Sunday night, CNN spends their time speaking about the humid conditions at the race. Then, on Monday, it is Chaos in Chicago. By Tuesday, runners, are hanging Pinkowski in effigy. Here is the letter I posted to CNN on Tuesday night about what really happened at the race…
As the publisher of American Track & Field and president of the Running Network, a group of 34 regional and national running magazines, I have to tell you, Cary Pinkowski, the Race Director of La Salle Banks Chicago Marathon had two choices-let people get very sick, and perhaps more die, or take the courageous step and close the race down. 10,000 people did not even show up! The folks that ran, and I spoke to 100 of them after the race, were exhausted from the heat, and dissappointed from the tough conditions, but they should have been pleased that race management closed the race down! Why did water allegedly run out? Because many first timers, probably 2/3 of the field panicked and poured water on themselves and there was no way to plan for that!
Try and put yourself in Pinkowski’ shoes-keep the race open, and be criticized for people dying and more getting hospitalized, or closing it down and getting criticized for ruining someone’s day. It is only a race, and life is much more important. Pinkowski choose to keep 35,000 people from risking their lives.
American Track & Field
Running Network, LLC
The LSB Chicago Marathon in 2007 will be remembered for several things-amazing finishes by the elite athletes and Cary Pinkowski having the backbone enough to cancel the race.
Cary Pinkowski is a running geek. This is a good thing. He and Mike Nishi, and their team, want to put on the best race that they can. For nearly seventeen years now, Pinkowski and company have worked to make the LSB Chicago Marathon one of the top races in the world. It is a global race. Add that to a resurging ING New York, BAA Boston, FLORA London, real,-Berlin, among others and you have the World Majors.
I remember, in 1997 or so, late in the evening watching Cary checking out the course, it was probably 2 am ( we were coming back from a party). I had seen the same look before on the late Fred Lebow’s face, the heralded race director of the New York City Marathon, and resident eccentric at the New York Road Runners. Lebow INVENTED the city marathons. When he moved the New York race from five laps of Central Park to five boroughs in 1976, many thought he was smoking something illegal. I have spoken to a first sponsor, or who should have been, of New York-Lebow asked for $5k and they thought the Romanian apparel salesman was crazy.
Pinkowski comes from a running pedigree. In the 1970s 75-76, he went to high school with Rudy Chapa, Mike Keogh, and Cary P, they were all under nine minutes for two miles! In Indiana, and Gary, Indiana of all places. Cary was an amazing running in high school, ran well in college and ran a 2;22 marathon after that.
His love for the marathon and his absolutely anal attachment to managing races is why he is so good! The attention to detail, putting out more water, sports drinks, ice, air-conditioned vehicles, and water misters on Saturday showed that. That the weather, 87 degrees and 86 degrees humidity, did them in, only shows that Mother Nature still has some control over man.
The responsibility of the lives or deaths of 45,000 marathoners is something I hope I never, ever, ever have to consider. That Pinkowski could make the decision should be applauded. But to second guess him is just plain juvenile. Disagree, but respect the man for showing the guts, unlike most politicians today, to make a decision and stick with it.
I have had disagreements with Cary before, and he welcomes that. A pretty open guy for someone in such a position of authority, Cary Pinkowski saved the LSB Chicago Marathon-or whatever Bank of America is going to call it. By closing the race, he saved the day from being really tough to being a war zone.