Last weekend I participated in the Lycra and Lace Triathlon at Ft. Desoto, which is below St. Petersburg, FL. To say it was a little controversial would be an understatement. Mainly because the days before the race the entire state of Florida was under a State of Emergency as Hurricane Matthew came barreling towards us. That and just an hour away from Tampa in Orange County they were under a curfew that lasted until 7am on Saturday (race day) morning. Now where I don’t blame the race for going as scheduled since the weather here was fine, I do think their handling of the situation was a bit callous.
Early in the week the posts began on the Facebook event with questions about what was going on with the race. Myself included, asked about the packet pick-up during the storm, to no response. Not only where there a bunch of questions about the race there were a bunch of comments about no one hearing anything. To the point that while local news was talking about evacuations the race was posting:
Or my personal favorite was that after the above post and the number of questions about the race for those on the East Coast or Central part of the state we received an email that said:
“WEATHER ALERT WE ARE MONITORING THE WEATHER, AS OF NOW THE RACE IS GOOD TO GO FINAL WORD WILL BE FROM PINELLAS COUNTY PARKS DEPT. WEATHER EXPECTED FOR SATURDAY IS TEMP LOW 70’s BREEZEY WINDS (10-18) AND CLOUDY FRPM “
Now while I agree the race should go on I feel like races, especially in times of crisis, should at least show a little human decency or concern. I guess it is just a customer service side of me but a little thought into the above email would have gone a long way. Something as simple as:
“Dear Athletes, while we are monitoring the weather for Saturday’s race, that for now, will go as scheduled we want to address your concerns. We understand that 16 million people in Florida are affected by Hurricane Matthew. PLEASE DO NOT RISK YOUR LIVES FOR A TRIATHLON! If you are unable to make the race due to the effects of Hurricane Mathew please email us and we will discuss on a case by case basis. A triathlon is not worth risking your life, please take care of your families and yourselves.”
Would that have been so hard? I know it is common sense but sometimes you just have to spell it out for people. In a time where local race directors complain about the “branded” races getting more athletes. Or small races “selling out” to larger brands they have the ability to do something better than those larger companies. They can care about their participants. A little care can go a long way! I mean, there were people that commented that they left their families a day early to drive to be able to do the race…seriously??
So local race staffs, please talk to your participants. Don’t ignore them on social media. For 4 days it felt like the race was ignoring people, that they didn’t care about their participants. They were even posting photos from the packet pick-up while not responding to the questions and concerns of many athletes.
I will highly contemplate doing a race from this company again in the future. I know, locally, that is controversial, but I think people matter. I think customer service is very important. I think caring about people is important. I also think, these are the same people that would complain if they received the same treatment from a local race all the way up to IRONMAN.
So go that extra small step and care about your participants, customers, constituents, it can really go a long way!