Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What is a Runner? What is a Walker? | What is Your Opinion?

A few days ago on a FB group, there was this post

Warning Alert! If anyone plans on running the Destin Bay, Bayou, and Back Half next year. Be aware that they only want "runners". A fellow runner friend ran this race today, and was swept after the first mile with an 11:55 pace. The race was build as a 3 hour time limit. So she was well on pace. They said she was walking too much. Unbelievable!

It happened at this race:  

As you can imagine, this conversation went into a trail spin.  The Galloway Method advocates and walkers came out of the woodwork.

For the record, to finish in a 3hour time limit, an athlete would need move in a pace of 13:47.  How a 11:55 walker was deemed unsafe vs a 13:47 runner, still escapes me.  

The racer, Marlena McQueen (pictured below) who was swept inquired to the RD (The CEO of the Chamber of Commerce) and was sent this reply:

Marlena McQueen

Ms. McQueen,

We apologize for the incident that created the unfair treatment you perceived at the race on Saturday.  It was never our intention to be dismissive when you found us back at the start/finish line, but in the effort to begin the 5k/10k, we were more focused on that.

The release form signed by all participants plainly states "runners only" for the half marathon.  We rely on our public safety officials to give us accurate information during the race.  When they radioed back to us about this issue, and said it was a safety issue because they could not keep up with the main pack of runners, we take their recommendation.  Our goal is the safety of all runners/participants in the event.  If the safety of any runners is in jeopardy, as observed by the public safety officials, then a "for the safety of all" decision must be made.  We're sorry this decision offended you.  While we will look at ways to incorporate this type of participation in the future, we cannot guarantee it will be part of the race, as we must consider many factors.

We had already made the decision to refund your entry fee prior to receiving your email.

We thank you for and appreciate your efforts to participate in our event.  This event is only three years old, and we are learning as we go.  We again apologize for the situation that caused you to not be allowed to finish the race.

Building this world-class community one business at a time.

Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP
President and CEO
Destin Area Chamber of Commerce
4484 Legendary Drive
Destin, FL 32541
850-837-2711 x 4

After reading the CCE reply, the outcry became worse on FB.  

  • What exactly is a "runner"?  
  • Since I typically run a sub2 Half Marathon, but I often will walk through an aid station or two - would I be considered a walker and be DQ'd at this race? 
  • What about those who use the Galloway method on all their distances and walk within their first mile but are also sub 2 Half Marathoners? 

In all fairness to all parties involved, I also sent an email to the Chamber of Commerce (info above) and asked these questions

1.  Your registration states that a participant must finish within the 3 hour time limit. That is a 13:47 pace.  Ms. McQueen was at a 11:55 pace.  So, based on your choice, you believed a walker at 11:55 was a safety hazard but a runner at 13:47 was not? 

2.  Please define 'runner'?  What about the athletes who walk through aid stations or even walk to the side of the road to the port potty?  Are they still runners, in your opinion? What happens if a runner makes it to Mile 10 and has to slow down to fast walk?  Are they disqualified, even if they are well under the time limit? (as Ms McQueen was). 

3.  What experiences have you had in directing races and what was the motivation to exclude "walkers"? 

4.  Anything you would like the racing community to know?  (this can be your chance to ease the outcry going on against your race throughout social media)


A short time later, I received an email from the CEO of the Chamber, name not provided (via Shane Moody) with this reply

This event is only three years old, and this was only the second 13.1 we’ve done.  We  had never heard of this method of participation when planning, and had not experienced it in year 1 of the half marathon.  When we made the decision to pull the runner – and it was my decision to do so based on information from public safety – we did not know the pace she was running/walking.  We made a decision based on safety as it was reported to us from public safety officials.  We’ve apologized and refunded the money, and we truly are sorry.  We cannot change the past, but we can start here to plan the future.  Again, this event is only three years old, and we’re learning as we grow and move forward.  We look forward to a great event next January, and now that we know about this form of participation, it will be welcomed at the event.

A interesting reply and I am glad to see they are changing their policies for next year!

YET, in 2 years they have NEVER had a walker at their event and no on ever complained?   I am finding it hard to swallow that they did not know about walkers being a part of events (or as they say "this form of participation"), especially if they have done events in the past.  They obviously knew enough to specify on the Waiver "RUNNER'S ONLY" - they must of done some type of homework to know how to put on an event, correct?

It sounds like Destin Chamber of Commerce Management has the wrong people making race day decisions, that should not have that authority.   I am grateful they will be making a change, but I recommend they reach out the the local Galloway group in Destin. That will be able to assist and provide great pacers to their event.   

We can all make mistakes and I hope their willingness to change this policy and allow everyone to enjoy their event for years to come.  This is better for the city of Destin & the racing community. 

My thanks to Marleena McQueen and the Destin Chamber of Commerce for their cooperation and input, in writing this blog article. A special thanks to Chris Twiggs, Galloway National Director who was in constant dialogue with me regarding this issue and shared some amazing insight. 


How do you feel about the athletes who walk?  Run/Walk? 

What defines a runner, in your opinion?


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Run F.A.B.,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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  1. Nice response. I'm following this discussion on the Half Fanatics board and the Destin COC page. I suspect the people in charge of the race are not runners (of any sort) nor do they have any idea about race logistics. that is the only way I can even fathom their decision. Not justify it, but find any reasoning in it.

    To pull someone at mile 1 is rediculous. Idon't care if tehey are crab walking on their hands and feet, if they aren't impeding and are on pace, let tehm go. The people who went out too fast and have to slow at the finish with faster people coming up behind them are much more of a problem than the back-of-the-pack people. (Note, her pace wouldn't even have put her back of the pack, in my opinion.)

    A refund is a good start, but what about her time, expenses, and desire to have run a race that day. I just can't understand their reasoning. I also want to know how many others were pulled from the course and where. Pulling one runner would be worse than pulling many.

    I love Destin, but I've already black balled this race.
    Jay Schwarzmann

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think most, if not all - she was treated unfairly in this race. We can only hope this and other RD's will change their policies.

  2. This is an important message but difficult to read because of the background.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, but the background of the article is all blank (white). Sorry that is difficult for you to read.

  3. This post hits me in the gut. I feel for Ms. McQueen. My first half marathon I ran the entire race and finished in 2:52. It has taken me taking up the Galloway method and two years to get my half time under 2:30.

    I do, if available, take an early start if my time is in question of a cut off time. Possibly an earlier start for those who may take over a certain overall time would help this race.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nicki. Keep up the great work in your racing.

  4. Good God. I have never ran a half marathon where tons of people DIDN'T walk! Are they serious?? I ran my last half in 2:16 (way less than their cut off time) and walked every couple of miles. I am in complete and utter shock that she would be the only one out there practicing the Galloway method. Seriously. SMH.

  5. Madeline - unbelievable, huh? But, in all fairness, I am hearing reports that the RD is committed to no letting this happen again.


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