What I Learned From A Black Flagged Race (That I didn’t run in)

This morning, my wife was to run in the Indy Woman’s Half Marathon.  With morning storms rolling through at 5:00AM but had cleared up about 6:30 and a 7:30 start was looking good for getting the race in, at least for the front runners.  

   My job this day, since it was an all women’s half, was to support Tina, as this was her first half marathon. With a back pack of extra water and extra gels I was planning on riding my bike from point to point supporting her.  Tina had a running partner as well, my cousin Heather. While they had not run together before, their goals were the same, survive! 

  After announcements The race started a little after 7:30.  Not sure why the delay, but eventually they did start.  
 After Tina and Heather crossed the mile mark, the skies started getting really dark. So much for the at least hour and a half window.  

 Before they hit the two mile mark, and rounded Monument Circle, the rains had started to come down and running towards the state house, the winds from the west really picked up.  

 And before the third mile, lightning was within 2 miles of the race course, prompting the race to be black flagged.  

 Since this was Tina’s first half and not exactly how she planed the race to go, I volunteered to ride with Tina and Heather if they wanted to continue.  They stated they would continue and we went on for another couple of blocks and then it was noticed how busy some of the roads would be with no further police assistance on the course, the ladies decided it would be best to head to the finish area.  In total, they ran just under 4 miles. 

As they made their way to the finish line, workers from the first aid station were still out, high five-ing all the woman as they went by. As we arrived to the finish area, the finish line was full of woman as they were still awarding everyone with finishers medals.  

So what is there to learn from a race that is black flagged and cut short and you didn’t personally run in? I did find a few things:

There are some things you can’t control.  Mainly the weather. You can train for everything that can pop up during a race but not the weather. You just need to battle through it (as long as race organizers allow). In my opinion, the race organizers made the right call in starting the race.  Who is to say that the storm would actually hit?  This is Indiana, the weather changes quickly and storms either get stronger or die.  Unfortunately it got stronger.  The race made another smart decision by later black flagging the race. 

You can’t make everyone happy. The comments on the races Facebook page are unreal to me: “Should have never started the race. Poor organization to have everyone out in the streets when they know the storm is coming. What about our safety???” My response, then don’t start your race. No one was forcing anyone to run, you ultimately make the decision to run or not, not the race itself.

“Despite having called the race, IMPD should have been out on the course looking after the runners who decided to continue.  It was dangerous crossing roads in the heavy rain and it was clear that participants were still running.” The idea of black flagging the race is to seek shelter and keep runners safe.  If you decide to keep going (honestly I would have probably done so if this was my race), then you do so at your own risk.  No reason to risk an officers life for your decision to go ahead and keep going.  I would not expect officers out there if I continued (Congrats to all those that decide to keep going though).

“I’m interested in running the Indy Half or Monumental Half. Can we get a discount for those races since the race today was black flagged?” Not sure how you would get a non affiliated race to offer a discount for the events of today that they had no part in…

As I said, you can’t make everyone happy.

Avoid running with a pacer. The one thing race related I noticed was at the first aid stations, all the runners were bunched up and causing huge congestion at the aid stations and many runners had stopped. Running in a group is fine, running with a pacer is fine.  But be ready to spread out. If you lose contact of a pacer at an aid station, don’t freak out, you have time to catch up.  Honestly, I was ready to criticize the race for not having enough volunteers but then noticed the issue was all the runners wanting to stay right by the pacer was the problem. 

Runners are some of the most positive people out there. Even with the rain being canceled, attitudes stayed mostly positive. A woman, probably in her 50’s came up to some of the elite runners who was waiting to get some food after returning to the finish line, said “hey, I beat you all this time” jokingly.  All the elite runners could do was laugh at the situation and congratulated the older women.  Other women stated that they went home and ran their half marathon in better weather or plan to the next day.  It takes a lot to stop runners. 
Overall, the race directors had to do what local law enforcement said they had to do, and that was call the race.  Not what anyone wanted, but it was the right decision. If runners wanted take their own safety in their hands, and continue, that’s up to them, and more power to them.  Congrats to all runners, especially my wife, on getting to the starting line. 


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