An unfortunate story of an angler who caught the big one, but lived to tell the tale of the big one that got away. All too often participants think very little of the rules of the game, and then find out the painful way that that could hurt them.
Shortly after The Most Beautiful Thing(TMBT) in September last year, there was an interesting debate in the organiser's facebook page. It was about a 3-hour penalty imposed upon a participant when he was found not carrying a headlamp during a spotcheck at one of the checkpoints along the route. Apparently, that participant argued that he had a handheld flashlight which he deemed similar to a headlamp for all intent and purposes. But the organiser held its grounds and the penalty remained. It should be noted, however, that it was still broad daylight when that spotcheck was conducted, and many hours had yet to elapse before there was a need for the use of a headlamp or flashlight.
The format of the race was such that there was a drop bag service at the midway point. Participants were therefore able to leave some items in the drop bag for the night portion of the race. These might include snacks and energy bars, fresh clothings, and other sports nutrition.
It was unclear if the participant in question had a headlamp in his drop bag; one which he could have picked up when he reached the midway point. That would have been a good strategy since perhaps he could have saved a bit of energy carrying a little lesser weight than necessary during the first 50km of the race. Any ultra trail runner will tell you that in such a race, especially through very hilly terrains, almost every gram lighter counts for a lot!
I would have adopted that same strategy too because, quite frankly, it made a lot of sense. But the reason I carried my headlamp from the start of the race was because it was an item on the mandatory kit list. Actually, I was confident that I would be able to reach the midway point of the race when there's still daylight, and I have to say that carrying the headlamp throughout the day seemed like a waste of energy.
However, the organiser emphasized the adherence to the mandatory kit months before the event; and several more times after that prior to the race day. The penalty for a missing headlamp was immediate disqualification, but in this case it was reduced to a 3-hour time penalty.
The reality is that no matter how fit I was at the time, I could have been held back by unforeseen circumstances which might have resulted in taking much longer to reach the midway point, i.e. it might have been nightfall by then, and a headlamp would have been required even before that midway point. But what about a handheld flashlight; wouldn't that be good enough? Well, it's hard to say; one may need to keep both his hands free to hold other objects or doing other tasks. These were probably on the organiser's mind when deliberating the mandatory kit. I will leave the debate on the logic of the mandatory kit listwe can all argue till the cow comes home, and we still won't come to a fruitful conclusion!
Next Saturday/Sunday I will be joining some friends in the Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race, as the title suggests, a 100km ultra trail marathon in Hong Kong. I have done it last year as reported here, but failed to finish within 24 hours. So I'm going back for another attempt! I recently browsed through the mandatory kit set by the organiser. Amongst others, participants must carry a headlamp (with batteries) and spare light (with batteries) throughout the race. I find that rather odd and somewhat extreme, but I shall abide by the rule.
My policy has always been to play by the rules of the game. For I'm a firm believer that rules are meant to be obeyed. Otherwise there is no meaning to have them. If the rule says that every participant must carry a piece of brick throughout the race, then I suppose that's just what I have to do, no question asked. And if I really think that's a stupid rule, then I just won't participate!