The Rules and Regulations
What are the mandatory equipments you need to have ?
- One working headlamp/torch lights (for 50km & 100km runner) or two working headlamps/torch lights (for 200km runner) with spare batteries.
- Reflective vest “and” any bright back blinking accessories;
- Water bottles or hydration bag with a minimum capacity of 500ml;
- Mobile phone;
- Foldable cup or other container suitable for drinking at the water station points – it can be replaced by the water bottle/hydration bag;
- Emergency blanket;
These items are really the basic minimum ones. If you think of it, they all make sense to have: you need to have light (and batteries) to see, you need to be seen (safety vest, blinkers) from front and back, you need to carry your bottle/cup for water as no cups are provided (sustainability). In the event you are injured and can’t be seen for some reason, you have the whistle to be heard by others, same goes for your mobile phone. The emergency blanket is in case you are feeling very cold or injured. Running at night for long hours, being exhausted can require you to have the emergency blanket around you when you stop running. It happened to some very good runners the year before when they completed. Moreover if you are injured on the side of the road, the emergency blanket makes you very visible too.
Even this time, I saw at CP3 one of my friend Chandru so exhausted after 175km that he was sleeping with the emergency blanket on him to keep him warm.
What was checked at the race start
- A reflective small band (like the free ones from KL marathon few years ago) is not sufficient and not replacing a safety vest
- You really need to have spare batteries in case you run out of juice. And even in that case it can be painful to change the batteries: practice before the race !
- Some of you had very tiny blinkers with weak batteries. You pass the check, but seriously how do you expect to be visible with a low battery ring size blinker for 8 hours ?
- When you have a USB charged headlamp, it’s very hard for the volunteer to know that this particular model can do 8 hours of lighting. My USB one does 5 hours max (Nathan) and I need a power bank to comply with the spare battery rule or bring a spare battery if you can swap the battery (some Ptzel allow that). In fact, the best is still a lamp with traditional batteries.
- If you carry a blinker with CR2032 batteries (button flat ones), I would suggest you carry spare batteries too and learn how to change them. The blinker is what can save you along with the vest from cars coming behind you.
- A bright T-Shirt is not a reflective vest. It doesn’t have the big reflective areas. A small nike or puma sign won’t cut it sorry…
- An emergency blanket is not a think jacket or a spare T-Shirt !
- When you say the item is in the car and ask if you really need to carry it, a child’s look don’t work. Moreover I’m not stupid, I know in 90% of the cases you don’t have the item.
- When you really leave the item in the car, I know that most of you will not carry it and leave it back after showing it to us.
- When you bring back an item that you were missing, I’m pretty sure that for most of you it’s an item borrowed from a friend who passed the check before. I saw some of you exchanging items then giving back after the check.
You pass the check, beat the system. What does it bring you ? You think you’re safe enough doing your way ? That’s the reason why we did a mid race check of mandatory gears at CP3…
Along the race course taking photos
At the end of the afternoon after the start of the 100km race, we had few hours to spare before having the safety gears checking for the 50km race. We drove along the race course passing all runners taking photos from the car window then at each of the CPs. You need to be careful driving with so many runners and cars coming in the other direction. Runners, be very careful when you overtake other runners and step out of the single line. There might be a car behind you. Don’t do it if a car is coming in front of you for sure.
Now, the interesting piece is when we reached the first 10 runners of the 100km. It was starting to be dark, and guess what… some of them were running without lights ! You could argue it’s the end of the day… but when I have to switch on my car lights to drive it’s not, or when I can’t take a picture without flash ! So when we stopped to take some pictures, I had to remind these runners to switch on their light immediately and for some wear the other gears (vest, blinker) otherwise we have to DQ them on the spot. Fast and experienced runners, please be an example, follow the rules and show it to newbies runners. Slower runners, the same apply, you’ll have buddies possibly starting running ultras inspired by what you tried, be an example !
Some examples below of situations where you need to already wear your safety gears (light, blinkers and vest). It’s about your safety and being seen by others users of the road.
You might think you see enough to run at 6-6:30pm and be safe (ie not put your feet into a pothole) but I can assure that having driven there, no one can see you until the last minute. This is extremely dangerous for you. Is your life worth less than 20s on the race to put your lights on ?
