Going With the Flow When Things Go Wrong in a Local 5K/10K Race

My very first 5K race was on June 6, 1993 (yes, I know the date because I've updated an Excel spreadsheet of my running mileage and races going back to my first "official" day of running on May 5, 1993) and for years I was pretty serious about most of my races.

If you pay your $30 for a local race, you're usually supporting a local charity or cause, but with that there's some expectation that 1) the course will be accurately measured, 2) your time and place will be accurately reported and 3) there's a reasonable level of logistical effort placed into the race, including adequate course supervision, signage, available fluids, etc.

In the early days of my running, all this stuff was a really big deal. I'd be royally annoyed, particularly if the course was not accurate. Actually, I still get annoyed at that. No one should be hosting a race if they can't measure the course correctly as most of like to compare the time on the course to previous races.

But overall, today it isn't quite as big of a deal for me if something goes wrong at a local 5K/10K race. I'm not as serious about my training and racing, so when things go awry, I don't cry :> Case in point was this morning's 10K at Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley. A friend of mine asked me this week if I wanted to run the race to support a breast cancer screening facility. My family being out of town, I said sure, knowing full well I'm not well trained to run a fast 10K.

There was a 5K and 10K, with the 5K starting 10 minutes before the 10K. I found it odd that our race bib numbers did not distinguish which distance we were running. It was basically left up to the timekeeping system to track who started the 5K at 8 a.m. and who started the 10K at 8:10 a.m.

Boy it was a hot day today. Low 80s at the start of the race. Today I was running for survival, not for speed. Heat is not my friend. 'Twas a sweatfest indeed out there. But it was fun...finishing! My time was 40:30, about a 6 1/2 minute per mile pace, which is exactly what I expected to run. The course was almost pancake flat but with the high temps I knew breaking under 40 minutes would be a challenge. The last time I ran the 10K distance was over 2 years ago, in just over 39 minutes.

So I was happy with my time, and, surprisingly, I finished 2nd place overall. There were 2 guys in front of me for a long time, but apparently the first place guy took a wrong turn somewhere. Thanks dude! I finished 3 1/2 minutes behind the winner, who lives in Palmdale (heck he must be used to temps in the 90s and 100s!) and is 17 years my junior.

But back to my original point...things can and do go wrong. Sure enough, they posted the results of the 10K and I was nowhere to be found. Others who also knew they placed well were also not on the list. Sure enough, many 10Kers were timed as if we ran the 5K. So instead of a 40 minute 10K, I was on the 5K results with a time of 52 minutes.

Fortunately the timers were receptive to resolving the issue and made sure to make appropriate corrections. But it didn't happen until after the event MC announced the incorrect race results. Knowing that the 10K results were way off, I approached him and very nicely let him know they the results were quite wrong and that the timers were making corrections. He pretty much ignored me and said this (the sheet he was holding) is what was given to him. Would have been nice for him to at least ask someone, but he went on and announced the "winners" and handed out the awards to many of the wrong people.

In my younger days I would have complained and bitched and moaned. Today I just laughed about it. There were others that were kind of annoyed about things, like why they only give medals to the top 3 in each age group (she thought it was top 5), etc. But it was so hot out there that most people moved on to the rest of their day.

Bottom line: Most of us run local races for fun and camaraderie. So when things go a bit wrong, as things quite often do in these local races, stay cool!