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Road Races: Good vs. Inconvenience

Running club president argues for planning and patience.

Mike Polansky is president of the Greater Long Island Running Club

I read with interest the many comments on Huntington Patch relating to last Saturday’s Big 8 10 Kilometer Run through the roads of Huntington.  Although I wasn’t directly involved in the event, our club is the largest race management organization on Long Island, and we stage 30-35 similar events a year, so I felt that it was important that I put in my two cents on the issues raised on Patch.

Nobody likes to be inconvenienced.  We get annoyed when we get stuck at a red light for more than we think is a reasonable time.  We get annoyed at long lines.  And yes, many of us don’t like the inconvenience of a road race coming through their local streets.

But everything is -– or should be -– a question of weighing inconvenience against the greater good. Almost every road race benefits one or more local charities. We stage races to help autistic children, to aid in the rehabilitation of young amputees, to help fight leukemia, breast cancer and other loathsome diseases. The list goes on and on. When you weigh thirty minutes of congestion in your neighborhood against the lifetime of “inconvenience” that families impacted by autism, leukemia, etc., etc. have to deal with, those thirty minutes should seem pretty inconsequential.

That being said, there are things that a responsible race management team can and should to to be good neighbors to the residents of the neighborhoods that are impacted by their event. Notice is the key. Nobody should be taken by surprise on the morning of an event. If people are made aware in advance about an upcoming race, they usually can adjust their schedules to avoid having the problem. If I normally have to leave my home for work at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, but I know that there will be a bunch of runners coming down my street then, I can arrange to leave a bit earlier that day. 

A week to ten days before every one of our road races, we send a letter to every local resident that could be affected by the event. We give them a map of the race route, and precise details as to the times when the runners will be on particular street. In bigger events like the Town of Oyster Bay Triathlon, we may send out 2500 or more of these letters. We also try to have the local weekly newspapers and Patch in the affected community publish the letter and map a week in advance of the event. Perhaps most important of all, the letter and media releases all prominently include my name and phone number at the Club office and the suggestion that anyone who has a potential problem call me to discuss it. I get lots of calls with questions or potential problems, and we are invariably able to solve them.

Incidentally, I don’t know what the story is in Huntington, but in the Town of Oyster Bay you can’t get a permit from the Town Clerk’s Office to put on a road race without a commitment to send out such a letter.

We also try to work with local businesses to avoid any problem that they might encounter.  I know that the 7:30 AM start for last Saturday’s race was a time insisted on by Supervisor Petrone so that downtown Huntington businesses would not be negatively impacted by the Big 8 Race.

We try to make as many local businesses as possible participants in our events and, of course, local merchants are aware that every runner who comes in to a community is a potential customer for what that merchant has to sell.

The bottom line is that having a road race in the community is a positive thing.  It is a positive thing can and should help bring the community together in a fun event that benefits a local charity and promotes fitness and health.  Race organizers have a responsibility to help minimize the impact on local residents in any way they can, but I hope that before they get angry at the prospect of having a race in their backyards, people will take a minute to measure short term inconvenience against the greater good.

I commend Barry Turk and the Huntington Kiwanis and, of course, Tow Supervisor Petrone, for their dedicated efforts to stage a quality event that did a lot of good for Huntington, and I urge local residents to work with these dedicated individuals rather than against them.

Marita Eybergen October 25, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I just feel that people do not have any patients that is why we have so many accidents because people don't want to wait. With a great cause like this race and any other races for charity should be tolerated without any regrets. Traffic is not like instant messaging, so folks it's not startrek, "Beam me up Scotty" and you are there. Have a little patients, it goes a long way.
ROBERT PAVELKA October 25, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I agree with the idea of fundraising fun runs, BUT last Saturdays Kiwanis run was way out of line and those involved should be ashamed at the disorganized, dangerous, and inconvenient road closures. The inexperienced persons used to direct traffic caused more confusion to the motorist who were sent in the wrong direction. The lack of knowledge by the Police who were directing the traffic caused longer delays. The size of and the major roads closed causing a large amount of frustration to the motorists in the area. The danger of closing major roads could have been tragic, since there is a hospital in the area. Trying to cut costs by hiring inexperienced , unknowledgeable people is a danger to all, including those who were participating. Get your act together.
leslie October 25, 2012 at 08:30 PM
The race last weekend was very poorly planned and closed way way too many streets. End of story. I find it insulting that this article twists around what happened and then becomes a PR piece for The LOng Island Running Club. UGH.
Ryan Max October 27, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Ummmm and what about trying to get to the high school so the kids can take the PSAT? The kids were already stressed, add to that having to navigate and arriving late?

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