Entitlement Syndrome

I know I said that last week’s post was the last that I would write about San Francisco. Remind me to never say something like that again. Something always comes up.

This time it was prompted by an apology that The San Francisco Marathon posted on their Facebook page last Sunday. It surprised me because personally, other than the expo issue I mentioned, I had no problems. If not for the unexpected warmth, it would have been one of my best race experiences period.

What prompted the apology then?

The primary prompt, I assume, was an article posted on sfgate.com that critiqued the race for hydration supply issues, the malfunction runner tracking app, and confusion regarding which woman actually won the first half marathon. I have no problem with the article. The author composed it with the purpose of encouraging the SF Marathon to step up its game and showcase San Francisco properly.

It’s the comments on the apology post that make me cringe. So much entitlement is blatantly obvious.

Many of the complaints came from slower runners. (As a disclaimer, I should mention that I did not encounter these same problems because I started and finished before many other runners.) These complaints focus primarily on the inadequately supplied water stops. However, they also exclude complaints about crowding issues in Golden Gate Park (finish and start area for 1st and 2nd half marathoners respectively), water stations being closed too soon, small half marathon medals and an extraordinarily long line to get into the post-race beer garden.

It was the beer garden complaint that really got me thinking. Some people were bent out of shape that they had to wait in line for something free. They felt entitled to that beer even though they hadn’t bothered to get the “instant access” wristband provided at the expo. (The terminology is mine. I did not partake so I am unfamiliar with the specific terminology.) As a result, the line to get into the beer garden backed up while volunteers verified (id and bib, I think) each runner attempting to enter.

This bothers me. It bothers me enough that I could take the time to refute each of the complaints that I’ve already listed. That would take too long though and would not help me make my point. The main issue is the rank entitlement.

Almost all of the complaints boil down to a runner feeling entitled to a certain perk, promised or not. Some runners feel entitled to free water, electrolytes and fuel along the course. Some slower runners feel entitled to those same perks even though that means that other people would have to donate when more of their own time. Some runners feel entitled to get their hydration handed to them at water stops instantly in the manner of their personal preference. Some feel entitled to a bigger medal because they’ve “earned” it. Many feel entitled to all this because they spent some of their hard earned money on an entry fee.

Why do people feel this way?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not maligning all runners or any for that matter. I am speaking from the heart about a culture of complaining that I see creeping into my beloved sport.

I’m also not dismissing the complaints as completely invalid. The SF Marathon dropped the ball on a few things like hydration. That’s where I feel that legitimate constructive criticism, like the original sfgate.com article, should play a huge part. Take, for instance, my own comments on the expo. I wrote and published those in the hopes that the marathon organization might take note and, hopefully, provide a better product next year.

The SF Marathon offers a product. I’ve chosen (and will continue to choose) to buy that product. I know that not everyone feels the same way. I hope that in future, reviews (and Facebook comments and tweets and etc) can be phrased as constructive criticism not complaint. I’ve found that complaining leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.


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