After what can be called a mixed reaction to the inaugural Ironman U.S Championships in New York City, the World Triathlon Corporation decided to suspend registration to the 2013 race.
It was no secret that pulling off an Ironman event in the Big Apple was going to be tricky. Despite a sewage leak that almost cancelled the swim, Sunday morning after the Saturday race, athletes were jockeying for position to sign up for the 2013 event with a $1200 registration fee, $300 more than the 2012 event and almost double the price tag of Ironman- Madison.
Popularity is one thing, athlete safety and delivering a quality experience is another and when push came to shove the team at the World Triathlon Corporation made the right decision, albeit difficult, and decided to suspend the race and refund the money of the athletes who had already signed up.
I have been at the eye of the hurricane when a race doesn’t live up the expectation of the athletes and let me tell you that it is a painful, heart aching experience to let down the people that put their trust in your hands. It stays with you, it keeps you up at night and also motivates you to make sure it never happens again.
Balancing an event from a neighborhood fun run, to a chocolate themed 10K to the Ironman is like balancing a mountain on a pin head, it ain’t easy. Race directors all around the world do it because this is their passion, this is their art form and their form of adrenaline.
For months,even years, race directors work for one day. A day filled with permits, teamsters., crooked aldermen, porta- potties, snow fences, jumbo-trons, aid station, parking spaces, volunteers, closed streets, bands, generators, finishers medals and a thousand other details that can come crashing down on them with one bolt of lightning in the air or broken sewage pipe.
Because at the end of the day, hot chocolate doesn’t matter, finishers medals don’t matter, Elvis singing doesn’t matter, what is at the top of the priority list, above a gimmick and the experience, is the safety of each and every athlete in their race. If that’s compromised, it’s over before it begins.
As a marketing guy, when people would ask me, "what’s the best thing about the Hot Chocolate race series?" I would jump into a list of things that were all about the experience: chocolate, bands, hoodies, a 70 foot arch and on and on. Ask race director Brandon Presern the same question and the answer remains the same, “safety.”
The World Triathlon Corporation has come under fire lately, many people say they are diluting the brand, doing a snatch and grab with as many races as they can and constantly raising the price of registration. They could have sold this race out and proceeded forward with another sell out. What they did took guts and shows that even the big kids on the block still remember where they came from.
Here is a quote from their statement online:
It has always been our policy at Ironman races in North America to open registration for the following year’s race the day after the event so that athletes and volunteers can gain guaranteed entry before general registration opens. We followed that policy yesterday for the 2013 Aquadraat Sports Ironman U.S. Championship. In retrospect, it was a mistake. We should have taken the time to listen to our athletes, partners and municipalities before we opened registration.
By suspending registration, we are taking the time to do that now. We need to work with all of our partners over the next several weeks to ensure that this event can be conducted in the way that our athletes expect and deserve.
To read the full statement click here.