Accidental flip of sign throws Kansas Half Marathon participants off track

Kansas Half Marathon participants take a wrong turn at the intersection of East Perimeter Road and Shawnee Avenue on Haskell Indian Nations University campus thanks to a sign that had been mistakenly flipped by a spectator.

Kansas Half Marathon participants take a wrong turn at the intersection of East Perimeter Road and Shawnee Avenue on Haskell Indian Nations University campus thanks to a sign that had been mistakenly flipped by a spectator.


A spectator mistakenly flipped around a sign before Sunday’s Kansas Half Marathon event.

The individual probably thought it was helpful; but instead, the gesture caused mass confusion and threw about 500 runners off course.

“Before I knew it, we had hundreds of runners going the wrong way,” said Ryan Robinson, race director.

This sign was accidentally flipped around too soon during the Kansas Half Marathon event on Sunday, April 17, 2011, at the intersection of Shawnee Avenue and East Perimeter Road on Haskell Indian Nations University campus. It was only supposed to be used toward the end of the half marathon and 10K courses.

This sign was accidentally flipped around too soon during the Kansas Half Marathon event on Sunday, April 17, 2011, at the intersection of Shawnee Avenue and East Perimeter Road on Haskell Indian Nations University campus. It was only supposed to be used toward the end of the half marathon and 10K courses.

Here’s how it happened:

The Kansas Half Marathon event includes three races — a half marathon (13.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles) and 5K (3.2 miles).

Everyone was supposed to run along Perimeter Road, which circles around Haskell Indian Nations University for at least the first mile.

But the sign, which was supposed to be backwards so the runners couldn’t see it, directed 10K runners to turn right onto Shawnee Avenue at about the quarter-mile mark. The 5K runners were unsure where to go because it wasn’t indicated on the sign, so they followed the 10K runners.

Fortunately, it had the correct direction for half-marathoners.

In the end, Robinson believes most of the 343 5K participants ran a half-mile extra, and the 191 10K participants ran a half-mile short.

“It is what it is,” he said Thursday by telephone. “At that point, it’s not like I can do anything.”

The event drew 1,205 participants from two dozen states. It was a benefit for Health Care Access, a medical clinic for the uninsured of Douglas County.

Sally Monahan Zogry, Health Care Access development director and race organizer, apologized for the incident.

“We are disappointed, and we feel terrible about it,” she said. “Our goal is to put on the best race we can and for everybody to have a great experience.”

Tagged: Kansas Half Marathon


Mark Zwahl 7 years ago

"A spectator mistakenly flipped around a sign". Nope... A spectator INTENTIONALLY flipped around a sign. Good intentions. Bad impact. Caretaking. Deciding he/she knows better than others. Meant well. Did it for him/her, not for the race...

ralphralph 7 years ago

If you need a sign at a turn, you need a person there. Put a volunteer in an orange vest at each critical turn.

PS - @sowhathow ... Are you sure about the "good intentions" part?

JustNoticed 7 years ago

“It is what it is,” So meaningless, almost as bad as "It's all good."

irunsowhat 7 years ago

A spectator flipped it around? So the course marshall/volunteer at that location didn't know it was wrong? The race director didn't notice it beforehand? Come on... Again, GREAT POTENTIAL for this race if Robinson would just lock in a solid course location and route. Until then, he should give Steve Riley a call and ask him how to get on par with the Raintree Run.

right_down_the_middle 7 years ago

I saw it the time the volunteer could get control, specatator had already caused all the confusion and it was too late. It was within first 1/2 mile of race and not an RD fault. Stuff happens that cannot be controlled and volunteers are not in endless supply. Nor can they "control" everyone who is "helping" out.

Raintree Run-if it was so good, why isn't it still going with that RD? And that RD has had stuff go wrong with his races too....I've seen them. It happens.

This race was reasonably well done, a challenge for many people, great weather, great turnout and supported a worthy cause.

I wonder why this makes front page, above the cut? It was a good race and improvements are possible. Congrats to Health Care Access.

Evan Ridenour 7 years ago

The race isn't well done. I ran the full marathon last year and the half this year (they didn't have the full marathon this year) and both races were almost the worst run races I have ever seen. They need to get coordinators who know what they are doing.

They also need to stop calling it a "marathon" race when they removed the marathon event after last year's race.

threedoglife 7 years ago

Just with life, the unexpected can occur. And just as with life, it is not important what happened, but how you deal with it.

"It is what it is," is not the best response. It gives the reader the perception that the RD doesn't care. A more appropriate response might have been, "we regret the confusion and apologize to all those that went the wrong way. I take full responsibility and will make sure it doesn't happen again next year when we all come together again to raise money for Health Care Access."

grimpeur 7 years ago

The sign wasn't the only screw-up.

5K runners returning from the Park Hill loop were (according to the map) supposed to continue straight east toward the stadium on Indian Ave after returning on the small path between Mass and Vermont. The path, like Indian Ave, was coned off and divided along the centerline into an outbound and an inbound section, since it was a "lollipop" loop--the runners ran up one side of the "stick" on the outbound leg and returned on the other side inbound.

Several bad things happened there:

1) the fastest inbound runners returned to this area before the slowest outbound runners had passed it;

2) the slow outbound runners were merging with marathoners coming from Perimeter Rd. and were spread across the path on both sides of the cones and the course marshals were doing nothing to restrict the outbound runners to the outbound chute;

3) the marshals were not looking for the returning (i.e. fastest) runners and so were completely unaware of their approach after the loop and so were ill-prepared to direct them;

4) because of the three above problems, the fastest runners returned at the end of the Park Hills lollipop section to find the path between Vermont and Mass completely blocked by slow outbound runners and walkers going the wrong direction i.e. running outbound in the inbound chute. They had to run through the wrong-way crowd to try to find the course or a marshal--two in orange vests were not looking where they were supposed to be looking and two other race personnel in non-descript black clothing were moving cones, trying to flag down runners and sending them the wrong way (see below)).

