No training blog tonight, just the contents of a letter of complaint.
Sunday 20th November 2016
Dear Race Director,
RE: Tatton 10k Run Today – Race Numbers 333 & 272
I would initially like to congratulate you on your idea of setting up this event and the fact that it was well publicised across the County. As a local runner, I endeavour to support as many local events as physically (and financially) possible – adding to my own personal achievements & performances. This was an event that I had put a lot of effort into competing in, and one that I chose over another event in Preston 10miles – which many of my Running Club Members had preferred to do instead. I promoted your event as being a ‘Better’ event to do. How catastrophically wrong I would be shown to be ….
I have received a generic email from you today, offering an apologetic explanation for the significant issues that caused the shambolic experiences faced by many hundreds of the runners today. I will offer you my views on my own experiences – some of which I am sure you will find are directed specifically at you as the organisers.
As you identify in your email – many runners, myself included, have a preparation/routine that we try to keep to, prior to participating in an event. Mine usually included getting my Race Number, kit & driving route sorted and ready the night before. NB: Race Information gave ‘Clear Instructions’ on the entrance to take to gain access into Tatton Park.
- Journey: This made my journey from Runcorn (North Cheshire) had to be a specific route – which was fairly direct and caused no issues for 17 miles of the 18.2miles for the total journey. We set off approximately 7.15am for a 25min journey.
- Car Parking Access: This was also a clear instruction from Race Information – 10k to gain access between 7.15am to 8.00am & HM from 8.00am to 8.45am. Our expected time of arrival was 7.40/7.45am subject to any minor difficulties. Our journey was trouble free until we reached the end of Moss Lane/Mereside Rd Ashley Road – approximately 1.2miles from the event entrance.
At this point we became stationary for approximately 40mins, as the traffic on the main Warrington Road had priority. This coupled with the 4-way junction being gridlocked and going into a single lane and then further along Mereside Road there was another 4-way junction causing further gridlock onto the Ashley Road access to the event site. This caused the many hundreds of cars to be significantly gridlocked before they could even gain access into the site. NB: Many drivers even abandoned/parked their vehicles on the main road & side roads & laybys because they could not gain access before their run start time. This also created further difficulties to others trying to gain access.
Our last 1.2miles took in excess of 2hrs 15mins – which meant we missed the 9.00am Start Time for the 10k event we had entered. Many other runners missed their stat times – as did the Half Marathon runners that had also been involved in the gridlock issues.
NB: Despite posting numerous comments on the Tatton10k Facebook page, which will also clearly show the difficulties we faced and the times/locations we were at when posting, we received absolutely no information from the Event Organisers. What upset many other runners stuck in the traffic chaos, was the fact that we were so close to the entrance that we could hear the PA system announcements and more annoyingly – the countdown to the start of the 10k event.
This feeling of upset was then magnified further when we had only moved approximately 200m within a 30mins or so period and heard the start of the HM run too. Many HM runners were still stuck in the same traffic chaos too.
We eventually parked on the site approximately 10.00am and ran to the ‘Information Tent’ for advice.
- Information Tent: The advice provided to us by the young Lady – Lucy, was quite simple ‘Just go to the start and run.’ When quizzed as to why information had not been communicated to runners delayed, Lucy expressed that she did not have WiFi access to share any information. (This seemed strange to me as she was using her laptop to gain access to the information she required for ‘other’ reasons. If you are going to be evasive in explaining the problems, at least be accurate in the reasons for not being able to disseminate information.) Lucy also explained that she worked alongside the Run Director and would share our dissatisfaction when my email of complaint was received.
- Start Line Marshal: As directed by Lucy, from the Information Tent, we spoke to the Marshal on the Start Line – he was very helpful and also very apologetic about the significant difficulties we had faced getting to the Start Line. He also gave us ‘Clear Instructions’ about the route we had to take – Yellow signs for 10k & Blue signs for the HM. Furthermore, there would be a ‘Y’ split in the course for the 10k to go straight on, whilst the HM went left and this would also be marshalled, so we could ask if unsure. We set off with the ‘Late’ HM runners and followed the course signs as directed.
- Health & Safety: A serious and significant breach of the H&S code and the ‘Duty of Care’ to runners, by the organisers became evident during the early part of the course, as the later starters and ourselves became significantly at risk of being run over/knocked down by the vehicles of the runners that had already finished their event run and were leaving the site – travelling along parts of the course to leave the parking areas. Myself & my running buddy were personally was involved in 2 near misses – not including the many other runners facing similar dangers.
