Sunday, January 18, 2009

How would you feel?

The Rock 'n' Roll Race Organization puts on several annual marathon and half-marathon events in the US with huge able-bodied participation.

We have been working with them for some time to increase wheelchair participation. After today though, we're not sure why.

First a little history:

My husband, Bradley Ray, is a top US Wheelchair Marathoner. A marathon is 26.2 miles, regardless of how you do it.

He has finished in the top 10 of most big US marathons. He competes well internationally. He was the top American in Boston in 2008 and the 3rd American at the 2008 US Paralympic Marathon trials. He has completed over 30 marathons and I support him in these endeavors.

As a general rule, race organizers collect participants' belongings at the start, keep them safe and deliver them to the finish. Some organizations do this very well. And some, well here's what happened today...


Today, my husband won the wheelchair division of the Rock'nRoll Arizona Marathon by 8 minutes. After being congratulated for wining the race, he asked where his chair and bag were so he could get out of his sweaty clothes and call his wife.

They could not find it.

Finally, a contractor said he saw the chair and bag of personal effects at the start about an hour after they had packed up and moved everything to the finish, but he left it there.

Somehow a race staff member learned the chair was at a homeless shelter and told Brad to go get it. Brad politely told her it was their mistake and they should fetch the chair because it had been left in their care. This was their opportunity to correct the situation.

The race organization refused.

The race organization refused to collect my husbands everyday chair and bag of personal effects which they already admitted to leaving behind!

There's was a fair amount of discussion and voices being raised. Finally, the police agreed to pick it up and deliver the chair to Brad's hotel.

In the meantime, we learn the bag of personal effects is not with the chair. So working from home in New Mexico, I cancel our credit card and cell phone. Learning that with the holidays it could be a week before these are replaced... but I digress.

A Ranger finally came with the chair. The Ranger was very upset to be waisting her time delivering wheelchairs to paraplegics. I don't disagree with her, it was RnR's mistake.

Total time without mobility today = 5 hours and 45 minutes.


As for continuing to work with this organization, I don't think we will. There is a laundry list that needs to be addressed, but basic customer service is basic. Clearly increasing wheelchair participation in not a priority.

Honestly! How would you feel if your legs had been stolen for nearly 6 hours?

picture credit: Brad after the 2008 Oita International Wheelchair Marathon, Kathryn Ray

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