Manitoba Marathon official says communication broke down after race canceled

The Manitoba marathon manager doesn’t regret starting a race that her team quickly canceled due to the unforgiving temperatures, but she admits race officials could have done a better job of communicating the closure.

After the race was officially called off about 75 minutes into its Sunday start, Rachel Munday, the marathon’s executive director, said officials were keen to tell runners they could continue to compete if they wished.

That message encouraged some runners to push forward when perhaps they shouldn’t have, Munday said.

“If it happened again, we wouldn’t use the words ‘If you continue, you run at your own risk,'” she said. “People think that at that point there is an option.”

The post apparently added to the confusion felt by runners on Sunday when the plug was unplugged during the 44th annual Manitoba Marathon race, due to scorching temperatures that broke weather records in Winnipeg – and the forecast was foreshadowed .

Some runners say they are perplexed by the cancellation and the various messages they were hearing.

Runners confused by mixed messages

“Everyone was doing their own thing,” said Geoff Richardson, a Winnipeg educator who ran his first marathon on Sunday.

“We had volunteers saying, ‘Stop, the course is closed. You must stop. And then other volunteers saying, “Good job. Keep it up. You’re doing well.” It was a 180 degree difference between the messages.”

Richardson was a third into the race when a police officer told him the race was closed. Not knowing what the cop meant and desperate for more information, he and the other runners nearby continued. His own concerns were put to rest when a race official said his race time was no longer being recorded but he did not have to pull out of the race.

Later, he was asked to resign by a volunteer who claimed, wrongly, that there were no more water stations in front.

Geoff Richardson, who ran his first marathon, said there was confusion on the course as to what the cancellation of the race meant, as many people were still running and some volunteers were continuing to challenge them. urge. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

“I’ve been training for so long that I didn’t want to stop. I decided to keep running until I finished the race or the transport bus came to pick me up and we were literally kicked out. told to stop.”

Munday explained that the Manitoba Marathon team was not about to erect any roadblocks, literally or figuratively.

“You might say, ‘Class is closed, you have to get on the bus,’ but you still can’t get them on the bus,” she said.

Munday said the buses were returning without any riders.

Given attendees’ reluctance to stop, officials knew to continue providing refreshment options and maintain road closures, Munday said. He couldn’t leave these runners alone in such extreme heat. Three participants or participants in the marathon were taken to hospital due to the temperatures, according to health officials.

The executive director insists the marathon was not caught off guard by the temperatures, even though a soaring mercury of 37C was predicted days in advance.

In an email to runners on Saturday, the Manitoba Marathon urged runners to consider a shorter distance and forgo any personal best time attempts.

The letter did not suggest that canceling the race was a reasonable possibility, although it did inform racers of the flag system in which a color represents an accelerated course closure.

At 7 a.m., marathon planners expected the race to continue. The weather went from “windy and cool” at 7 a.m., Munday said, to unmanageable shortly after 8 a.m.

Unforgiving heat in less than an hour

“We’ve never seen the temperature ramp up like this,” she said.

“Our decisions to go ahead on race day were entirely based on 43 years of experience preparing for the marathon that day.”

Officials used what are called wet-bulb readings, which gauge the temperature at which water stops evaporating from a wet-bulb bulb, to determine the race was no longer safe.

Munday said she expected the marathon to have to close sections of the course around 10 a.m. or later, but nothing as extreme or as quick as what happened.

“There was really no way for us to foresee that we were going to have to do a mass evacuation from the road at 8.30am.”

Rachel Munday, executive director of the Manitoba Marathon, says the decision to cancel the marathon was very difficult. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder said he was worried about the feasibility of the race for days, but noted that the humidity on Sunday morning had risen faster than expected.

“We had temperatures rising quickly. The amount of humidity in the air was rising quickly. And even for fit runners, it’s very, very difficult to race safely in these conditions.”

Marathon planners considered starting the race an hour earlier, at 6 a.m., but it was impractical to make last-minute arrangements with police, paramedics, first aid personnel and emergency workers. hundreds of volunteers.

Spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Const. Jay Murray said it would have been a major effort to reschedule road closures, move workers earlier and ensure all refreshments and equipment were in place on time.

“It can be incredibly difficult to move the start time of this magnitude when so much planning has taken place.”

Still, Foster Lyle, a full marathon runner who works for a financial management company, said organizers should have communicated the threat of a race closure, even if they thought the possibility was unlikely or not. would only affect late morning graduates.

“The predictions were quite telling of what happened,” he said.

“If they were planning to close the course at certain intervals at certain times, it would have been good if that had been communicated in advance.”

Manitoba Marathon canceled mid-race due to heat warning

The Manitoba Marathon was canceled after Environment Canada issued a heat warning on Sunday morning. About an hour into the race, the decision was made to cancel the event, which had around 6,000 participants.

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