The Firgrove Challenge, hosted by Spartan Harriers, was anticipated as a joyous race for seasoned runners, social runners and first-timers.
However, what unfolded left a bitter taste in the mouths of many temporary licensed runners. The culprit? Rule 4.7.5 of Athletics South Africa (ASA)/Western Province Athletics (WPA) regulations, enforced with draconian vigour by a single WPA official.
The rule requires temporary licence holders to run in plain running clothes.
Running, with its social aspect and the sense of personal achievement, is usually an inclusive and enjoyable experience.
The majority of participants find fulfilment in their own race, at their own pace.
Unfortunately, the Firgrove Challenge turned into a source of frustration for many, thanks to the misinterpretation and enforcement of running rules.
The rule is seemingly designed to curb sponsorship or branding on running apparel.
Temporary licence runners were disqualified for wearing branded shirts, deemed to fall under ambush marketing, while questions loomed over the applicability of the rule.
Disqualified runners were bewildered, as their branded clothing was not advertising but merely a product of the manufacturer, falling victim to a rule that failed to draw a clear line.
The disgruntled runners expressed their displeasure not just at the confusion but at the behaviour of a specific WPA official who was in charge of enforcing this rule.
Described as condescending and rude, the official seemed to relish a power trip over the weekend, leaving runners disheartened and questioning the motives behind the sudden enforcement of this particular rule.
Social media platforms blamed the single WPA official for creating confusion, a viewpoint also shared by WPA.
In addressing the recent developments that stirred unease within the running community, WPA president Farouk Meyer expressed regret about how events unfolded over the weekend.
Acknowledging the confusion at the Firgrove Challenge, Meyer conveyed his apologies and emphasised that many of the disqualified runners were not supposed to have faced such consequences.
He assured that efforts were under way to rectify the faults in the enforcement of the rule.
Having been present at the finish line during the Firgrove Challenge, Meyer revealed that the primary grievances voiced to him were not solely about running apparel but rather centred on the WPA official who enforced the perplexing rule.
Meyer noted the discontent regarding how the rule was enforced and the inappropriate language used by the official, causing frustration among the runners.
“We are working on clarifying everything that happened in the Firgrove race. There was indeed some error in the interpretation of the rules. We admit on our side that we need to do better in communicating with athletes.”
Meyer said manufacturers’ logos are acceptable in races, provided they adhere to the set road running standards, including the size and placement of clothing logos.
“This is not targeting temporary licence holders but to guard against ambush marketing. However, we admit there is better communication needed to distinguish between advertising and ambush marketing,” said Meyer.