The Anguish Of The Last-Minute Race Cancellation

AJW writes about last-minute race cancellations.

By on October 2, 2015 | 8 comments

AJWs Taproom[Update 1:45 p.m. Mountain Time on October 2: Forty-eight hours after having his permit revoked and having to cancel the Grindstone 100 Mile due to weather, Race Director Clark Zealand and his team successfully re-scheduled the race to take place next weekend, on October 9th through 11th. Working with the hosts at the Boy Scout camp, his volunteer corps, and the United States Forest Service, Clark succeeded in turning around a very disappointing situation for many. In my humble opinion, he is a tremendous model to us all.]

On Wednesday afternoon around 2:00 p.m., after pulling into our local Gander Mountain Outfitters to pick up some supplies for the aid station I was helping organize at the Grindstone 100 Mile, my phone pinged with an ominous announcement: the United States Forest Service had just revoked race director Clark Zealand’s race permit. The race, scheduled to begin in just over two days, had been abruptly cancelled.

Now I have no reason to quibble with the decision of the forest service as I am sure they have ample reason to cancel the permit given the weather conditions and bad long-range forecast. Additionally, I understand that there are many factors which play in to such a decision. However, I cannot help but share in the anguish of dealing with such a cancellation as a runner.

I have had this happen to me several times. The two most notable occasions were Western States in 2008 and Coyote Two Moon in 2011. In the case of the former, I was notified on the Wednesday preceding the race while I was packing my car and in the case of the latter it was when I ran into the 67-mile aid station and was told, “Race is canceled.” It is never easy to stomach.

All that being said, we all need to understand that last-minute race cancellations are inevitable in certain circumstances. As we choose our races, we know clearly that the potential for such cancellations, particularly on public lands in volatile weather conditions, is always possible. But that still doesn’t make it easy on the stomach. Just in the last 24 hours, I know of disappointed Grindstone runners who have faced the hardship of nonrefundable hotel rooms and airline tickets as well as the gut-wrenching realization that, as one of the few East Coast 100s that they can use for qualification, they are potentially losing out on their last opportunity to complete a qualifying race for Western States and Hardrock.

However, at the time of this writing, it should be noted that all is not lost. The tireless Clark Zealand and his team have been working around the clock to salvage the event and potentially re-schedule it for the following weekend. Working with their loyal volunteers, the Boy Scout camp that hosts the start/finish, and the forest service, Clark is doing everything in his power to bring the race to the people. Obviously, given all the circumstances it is an uphill battle but Clark, rather than simply saying “Sorry folks, nothing I can do, see you next year,” is putting the rest of his life on hold to endeavor to get this done. For me, as a long-time ultrarunner and beneficiary of selfless race directors across the country, I am in awe of Clark’s tenacity, loyalty, and discipline.

So to Clark and your team….

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Devils Backbone Brewing Company 16 Point Double IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week has to come from Virginia and should rightfully be one of Clark’s favorites. From Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Nellysford, Virginia, this week’s Beer of the Week is their powerful 16 Point Double IPA. The big brother of their award-winning 8 Point IPA, 16 Point is a beast of a DIPA worthy of the positive attitude and tireless work ethic of Clark Zealand.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you signed up for a race that was canceled last minute or during it for extreme weather or other emergent circumstances? If so, what was your reaction and what did you do instead?
  • Were you supposed to run Grindstone this weekend?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.