Monday, May 14, 2012

The Amazing RiverRUN washout

Friday night marked my inauspicious debut as a race director, and it proved I have a lot to learn!  Plus it reminded us that there are some things we just can't control.

When the daughter of the previous Amazing RiverRUN director finished 6th grade, it made sense that she would pass the baton to someone else.  Since I am known to be a runner, the baton passed to me.  This annual one mile fun run and 5K has been held at River Trails Elementary for 5 or 6 years in a row, at least, so I had a good foundation to build on.

Kelly really busted her tail, doing the hard work of soliciting sponsorships.  With guidance from last year's director and a little help from our friends, we cobbled together everything needed, and felt OK about the run going in.  Then the weather forecasts started showing 80% chance of thunderstorms.  Thursday night we felt like we probably wouldn't be able to have the race, but proceeded with the plans anyway.

Friday morning was grey and rainy, but the weather was much milder than forecast, and the forecast for the evening turned to scattered thundershowers and less chance for rain.  Friday afternoon was beautiful!  The sun was breaking through, and things looked great for the race!

We ran last minute errands and got set up at the school.  I was surprised to find a fairly large number of race entries at the school, entries that had come in late in the week, after I had finalized my list for the t-shirt order.  This turned out to be the biggest failure of the day: not enough t-shirts.  We were on a tight budget, so I didn't want to end up buying a bunch of extra t-shirts only to have them go in a box to give away later.  I added about 20% to the number I needed for pre-paid entries and volunteers, thinking that would be plenty.  By the time I allocated shirts for the late entries, I had very few remaining for those who would show up to register at race time.  I felt terrible having to tell people we did not have any shirts left.  Ugh.

Some terrific volunteers came out to help with registration, course monitoring, the aid stations, and post-race food.  Besides the lack of t-shirts, I think registration went OK.  The weather was still looking great as we lined up to start the one mile fun run.  The eager runners took off, fast ones and slow ones.  They finished up and we started gearing up for the 5K.  That's when the rain started.  Hard rain.  Soaking-to-the-skin-in-one-second rain.  We had already decided that rain would not deter us.  The race must go on!  We gave the five minute warning, sending the runners out to the starting line.  (Everyone who could fit had been huddled under the cover of the patio.)

Just as the runners stepped out into the rain, someone spotted lightning.  Racing in the rain, we can do.  Racing when lightning's around, no can do.  We spent the next 20 minutes watching the rain, checking radar maps on iphones, and debating the merits of going on or not.  Finally, at 7:30 or 7:35, after reports of high wind, hail, and severe thunderstorm warnings in the area, we decided to call off the race.  We were certainly all disappointed, but I think we made the right call.  The rain slowed, but the lightning and wind continued until at least 8:30.  If we had started the race on time, we still would have had to pull everyone off the course when the lightning picked up.

The big lessons from today:
1. Order plenty of shirts!  We were at least 50 short.  I should have ordered more like 40% over what I had paid.
2. Have great volunteers.  I couldn't have asked for a better crew!  There was plenty of help, everyone had a great attitude, and they anticipated needs and were flexible enough to make everything happen better than I would have expected.
3. Don't plan a race to take place in the middle of a major thunderstorm.  What a mess.
Random lightning picture pulled off another web site.

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