The mid race check at CP3
We were scheduled to run a mandatory gears check at CP3 entrance from 2am to 4am. We ended up doing the checking until 4:45am as there were still a lot of runners. Unfortunately we were so busy doing the checks I don’t have a single photo of the place. We were split in 2 teams: one checking the 100km and 200km runners coming back to the CP and the 50k runners coming into the CP to U-turn back.
Normally the checking is to be done by the volunteers and MURA crew only overseeing and ruling in case of dispute. But the CP was so busy and so many runners were coming into the CP for the 50km, we had to split the work with the volunteers: they would mark the BIB and time of arrival, while we would do the gears checking. We don’t want to slow down the runners or have them loosing their momentum, hence we decided with the organisers to focus on checking the key mandatory items for safety: light, blinker and safety vest. We don’t really want to check that you have your cellphone, emergency blanket, whistle, cup and spare batteries here. Though I suspect some runners were not carrying the emergency blanket despite the initial check… Maybe next time !
The check by itself is very fast: look in front for the light (easy), look at the back for the blinker, and see the vest. Now we had many runners not carrying items or not wearing them (safety vest, blinkers). Few cases of blinkers gone dead. Don’t worry, we won’t DQ you for that (though let me stress how important the blinkers are and why you should should also have full batteries and spare batteries for the blinkers).
Few points here:
- We had 10 cases of DQ for non carrying and having mandatory equipments – these were allowed to finish as the goal is really to educate this time
- We had 5-6 cases of runners not carrying or having mandatory equipments when entering the CP but that we allowed to leave the CP and continue after someone gave them the items (friends or people having DNF at the CP). By right they should be DQ when entering.
- One runner kind of try to bribe me (serious I’m not joking), pulling me on the side and telling me he is sure we can settle an agreement. Sorry mate, DQ.
- More than half of the runners were having the pack on top of the safety vest, making it less visible. We had to shout regularly to the CP crowd to put the vest on top of the pack. No DQ for that of course, but please listen, this is for your safety.
- Couple of runners trying to ignore us after we tell them they need to wear the gears otherwise they will be DQ. We had to keep looking at them to make sure they don’t leave without the items.
- Some 100km and 200km runners who did not have the blinkers. Same story here, we had to tell them to wear them otherwise DQ. They all complied.
- Some runners trying to confuse us saying they got clearance at the checking… sorry mates, we were the ones doing the 50km gears checking !
Reading this sounds harsh… I know… but the rule is the rule. When at CPs on the way to CP3 we warn runners that there would be a gear check, so no excuses. The volunteer work is tiring… we were also tired after 2h30 of inspection… respect to the volunteers staying so much longer there. Maybe next time we need to check the driving licenses too 😀 (got 50RM underneath the license ???). We had countless words of encouragement for the runners too especially when they were leaving the CP. Though we had to do something tough by DQing some runners, it’s for your safety. We’re runners too, we don’t like to see someone exhausted at half point of the race being DQ because of a simple thing like a missing blinker.
Why do you need to carry a safety vest, a headlight and a blinker ?
How can we get better next time ?
Well, I think there are several improvements we can look at (organisers, referees, volunteers):
- Do like major oversea races and seal the packs after the gears check, then recheck that people starting don’t have a broken seal on the bag. That will ensure you can’t show items and not carry them.
- Do more education prior to the race on why safety is important
- Bring more stock just in case as the stock ran out
- Be very clear on the equipments allowed and those not. I think prior to the race there was some confusion on the blinkers vs the safety vest. It was clarified that you need both. Maybe that was too late.
- Set a clear time after which the safety gears must be worn at all time, to avoid room for personal interpretation (“oh but I can see”)
- Check the gears early in the race say CP1 as in the 50km race, it’s already well in the night.
- For those not wearing the vest but carrying it (we saw many), note their BIB at CP1, give them a “yellow card” (warning)
- At the next CP, recheck and anyone with yellow card not complying is DQ straight away. Mark the BIB, don’t allow them to leave the CP (some runners are very stubborn). This year, BIB were noted and shared with organisers in realtime. Some runners decided to keep going.
- Have few teams driving along the race course for safety checks and give yellow/red cards to runners not complying. Even if say it’s the top running guy. Sadly a DQ of a front runner will make a lot of noise but will really show that safety is paramount and that we should not compromise on it.
Again this year is much better than the previous editions, awareness and controls pay results here. Still so much to do to improve and be even better (support crews for 200km rules, friends supporting their 100km buddies, …). Many rules were breached there I see and that will need to be fixed. Oversea it does work well, why not here ?