4) the marshals at this location did not know the course!! The 5K runners were supposed to proceed straight east and instead were directed to turn right to return via Perimeter Rd. Even a runner who knew the course--and had already fought his way through the people on the wrong side of the path, had passed the marshals and was headed in the correct direction--was called back and directed incorrectly to the right (south) on Perimeter.

I don't know how important the race was or whether the fastest runners' times were important in any rankings, but several of the first runners were visibly exasperated and angry that they were forced to contend with a mass of wrong-way runners. The fact that the course marshals were apparently completely untrained in course control only added to an already bad situation.

I hope they can establish a course and provide better directions and course control in the future.

threedoglife 7 years ago

Heck, I might as well pile on here. They sent out an email stating that the 5K race would start at 7:45 am and then the day of the race I received an email stating that all races would start at the same time. I almost didn't read the email. Poor planning.

runultrahard 7 years ago

"It is what it is", huh? What a horrible comment. I think refunds should be in order for all the people who spent good money to have an accurate time. Maybe out of the race director's salary? Based on the history of this race(not even recommended by the local running club), I ran the Oz Marathon this year. Great race, very organized, actually certified, and had an accurate course. I highly recommend it. Stay away from this one!

runultrahard 7 years ago

One more thing. This event continues to go downhill with poor organization and planning. I personally feel that in these hard economic times, our tax dollars could be better spent in other areas. I don't want to see money supporting such a substandard event. Give the money for fire and medical directly to Health Care Access so they can see more patients. I would be surprised if they made much money this year.

outsidethelines 7 years ago

"Raintree Run-if it was so good, why isn't it still going with that RD?"

The Raintree Run had a wonderful ten-year "run" (no pun intended), but it was discontinued because the course could no longer support the ever-increasing numbers of runners who wanted to participate. We were happy when Health Care Access became the beneficiary of what was formerly the Raintree Run.

Steve and Marcia Riley were the Raintree Run race directors for ten years, and there are no better race directors in the business. I've never seen two people work as hard as they did. For the first five years, they never drew a salary, and it wasn't until the last two years they made more than a $1000. The quality of the Raintree Run was a direct reflection of their commitment and dedication to the running community and to our school, and we shall be forever grateful to them. Lleanna McReynolds Raintree Montessori School Director

terrydarlene 7 years ago

I had a great time running the half marathon. I wouldn't have been so happy had I run the 5K or the 10K. My son ran the 5K and would like to figure out his time. Does anyone remember the exact route of the 5K so we can try to figure out the distance on ? Also, my Garmin GPS had the half marathon course at 13.39 miles. Is that an acceptable margin of error or could that course have been a bit longer as well?

threedoglife 7 years ago

When a course is measured they measure the shortest possible distance that can be run on the course to ensure that everyone will run at least the certified distance. However, if you weave a bit, run on the outside of curves etc. your times will vary a bit (longer). So, I don't think the half-marathon course was longer, just that you ran a little longer by not staying on the shortest possible route.

Jonathan Kealing 7 years ago

When I measured the course on DailyMile, I got about 13.4 miles or so as well, and another friend got 13.3. I think a lot of us were forced to run longer because of all the doubling back and people running toward and against each other.

terrydarlene 7 years ago

Interesting article... thanks. I knew it wasn't quite accurate, but I didn't know it varied that much.

H_Lecter 7 years ago

Here's a link to a couple of people's Garmin wrist GPS records. I'm sure there are others listed

H_Lecter 7 years ago

It was a large event that involved a lot of people. I'm guessing a couple of hundred volunteers and 1500 runners. Many of those runners had their friends &/or family there. Then, a mistake that damages the accuracy of the event. I'd give it the front page. We don't have serial killings to keep the front page busy, do we.

runultrahard 7 years ago

All this talk about course certification...I just looked it up on the USATF website, and the Kansas 1/2 Marathon aint there folks. Fool me once.....

Karrey Britt 7 years ago

A race organizer has contacted me and said the half marathon course was certified in late March/early April. It usually takes a couple of months to show up on the USATF website. The organizer said they had to change the course in February because of construction on Kasold Drive, so they were unable to get it certified earlier. Last year's half marathon and marathon races were certified and also not posted on the USATF website by race day.

runultrahard 7 years ago

What about the 5k and 10k courses? The Kansas 1/2 Marathon website states "USATF cetified courses" on the 5k/10k page. "Courses" refers to more than one course. The last two years have falsely advertised that all courses were certified when they were not.

SofaKing 7 years ago

I'm not an RD, but I've run a lot of races, and here's my 2 cents.

Don't have 3 races start at the same time.

Don't have out and back courses, much less 3 races with out and back courses. It's inevitable that people will get confused.

Everyone who got off course should get a refund.

"It is what it is" is not a mature response from a race director...he should be gnawing at his fist with remorse wondering what he could have done differently.

Very large, very tall, very bright signs held by a volunteer work best. Not crappy signed made with tape. They had a year to plan this.

Even if you painstakingly studied the course, using both the map and the written directions, there were mistakes. It isn't that hard to write out directions.

This race has leadership problems.

This article is well placed on the front page.

I hope the Ironman Triathlon in June is better organized.

prideofgumbo 7 years ago

Either way, that's one heck of a good looking sign. One of my favorite type styles, Black Tape Casual.

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