Last weekend, thousands of amateur and elite runners were getting set to line up in Minnesota to race the Twin Cities Marathon.
Just hours before they would take off, runners got a disappointing message in their inbox.
As a result of the “extreme heat,” race organizers made the decision to cancel the race.
With temperatures set to reach 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33.5 degrees Celsius), race organizers made the tough decision, but one that they stand behind.
“I haven’t doubted the decision for a second since we made it,” race director Eli Asch said. “We were prepared to operate the race under what we communicated all week as very challenging red-flag conditions. The forecast worsened Saturday night into Sunday morning in a meaningful way. That forecast is ultimately what caused us to cancel the event.”
Red-flag conditions, according to the organization, are those which are considered potentially dangerous. In conditions such as these, runners should take extreme caution, reduce their pace, and consider not participating.
Race organizers monitored conditions all week and emailed participants with consistent updates that the event would continue under these red-flag conditions. An email was even sent out the night prior to the event that it was still running as scheduled.
It wasn’t until a 2 a.m. meeting with race organizers that things changed. Worsening conditions in the weather forecast eventually crossed the threshold set by the American College of Sports Medicine for holding events safely.
The decision to cancel the race came at 4:30 a.m., with emails being sent out at 5:30 a.m., just 90 minutes before the start of the event.
Although everyone, runners and organizers, were disappointed, most were understanding that safety comes first, and putting on the event could have resulted in poor outcomes and liability against the organizers.
Following the decision, some runners opted to run the course on their own accord.
Catherine Bunker, who would have participated in the 10-mile race, was one of many who decided to take to the start regardless.
“We were already wheels in motion to get to the start when the 5:30 email came. We threw on our bibs anyways.”
Another runner, Maya Walker, flew from Colorado to take part in the marathon, which would have been her first. After the cancellation, what was going to be a training day turned into her completing the course with her friend.
“We said, well, we might as well go for a run, and then it seems like everybody just started doing the whole course, so might as well.”
For the elite athletes, the cancellation raised concerns surrounding Olympic Trials qualification. With the race serving as a qualification event for the USA Olympic Trials, to be held this February in Florida, a number of elite athletes were counting on this as an opportunity to punch their ticket to the trials.
Many other events this year are already at maximum capacity for entries, meaning there may be few to no opportunities to qualify for the Olympic Trials as a result of the cancellation.
Luckily, race organizers from other events took notice and understood the cancellation was in the name of safety.
Race organizers from other events threw these athletes a lifeline.
Alan Brookes, race director for the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, was quickly contacted by organizers of the canceled Twin Cities Marathon. Brookes was a lifeline for three elite runners who will participate in the Toronto event on October 15th, hoping to run a qualifying time.
In the face of the unexpected race cancellation, the running community displayed adaptability and unity, with organizers helping Olympic hopefuls to quickly find alternative opportunities to pursue their goals on different race courses.