View Full Version : Weather waivers
10-15-2007, 11:48 AM
With the deplorable weather conditions over the Oct 5-7 weekend in the midwest and east coasts, push has come to shove to put something in writing to help guide decision-making w/regards to safety. From time to time I've seen info on entry forms that say the race reserves the right to cancel a race if weather conditions are dire enough. Time has come to have that same info appear on all entry forms, soon.
The wording on forms can come from a local source or from a pool of science and sports med experts at USATF and would describe in brief the conditions that would cause alarm and possible cancellation. Bad weather can come during any season, thus the 'weather waiver' should appear on all forms. An educated runner is best and 'weather waivers' would put them on alert and provide protocol for race officials to follow in event of dangerous conditions. Making the tough call w/the conditions spelled out on the entry form would also go a long ways toward difusing angry runners who disagree w/cancellation or whatever change of plans are implemented.
I'd put the weather info in the body of the entry form and not in the waiver area where it could/would be easily overlooked.
10-15-2007, 02:26 PM
I like the idea but I don't think a national standard would be best. After all, what is viewed as dangerous in Atlanta might be the expected conditions for a January race up here in Milwaukee. Likewise, what is viewed as dangerous in Milwaukee might be typical conditions for Atlanta in August.
Also, what is dangerous for one person might not be for another. Many people, including several I know, handled the weather in Chicago just fine. They adjusted their goals to account for the conditions and had trained plenty hard through the summer heat to be prepared for covering the distance, even given the heat.
I like the idea I've seen at some stage relays. Green flag means all clear, yellow flag means be on alert for the weather and those who are especially succeptible should consider not running, red flag means there are potentially dangerous weather conditions and runners who are not well prepared for the conditions should consider not running, black flag (usually reserved for lightning but also sometimes for extreme heat or cold) means the race is cancelled. Anyone not on the course will not be allowed to enter the course and anyone on the course will be removed from the course and sent to shelter as soon as safely possible.
In my mind, Chicago would have started as a red flag day that might have turned into a black flag day as the heat got worse. However, your idea of making this a widespread standard would have left the runners focused on those red flags at the start and aware of the possibility of the race being black flagged. This might have lessened some of the complaints because the risk of cancellation would have been clearly expressed ahead of time.
10-15-2007, 08:28 PM
Making the tough call w/the conditions spelled out on the entry form would also go a long ways toward difusing angry runners who disagree w/cancellation or whatever change of plans are implemented.
This might limit the liability (somewhat), Scott, but it might not dampen the anger of "runners" who felt they were deprived of finishing their 26-mile run to glory. Honestly, gang, I am so sick of the runners who feel they need an apology (full-page headline in the Sun-Times) or who suggest that we all file a class-action law suit (letter to the editor in the Tribune). A pox on them all. Let's sue God for sending Katrina to New Orleans.
But I digress. Chicago had a contingency plan. I knew about it, because I had been in communication with Carey's exec, Mike Nishi. The medical director and Carey decided to execute it some time after the elites went through (significantly slower than they might have on a cool day), but most runners were not aware of it. Most didn't even remember that warnings to slow down were being issued almost constantly on the loudspeaker system before the race. A woman came by my booth at the Expo on Saturday. Her plans were to break 3 hours. I tried to talk her into waiting for another marathon, and although her husband behind her was nodding his head in agreement, she seemed to be in denial. I don't know if she followed my advice or not, but another woman bent on that same time came through the half in 1:31 and bailed out for another day.
But I continue to digress. If races have contingency plans, they probably need to make runners more aware of them. A quarter century or so ago, I was involved in the start-up of the Manitoba Marathon. They were trying to encourage a lot of non-runners into doing the race, and I recommended that they have designated Exit Gates at various points along the course: 12, 14, 16. You could plan in advance where you would exit, and as you did you received your medal or finisher certificate saying how far you went. I suspect MM failed to continue that practice after the first two years in which I was involved, but it's still not that bad an idea--if you have planned ahead for it.
Why not have a designated short-distance and make runners aware that if temperatures peak, they can grab their DNF with honor? Design a certified 26.2 kilometer course and at some point pull the barricades across the street and tell runners that, okay, you're going this way.
