It was an inauspicious start for the inaugural Stillwater Log Run on Saturday as lightning forced the cancellation of the 5-kilometer and 10-mile races scheduled to conclude in downtown Stillwater’s Lowell Park.
The event was created to replace the race associated with the Lumberjack Days festival, using the same course and held on the same weekend as that now-defunct event.
“Rain is annoying, but most events can take place in the rain,” event organizer Brian Mastel said. “But with lightning the situation is just too dangerous. I got a weather report that said continuing clouds and lightning over the next two hours and it was at that point I said I’m not comfortable sending the runners out in an official race capacity.”
Mastel, who said about 450 runners registered for the event, delayed the start of the race initially, but when conditions didn’t improve was forced to call the race.
“There is only a certain amount of time you’re allowed to delay a race and I was in contact with the Stillwater Police and Sheriff’s Department, but when you get a weather report that looks like a lot of ground lightning, that’s what really made the final decision.”
Buses returned to the starting lines to return runners to downtown, but many decided to run the course anyway. Although they were not timed, most were able to take advantage of water stations along the way and the Kids Races were also held later Saturday morning.
“I informed the runners that buses were on the way, but knowing runners and the mentality of the runners they were told if they chose to run anyway they were doing it at their own peril and without race services. Many of the runners decided to run on their own.”
Although disappointed by having to cancel the inaugural Stillwater Log Run, Mastel was certain it was the only reasonable course of action.
“As a race director, you can’t control the weather and it’s frustrating,” Mastel said. “When you cancel for heat it’s not as obvious, but when you cancel for lightning it’s right there in your face. It’s the second worst decision a race director makes. The first is that you send them out and someone gets injured. My philosophy has always been that safety is the most important thing and that goes for racers, volunteers and spectators.”
Mastel said he has received tentative approval for another race in October and is hoping to provide some accommodation with regard to registration fees for runners who signed up for Saturday’s race. He also indicated a desire to conduct the Stillwater Log Run again next year, hopefully with better cooperation from Mother Nature.
“The city is great to work with and the Sheriff’s Department is great to work with,” Matel said. “I think the Lumberjack Days race was around for 17-plus years and it would be a shame to lose that date and that event on the calendar. I am too close to say we’re definitely doing it, but we have no intention to not continue to do it.”