CMMThe 2010 Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon was the actually two races. Not just a half and a full marathon but the participants who finished before the rain started coming down and the participants who got caught in the weather.

In case you missed it, there were severe storm warnings in the Nashville area on Saturday. Having lived there for 8 years I knew that the weather could turn ugly in an instant. So, I was watching the weather radar with keen interest.

As it turned out, race morning dawned pretty nice. Some overcast but no rain. The organizers decided to get the party started early to take advantage of the weather window so we fired the gun at 6:45 instead of 7:00. We compressed the wave start and managed to get everyone across the start line in 45 minutes. Pretty good job for 32,000 people!

I moved to the announcer’s platform at the Half Marathon finish. All went well for a couple of hours. Folks were finishing. Folks were smiling. And it looked – for a while – like all the worrying would have been for nothing. Then it hit.

We were warning the crowd to find shelter. We were doing this while WE – my colleague Ian Brooks and I – were still on the announcer’s scaffolding. When the wind started rocking the platform we scrambled down to the ground. Microphones in hand we did our best to keep the enthusiasm level up.

Even after the rain started Ian and I huddled under an umbrella to do our best to celebrate the finishers. Eventually, though, we had to abandon the announcing and just focus on runner and walker safety.

Marathoners were being diverted at various points along the course and in the end everyone was finishing at the half marathon finish line. This lead to some obvious and easy-to-understand confusion. It also lead to some hard feelings. Again. Easy to understand.

It also lead to some decisions that – in my mind – will go down as, at the very least, questionable. Some of the marathoners were so intent on running a full 26.2 miles that they turned around before crossing the finish line and went backwards on the course. I even saw two marathoners running circles in a parking lot – with their Garmins – in order to get it the distance.

Eventually, though, for the safety of the participants, volunteers, and staff the course was closed. I walked in with the final “official” finisher but KNEW that there were marathoners out there who would finish long after we had left. I admire their tenacity but question their judgment. I’ve run 45 marathons and can tell you that no ONE race is worth the risk of injury.

So, congratulations to those who finished and a tip-of-the-hat to those who didn’t. As the great Richard Petty says, Saturday was “Just one of them racin’ deals”.

Waddle on.

john_jbr_150hJohn “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

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