Matshelane Mamabolo.
Matshelane Mamabolo.

Chaos of the marathon that never was

By Matshelane Mamabolo Time of article published Sep 8, 2019

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Organisers of the Rand Water Vaal River City Marathon must hang their heads in shame for last weekend’s mess.

That they are yet to apologise to runners speaks to the growing arrogance of race organisers and their disregard for the people without whom they would have no races. We are still awaiting the official statement that they promised following Sunday’s event that essentially never was as the marathon distance ended up not being the required 42.2km.

They sent this email: “Dear Matshelane

Thank you for entering the 2019 Rand Water Vaal River City Marathon and as organisers we are committed to the event and delivering a race of the required standards. The Vaal City River Marathon organisers will release a full statement upon a full technical review of the causes and situations that affected the following aspects of the race:

Deviation from the 42.2km route

Late number collection and late entries

T-Shirts sizes”

I assume they are still busy with the “full technical review”. While they are at it, thousands of runners are forced to find new races to use as qualifiers for the Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon after our plans to qualify at their race were scuppered by disorganisation.

I was running the race for the first time last Sunday and was on track for a good run that was sure to deliver a sub-3hr finish. But a group of us, including two-time Comrades gold medallist Gordon Lesetedi of Entsika AC, had our race messed up when the marshalling went wrong and we got lost. We had run 3km when we realised we were on the wrong track and while the other guys continued running ‘to just use this as a training run’, upon finding the correct route myself and another runner quit.

Why should we have continued when our targets were messed up by incompetence? To think we had woken up in the wee hours to make the long trip to the Vaal and bear the cold weather as we waited at the start line. The race was delayed for a quarter of an hour because race numbers were still being handed out.

As per their email, the organisers are reviewing the ‘late number collection and late entries’. See how they label it? Clearly apportioning blame to the runners. But is it really? When you have a race as popular as they do, surely having a single pre-race collection point in the south of Joburg on Friday and then at the race venue on Saturday, you are inviting trouble.

The likes of us are based in Pretoria and there were runners from Mpumalanga and the Free State as well. Surely they could have had pick-up points at Rand Water Offices in those areas. Instead most could only get their race numbers in the morning and the organisers did not have enough people to service the runners.

When race start time neared, panic ensued and the organisers should be grateful there was no stampede from the chaos that resulted in numbers being strewn over the floor. Some runners picked up any number to go run while others ran without.

As if that was not bad enough, they got to the finish line only for their gadgets to inform them they had actually not run a marathon but a little more than 40km. I can imagine how their hearts sank in the knowledge that they ran for a mere medal and not the coveted ticket to be on the start line of the Comrades Marathon.

Such mishaps have become commonplace. I experienced it at the SABS Jacaranda Marathon two years ago where the distance was short and last year at the Tuks Bestmed Marathon where poor marshalling cost me a potential podium finish. The silence or lack of action from governing bodies such as Central Gauteng Athletics, Athletics Gauteng North and Athletics South Africa is deafening. We train hard and make serious sacrifices, only to have our runs messed up by incompetent organisers. It has to stop.


Sunday Independent

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