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When Weather Makes The Dallas Marathon Go Horribly Wrong
By: Cindy Wendland
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Planning a marathon puts the best event planner to the test. The months of preparation, promotion, and coordination culminate with the big event. Who would have thought that an ice storm would cancel this year’s metroPCS Dallas Marathon?!

The 2013 Dallas Marathon was expected to draw 20,000 runners. The ice and cold temperatures would have make the course dangerous for runners, so race officials met with city officials and cancelled the race. Marathon runners put months of preparation and training into the event, so this is like cancelling their Super Bowl.

Some dedicated runners couldn’t  be held down and promoted via Facebook unsanctioned events — the 2013 Icepocalypse Marathon and The NOT Dallas Marathon. Runners mapped out changes to the route to avoid icy bridges and some police officers came out to escort the runners to help ensure their safety. A small number of runners did complete the half and full marathon.

This situation of cancelling the marathon goes straight to managing risk and response planning. In all good project management and communication plans, risk assessment and analysis are reviewed. The City of Dallas has had ice storms before, so it was definitely a risk, but the probability of it happening on race day was low. Nevertheless, during their reserve analysis, race officials would have discussed options to handle a cancelled race and what funds would be needed to console the runners.

So far, runners have been offered two things. One, the race shirt, which was included in their registration fee, will be mailed out to all registrants. Race officials are asking for patience as they coordinate the logistics for this and hope to get them all delivered by the end of the month. Was this in their risk plan? Secondly, runners who sign up for the 2014 race and FINISH will receive both the 2013 and 2014 medal. Typically only race finishers receive a medal otherwise race officials could ship medals with the shirts. However, seasoned runners may not be accepting of a medal they did not earn.

No event planner can control the weather, but an event planner can plan for risk and implement the plan if the risk materializes. Efforts that exceed expectation will put the event in a good light with participants. Time will tell the effectiveness of this response plan.

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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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