Running out of patience

COUNTER FLOW - James Deakin (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2013 - 12:00am

A few weeks back, I attended another one of those 10km running events that seem to be popping up as often as a tasteless Vice Ganda comment. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that so many people these days seem to be so health-conscious, but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that, unless taken seriously and addressed immediately, will end up to be even more hazardous to everyone’s health.

The problem I’m seeing is that because running seems to be enjoying a much longer shelf life than badminton, pearl shakes and shawarma, organizers really need to be far more responsible with traffic management and the choice of venues when holding these mega events. It was fine a few years ago when BGC still had plenty of open space, but now that the city has hit puberty, it really has outgrown the cute phase.

Take the recent one I joined. There were 12,000 registered entries yet no provisions for public parking. No big deal, you may say, seeing it was a Sunday and the event should wrap up by 9am––plus we were in the undeveloped side after the Lexus showroom––but try explaining that to the owners of the cars that were being towed by the very people who were hosting the event.

Yet as distasteful as it was, I noticed the BGC tow trucks out in full force, towing the cars of the participants that were parked on the street around the empty lots. I even stopped one and asked them what the hell they thought they were doing. They argued that there is no street parking allowed, whether there is a sign or not. Fair enough. But expecting 12,000 people to simply fall from the sky and patronize your event is as grossly irresponsible as not having any bathrooms in a sports stadium. It is basic logistics.

Then there’s the traffic situation. I have joined more than a few of these events, yet  never have I felt such hatred as I did that day from motorists who were forced to endure the kind of traffic that we only usually experience during natural disasters. But even though I was on the receiving end, I could hardly blame them.

I mean, seriously––try and imagine being forced to give way to 12,000 runners, all at different paces, snaking their way through what is already being described as one of the traffic capitals of the Philippines, creating travel times of an hour or more from Market Market to Kalayaan Avenue. And that’s only half the story. Because if you put yourself in the runner’s shoes for a minute, try and imagine attempting to beat your personal record or gunning for the cash prize all while enduring the dagger looks and nasty comments coming from frustrated motorists. You spot the finish line with a big clock and see that you can still do it, only to be stopped by a guard to give way to about 5-10 minutes of cars that need to get through. But that’s exactly what happened.

There were motorists and runners cursing each other; I saw one or two motorists peel off dangerously out of sheer frustration once they got the go ahead, only to be stopped at the next intersection to go through the gates of hell all over again. In turn, I saw runners hitting the hoods or trunks of the cars who were trying to make their way across an intersection.

The problem deepens of course, because pedestrians, joggers and bikers all need to share the road on a daily basis. And by mismanaging these very public events, it only creates a wider divide and a deeper resentment that can only eventually lead to confrontation, violence, or worse.

As both a casual runner and a motorist, I see both sides quite clearly. I applaud BGC for developing a running lifestyle, even creating open spaces that allow for safe training, but they have started to get too big for their boots and are now creating the opposite effect. It is one thing to have parks and designated running areas, but having a poorly managed public event is no different to having an unannounced public rally––you may have a good cause, but you’re giving people an even greater cause to hate you for holding them up.

So please, let this be a message to any city or commercial district that wants to jump on this bandwagon. Keep the numbers manageable, or hand the event over to another venue/organizer that can accommodate it, like MOA or the many reclaimed areas around there. Provide toilets and parking. And don’t impede traffic. Period. Especially in a place where there is a hospital. Take a leaf out of the Skyway’s annual run. It is well advertised, well-organized, and best of all, doesn’t get in anyone else’s way.

Once again, I’m not trying to discourage running; I would just like to see it run properly.

You can send your feedback to the author on Twitter. @jdeakin72

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