Sunday, February 14, 2016

Thanks, we're glad we did it

When I quit my day job, in 2008, I got a lot more involved in my running club. I became the race director of my favorite race, the Cherry Tree 10 Miler and three person relay. It's crazy that people would want to run 10 miles in the middle of February. Even crazier, that people will want to stand around and cheer well their teammates are running a relay component. That's why I took this on. And it worked out for me. People saw that I can organize this and make money for my club. It turned into a job. People hired me to do what I was doing for free.

In 2011 I wrote this about my experience. It's funny that I would refer to Donald Trump in a positive way. Things have changed. In 2014, United States Sen. Chuck Schumer was out for an afternoon walk just when we will start the race. I seized the day and got him to be the one who said "GO"

In 2015 I had to take a break from the race. Last February, I still needed help getting in and out of a wheelchair. In 2015 the race had to be canceled and later rescheduled because of high winds and bitter cold. I had a watch all this happen from the outside. Being copied on some emails, reading about it on Facebook. Last year it was in my race and I missed all the stress. It wasn't my choice, I would've preferred the stress.

I got my race back this year and with it came all the stress that I missed out on. First, we had to fight with the parks department over the date of the race. Our race happens on the Sunday of Presidents' Day Weekend. That's why it's called the Cherry Tree (not the Cherry Blossom nor the Cherry Hill) it's about the thing that George Washington did not chop down. Presidents' Day is the third Monday in February. Our race is the day before the third Monday in February. The parks department keeps track of permits differently. By their records are race is on the third Sunday in February. This year those two days were not sequential. They wanted to renew our permit for February 21. Luckily for us the gigantic New York City Road. Runners Club is having a race in Prospect Park on February 20th. (I'm gonna run that four miler .)So the parks department told us we had to have our race on February 14, the date we wanted anyway.

Then we had more problems. Ownership of one of our race sponsors changed over the summer. And that cooperation is not so much.  We usually start packet pickup for the race on Thursday in their Manhattan store. It had no room for us when we had registration there in the fall. Also, one of the key volunteers in this race who helps with packet pickup was going on vacation and returning on the back Thursday. So, my associate directors and volunteer coordinators just decided to cancel that Thursday pick up. It worked out fantastically. What I liked the most was the process of how we made the decision. Nobody felt like anyone's will was being forced upon them. We did what makes sense and I think everyone felt good about it.

Then, as race day approached we started looking at a new problem. Our relatively mild winter was turning against us. The biggest cold front in a few years was aiming right at race day. I started getting emails asking to cancel the race before I even saw the weather reports. We postponed last year's race because 18 hours out the weather forecast was for 10° with sustained gale force winds. It's the winds that are scary. You really don't want to be in an urban park with sustained winds like that. Last year, the start and finish line and water stations were all in wooded areas. This year, we shifted the start finish line to a more open part of the park. This year, the forecast was for low single digits but no wind. But the emails kept coming in. People were demanding their money back because it was gonna be cold. One email even accused us of being cruel because we were making people run in the cold. Honestly, I was only slightly concerned for runners. They signed up for a race but no one was making them run it.

My concern, and the concern of everyone I was working with was for our volunteers. It's honestly easier to run 10 miles that it is to stand in one spot while someone else is running 10 miles. So we tweaked our volunteer assignments a little. All volunteers were a short walk to a heated facility. And hot chocolate. We compressed so people could rotate, in and out of the heated places. In any case, wind was not an issue today, it was only cold. Really cold. I know it goes down to zero in a lot of places but that's very rare New York City.

One of the unanticipated benefits of it being super cold was that thescheduled  weekend subway repairs were unscheduled because it was too cold to work on the tracks. There would've been a confusing shuttlebus adding from 0 to 30 minutes to everyone's trip.

It all worked out perfectly. About half the people who registered, showed up and finished. Many, many of them saw me at the start and finish of the race and thanked me for not canceling it. Including these guys who ran in shorts. And the guy with ice on face when he finished.

I'm kinda glad the people thought we should cancel the race didn't show up. We didn't have anyone complaining about the cold that way. And since this is my personal webpage and I can say this personally and not as a representative of my running club. To the people who were demanding a refund because it was gonna be cold: you signed up for a race in February! What the fuck do you expect! Stay in bed it's okay! The people who showed up and ran wanted to be challenged. If that's not for you don't sign up for races in the middle of the winter. You're all adults... you can make decisions for yourselves, nobody is making you come out when you think it's too cold. But we spent your entry fee on water, cups, park permits, hot chocolate, apples, professional timing and race swag.  

Okay, rant over.

Even after I spent four months in the hospital, and the next better chunk of the year out of the loop strangers still come over to me and thanked me for all the things the Prospect Park Track Club has done. I have become the face of my running club. I tell them and I'd like to say it right here... I'm just one of the volunteers, we all make it happen.


  1. Hi Mike. Great recap for today's race. I'm glad the race went ahead as planned. Almost all races have a no refund policy, so you get zilch if you choose to stay home rather than attend the event you paid to participate in. I considered staying in bed. I checked and quaduple checked for an email saying it would be cancelled. Seeing none, I piled on my warm layers of clothes and went out to face the challenge of running in near zero degree weather. I'm glad I went, glad it was sunny and even more happy that it was not windy. Thank you to all volunteers and PPTC members that made the event happen.

  2. I'm glad the race was kept on as well, Michael. Thanks to you and all of the volunteers who made it happen! Memorable day.

  3. I love your point about is being adults, Michael, who register for races voluntarily and hopefully cognisant of any adverse conditions that might reasonably be expected at that time of year, the checkout screen, after the 'prove you're not a robot' test, can you add a 'declare that you're not a moron who will later whine about this first-world challenge for which you have just signed up' tick-box?

  4. There are so many crybabies in the running community, it's really not fun anymore. You are 100% correct, we are all adults and if sign up for a mid-winter race we should not complain about cold weather. I love it when people complain about the swag they are getting or not getting. Cotton, tech, medals, hats, etc. etc. etc. Always complaining. It's embarrassing sometimes.


You do not have to be nice!


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