Monday, May 19, 2014

Experiences from a Cleveland Marathon Water stop

Yesterday, while enjoying a post race Summer Shandy.  I was surfing the inter webs and came across this post.  After my race yesterday, I volunteered for the rest of the day at a water stop.  What's written below mimics my experiences that I had yesterday afternoon.  So, I wanted to share it with all of you as it contains some excellent points on what was happening yesterday at the Cleveland Marathon.

To Whom It May Concern: 

I am a runner.  I have run marathons, 5K's, and everything in between.  Today I volunteered to help at the last water stop of your marathon.  I cannot tell you how important that last water stop is to marathoners.  Many times I have had volunteers hand me a beer to get me through my last mile, I've had people run with me for a while to keep pace through the last mile, I've had volunteers cheer me on with rowdy behavior and cowbells.  This is the most important part of the "marathon experience".  Period. Our group volunteers to work the last water stop every year.  We understand the importance of this stop, because we are runners.  We pace the elite to hand out water, we encourage people with our, sometimes, crazy behavior, we ring cowbells, we run with those that are having trouble finishing, and we have camaraderie with those that are running.  We are runners. Today, I witnessed what can only be called a gigantic train wreck at the last water stop.
First of all with the course changing this year, we were no longer placed at mile 25.  We were back closer to mile 24.  This is completely unacceptable at a marathon.  The last water stop 2 miles out, and the remainder of the course was uphill.  I am unsure if this was totally poor planning, or if our tables were dropped at the wrong location.
Our group was paired with another group, running the mile 11 half marathon water stop.  This group was not runners.  Here's a list of what I witnessed this group do today: Mixing Powerade with bare hands.  Yep, nothing but a hand all the way in the Powerade bucket.  One gentleman was smoking a cigarette over the water table.  Their volunteers were holding cups with their fists, or with fingers in them.  Several times, I witnessed cups fall to the ground, and they were picked up and reused.  The Powerade that was being poured was incredibly diluted, and in fact I actually heard one gentleman say, as he was filling up cups on the marathon side, "We're running low on Powerade. Just dilute it."  I corrected him, and the response I received was that he was told to do it by the head volunteer. Surely somewhere it is in the volunteer handbook it clearly states that diluting Powerade/Gatorade is quite simply, incredibly dangerous, especially if today would have been hotter.
The half marathon volunteers used all of the trash bags, when our group went to clean up, we could only rake cups into a pile, and had to wait until the very end to finally get trash bags.  (Even though they had been requested several times.)  Having the shoreline open during a race was ridiculous.  There were runners, running in the lane that was open.  Clearly no one explained to them that this lane had moving traffic in it.  Oh, and it's totally unsafe.  Once the half marathon side opened for traffic, volunteers were having to dodge traffic to get to the other side in order to  fill up water buckets, get more cups, and to move tables.  At ten minutes until 1, the gentleman came around to collect the porta potties.  Isn't the course open for 7 hours?  There are quite a few marathoners coming through still, and there are still volunteers and spectators.  He told me that he was told to remove porta potties at 1.  On the marathon course too?  Well, that's nice.  Let's remove the porta potty the last 1.5 miles.  I requested he leave it, which he did, and then witnessed volunteers and runners continue to use it until course was wrapped up.  
All and all, my day today was amazing!  I paced some of the most elite athletes in the World to hand them water.  I ran with a buddy on his way to a PR.  I ran a mile with a young man who was running his first marathon, and was about to walk the rest of the way, and kill his shot at a 3.5 hour marathon. I didn't know him, but watched him as far as I could and he ran.  HE RAN!  I watched the children at my water stop give hugs; hugs to sweaty runners that needed them.  I ran a mile with a lady who was about to give up.  She didn't.  That's what today was about.  Encouraging others to accomplish a goal.  A goal they have trained for.  A goal they have dedicated themselves to.  A goal they have sacrificed for.  A goal WE have cried, bled, and sweat through.  
Get it together Cleveland.  It's about the runners.  Not about not having enough Powerade, how soon you can take up the porta potties, or how quickly you can open up the shoreline.  It's about them.  Get it together Cleveland..........


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this honest review. I ran the marathon. Overall, it was a great experience. There were many wonderful runners, volunteers and spectators, but you're right. That last water stop was placed too far out, served diluted power aide and was placed in dangerous conditions for runners and volunteers. I couldn't believe how fast some of the vehicles were going through that area … just feet and in one case inches from volunteers. I had to yell several times to a fellow runner who was wearing headphones and unknowingly running in the open lane through a blind curve. Thankfully he moved before a zooming car passed through.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only stop where volunteers had fingers deep into the cups. I know juggling hundreds upon hundreds of cups at a fast pace can be challenging. Things are going to happen, but it can be off-putting. Most water stops were run very well. A couple not so much. I was really impressed with a non-cleveland marathon group handing out oranges. A clean operation complete with rubber gloves.

Beal, thanks for speaking out and sharing your ongoing training efforts. It takes a lot to throw it all out there.

Anonymous said...

I had a great day running the race yesterday as well. I love that the volunteers give of their time but... it's also important to hear the constructive criticism being offered and I would certainly hope the powers that be listen and take heed. The comments about folks being real close to traffic is quite alarming, especially that far into a race where folks are operating at less than their full capacity.

Holly said...

One of my major complaints during the 2012 half was over the water stations. Perhaps there is an issue with training the volunteers? People can get sick from this. And it happened at that RNR Vegas race a few years ago. I would have to see that here.

Katie said...

Thank you for posting this! I ran the 10K in Cleveland and experienced similar things.

I work for another large Northeast Ohio marathon and I manage our fluids stations. I will be sharing this article with our fluid station volunteers so they can better understand the importance of the training we give them for the fluid stations.

Thank you for your insight!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I'm Lindsey! I have a question and would love to speak with you. Please email me when you have a moment- thanks so much! Looking forward to hearing from you :)