What Would Another Mother Runner Do?

Shannan (yellow hat) and her BRF after nailing a 5-minute half-marathon PR (1:53:53) after following a Train Like a Mother plan (!).
Shannan (yellow hat) and her BRF after nailing a 5-minute half-marathon PR (1:53:53) after following a Train Like a Mother plan (!).

In our ongoing series of dilemmas faced by mother runners, we've met a gal who dislocated her hip during a marathon when she slipped on a banana peel and we've profiled an ingenious woman who pretended her Garmin was a camera to scare off creepy driver. Now meet Shannan, a mom of two in Baker City, Oregon, ran a small 10K trail race (“small” in this case equals, at most, four women in the race) earlier this month.

She won the race—or, at least, thought she did. Running a two-loop course, Shannan was announced as the lead 10Ker when she crossed the midway point, then she was proclaimed the first-place finisher when she crossed the finish line. At the awards ceremony, she was bestowed the first-place award. A week later, Shannan checked the website looking for race photos. The place finishers were listed on the website page, but her name wasn’t listed. Like she said, it was a miniscule race, and Shannan knows she came in first because she saw the second-place finisher cross the finish line minutes after she did. (The two gals had talked to each other in the starting corral, so Shannan recognized her.) Shannan also received many congratulations after she crossed the line.

Shannan realizes this race isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things, but as she wrote to us, “but it kinda is—I mean, when will I ever win a 10K again?” (She describes herself as “not speedy; I’m a middle-of-the-pack runner.” Her time in the 10K, which included two almost mile-long climbs, was 1:01.)

So Shannan emailed the organization that put on the race, stating she was awarded first place for the 10K. She wrote wasn't sure if there was a mistake on the website posting or if she had been awarded the winner’s gift certificate by mistake (she thought maybe she’d be disqualified somehow?). Shannan even let the organizers know she still had the gift certificate so she could return it if it was awarded to her by mistake.

The seemingly cut-and-paste email response Shannan received:

I’m sorry for the problems with the timing. We had power problems with the clock and 2 of the 3 stop-watches died.  

We are already talking about ways to improve the timing situation so please except [sic] my apology. Jane Doe was the 1st Place winner in the women’s division and I did see Jane come in 1st. After that I pretty much had my head down trying to make things come together. Over all we hope you had a good time and will join us next year.

Shannan was left scratching her head.

Shannan and her little ones, ages 5 and 2: They always think their mom is #1.
Shannan and her little ones, ages 5 and 2: They always think their mom is #1.

What would you do?

Sarah answers: Well, given that I already would have bragged about my win far and wide on Facebook, Twitter, and just about any other social media site imaginable, I would have figured the race organizers made a mistake. Sure, race results live forever on the Internet, but all the shout-outs on race day told the truth.

Dimity answers: Sounds like the race director knew there were a few probs with this race, so I would've just let it lie as well. Probably wouldn't go back, though--and definitely wouldn't recommend it to anybody who asked me about it. (And let's be honest: anytime the topic of that race—or trail racing in general—came up, I'd definitely find a way to slip in the story.)

What Shannan did: She didn’t respond to the seemingly generic email response. As she told us: “I figured no good would come out of responding, and it might seem sort of combative.”

What happened: That said, Shannan wanted some sort of validation that she hadn’t lost her marbles—that she really had won the race. She didn’t have any friends or family at the race (alas!), but it turned out one of her husband’s co-workers had run the race. Shannan had her husband ask the fellow if, indeed, Shannan had been the first woman across the line in the 10K. His response, “Most definitely.”

What would you, another mother runner, do?

And if you’ve got a running-related moment you’d like some clarity on, via WWAMRD, feel free to email us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks! 




20 responses to “What Would Another Mother Runner Do?

  1. I would look up who this Jane Doe is and pursue it just a little more. A similar thing happened to me just last month. I ran a 5K and and I pretty sure I won my age group as it was a small out and back race so I could see all the women in front of me. When they announced the awards, they only announced the names – no times – I was not called. I had another committment that morning so I left immediately after the women’s awards. Later that night, I went to look up the age group awards to see how close I’d gotten to placing and couldn’t find my name. THEN, I found my name – in the MEN’s age group awards. I would have won my age group in the women’s race. I was second in the men’s race. I emailed the timer and the race director about it and they ended up changing the results and mailing me my award.I was incredibly upset and annoyed initially. On the flip side, I’m sure the woman that was handed the first place medal at the awards ceremony wondered what happened when she saw the official results. I’ve run against her several times though and my times are consistently 1-2 minutes faster so hopefully she realized there was an error at the awards ceremony.

  2. I think it’s worth pursuing a little more. You worked hard for this, damn it! It sounds like this person was preoccupied with the clock issues at the time and didn’t see you cross the line first?? I would email back and politely explain that you did in fact cross the finish line first and that you actually received the first place award at the race.

  3. In a very large race I was in last fall (the MN Monster Dash) I guess there was something similar that happened. In this case however, the lady that crossed the finish line first had a slower time than another lady who finished after her. On the results website, the winners are listed by time, and not when you crossed the finish line. So, even though lady #1 crossed the finish line first, she’s listed as being in second place in the results. Lady #2 crossed the start line several minutes after lady #1 and just ran the course a little faster. I wouldn’t have known (I am a back of the pack runner) but I saw something about it on their facebook page. A friend of hers posted on her behalf citing track and field rules that states that the first one across the line is the true winner, but as far as I know, the results weren’t changed online.

