“On behalf of all of us here at GOTRC, we'd like to acknowledge the hurt and frustration being expressed by so many in our community.”
Not the note you expect to see on the Girls on the Run-Chicago Facebook page after their big Chicago race. However after a weekend race that left buses of girls stuck in traffic for hours only to arrive and miss the entire event, this was just the beginning of the note and a lot of apologies for an event gone awry.
It goes on to apologize to everyone involved and says “we accept full responsibility for the significant traffic delays that caused many of you hours of discomfort. We are profoundly sorry for what you experienced, and know that words cannot erase the disappointment felt by the girls and those who love and support them.”
The Chicago race touts itself as the largest in the world, but after this last weekend, it is clear Girls on the Run-Chicago is experiencing growing pains and doing the opposite of it’s original mission of empowering little girls.
There were many comments on Facebook talking about how upset their daughters were. “I have spent all day trying console my little girl and stroked her her hair and hands as she fell sleep. She is so incredibly disappointed. She can't understand why this happened. Something broke inside her today that I just can't fix and my heart breaks for her.”
There were reports of runners being turned away, denied food and even wetting their pants because of being stuck in traffic for hours.
The culprit seems to be an e-mail that guided everyone, buses, parents, spectators, everyone, down the same route. This caused a major backup and started the many problems.
Problems and GOTR- Chicago are not new. Not enough water at the aid stations, over crowding at the start and finish, angry parents have all been a part of GOTR-Chicago's history.
How do you fix a race that has all the best intentions and growing problems? Talk of a "split" has been brought up. Splitting the event between the suburbs and the city, so there isn’t as much over crowding.
GOTR-Chicago isn't a race company, they are a very well intentioned charity, that does so many great things for young girls. Maybe it's time for them to stop acting like one, or at least hire turn to the professionals to make their event happen.
Insiders tell us that despite working with a local race management team, the GOTR- Chicago staff does a great job of ignoring their advice and guidance and opts for what they feel is “fun.”
What started as a great idea and fun for girls, turned into a nightmare for many. It’s time for GOTR-Chicago to start playing with the big kids in the race industry and fix their problems.
You can have a “cute, kid friendly” event, with sparkles, tiaras, chocolate, etc. whatever you want, but the people running it have to understand what it takes to manage and run an event this size. Cute t-shirts and tiaras don’t cut it on the race operations side.
Capping the race in Chicago is an option.
Age groups and different start times
Or just splitting up the event.
Plenty of the larger races in Chicago have been faced with the idea of leaving the city for a better suburban location where parking is easier and you can access it better. GOTR Rosemont or Schaumberg may not have a great skyline or soccer stadium, but the ability to have a safe, successful event, where everyone can reach their goals is better than tears and angry letters.
Most race organizations deal with crazed runners, GOTR-Chicago is dealing with the parents of children, which ups the “crazy factor” 10 fold. Failing on this level is not an option
The Chicago “big” race location is the same venue for their smaller race, which works fine, but has a lot less runners.
This is just a GOTR-Chicago problem, which happens to be the one in the spotlight. Other area GOTR chapters break down their events by county, district etc. At the end of the day, it's safe to say that little girls don't care if they are running with 600 girls or 6000, they are there for the experience, and this was for the most part a bad experience.
We have and will continue to support the efforts of Girls On The Run. The Chicago chapters experiences isn't indicative of all the Girls on the Run events.
Many people made it on time and had a great experience. However, overcrowding, bad parking and people missing races is a part of every large event, if they are not addressed, runners, even little runners in tiaras go away and so do the events. To lose GOTR-Chicago would be a huge loss for the girls and the community.