June 23

2015 Trouble on Course

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Hey everyone! We want to thank you again for being a part of our 2015 Yellowstone Half Marathon. It was a great weekend and we hope you all enjoyed the race and your time in the park! It was a great weekend, but it wasn’t without incident. I’m writing this because as you may or may not be aware, we had a water shortage at aid stations near mile 7 and 9. As best as we have been able to identify, the water shortage affected a couple hundred people towards the end of the race. Those runners were counting on water for about 4 miles on course (miles 7 to 11) and weren’t able to get it. Even a single runner having this experience is unacceptable to us and we are so sorry if this ruined anyone’s vacation and/or race. Further, I am sorry it has taken this long to address the issue but after the race we had thought the affected numbers of runners was smaller than it now appears to be, and at the time we did not think a letter like this was necessary. Over the last 10 days we have engaged with a lot of runners who were affected and at this point we realize the mistake was bigger than we had thought it was. If you are familiar with Vacation Races, you know that passing the buck and a slow response to problems is not how we do things. There is no excuse here, we are sorry. 

We have talked a lot internally about what happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. As you saw, Yellowstone is a unique course with some limitations on access to some sections of the course. I would like to explain some of the things we think contributed to the problem and hope you take it as just that and not as an attempt to excuse anything, we lust like to be transparent and open with our runners. 

Our permit with the forest service restricted the number of trips we could make out to that part of the course (Corrette Ridge and up the North Fork). Knowing that, we calculated how much water we thought would be needed and then took extra to be sure (over 125 gallons to both 7 and 9 – which is as much as we could take). Not at all the Forest Service’s fault, that was just the nature of our permit. Unfortunately what we thought would be enough water wasn’t! We actually had plenty of water on course, but we didn’t anticipate those two aid stations to be used like they were. Last year these 2 stations were used differently than they were used this year. Various things contributed to that – the warmer temps, larger numbers, etc. Further, we had expected people to fill up their packs and bottles at mile 4, but we should have been more clear about that. Our race committee responded as quickly as possible, but as you saw, there is no real way to replenish those aid stations if they run out. We tried to communicate that these stations have limited supplies, but with hindsight we were obviously not clear enough. Its an easy fix for next year, but we are sorry if our learning had to come at your expense. 

I understand that the vast majority of you were unaffected by this, and even among those who were affected, many had sufficient water or were able to get to the next aid station without it completely ruining their race. However, for those that were strongly affected by this I cannot apologize enough. You counted on us and we let you down. We had medical staff on course and they didn’t get any report of anyone in distress, but understand that you were out there in the heat without water and can only imagine the frustration and discomfort you may have experienced. Again, even one runner going through that is just unacceptable to us.  

For next year, we have already talked to the Forest Service about taking more trips out there to be sure those stations are even more stocked. In addition, Also, we plan to better communicate the aid station restrictions and to provide more explicit instructions.

If you were among the group we have identified that was affected, we will be sending you a separate email later with a coupon code for a free race entry into any one of our future events. We hope you will come run with us again and give us a second chance to show you how we really do things.

Thanks to all of you for your patience, feedback, and support. Thank you to our volunteers on course who volunteer their time freely and handled the situation as best they could. Thanks to those runners/volunteers/spectators on course who shared their water. We are lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

Sincerely,

Salem Stanley
Founder of Vacation Races


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