Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Prostitution of Running Medals

I have conquered a number of marathons and ultra marathons; as well as other endurance races such as duathlons and triathlons, up to the Ironman distance. But I have not attempted the Climbathon. Many people have found that a little strange, since the Climbathon is a famous annual event in Sabah. The simple reason is that I have no doubt that I can also conquer the Climbathon, but I'd rather do it later, perhaps when I'm no longer able to do very long races. For now, I would focus on conquering other races within the region.

I'm not in a hurry to attempt the Climbathon, because almost anybody can get the finisher medal, as long as he crosses the finish line. The event is organised in such a way that, although there is a cut off time, one can get the finisher medal even if the time taken is beyond the cut off time. One of these days, when I'm old and weak to run fast enough to meet the cut off time, I can always do the Climbathon and still end up with the finisher medal. That kind of medal is perhaps nice to have in my collection, but not of much value to me. It's just a piece of souvenir for keepsake. The Climbathon, when and if I were to do it, will NOT likely be a race for me. As I said, I'm not in a hurry to attempt the Climbathon.

Some other races also adopt the same policy, i.e. finisher medals are awarded even if the athletes completed the race beyond the cut off times. One example is our very own Borneo International Marathon (BIM). Medals will be given out even if the finisher takes a few hours beyond the cut off time. 

I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, because after all, a finish is a finish. There is nothing on the medal that actually specifies that the runner had finished within the cut off time. I do participate in the BIM, because on the one hand, I'd like to support the event; and on the other hand, I would probably be running my LSD anyway on a weekend along the same route, although admittedly I don't run 42km every weekend.

However, I find it interesting that in the case of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), the full marathon (42.2km) finisher medals were awarded even though the organiser was fully aware that the runners did not finish that distance. Far from finishing 42.2km, they ran just 25km and was awarded the 42.2km finisher medals and finisher T-shirts. Here is the organiser's announcement on the issue. I'm  not sure if this was because the organiser was trying to be popular among the slower runners, so that in the coming years they could attract an even bigger crowd. 

I see this as the prostitution of the marathon medals—if these medals were meant to be that cheap, then the event should be promoted as such. Don't bother to have rules and regulations, because obviously those mean nothing. I have said that fairness is a two-way street—while the organiser is trying to be popular among the slower runners, it should not downgrade the value of the marathon medal to that of a mediocre souvenir. 

A race is a race, and this one has given a lot of time to finish the race too. If one is unable to finish the race within that generous amount of time, then maybe that means he or she should train a little harder—and longer—for the 42.2km. It's  not like there are no shorter categories in the event. We admire and applaud them for trying, but I'm afraid 25km is still 25km; it is not 42km.

If the organiser feels compelled to please the slower runners, then it should prepare a good amount of 25km medals. It can then award those to the runners who just finished that distance. Be fair to those who did finish the 42.2km. They trained and raced hard to run that distance, only to see others running 25km getting the same recognition as them. Where is justice?

I have joined the SCMS twice before and found it too crowded. Because there are other choices for marathon races in the region, I haven't been back to the SCMS for some years now. This latest episode is one more reason for me not to go back for the event.


Unknown said...

that's the most stupid official announcement that i've ever read, why divert when you can actually just disqualified all of them who cannot meet the cut off time of that section?

Cornelius said...

Fan Teck Tsen,

I suppose it's entirely up to the organiser to disqualify those who failed to meet the interim cut off times. But in doing so, it will lose the crowd in the coming years. Or at least that's the concern.

If you were to read the organiser's announcement again, you will notice that they have decided that the non-finishers should get the finisher medals and T-shirts even before the race day. Apparently, they announced that in the official website before the race.

Now if I'm only able to run say 25km-30km, and perhaps have run several half marathons before, I would probably register for the half marathon in this race. But if I see the offer of the FULL marathon medal and finisher T-shirt for just 25km, that might induce me to sign up for the 42km race, even if I know that there are 21km and 10km categories. Nothing to lose. On a good day, I might just be able to run that 42km. But worst case scenario, I will still finish the 25km and get the full marathon medal anyway.

That's the trouble when the organiser's priority is to boost up the size of participation.