DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I was at a race this weekend where the rules clearly prohibit strollers, jogging or otherwise, in the 10-K and 5-K. My friend didn't have anyone to watch her baby while she ran and felt she had to skip the race. But when I got there, I found plenty of people running with their jogging strollers anyway. I wish we'd known this. Why don't race officials either enforce the rule, or remove it if they don't intend to enforce it? Thanks — Suzanne
Thanks for your question. I happen to agree that it is the race's responsibility to determine their rules and guidelines, publish and communicate those rules to race participants, and, ultimately, to enforce the rules on race day. Unfortunately, in our sport, different races have different rules and some accept certain things where others don't. There is not a lot of consistency from race to race on these issues--which is all the more reason for races to determine their guidelines and to communicate them clearly and in advance of the event.
But the enforcement part doesn't always occur as it should. That was definitely the case over the past few years with headphone rules. Some runners obeyed the rule and plenty of others did not. One of the toughest parts of being a race director is being responsible for policing your own event. Rules need to be clear, displayed prominently on all materials, and enforced by appointed officials. It isn't fair otherwise.
A few possible solutions: for a race that doesn't want to allow something (strollers, for example) but can't manage proper enforcement, the best course may be to discourage but not prohibit and let runners use their conscience as their guide. Alternatively, create a separate start and or wave of the race where the offending activity is allowed, but contained. A race aiming to become more family-friendly could allow strollers, but only for walkers and only at the back of the field. I should also mention liability and insurance. If the race is sanctioned and insured through USATF (USA Track & Field), using strollers is actually prohibited.
In this case, your best bet might be a diplomatically worded letter to the race director asking about the rule and suggesting that, at future editions of the event, the rule be enforced, restated as I've suggested above, or, all else failing, eliminated.