Last weekend, I headed down to Mississippi to run the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon. I was so excited to check off this state with this specific race. I was part of the race’s Blue Crew and absolutely loved connected with fellow Blues runners and promoting the race. This was going to be a fantastic race until Winter Storm Helena had better ideas.
They were calling for bad weather but then in the afternoon that Friday there was a flash freezing rain storm that came through the Jackson area and left everything covered in ice. I had no fear of the race being cancelled until this happened. Then I just had that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew the winter storm was going to win this one.
I headed to the race expo still on Friday evening to pick up my jacket and bib. I ended up running into the race director, John Noblin, and chatter with him about the race options. You could see in his face the worry he had and how it hurt to even be struggling to make this decision. After speaking with him, he basically told me there were 3 options: 1) cancelling all together 2) running on the half course and 2 laps for the full or 3) just running on the 10k course 2 or 4 laps. Once I got outside and had to skate to find food, I knew it would be option 1, it would just be a matter of time.
Just after 10pm, we got the email. I was in my hotel lobby with about 4-5 other runners and had to break it to everyone that the races were cancelled. Honestly, not one reaction was of anger. Everyone nodded their heads and were in complete agreement that this was the right call. I was right there with them. Those roads were in horrible condition and with even colder temperatures coming overnight, they would just be worst in the morning. Plus, most major highways and roads were parking lots. My hotel room overlooked I-55 and all I saw were brake lights out there.
This was actually my first race to have ever been cancelled and here I was not mad at all. Sure, my wallet took a hit and I didn’t actually have anything to show for it, but even if I woke up the next morning, and the race was still on, I honestly do not know if I would have gone out. I want to run 13.1 miles, not shuffle 13.1 miles without picking up my feet. So for that, I say thank you to John and his team for cancelling the 2017 MS Blues Race. I can only imagine everything that went into this decision, but in the end it was the right one.
Thousands of runners had signed up for 5 different races on Saturday. Thousands. This meant that the race director and his team were then responsible for keeping these thousands of runners as safe as you could. Sure, we signed the waivers that can’t hold you liable for anything, but when it comes down to it, as a race director, it’s a pretty big responsibility to keep everyone’s safety number one. Plus by the time Friday rush hour rolled around, low law enforcement and medical teams were out focusing on helping those in need from the ice storm. Their focus should have stayed on that versus being pulled in to protect runners. Also, even if there was a small loop we could have used, it would still have been an open course. One lane would be closed for runners, but there would be cars on the other side of the cones. As John put it, what if a car hit ice and slammed into a group of runners? It’s those types of things you can’t control.
John and his team absolutely made the right decision. Friday night and even into Saturday, I saw so many people posting things on FB about how pissed they were and even more upset that their race entry wouldn’t just be transferred into 2018 for free. I made a few replies that seemed to actually be supported, but these people just pissed me off. The MS Blues Team had put out so much money, probably a lot that is non-refundable for race items. If they made every 2018 race entry for the 2017 displaced runners, imagine how much money they would lose. At the end of the day, they have to afford paying law enforcement to be out there, port-o-potty rentals, medals, swag and so much more! The discount they planned to offer was good enough for me! In fact, I decided while I was stuck in hotels that I would be back in 2018 and I would go for the full! I wanted major redemption for this race!
Then came something even better and not expected! This past Friday, the MS Blues Marathon sent out an email saying they worked a deal with Rock n Roll Race Series that all displaced runners could pick a spring race of theirs (from a list of 6 races) and run it for FREE. Wow. Just amazing!!! On top of this, they were still going to be offering us a 25% discount on the registration for 2018 race.
Was any of this necessary? No. Not at all. They didn’t even need to offer a discount, but then to step up and do this? Outstanding. THIS is why I will go back to run the 2018 race. And this deal that Rock n Roll did with them just shows how amazing our running community truly is.
Having never had a race cancelled on me, I truly thought I’d just be mad and angry at the situation, but I wasn’t at all. I appreciated John and his team putting the time into weighing out all options and truly making the right choice. I understand how people can have that natural reaction of anger, but I truly hope once they took a step back they could see this was the right decision. I can’t wait for the 2018 race and I hope other runners feel the same way. This race director has gone way above and beyond what needed to be done and let’s show him and the city of Jackson our support! See you there. Only 350 some days left?