When I first decided to become a race director, I did what I always do when embarking upon a new endeavor. I studied everything I could get my hands on. And, I met with, and learned from, the experts like Phil Stewart of the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, Rick Nealis of the Marine Corps Marathon, George Banker of the Army Ten Miler, and Patty Burke, former race director of Lawyers Have Heart. Each shared important information and helped me up my game. Here’s a question we never pondered, however: “What would you do if there was a march scheduled near the Capitol for the second day of your race, and if there was a threat of a government shutdown at midnight between the two days of your race, and that shutdown could potentially impact almost every leg from 21-36?”
I’m certainly glad we didn’t face those issues in the early years of the American Odyssey Relay! Misplaced portable toilets and a botched t-shirt order were stressful enough. So, with almost nine years of race directing experience under my belt, I feel like I’m at least somewhat equipped to handle these twin issues. First the march. It’s the People’s Climate March. We have been in touch with the march organizers both directly and through some backchannels we’ve formed. And, we’ve been in touch with Metropolitan Police District One, which has jurisdiction over the finish line area, as well as the Metropolitan Police Department’s Planning Branch. We’ve learned that there will be street closures around Third and Constitution, but not near our finish line. And, based on the latest intelligence, they don’t expect the perimeter of the march to grow too much from that area. Our current plan is to stick with the finish line as originally planned, but we do have a “Plan B” just in case. We’ve leased the Clara Barton Center near leg 34 for April 29th. If we need to adjust at the last second and have leg 36 head back up the C&O, we will. So, some extra planning and some extra costs, but so far no changes. Stay tuned on this one.
The issue of a potential government shutdown is a bit trickier. Will it be a partial shutdown? Will it affect our permits for Antietam, the C&O Canal and the portion of leg 36 that is on National Park Service grounds (virtually all)? There’s no way to know at this point. We’ve been in touch with some of our allies within the government and we’ve done some reconnaissance as well. The biggest areas of concern right now are transitions 21 and 22. Transition 22 can only be reached if the gate at Rodman (the entrance to the Burnside Bridge portion of Antietam) is unlocked, which the park rangers do for us under our permit. But, what if the permit is pulled at the last minute? It’s impossible to know. We are working on contingency plans for those two transitions now. We may not know if there is going to be a shutdown even right up to the team captains’ meeting. If there is a shutdown still being threatened, we will outline a Plan B at the team captains’ meeting.
What can you do?
- Attend the team captains’ meeting in Gettysburg on Thursday the 27th at 8:30 at the theater located at the starting line. We will give you the latest and greatest information at that point. If you absolutely cannot attend, it’s your responsibility to learn what happened at that meeting. We will do our best to be available race morning to provide updates, but we can’t guarantee that we can drop everything to talk to each team that doesn’t have a rep at the meeting. So, make sure to leave enough time in the morning before your start time for us to talk in an unhurried manner.
- Stay in close touch with us via Facebook, by reading our e-blasts and by checking the Latest Updates on the race website. We will be using all of these as vehicles with which to communicate.
- This is a participatory democracy last time I checked! Call your congressman/woman and your senators and tell them you won’t stand for them messing with the American Odyssey Relay! The phone numbers are: 202-224-3121 (Senate) and 202-225-3121 (House). Call early and call often. Tell them to do their jobs and not shut down our government. If there is a shutdown, senators and congressmen will get paid once the government is back up and running. But, our collective losses won’t ever be addressed. And, the food trucks in front of government buildings won’t be reimbursed for their losses. Ditto the hundreds of other small businesses that are gravely affected by decisions such as this. Get involved. Save your race and help others. And, post on Facebook and have friends call. This is an unacceptable way to run a government.