Sunday, 25 March 2018

Cheating at parkrun makes me see red

Yesterday I saw red at our local Parys parkrun. I was 'off-duty' yesterday and so I had the opportunity to run with Rusty. After the rains on Thursday, I was out on the route on Friday evening to check out the mud situation. Except for an overflowed drain and a patch of mud, the route was fine. It was even better by Saturday morning.

In briefing, the Run Director on duty told the participants to run around the drain overflow and to get back on the grass - this is a detour of maybe 10 metres onto the road and then back on to the grass.

Yet, a bunch of people decided to run on the road ALL THE WAY to the bottom of the route (around 650m) where they rejoined for the in-and-out turnaround and then they detoured back on to the road and up to the turnaround marshal.

There are a few issues with this:

  1. Running on the road is a shorter route in distance.
  2. Running on the road is an easier and faster surface - not that our route is technically challenging at all, but tar is always easier and faster than dirt and grass. Interestingly, my fast-running friend says that short tar detour around the drain probably scored him an extra 2 seconds compared to running on the grass.
  3. The road is NOT the route
  4. Other participants follow those that detour including first timers, visitors and children. We do not have clearance/permission for running on the road. It also presents a safety risk. And, this is PARKrun, not ROADrun.
  5. This is cheating.
The worst is that there is not much that we can do about it. I know who some of the people were and we could just delete their results; but we don't know who all the people were. One can't punish some and not the rest; that wouldn't be fair.

I called a number of people back down to the route. One of the guys was a visitor - he'd never been on our route. I invited him to follow me.

So, what we have to do now, which we do occasionally, is to put a marshal further along the route to police participants.

What makes me see red is that we should not have to do this. I know that other parkruns have similar issues; they shouldn't have to double barcode-scan participants and have dozens of marshals out either. But this is the reality.

When I got into the finish area I was really irritated and frustrated. Friends there were correct in saying that I was really the only one who was upset about this; and they were right. But what makes it OK for people to cheat and for this to now be acceptable?

Yes, parkrun is free. Yes, parkrun is for fun. Yes, people are only cheating themselves.

BUT, when things like this become acceptable, then more becomes acceptable.

Like low pass marks being adjusted to improve averages, making a low standard of education acceptable (and covering up fundamental flaws in the system).

Like one person in government putting their hands in the cookie jar and the next following suit because the first did it and then more and more follow until it is the norm...

Like taxis and people who drive in the emergency lane in peak traffic because they're in a hurry to get somewhere.

Like participating in an obstacle course race where someone skips an obstacle, running around it, and they finish ahead of you. 

Are these things ok? They're not to me.

I'm trying to take a deep breath. I know that something that is really insignificant in the big picture shouldn't stress me out so much. But it does. Mostly because I am disappointed in the people who took the easy road. 

I'll be RD again next week and I'll definitely have an extra marshal out on the route - but I am resentful of the fact that I need to do this.

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