Here's what to do if an event did not live up to your expectations.
By: Dave McGillivray, for Runner's World
Sarah asks: What's the best way for a runner to file a complaint about a race?
First, it all depends on what you may be taking issue with. I would think seeking out the event director or organization’s top executive would be the best initial approach. It is always best if you can write to a specific person and not to an “info” email account. Do some research and try to get the right person’s direct email address or phone number. You could always write a letter and send it through regular mail, but my sense is that these days that form of sending a complaint rarely gets a response.
But before filing a complaint, stop, take a deep breath, and make sure you have considered all the facts and truly have a legitimate case for registering a complaint.
You don’t want to burn any bridges. Know, too, that more often than not, you get more with honey than vinegar. Yelling and screaming will not produce the results you are looking for.
And, if you have some suggestions for correcting the problem or improving the experience, always subtly offer those. Sometimes complaining about something while offering no solutions can just anger the recipient. Many times we can overreact and be critical of something but have no idea ourselves how to correct the issue or even if there is a reasonable solution.
Most event directors mean well. However, that certainly doesn’t always mean everything turns out the way it was meant to and the way they had planned it. You have to depend on many other people to come through with their roles. Mother Nature can wreak havoc on your race without warning. The list goes on and on. I’ve always felt that if an event director gets 90 percent correct, it is like 100 percent in any other industry. We are producing events out on the open roads and anything can happen.
That being said, every runner has the right to comment on a race. If someone has a legitimate gripe, they should have an easy and accessible way to make it known. There are plenty of cases in which the race was being reckless or didn’t fulfill what they advertised. For example, if a runner goes the wrong way, some directors jump to the conclusion that the runner is at fault and should have known the course. I, however, think the race is responsible for making sure the course is marked well enough that there is no confusion. It’s a two-way street.
Taking the high road in the approach will always yield better results. If you don’t get a response, you could always contact the permitting authorities to let them know that the race has been non-responsive to you, but I would hope that it would never come down to that. I respond to every email of concern I personally receive and do so faster than I would respond to almost any other email I receive. Races want happy customers, and most customers just want to be given the common courtesy of being heard and responded to.
We are all in this together. Races need runners and runners need races. Constructive criticism should never be shunned and anyone should feel comfortable offering it. Many times it is just the approach—not the issue itself—that makes all the difference in the world as to the end result.
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