  4. I was thinking of what to write and then my favorite quote popped up in my mind “never argue with a fool, people might not know the difference”. I a, not saying th race director/the person who emails you back is a fool but they didn’t take the time to figure out who was the winner

  5. That is so odd. The high road would be to let it go, but I might email back and — politely as I could — mention that I was announced the winner and have the first place award.

  6. I would email back and say, “I’m sure you have good intentions, but Jane Doe did not win the race. I was the first woman across the finish line, so unless there’s proof, I would like the website to reflect what I was awarded on race day. Thank you.”

  7. I’d be really upset.

    I think I would rest on it a day, compile my evidence, and then respond to the email, either in writing or by phone. If I were ever to win anything like that, there really isn’t a way I could let it go.

    If nothing happened, I would do exactly as Dimity said: not run the race again, not recommend the race, and find a way to get the story in every time the race came up in conversation.

  8. I had a similar thing happen at a small 5K that I ran a few weeks ago. They gave a ridiculous number of AG awards for a small race and when they started handing out ribbons, women that I knew had come in after me got awards and I was left off the list.

    In this case, I didn’t mind. My exclusion meant that a dear friend of mine got a ribbon in her first 5K and it meant more to her than it did to me. She had left before awards and I delivered her prize to her in front of her daughters. I didn’t tell her of the mix up and never intend to.

  9. Tough one. I would probably let it lie. But, knowing the race and how small and less-competitive it is, I would run it again and kick even more hiney, thus ensuring I get the accolades. And I would probably drag along some witnesses!

    As a matter of fact, that’s what I’m planning to do. My sister and I have been running a local small-ish (maybe 200 runners) 5K since it’s inception. The first year, I took 2nd in my age group and she took 1st (different age groups). The second year, I took 1st in mine and she took 2nd in hers. Neither year did we hang around for the awards ceremony because we are both S-L-O-W and didn’t expect to win. This year, I’m gunning for a PR (using the Train Like A Mother plan) and she’s running the 10K, so we’re planning to stay to the bitter end!

  10. After I was done shouting my victory to all that could hear…I would be frustrated with the organization. You WON…and that is a HUGE deal!! You got a medal not for just finishing but for WINNING! Such a dismissive response from the race team…not ok!

  11. You’ve got to ask yourself….Do I really run for the prizes and place rankings and cool t-shirts? or rather the satisfaction that comes with the miles logged and the satisfaction you get from your own PRs that you log at home in a little book?

    Maybe you can give the race directors one more try on getting your name recognized as first place, otherwise, move on to finding another small race to show your stuff (hopefully with a different timing company).

  12. I’m appalled. I’ve worked finish lines at races that were and were not chip timed. Even the chip timed races have two or three back ups. Last year at a popular 5K, I was on the last chance back up. I was calling out numbers as my partner wrote them down. It was so humid, as the race start had been delayed due to a storm moving through and August is humid anyway, I swore I was going to have an asthma attack from yelling out these numbers so quickly.

    This race needed some help. I probably wouldn’t have gone further either and let it drop as long as someone else had validated I was not crazy.

  13. I had a (kind of) similar experience in South America. I was living with my family in Mendoza, Argentina and running with a pretty competitive group there. I ran in a women’s10K, and clearly won in my age group-it was a good sized race, but I came in about 5th overall, and everyone ahead of me was a youngster (I was 46 at the time! When they gave out trophies (a big deal in this town!) they didn’t call my name. One of my teammates-a lawyer-took me over to ask about it, and when we looked, they had me down in the wrong age group, 10 years younger! We explained the problem, they were confused about what to do, they brought me up and gave me a 2nd place trophy because they had run out of 1st place ones, and then proceeded to not change anything in their records. The next day in the paper, I still showed up in the same, younger category. I wrote a letter to the race managers, and they basically said sorry, it was your fault for sending in the wrong info. I definitely suggest getting the information corrected. It is so minimizing to not be recognized for such a big accomplishment. Who cares how many people ran the race, it matters to YOU!!

  14. Something similar happened to me years ago, in a 5K. I didn’t win or place or anything but I did get a PR! Sadly, my race time was never recorded. This was in the days before chip timing. I contacted the race director and basically got a “too bad, so sad” response. That was the last time I ever ran that race. If I had placed, I would have been furious. I certainly would spread the word that this race director needs to get their act together!!

  15. Years ago before I started running again, I entered a 2 mile walk that was taking place with a 5k. With 1/2 mile to go, I realized I was in first place; however, as I got closer to the end, I couldn’t find the route. I could see the finish, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there. When I walked over the finish line from the wrong side, I told race volunteers that the walking course wasn’t properly marked and that there weren’t any arrows or course volunteers directing the last part of the walk. I asked to talk to the race director, whose response was that it didn’t matter since he didn’t charge a fee for walkers (!). I believe his exact words were, “What do you want? The race was free.” So when an email survey popped up a few days later, I had all sorts of fun giving my honest opinions of the course markings and the race director.

  16. The first thing I would do is to look up Jane Doe on Athlinks or and see how fast Jane Doe usually runs. Then, I would try to find Jane Doe on FB or elsewhere on the internet to see if I recognized her. Actually, I would try to get to the bottom of this. If the integrity of the race is at question, the race directors should not be putting on any other races until they get their act together. That’s the rudest response I have ever heard. Do they run at all? If so, they would know that first place is a BIG DEAL and would take it more seriously!

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