I truly did not want this topic to "downhill" into a self-righteous diatribe, but I fear it's going to go that particular direction.
For me, holiday races are time to get together with friends, run a few miles, drink a few beverages and remind myself how good it is to be part of a larger running "family." But if you haven't read the Competitor.com article about what happened during Thanksgiving in Cincinnati, some of our "distant cousins" are in need of a little visit behind the woodshed.
I'm not opposed to a little shenanigans after a race; I've drank my entry fee worth of "free beer" on more than one occasion. When Suzanne and I put on a small event last year there was this "issue" of one keg which, if not put to its intended use (Insert Ben Franklin's 'desire to make people happy' dictum here.) was going to be really heavy lifting back to the truck. As the adage goes, 'many hands make light work;' the keg was easily hoisted into the truck bed...about two hours later.
However, there's a vast difference between R.D.-encouraged, er, hospitality gratefully accepted by race participants, and behavior which more likely would have been observed at a major retailer later that evening or the day after.
Stealing food? Cursing at (youthful) volunteers? Engaging in borderline battery on the race director? Is this the point to we, the running community, have regressed?
Race directors are a reactive lot. There's only so much proactive risk mitigation that can be done; more often than not changes come from the 'what worked, and what did not' hindsight. Not always perfect, sometimes selectively magnified. In this R.D.'s case, this was not her first rodeo; leftover food items from past editions of the race (11 under her direction) were donated to food banks.
Emergency management folks and sociologists would most likely define the looting which happened at this particular race as that of civil disorder; a response to perceived injustice.
I can hear the question, 'what injustice?'
As racing progressed from a club activity to a business enterprise and the exponential increase in the number of events directors have had to think about value addition. First it was overall awards for veteran athletes, then it was age group awards. Then there was the food and drink to keep the participants happy while scoring was completed. Expand beyond a certain point and it's not reasonable to provide buffets and endless beverage service. At that point in the game comes stratification; some will pay for value-added, others will continue to pay eighty bucks for two skinny beers, a granola bar and a bottle of chocolate milk. Having put on an event I know the lion's share of money goes into ensuring the infrastructure exists; safety, permits, insurance and the like, stuff the race participant only notes by its absence.
Then came the "participation events," with courses which might be accurate, might have shirts, might have food and beverage, might be more expensive than your local club race, and might give a little bit of the proceeds to a charity. Don't forget the frauds and hucksters, either. They exist. Google Reinke Sports Group, but make certain your fire extinguisher is handy first.
So the race consumer feels like they entitled to more for their dollar. And they are.
But when the running family decides to foul its own nest by letting it's members steal from an event, the event promoters who were doing the right thing in the first place will get out of the business. All that will be left are the color runs, the half-marathons which suddenly cancel, and the 2.8-mile 5K races.
Public exposure sounds like a great start, both for events and athletes who steal from each other. Event photos, as well as casual shots, could be used by R.D.s to seek out and sanction individuals or their family members (who often collude or assist in such shenanigans).
We really need to start teaching our running "friends and family" that it's acceptable to police our own. Neither impunity nor immunity should be granted; we will be the ones who foot the (larger) event bill and suffer decreased event quality...if one even occurs.