Organizers explain why Manitoba Marathon went ahead despite heat warnings

Organizers of the Manitoba Marathon are explaining why the event initially went ahead despite heat warnings Sunday and was only cancelled mid-race causing confusion for runners.

For participants in Sunday’s Manitoba Marathon, the heat can best be described with one word: brutal.

“It was just so hot to start, it was pretty tough,” said Emile Morrissette, who was in the half-marathon event.

Two runners were sent to hospital Sunday – one in unstable and the other in stable condition.

Halfway through, Morrissette said volunteers told him and others the race was cancelled, causing some confusion.

“They again said, ‘The race is cancelled, the race is cancelled,’ So a couple of us kind of looked over and said what does that mean, and then they kind of went, ‘Well, you can finish if you want.’”

Organizers say the event was cancelled after it started because of the scorching heat. Communications went out immediately to emergency personnel and volunteers letting runners know that if they continued they did so at their own risk.

“That was our message that you have to stop and it’s too dangerous to run,” said Rachel Munday, the executive director of the Manitoba Marathon.

Even though organizers knew it was going to be hot on Sunday, they initially went ahead as planned based on the forecast, but were caught off guard by how fast the temperature rose.

“The temperatures started coming back very high at an accelerated fashion and that was when we knew we needed to do something sooner than later to make sure that everybody was safe,” Munday told CTV News.

City Councillor Brian Mayes completed the full marathon. He said the event should have been cut down to a half marathon or runners should have been directed off the course when it was cancelled.

“If there’d been a big barricade at mile-13 and everyone was pointed onto a bus, well then we’re all treated the same,” Mayes said.

However, organizers said they can’t force people to stop running.

“When runners are choosing to continue, you know nobody’s going to put hands on somebody and make them get off the roadway,” Munday said.

So, water was left at aid stations for those who continued.

Organizers of the marathon said with all of the volunteers and city departments involved there was not enough time to switch gears. The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) told CTV News it had officers on hand at 5 a.m., two hours earlier than normal. They said a request to be there at 3 a.m. was not logistically possible.

“Our officers remained at their positions and helped ensure that those who chose to continue to run or that weren’t able to leave the course yet were still safe,” said Const. Jay Murray, a public information officer with the WPS.

Murray said officers and cadets stayed on site, including going back to do traffic duty at intersections where some runners were going on red lights.

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