Keeping it in Perspective


This has been an incredible year for racing and I've had the opportunity to participate in many events either as a director, timer, and sometimes participant.  As someone who spends a lot of time behind the scenes of events, I really appreciate the hard work and dedication of those people who take the risk, do the work, and conduct these events.  I can say without a doubt that every one of these people have a desire to have a fun and successful event.  Unfortunately that is not always the case.  If you've ever worked behind the scenes as a director or volunteer, then you know what I am talking about.  If you haven't then I would highly recommend that you do.  There are a lot of moving parts that all have to come together to make one of these events work.

I've often said that everyone should have to work in the service industry at least once in their life to fully appreciate how much work it is.  I would hope that having that background would foster a respect and courtesy when confronted with situations that are not always satisfactory.  I think for some though, having that background simply makes them feel entitled to complain even louder.  No one that I know has ever gone out to put on a bad race.  They always have the best of intentions and hope that it all works out.

As I mentioned earlier though, there are lots of moving parts.  There are so many things that can go wrong and any of them can affect one or more people in an event.  It can be a failed delivery or shortage of t-shirts as an example which can cause someone not to get the size that they wanted.  It could be one or more volunteers that don't show up which causes an issue at one or more of the water stations.  It might be that the person tasked with maintaining the runner database fails to enter all of the information correctly.  It could be failed equipment which causes timing issues.  The list goes on and on.  I've never been to an event that at least incident did not occur.

The issue is not whether these things will happen, but how do we respond to them.  You can always size up a person by how well they deal with adversity.  Most people I have found handle these gracefully.  They don't get the right shirt size and say okay.  If there's not enough water, or the timing is off, or their age is entered incorrectly, the course is short, the course is long, it's too hot, too cold, too hilly, too flat, blah, blah, blah, they simply smile and either shrug it off or politely work to get it resolved.  There are those few though that unfortunately can be a race director's worst nightmare.  I've seen adults throw temper tantrums like you wouldn't believe because their race packet was messed up.  Really??  Is it really that important?  I can't imagine how they would behave if it were something that were really important.

I felt compelled to say something about this now because I just recently talked to a race director who almost decided to get out of the business.  He's a great director and puts on some really good events.  The problem is that he has to put up with some really narcissistic and over the top people sometimes that take all of the fun out of it.  He told me that it's simply not worth the hassle.  Fortunately, he has decided to keep doing it for the majority of people that don't behave that way.  I've actually heard that sentiment from a lot of race directors and other organizers.  They have every good intention but the experience is just not fun.

For the majority of you that behave appropriately and deal with the issues that sometimes come up, I applaud you and thank you.  For those very few that make life difficult, shame on you.  I can only hope that you will remember why these events are put together and remember the cause that you are running for.  Please keep it in perspective and simply enjoy the event.

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