Many runners who took part in the Qatar Mega Marathon on Friday as part of an attempt to be break a world record complained of poor organization and safety issues, as some who participated sported slippers and flip-flops.
The event, which was in fact a half-marathon with a 21.1km route along the National Day Ceremonial Road near Izghawa in north Doha, had originally been set to take place on Feb. 6 in time for National Sport Day, but was postponed and rescheduled for March 27.
Organizers aimed to get some 50,000 people to take part to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest number of runners competing in a single marathon, a title currently held by the US.
Speaking to Doha News, a representative said they rallied around 33,000 runners, and so did not manage to beat the record. Some who participated in the event, however, said no more than a few thousand showed up.
After the event, many runners posted on the marathon’s official Facebook page, complaining of chaotic management, poor distribution of race packs and refreshments and a late start, which meant the race did not begin until 2pm, in the heat of the day.
Writing on one of the event’s Facebook pages, Erick Reyes said:
“too exhausted and too tired but despite of the obstacles i tried to finish the race only to discover that there was nobody on the officials table, no organizer, no medals for finisher, and to think that there were timing devices on our numbers..what are we supposed to do..no one explain it to us…very disappointing…”
One runner who contacted Doha News after the event described the marathon as “one of the most disorganized and chaotic events I have ever had the displeasure of attending.”
That participant observed hundreds of men who appeared to be laborers, wearing jeans, flip-flops or running barefoot.
“Others were forced to walk several kilometers before the organizers obviously realized they would not finish, and so they were loaded back into their busses and sent away,” the runner said.
Other runners raised safety issues, saying police removed road blocks while people were still participating in the race.
Transportation also appeared to be an issue. Organizers of the event, which took place in collaboration with Al Sadd Sports Club, had planned to provide free buses to encourage people to take part.
But pickup did not function smoothly, according to another participant who contacted Doha News. That person said they ended up getting a taxi to the event, adding:
“The worst part of all was that there was a large mass of laborers wearing jeans, flip flops and no proper running equipment… Some laborers tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to stay and cross the line.”
In response to complaints, one of the key organizers of the event, Mega Gonzales Cervantes, posted a public apology on Facebook to those who took part.
“On behalf of Volunteering Team, we are very sorry that we have failed your expectations.We understand your disappointment and appreciate the inconvenience this must have caused you. Please be informed that the principal Organizer will get back to you and answer all your questions shortly.”
Addressing specific issues, a representative told Doha News that appropriate running clothing and shoes had been given to all participants, but that he couldn’t force runners to wear them.
He said traffic police had asked them to push back the start time of the race from 1pm to 2pm, and that they only allowed the route to be closed to traffic for a maximum of three hours.
“I had prepared 400,000 bottles of water for the runners, but they stopped us giving (all of) them out. I apologize for any inconvenience to anybody… we were not 100 percent pleased with how the event went. It needs to be improved if we are to consider doing it again in the future,” he added.
Qatar has hosted numerous sporting events in recent years which have had mixed success. Most spectators who went to the handball championships in January applauded the organizers for a slick operation, and Doha’s first 5km Color Run the following month was also well-planned.
However, some events have been criticized by spectators for poor organization, including the Real Madrid versus Paris Saint-Germain match which took place in Khalifa International Stadium in January last year, which attracted 40,000 to watch. Similar complaints were raised at the Spain – Uruguay game, also at Khalifa, in February 2013, when fans complained about chaotic parking and long lines to get in to the stadium.