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Complaining About Races: Don’t be a Little Bitch

Posted by on Oct 13, 2012 | 13 Comments

Jay Danek, a Facebook friend and fellow ultrarunner, recently wrote a post about complaining to race directors. I liked the way Jay handled the situation, which included jumping to a conclusion before cooling off. Hats off, Jay.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of complaining in races. Here are a few examples:

  • Lady at Western States in ’11 was bitching to an aid station worker because they didn’t have enough flavors of Gu.
  • Middle aged woman complained there weren’t enough porta-potties at Across the Years, a timed race on a one mile loop (there were about 20 porta-potties and one permanent bathroom around the loop).
  • Dude at the San Juan 50k complained that the race director changed the course the night before the race due to an unexpected snow storm (the change was required by the National Forest Service; the alternative was cancelling the race).
  • A woman complaining because the VOLUNTEER aid station workers at one aid station during the Bighorn 100 didn’t know what electrolyte capsules were.
  • Some guy was loudly complaining that a hiker had removed some course markings at the Grand Mesa 100 miler immediately before the race.
  • Many people complained that the first aid station on the last stage of the TransRockies stage race was three miles longer than advertised.

These are just a handful of examples. In my opinion, all of these examples were within the realm of “random unexpected shit that happens in long trail races.” As such, the complainers should not have complained.

Why did they complain?

As a society, we’re far too entitled. We believe we deserve special treatment. After all, we paid the race fee. This is OUR race… everybody had damn well better treat us like princesses!

At least that’s what seems to be the root of this epidemic of complaining. Maybe I’m just sensitive to the issue because I have little tolerance for complainers. This is doubly true in races that are supposed to present difficulties that need to be overcome. In essence, ultrarunners are supposed to be tough and adaptable. Being a crybaby because something doesn’t go your way is a character trait I cannot tolerate… especially in runners.

My proposal

I propose a moratorium on complaining. If you enter a race and something minor goes wrong, suck it up and deal with the adversity. Don’t complain about or yell at volunteers. They’re donating their time to help your sorry ass. If the race director makes an catastrophic error, contact them privately. Don’t bitch to other runners, volunteers, or spectators. In short, don’t be a little bitch.

  • All race directors give information about the race. If you experience a problem because you didn’t prepare for the expected conditions, that’s YOUR fault. Don’t complain.
  • If something happens that’s out of the race director’s control, that’s not their fault. Don’t complain.
  • If something unexpected happens and it’s a fairly typical experience in the race you’re running, it’s your responsibility to prepare for contingencies. Don’t complain.
  • If the race director really does suck and make a ton of errors, simply stop running their races.

The lesson- don’t be a little bitch. You’re annoying the rest of us that take pride in our sport’s difficulty.

What do you think? Anyone else annoyed by supposedly “tough” runners complaining about stupid shit?


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  3. Bill
    October 15, 2012

    Way to go Jason. This has needed to be said for some time. Complaining drives me crazy too. Think we need a volunteer at races with a shirt that says, “Come talk to me if you need to be bitch slapped”

  4. Janice
    October 14, 2012

    I hate it when people complain at races. Especially to volunteers. I try and thank all the volunteers and be cheerful at aid stations. We wouldn’t have all these awesome races without volunteers!

  5. Nrmrvrk
    October 13, 2012

    Well Said Jason.

    I say offer the complainer either:

    1) The chance to quit immediately and receive a full refund.


    2) To shut up and deal with it or take it up with the organizers later.

    Every time I’ve had complaints about an Ultra and talked to the director I’ve gotten good reason exactly why the problem happened. Maybe I’ve been lucky.

    I think you’re right on with your comments.

  6. Bare Lee
    October 13, 2012

    My main grip is that ultras are so long.

  7. Jen
    October 13, 2012

    I volunteered at the main aid station for a 6-hour/12-hour timed race where there was a 3-mile loop course. Most people were extremely grateful, but there were a couple of huge complainers. They definitely had a sense of entitlement. When we ran out of coke, they got very exasperated at us. Even though we had a huge spread, they still complained that there wasn’t anything that they wanted to eat or drink. The thing is, this was a 3-mile loop and they could’ve brought their own supplies if they wanted something specific. I wanted to point this out to them, but figured: 1. it probably would fall on deaf ears, since they appeared to be a-holes; and 2. as a volunteer, I was representing the race organization and I didn’t want to do anything to tarnish their reputation.

  8. Ben W
    October 13, 2012

    Yes. Right on track. But watch out for the nasty trap of complaining about complainers (Not at all saying you’re doing that, Jason.)

    But, I work at a school, and our PE coach, a guy, constantly complains about the women complaining during staff meetings.

    Sometimes stupid people complaining is just one more challenge to be overcome, best done by ignoring it….or moving into an rv. ; )

  9. Fitz
    October 13, 2012

    That first paragraph really confused me. It reads backward to me and I thought Jay was a big jerk before following the link. Complaining or not I would consider any of your examples as unexpected. Those are exactly the type of things you _should_ plan for. I am a newcomer to all this and I realize that.

    • Alejandro 10
      October 13, 2012

      I see what Zen Master Jason did there Fitz. It is the old ‘post about complaining with a lead off paragraph that tests our ability to not complain and see how we handle it trick’… I like it!

      • Alejandro 10
        October 13, 2012

        P.S. the key is in the comments. 🙂

      • Fitz
        October 13, 2012

        Son of a…. he got me!

  10. Chadisbarefoot
    October 13, 2012

    Great post. I was once a whiner in my earlier years, but my Army time put me in close proximity for long periods of time with people who didn’t look too kindly upon such complaintive utterances. Kinda worked all that out of my character.

    As a teacher now, complaining is strictly prohibited in my classroom primarily because it sets me the heck off, but also because it poisons the environment. I am sure you know what I’m talking about, Jason. That crap can be contagious and ruin an entire activity/lesson/day. The same is true for most anything people do with other people, I guess.