- 10K Route: As identified in Point 4, we followed the yellow signage for our route. However, as we reached a ‘Y’ split at approximately the 2km distance, we asked one of the marshals which way to go for the 10k route. We were directed to go straight on, as the HM went left. The next marshalled area was just under 2km further along the course – but was signed with the 6km marker, another ‘Y’ split with 2 different routes. Again we asked the female Marshal – wearing a Yellow & Blue HV jacket about the 10k route – to be told again that we were to go straight on, with the HM taking the left route. At this point I showed her my Garmin time/distance which identified that we had only ran 3.89km in 20mins, yet we are at the 6km marker. Her response was to just carry on, as you only missed out about 200m. This clearly wasn’t accurate.
- Finish Line: Passing the 9km Marker in sub35mins, we already knew that the route we had been directed to follow was inaccurate and therefore a waste of time & effort for us. The feeling of anger & disappointment was getting to us and as we entered the finishing straight, both myself & my running buddy removed our ‘Club Vest & Race Number’ in protest to the result that would be recorded for us. It was then announced over the PA system “Well Done guys for completing the 10k in under 1hr42mins.” We then walked towards the ‘Information Tent’ again to log our dissatisfaction.
- Information Tent – Part 2: As we approached Lucy at the Information Tent, we were also approached by the Start Line Marshal, identified in Point 4 – looking quite surprised to see us back in under 40mins for the 10k run. He asked if everything was ok and had we not completed the course? I then showed him my Garmin Time of 39mins 45secs for a distance of 7.97km – which was the total distance and time we had taken to do the 10km course. We explained what had happened at the ‘Y’ splits and the instructions given by the marshals at each. He then acknowledged that we had been directed the wrong way by the marshals and that he was very sorry for this. We explained that we had followed his instructions and that despite being marshalled, the ‘Y’ split marshals did not know that there were still 10km runners only just starting the course. This fact was evident when we spoke to the marshals and they told us we were mixed within the HM runners now. The Start Marshal then identified that he would ensure that we received a full refund and an apology for the unsatisfactory experiences we had.
I then asked ‘Lucy’ to provide me with the contact details of the Race Director and an email address to contact them. I was provided with the name Ben Green and his contact email as being firstname.lastname@example.org
My observations are as follows:
- The Traffic Management was significantly under prepared for what should have been an ‘exciting & memorable’ experience for all involved – leading on to future events at Tatton. Instead, the use of only one entrance was the main & significant failing by the organisers, in alleviating the traffic congestion experienced by all involved. The introduction of multiple entrances/exits would have minimalised any gridlocked areas to all road users, involved in the event or just driving through the County.
- Information/Communication was non-existent and therefore increased the levels of frustration for the runners caught in the chaos. A simple use of Social Media for disseminating ‘Live’ information could have assisted those delayed. The Tatton10k Facebook was being used by runners delayed to seek information; such as delayed start times, traffic problems, revised timetabling etc … From the amount of discontent being posted on Running Boards on Social Media about this event, it is clear that you will be subjected to further complaints. A simple but significant failure by organisers
- Marshalling was handled well for the main of the course. However, unless they are able to communicate with or by Organisers, how can they be kept up to date on any difficulties, changes or issues? It would appear that this was also a significant failure.
- Health & Safety and the Duty of Care to Runners was the most serious and dangerous failing of the organisers. The lack of Marshal Management of vehicles, using the part of the course alongside the car parking areas, to leave the event was not acceptable and therefore potentially a breach of your public liability insurance and the license issued for you to host the event. There goes by the grace of god and good luck that, to my knowledge no runner was injured by a vehicle.
- Future Events – in my opinion of today’s experiences I can truthfully say that I would not consider entering any future Tatton Event and if asked would not recommend other to be involved either.
- Learning Curve – I believe that it is important for the event organisers to do a Critical Analysis of the way the event was handled, the issues raised and the manner in which they will be rectified in the future. Where failures can be seen, an open & honest explanation is always the best approach, rather than like today’s explanation of issues on the M6 – as per your email. Weather, popularity and location must always be factored into any risk assessment before taking on a public event of this size.
Finally, I would like to confirm that I and my running buddy will be expecting a full refund of our entry fee, as stated by the Start Marshal – who appeared to be involved in the organisation of the event and informed Lucy to log our details for a refund.
Yours in Sport,
M Highton & N Egerton