaints from the runners? It was always the Sponsors who made such “statements” to explain this and that to the runners but you never heard a single statement of apology from the Race Organizers. You know who these people are.
It is about time to think and decide deliberately before you register to a road race which is advertised as an “international event” or being dubbed as the “most prestigious road race” in the country. Think before you compete in a road race.
Lastly, I am still waiting for the publication of the Official Race Results! Hopefully, the results will be published on SIM’s website by tomorrow, Tuesday, as promised by my friend, Adi.
(Note: Photos of 2009 SMART 2nd Subic International Marathon were taken from www.ceburunning.com)