Monday, 20 July 2015

This Girl Can't part 3 - another open letter to Hull Marathon

Dear Mr Haskins,

Thanks for your prompt response to my open letter, I was really encouraged to read it. I did Tweet you the link too, but I'm glad Liz Edgar's message got your attention.

It's clear to me that we have a lot of common ground; we are both passionate about running as a sport and about the Hull Marathon becoming a brilliant event. It's a real opportunity to showcase Hull, isn't it? Let me reassure you that my ONLY motivation is to maximise participation.

I am glad you raise the point about the Hull Marathon being a new and unprecedented event; this is exactly why I have spoken out at this point. You have the power to make whatever changes you wish before people start thinking "well no-one raised this before, so it's not really a problem." As a slower runner, I can see that some of your procedures and policies do make the event, as it is planned, inequitable. I'm reassured to read that your are committed to include all runners regardless of ability. I hope we can find a solution together.

Other cities host marathons with 8 hour cut offs (including London) so it is evidently not impossible. I challenge you and your team to find a creative solution that makes the Hull Marathon become the festival of running it truly could be. Afterall, 1% of the general population complete a marathon in their lifetime. What a shame if, having become one of those 1%, you can't run in your own, local marathon because they deem you too slow. You mention that residents may be unhappy about road closures; I suspect that they'd find it incomprehensible that, if the city roads are shut down, some willing and able marathoners would be excluded from the event, especially those with pluck and balls.

I have two main points in response to your letter.

1) Your information is contradictory. You say I will be able to complete the marathon and be received at the end, and given an official time, medal and t shirt. Brilliant, thank you. Can you confirm that *all* of the course will be open to me? Your runner information states that, if I am asked to leave the race because it looks as though I won't meet the six hour cut off (Pedestrian Status, as your website calls it) "at this point some parts of the course may be closed to public access." This reads to me that you can't guarantee that all of the course will be open to me to run in.  Will it be? If not, I respectfully suggest that it doesn't matter what happens at the end, because I'm not going to be allowed to get to that point.

It's important you clarify this to me, the other slower runners who may well not be aware of the 6 hr cut off, and any marshalls who may interpret the rules rather more aggressively on the day. You need to be aware that, with the website as it is - still accepting estimated marathon completion times of between 6 and 7+ hours and no mention of the cut off on the Ts and Cs - there are going to runners who have already signed up, who have no idea that they may be disqualified mid race.

Assuming just 1% of the 4000 places will take longer than 6 hours to complete (and it could be much higher) that's 40 people, running at the same sort of pace, who will feel utterly humiliated at being told they can no longer run. 40 angry people who have already run ?15 ?20 ?22 miles, who find that part of the course has been shut. That's a lot of angry runners all at once, in one place. And they'd have every right to be furious;

A) being disqualified mid race is humiliating. Slow runners deserve the same respect and dignity as the elite.

B) Slow runners invest their time, energy and money into training for your race. I paid for my place in December, I've already been training for 18 weeks. That's 18 weeks of childcare, 18 weeks of blood sweat and tears. 18 weeks of belief and self doubt. Countless hours gaining sponsorship, hours away from children, hours asking relatives and friends to accommodate your training.

If we take a brief breakdown of just the financial costs -

Entry fee - £35
New running shoes - £120
New Sports bra - £32
Childcare (average of 5 hrs a week for 18 weeks @ minimum wage) - £585
Sports gels / nutrition for long runs and the race, etc - £50 approx
Overnight stay before race - £100
Transport to race - £50

You're probably looking at around a financial investment of around £1,000 per runner just to get to the start line. You can see why people might be cross.

Can you guarantee me that, at the point I am disqualified - or made to take on Pedestrian Status - I will be able to cross the finish line?

Because if you can, I'm in.

Although I'm not hugely sure what the point of disqualifying anyone is, if they can then finish and get their medal, t shirt and official time. But that's up to you. You say I can't run on the paths as the distance might not be accurate, but you won't extend the road closures either. This sounds to me like you *won't* let me finish, and the comments about finishing are tokenistic. I'll let you decide on that and get back to me.

2) You have not addressed the issue of the website. I maintain that it is still not clear enough that there is a cut off. I implore you to add this to the home page, and the Ts and Cs as well as Runner Information. I also ask you, please contact anyone who has already signed up and estimated their time will be 6 hours + and explain to them, in advance of the race, about the cutoff. There is no excuse for hoiking people out in public on the day.

Please can you also stop taking payment from people who will take 6 hours + to complete, if you can't guarantee they will finish. You are not setting out terms to bar entry, you are setting terms to disqualify in race. I bring you back to my point about dignity.

Finally, I appreciate your second offer of a refund or a relay place. I'm going to decline again; I want to run the marathon I paid for. You are making the mistake of assuming I need to run a competitive time in order to be good. I run for the sheer, unadulterated joy of running. I am a marathoner. You can keep my money.

I really hope to hear back from you with good news. You have the power to make this happen. Maybe, if you ask your Marathon Makers, a few would be happy to work later and support slower runners, or work shifts? Maybe we could have this discussion on local radio and ask people what they think? Especially since there are ways you could be inclusive that don't involve extending road closures and inconveniencing volunteers. Also, make this a policy and you have my cast iron guarantee that I will volunteer as a marshall for 12 hours + next year, if necessary, to allow all runners to join in.

Let's make this an amazing event! I'll help however I can, for free.

Best wishes

Claire x

PS no idea what happ

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