Sporting Life 10K race director addresses finish line chaos

Jay Glassman responds to criticism about the bottleneck that had runners waiting to cross the finish line.

With a field of over 20,000, there are bound to be some hiccups at a race.

Sadly, poor marshalling, badly measured courses, dried up water stations, corral crowding and a slow march to cross the start line have become commonplace at some of Canada’s larger races over the last few years.

But seldom do runners encounter a traffic jam at the finish line of a race.

That’s just what happened to many participants of the sold-out Sporting Life 10K in Toronto on Sunday.

Photos, blog posts and tweets began to flood social media streams after the race as furious runners complained of coming to a stand-still metres before the finish line.

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Video of the early stages of the build-up at the finish line. Marshals can be heard telling people to “keep moving.”

The traffic jam to cross the line apparently only affected mid- and back of the pack runners in the second wave, which was sent out 10 minutes after the initial start in order to avoid just this sort of chaos.

The congestion at the finish line seemed to begin at around the one-hour mark and continued for some time, as many runners were forced to shuffle slowly to the timing mat in order to finish their race. Some runners even reported that they came to a complete standstill.

Runner Andrew Chak tweeted that the “most frustrating part was at the finish with a 30 second hold up to cross the mat.” According to Road Race Results, the official timer of the race, Chak finally crossed the line at 1:02:43 (gun time).

The race director, Jay Glassman, was in the finishing chute at the time and sees things differently.

“We had people in the chute trying to keep people moving, but we also had a lot inexperienced runners stopping,” Glassman told Canadian Running Monday afternoon. “They don’t know they’re supposed to run it out.”

Glassman says that they have 15 volunteers in the chute trying to move people along, but that many runners just weren’t listening and were stopping to see loved ones immediately after crossing the line, creating a bottleneck.

“Some of the runners became quite rude to both myself and my marshals in the chute when we asked them to continue moving through,” Glassman said. “It wasn’t that they were being stopped or held somewhere because of us, it was because they were stopping themselves.”

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A video of runners colliding with pedestrians also surfaced yesterday. The video shows many pedestrians brazenly attempting to criss-cross through the stream of runners, and was entitled “real life frogger” by the poster. Glassman was not impressed. “We can’t control that, we can’t fence the entire course. It’s disrespectful. People don’t seem to care that there is a race going on. They have to be respectful of the runners.”

Glassman says that apart from the bottleneck situation, which lasted around 20 minutes, the organization of the race, now in its second year under his direction, went quite well. Glassman estimates that around 22,000 runners finished the race, many of them first time racers. “We’re bringing a ton of new runners to the sport. They don’t know that there is an etiquette involved in an event like this. At the end of any race it’s important to keep moving.” He said that they’d consider expanding the staggered start next year and would put more of an effort into creating awareness about how to proceed in the finishing area so that the congestion isn’t an issue in 2014.

In all, more than $2 million was raised for Camp Oochigeas. All of the proceeds from the race go to the camp, which uses the funds as its operating budget to provide a camp for children with cancer.