This is a question I’ve often thought about simply because I find it fascinating. Assuming the competitors did not have malicious intent who is truly at fault when competitors run off course?
I bring up this question because I was at a race this year where the 1st place and 2nd place finishers of the elite heat, skipped ~0.5 km of the course and one obstacle. Now 0.5 km doesn’t sound like much but in a 5 km race it is quite significant. Skipping a portion of the course obviously gave these two racers a huge advantage and secured their 1st and 2nd place finish.
I spoke with these two racers at the finish line and they simply had no clue what I was talking about. As far as they knew they ran the intended course. Additionally these two racers weren’t the only ones to veer off course as other competitors did so as well (they just didn’t place as highly). To the racers credit the course was poorly marked where they went astray.
The course was marked with small pylons placed close together forming a little triangle. The intent was for this “triangle” to direct racers to the left. However the next course marking to the left was a small skinny pylon off in the distance. Given that the next course marking was of a different type and far away one could easily hug the edge of the small pylons and end up skipping a section of the course, which is exactly what the two top finishers did. I completely believe these two runners had no intention of skipping the course, but the fact is they skipped the course so now what.
Should these two racers simply be disqualified (DQ’d) no questions asked, because they did not run the designated course? Some may say yes, BUT these racers did pay an entry fee and are here to enjoy the race as well. Therefore should they be punished for the faults of the race director and course designer for not clearly marking the course? BUT even with poor course markings, the vast majority of the racers did stay on course, so why should these two be exempt of punishment when most racers were able to stay on course?
Should these two racers be given a time penalty? Simply take the racers pace for the race and add on the allotted time for the section they missed. I for one think this doesn’t work because more often than not, racers slow down when they cover more distance therefore there average pace when skipping a section of the course is faster than there pace would have been if they ran the whole course. Thereby still resulting in a faster total time than if they had in fact ran the entire course.
What about simply DQ’ing both athletes no questions asked, because they did not run the designated course? But in this case it can be argued that it was at the fault of the racer director and course designer for poorly marking the course, which caused 1st and 2nd place to run off course. Furthermore I am 99.9% sure that these two racers would have placed 1st and 2nd had they not skipped the course, as they were hands down the best OCR athletes at the event. So now the race director would not only have to DQ the top athletes at his event, but DQ them for his/her own mistake. Personally I’d find it incredibly difficult to DQ the top two athletes at my event for MY mistake or MY course designer’s mistake.
Luckily at this particular event there were no large sums of money to be given to the top finishers. The top male and female racer were to receive a pair of shoes (which some may argue is substantial prize). So whether or not the racers who ran off course were DQ’d, had a minimal effect beyond other competitor’s peace of mind, and the right to a fair race.
At this particular event nothing was done to the 1st and 2nd place finishers, they were not disqualified, and they did not receive a time penalty for cutting the course. However the race director in this case provided all top 3 males with new shoes, instead of just top finisher. Third place in this case is the rightful recipient of these shoes and received his prize. I feel as if the race director gave shoes to 1st and 2nd place as if to apologize for the poor course markings.
Given that there was no prize money at this event I feel like the race director made a fair call by providing all top 3 finishers with shoes. However after thinking about this issues and writing this article, I do think that the best solution is to still DQ the racers who went off course. Although there reasoning for venturing off course is just, they still ran off course. I believe that because there was no intent of cheating they should be DQ’d and have their entry fee refunded. Even though this was an Elite Heat, the majority of competitors are still weekend warriors out for a good time, this includes the 1st and 2nd place finishers. Therefore when an entry fee is paid, participants expect a certain level of quality (i.e. well marked course). But in this case the course markings led people off course and therefore the service they paid for was not given to them and I think their entry fees should be refunded.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on the situation. If you have a different opinion or another suggestion on what to do in such a situation I’d love to hear it!
Adam Kuhn lives in Calgary Alberta, where he works as a Geologist in corporate Calgary. Playing high level hockey and football in high school Adam has always loved competitive sports. Upon entering University, sports and exercise fell to the wayside as a life of partying ensued. Spartan Racing has gotten Adam off the couch (and booze) and has revitalized his life. A relatively new face in the OCR scene Adam’s competitive nature is back as he pushes his body to its limits as he competes in the Elite Heats, testing himself against the best of the best. Follow him on Instagram @adamkuhn20 and checkout his personal blog readysweatrun.com for more on his adventures.