Update 23rd November 2023
On the 15th November, we held our RUN BRITAIN review with Barry Hopkins (Head of runbritain at England Athletics). We went through the whole event and what happened during the day. Explained what went wrong and more importantly how we can make sure they will not happen again. We are also going to work with Runbritain on creating information for other race directors who are in the similar situation of organising an event in heat. This will include information to pass onto runners but also making sure running events have the right equipment and support for when issues arise. With the increase in extreme weather we hope to pass on our learnings as this will affect other event organisers and runners in the future.
We are now taking on our learnings for next years event which we have moved back 1 week to hopefully offer cooler conditions for our runners. We have 30+ actions that we will be added to our event management plan. We’ve now completed our internal and external evaluation of September and look forward to implementing our learnings in our future events. If anyone would like to discuss any of these actions or would like more information please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Update 26th October 2023
We held a Safety Advisory Meeting with Richmond Council on the 28th September where we went through all the issues and learnings with London Ambulance Services. It was a very productive meeting and we have agreed to not hold the half and full marathon event during an amber heat warning. We believe this would help solve the majority of problems we faced on the weekend. We will also be holding table top exercises before next years Richmond RUN-FEST with emergency services to go through emergency route access.
In addition to this, we will be holding an event review with RUN BRITAIN where we hope to share our learnings with other events.
13th September 2023
Thanks for your patience whilst we gathered more information about the event. We’re still short on certain information so any updates will be added to this page.
I’m still onsite with my team breaking the event down so apologies if some of the below is brief in detail but there is a priority to get Kew Gardens, Old Deer Park and 26 miles of course open and cleaned up.
Before we delve into detail I want to reassure you that in situations like this, the event is reviewed by our governing body which includes the race adjudicators’ who attended the event, Richmond Council Safety and Advisory Group and London Ambulance Services. To all of whom we provided documents before the event, and included our event contingencies. What this basically means is the right independent people reviewed and evaluated the event. We will now work with these independent groups to review and make any changed required from the learnings of this weekend.
I would like to clarify that there were no fatalities at the event thanks to the amazing medical teams. We’ve still not received our medical report yet but we can confirm at least 10 runners went to hospital. I wish them and their families my apology and hope for a speedy recovery.
As part of our contingency planning we held a meeting on Monday with our medic team to update out medical deployment. We continued to review this throughout the week and also liaised with LAS from Thursday to ensure all plans were in place.
I’ve personally spoken to all of the event medics and thanked them for their heroic efforts yesterday. It may be their job but they certainly stopped a very bad situation from being worse. As part of our contingency we had the most medical provision we’ve ever had at our event over the last 11 years but it clearly was not enough in the hot conditions we faced. We’ve already booked in a full debrief meeting for next week to review the events medical response and improvements that need to be made. A big problem with yesterday was not the number of medics but lack of medical transportation which eventually lead to the event being cancelled. Thankfully London Ambulance Services came to our event and allowed us to safely take control of the situation. This is the first time in 11 years that we have required this additional assistance and again my thanks go out to them.
On the Saturday our 10k runners ran around Kew and despite conditions being hotter we did not send any runner to hospital. Yes this was a smaller distance but after this event and a final medical review we felt in control of the situation and that our heat contingencies were working and thus our much higher medical presence on the Sunday would also work.
So what lead to the cancellation? During the event our control room were receiving a high number of calls from our amazing marshals. This was obviously largely heat related and put a large demand on our medical responders. Heat related illness only has one fix and that is to cool the patient down. To do this safely it takes time to cool down runners before responders can move onto other calls. Despite having multiple response teams across the route and the assistance of the LAS, the number of calls throughout a short period of time lead to the tough, yet correct decision to cancel the event. This was undoubtedly the biggest decision made in all my 25 years of organising events.
The safety of our runners beats any personal best so the call was made to get the remaining runners out on the course back to the finish where we had medical resources. The event is hugely grateful for the work that our medical team and LAS provided to get our runners back safely.
How do you cancel a running event with over 1,000 runners still on the course? This was a long process with a lot of information so I’ll keep this brief. In short we focused on the marathon runners who were furthest away and dealing with the issue of some water stations running out of water (I’ll get to that in a second). We needed to keep our runners safe but also in the knowledge that we had to get them back to the finish (for their bags and transport home). We’ve seen the many comments about mixed cancellation information, which was very difficult to convey to the runners on course. We needed runners to be aware of the situation and to essentially slow down and look after themselves so we could relieve pressure on the medical team. The simplest and quickest way for us to get this message across was informing runners the race was cancelled and to return to the finish along the course. I understand that this is a mixed message as this was exactly what the runners were doing anyway but it was with the intent for runners to slow down and it also allowed our marshals to check on the runners welfare. This was my first mid run cancellation (which I obviously hope never to repeat) but many MANY lessons were learnt if a similar situation were ever to arise again.
Other measures were taken at the finish to aid the support being given and omitigate further medical incidences. This included no alcohol being served and the cancellation of the Family & Kids’ Mile and the music festival to allow clear communication to happen between all teams. The priority was first and foremost the safety of the runners.
We can confirm two of the water stations on the marathon route briefly ran out of water. Our attempts to replenish this took longer to implement than expected and we are deeply sorry to the runners affected. Why did it run out after we knew about the hot conditions? As stated in our previous final instructions and in our heat contingency notice, we planned a minimum quantity of 2,580ml water cups for each marathon runner and a 500ml bottle.
So why did it run out? We clearly miscalculated the amount of people who needed to pick up more than 2 cups of water per aid station at these points. We calculated enough water and some for the purpose of consumption but underestimated the sheer volume needed for the purpose of cooling runners down in the humidity of the day.
At the end of the day the amount at these stations were clearly not enough and our plan to replenish these stations did not happen in time. As many runners have pointed out we certainly did not run out at the final two waters or at the finish. However, these details do not matter and I can only apologise again to the runners affected.
Showers and dunking buckets: The three mist showers out on course weren’t adequate enough. This was our first attempt at adding mist to a challenging course. These showers have to use drinking water which limits the number of locations we could use. The mist showers that you may see at larger events like London Marathon are not suitable for this course due to the infrastructure required verses the space available on the Tow path.
Dunking buckets were out on the course but the received feedback was that their locations were not good enough and the last minute signage we had made up was too small. Both of these contingencies were new to us but we except this fell short of expectations. Knowing this now will not change what happened but it will certainly allow us to review and be better prepared for our future events.
I’m going to have to conclude this for now as I believe this covers the main issues with the event. I’ll be happy to answer other issues so please email us at email@example.com . I’d like to finish off with my sincere apologises for those affected yesterday. This Richmond event is very unique in it’s nature and is very different to most races. Due to this simple solutions are not always available to us. We made many mistakes yesterday and we must do better in similar circumstances. If I had the opportunity again we would have certainly cancelled the marathon if not the whole event. On behalf of all the runfest team we’re sorry.
To end on a more positive note I’d like say thank you to all our runners who helped us on the day by listening to our advice and thank you for your understanding. Out of 2272 half marathon starters, 54 did not finish and out of 1153 marathon runners 64 sadly did not make it to the end (these are only slightly bigger numbers to a normal event). Congratulations on such an amazing achievement in them tough conditions.
My final apology and thank you goes out to all our volunteers, scouts, rugby teams, family members and staff who fought against all the odds (in the heat) to put the event on. I’m sorry I did not oversee the delivery of everything we wanted to and I’m so lucky to have such a great team behind the event. As a team I promise you we will collectively improve a better event next year.
Tom Bedford, Race Director