Runners who hit the pavement for the "4 Bridges Half Marathon" Sunday are not happy. Event organizers incorrectly measured the half marathon, leaving the course more than half a mile short. The half marathon is part of the 7 Bridges Marathon weekend event.
More than 3,000 runners competed. Some came in from out of town to use the half marathon as a qualifier for other big races. The race did not meet half marathon standards due to the error in length. Organizers admitted the mistake to Channel 3, saying miscommunication was to blame.
"I'm very disappointed... it could have been a great race but it totally invalidates the results," said runner Joe Dumas.
Joe Dumas says he got the T-shirt, but that's about it. Regardless of whether his time can be adjusted as a qualifier race, the time still feels invalid for Dumas.
"Yea it's just a very expensive fun-run with a t-shirt and a medal but it's not a real half marathon and I don't think people should pay $85-$110 dollars for a half marathon they didn't actually run....I think a refund would be nice but I'm not holding my breath on that."
It's a complaint that prompted a lengthy apology on Facebook. 7 Bridges Marathon organizers say they are sorry, mortified and embarrassed writing in part, "We know how much work goes into training and you expect the distance to be correct."
"It's like a punch in the gut when you make a failure that disappoints somebody," said Co Race Director Jay Nevans.
Jay Nevans says he spent nearly 80 hours checking the distance. He even rode the course by bicycle more than 6 times to be sure.
"We thought we had this," said Nevans. "This is our 5th year for the event and we've had 4 very successful years.... we dropped the ball on one detail."
That one detail shortened the half marathon when a turnaround was not in the correct place. Event organizers approved that plan Friday. The mistake wasn't noticed until the morning of the race, but by then it was too late. It couldn't be fixed on the fly due to lack of safety cones and road closure signs ordered from the city. A course more than half a mile short means runners didn't technically finish.
Many runners paid $85 dollars to compete. Some paid $105 at the last minute. A portion of the proceeds benefited several non-profit organizations like the Chattanooga Heroes Fund.
Organizers plan to update their website times so that runners can see their correct "per mile pace".