Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bastard of the Day

I generally don't bother reading the sports pages, but as a former marathoner, I've been following coverage of Sunday's Chicago Marathon fiasco. Ignorant bastard columnist Mike Downey seems to think he knows all about the marathon because he saw it on TV or something. He says marathoners should blame themselves for having the nerve to think they would be reasonably accommodated by a race organization to whom they paid $100 (IIRC) to race. This typifies Downey's ignorance of the event:

Nearly 10,000 of the people who filed entries for this 30th annual race were smart enough not to run it... Of the 45,000 who intended to take part in the city's marathon, only 35,867 actually showed up to run. The ones who did not showed good sense.
While it is true that nearly 10,000 registered runners did not participate, I am certain that a much smaller number based their decision on the weather. The Chicago Marathon is a very popular event, and as such, it reaches its registration limit early. How early? So early that this year, the event closed in April -- before runners even began training for it! (Most marathon training programs are 14 to 18 weeks.) Needless to say, a lot can happen between April and October. Some people lose their enthusiasm and decide not to even train for the race. Some people get injured along the way and cannot race. People move, people get busy with work, scheduling conflicts arise... Most of those 10,000 people knew long before the weather forecast that they wouldn't be at the starting line. Downey arrogantly declares that those people were wiser than everyone who lined up for the race on Sunday, though he knows nothing of their actual circumstances.

If the race organizers were short on water -- and I believe they were because I trust fellow runners more than I trust professional spinmeisters covering their butts -- then Downey has no basis for blaming the runners themselves. A race registration is a contract of sorts -- you pay your money with the expectation that the race organization will provide whatever is promised. If they say there will be water and Gatorade, then you should expect to get water and Gatorade. Otherwise, you may as well just run 26 miles on your own and save your money. Downey seems to think those expectations should go out the window just because it's hot.

Downey buys the race organization's spin that they procured 200,000 extra servings of water. Do the math. That works out to less than six extra servings per runner, and those cups are pretty small -- I'll say eight ounces to be generous. So the temperature was 15 degrees higher than normal, and they thought runners would only need an extra 40-48 ounces of water during four to six hours of running? (The organizers weakly claimed they didn't expect people to dump water on their heads -- yeah, because no one has ever seen that before.) One friend reported that he drank three gallons of fluids in order to finish on Sunday. Downey seems to think that by providing a few extra servings of water, the race organizers were off the hook. And, of course, that leaves only the runners to blame.

The marathon organization's attempts to shirk responsibility for what happened on Sunday make me sick. Downey's victim-blaming makes me sicker. Stick to team sports, you ignorant bastard.

For a better comment on the controversy, read Eric Zorn's blog.

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