Get real honey – it REALLY IS usually about the money!
When I first introduced my children to TV about 10 years ago on a family holiday to Goa it was to Cartoon Network. Along with that ‘entertainment appliance’ came some fartherly wisdom “These channels exist to make money by broadcasting advertisements of companies that want you to buy their products, and they keep you watching their ads by showing you cartoons in-between the ads”. The case for distance running race organizers is not dissimilar.
The larger running race organizers in India have demonstrated clearly over the last few years that their primary motive is to make money. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in making money. In fact, the prefix to my tag line “The refusal to think is evil” from Ayn Rand is “Money is the root of all good”. What troubles me, however, is the frequent inability of these race organizers to think and act beyond their short term greed. A focus, instead, on long term greed would allow race organizers to maintain dominant oligopolies within the growing recreational running racing industry.
Even helpful pacers are not left alone
Although I don’t register often for public races, I made an appearance recently at the most popular 10km race in India. In order to help more runners with their race performance I decided to be a 50 minute pace setter. This popular race had no pacers in previous editions. Perhaps it was because the organizers found out that I was going to dedicate my run to help others with their pace that they decided to organize official pacers themselves. That’s all fine, commendable, in fact. However, as we approached race day I faced direct and indirect harassment from them because I explained that I was not interested in being an official pacer for this specific race. Race organizers need to understand that when you or I pay money to register for their race, we have become their customers. This race organizer, in particular, does not even respond to suggestions of reimbursing race registration fees to pacers. Can you imagine a stewardess on a flight asking you “I know you have paid for this airline seat, but could you please serve the other passengers their dinner? Oh, and if you do, please don’t expect us to refund you your fare!” – that would be shocking, wouldn’t it?
Give, don’t just Take
What annoyed me about this race organizer’s attitude was that it was all about “take take take”. Never mind that they never offer a refund of the race registration fee to pacers, leave aside paying for my travel to the race city, it was their list of flimsy reasons for why I could not run with my own pacer flag that annoyed me. I heard later of respectable runners being manhandled by police at the instructions of the race organizer because the corporate 10km race at the same event had its route markings and barricades bungled up, and these runners were attempting to help put the wrong right. The same race organizer has in other cities not provided appropriate race route hydration, inadequate emergency first aid at the finish line, long queues for post race hydration, chaos at medal collection counters along with race registration fees that seem to go up faster each year than your average race completion speed!
Questions to ask yourself
It’s great that there are individuals or organizations in India that are taking a profit-driven or non-profit approach to improving public health in various ways. When their ways and means become blatantly about grabbing a larger piece of the pie instead of expanding the pie, you as a runner need to step back and ask:
“as a paying customer, am I being provided the customer service I expect from a premium service provider?”
Taking the airline analogy further, with respect to the distance running race industry, you could ask yourself:
- Would I be happy to fly with an airline that doesn’t serve me food or drink at the appropriate time?
- Would I be happy to fly with an airline that does not pay attention to safe landing procedures?
- Would I be happy to fly with an airline that suddenly changes my travel date by 2 months?
- Is it fair that another fare paying passenger who helps me get to my destination on time is hassled by the airline?
- Should I be thinking twice when paying up for a service within an industry where there is no ombudsman or regulator to monitor process and performance and to penalize poor quality service?
When you run a public race that has an entry fee, you expect to be better off (in a non-monetary sense) by at least the amount of the fee that you pay. When you feel this is no longer happening, please do ask yourself if it is because of the excessive short-term greed of the race organizer.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.