Part of the problem was that the fact that the race was stopped was communicated irregularly to those still running. Volunteers, cops, a helicopter overhead, fellow runners. Some bailed out; some kept running. The last finisher (got her picture in the papers) was a woman who dodged all the cops and finished in 7 hours. Good for her, but the demographics of the marathon have changed more in the last half dozen years than we have been willing to recognize. It's not income; it's how fast you finish, running or walking. The slow runners--and I'm not trying to put them down--have created problems that we need to learn how to solve if we plan to continue to include them.
Like the guy with the mirrored sunglasses said in Cool Hand Luke, "what we have here is a failure to communicate." But that's only part of the problem.
I have heard that Twin Cities Marathon, held the same day as Chicago, not as hot but very humid, came w/in a few degrees of cancelling the race. Sounds like they had some kind of decision-making protocol in place before the race.
10-17-2007, 02:59 AM
What you are saying is that transparency and communication are important.
Maybe the first move is for people to post in this forum what their protocol is for making the decision to pull the emergency cord and cancel the race.
How do you make that decision?
Who is involved in making that call?
Do you do it by the seat of your pants or do you have a written set of criteria that trigger the call?
What are the values or factors that trigger the call?
Do you have more than one level of response?
Do you intend to wait for the top runners and age group winners to finish before closing down the course?
Is it just the tail of the race you will cut off?
What risks do you consider more server and what are less? For example heat or lightning?
I would very much like to see the written plans of others. I don't care if it's just sketched out on the back of a napkin. What I am interested in is what factors you consider, how you reach the decision. I am also interested if others have more than one level of response you may deploy.
10-17-2007, 08:22 AM
Here is what is on the Rockville Twilighter 8K (Rockville, MD) web site about heat conditions-the race is held the 3rd Saturday evening in July at 8:45pm. The race usually has about 2,000 runners registered.
The race uses black flag conditions to determine the status of the race. In 22years the race was turned into a fun run only once. It is one of the hottest times of the year in the Washington, D.C. area. The year it was cancelled the weather was horrendous--temps were in the 90s that night with extremely high humidity. And yet, some runners complained it was turned into a fun run. But most agreed with the RD's decision. Some years we have had to transport as many as a dozen runners to the hospital with many more in the medical tent getting IVs.
Typically, the conditions during this race are very hot and humid. There is a danger of heat-related injury or even death. You should not enter or attempt to run in this race unless you are properly trained for hot and humid conditions. Please read and understand this safety warning. More detailed, educational information will be provided in each runner's packet. These instructions and other announcements should be followed by all runners:
Emergency Contact Information
The back of your runner number bib will have a place for you to write in the name and phone number of a race night emergency contact. Please be sure to fill in this information!
Water and Medical Aid
Water and medical aid will be available at several points on the course. Emergency radio operators will be positioned at every half mile along the course. We encourage you to take water at each aid station. If you experience any physical difficulties, please do not hesitate to seek assistance at an aid station or by notifying a course marshal or radio operator.
Extreme Weather Plan
In the event of extreme weather conditions, the race committee reserves the right to cancel the race or run it as an untimed "Fun Run" without advance notice. If this should be necessary:
* Runners will receive shirts and packets.
* Festival activities will be held.
* Random prizes will be announced.
* Winners' cash will be converted to random prizes.
* No entry-fee refunds will be made.
The final decision regarding the conduct of the race will be made between 8:00 and 8:30 on Saturday night and will be announced over the race public address system.
10-17-2007, 08:48 AM
Races such as this probably need the more extravagant plan but here's one from a 190 mile relay I was a participant at in June (note, this is long): Great Midwest Relay race handbook (weather plan on pages 17-19) (http://www.greatmidwestrelay.com/uploads/media/RACE_HANDBOOK_2006__081605.pdf)
11-04-2007, 05:13 PM
Thanks Hillrunr, that was useful verbage. A good set of race directions. So few have them.
Maybe we can get a standard color code to heat index, i.e. Orange allways means xxx and Red = yyy.
That way people could know before hand what temps they were comfortable with. Aid stations or water stops could display a color coded flag or board, just like they do on the life guard stations at the beach.
As the temp rises the colors would change. Runners would, a) be visually warned of rising temps, b) have some frame of reference, c) not be surprised if the race is canceled when they see the color code progressing from yellow, to orange, to red and then black.
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