On July 4 in Seward, the race officials at Mount Marathon had to make a difficult decision to cancel the junior race. I feel they did it with careful thought, supported by medical and air quality experts. When the decision came, I know it was disappointing to a lot of kids that had trained for the race. At that time, a group of kids decided to “run anyway” and headed up the hill.
My personal opinion is that we are becoming a nation of people that think the rules don’t apply to them and that isn’t doing us any good, but I also know that you can’t control other people. So, if those kids’ parents felt that it was appropriate to go anyway, I certainly wasn’t going to make a big deal about it.
But then two things happened.
The first was that when the group of kids came down from their “rogue” race, the announcer started calling out their times, and volunteers started hosing them down at the end even though they were running around the blocked finish. As you can imagine, this “unofficial timing” certainly made it look like the race officials were on board with the kids running. And conversely, those kids — and the parents — that had heeded the warnings and followed the rules were left standing on the side both confused and disappointed.
The second piece of this was that the ADN and other media outlets covered this “unofficial race” and even went as far as to report an unofficial winner. The writer, Beth Bragg, interviewed the racers and declared it “a real race.” I know this was a difficult morning and I certainly am not pointing fingers at these kids. Instead, I feel the media and the announcer — and, by extension, race officials — created an air of legitimacy for the kids that weren’t following the rules and, quite frankly cheapened the experience for the kids that did follow the rules and guidelines.
— Kerry Reifel
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