When I first heard about the new regulations that are going into effect today for running events, I was a little upset. I like to run. (Or, at least, I like to think I like to run, and by run, I mean walk with bounce.) I like when others run. I also like activity on the streets of Dallas. So anything that makes it harder for people to run on the streets of Dallas makes me a little upset. “But,” people said to me, “what about those who live in houses who can’t get out of their driveways because of runners? What about those who wake up to the sound of runners chatting as they pass their windows? What about those who can’t get to church because the streets are blocked off?” I live in an apartment downtown. Streets get shut down, noises filter through my windows. I have very little sympathy.
Then I talked to the woman who designed the regulations. Her name is Lori Chance. She really believes in what she’s done. If there’s anything that can melt my hardened heart it’s someone who believes in their work. So I talked to a couple other people who are involved in this situation and below is what they said. I tried to be unbiased, because I really do understand both sides. You can yell at me in the comments if you think I failed at that.
Two years ago, Lori Chance, manager of the Office of Special Events, started doing a study of how many running events take place in town. Then she looked at when they were taking place, and where. Â At that time, she had been head of the department for three years. She realized that around the same time each year, she was getting complaints from citizens about streets being closed and runners clogging neighborhoods. So, along with all the other responsibilities included in her title, she started working on her study.
Today, the guidelines and regulations resulting from her study go into effect.
Chance found that there are about 115 permits given for races each year in Dallas. Of those 115, 78 had fewer than 1,000 people, and 54 of the events were taking place around White Rock Lake. “So with 52 weeks of the year, every weekend, sometimes Saturday and Sunday, White Rock streets were being impacted,” Chance says. “What happens is when you get to the point of the big events that bring economic value to the city, like White Rock Marathon (now Dallas Marathon), Rock and Roll Half Marathon, and the Hot Chocolate Run, there’s no tolerance left by the citizens.”
The regulations that go into effect today are directly aimed at trying to alleviate these problems. One regulation is that streets cannot be shut down 10 days before or after another event. Another is that if an event has fewer than 1,000 people, it has to stay off the streets and keep to the trails.
This has Jill Beam, special events manager for the City Parks Department, concerned. She’s the one who permits all the parks’ races. “I can schedule Bachman Lake, Santa Fe Trail, White Rock Creek Trail, and Cottonwood Trail,” she says. “White Rock Lake is just already too saturated with events going on annually, so I can’t put any new races there. We’re kind of at a gridlock of putting races at these other locations.”
One popular destination for runs is the Katy Trail. But because of the new regulations, the Friends of the Katy Trial decided last week to take it under their control. Now, if a race wants to run on the 3.5-mile stretch, the organizers have to go through the Friends instead of Beam. And the Friends are going to be rather discretionary.
Beam has been in her position for 11 years. When asked about her feelings of the new regulations, she admits she’s “a little concerned.”
Peggy Munroe is 49 years old, but looks much younger. She’s currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which takes places this month. She’s also nearing the end of her terms as president of the Dallas Running Club, a 43-year-old organization that hosts several larger runs and small monthly runs for its members. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those members. I met Munroe during a very hilly 9-mile run in the summer. We started discussing the new regulations while running up Flag Pole Hill, but then I got tired and walked while Munroe kept going. I had to ask follow-up questions through email.)
It’s not easy being president of a running club. Munroe has had many obstacles when setting up runs–scheduling around other races, acquiring cops to direct traffic, and finding parking for all the runners. She’s worried the new regulations will make it more difficult. But she gets neighbors’ frustrations. Having your driveway blocked by runners or waking up on a Sunday morning to water cups strewn on your lawn isn’t ideal. “I don’t know an easy fix,” she says. “The running community has exploded. It’s everywhere.”
When Munroe started at the DRC in 1999, there were 1,900 members. Today, there are 4,400. Chance is not a runner, but understands why running and races have become so popular. When she finished her study, she invited the running clubs to join in on a meeting outlining the new regulations. “They all received it well,” Chance says. She’s putting together a taskforce of the running clubs to look at how the new regulations do or don’t work. For now, these new regulations are incorporated in only certain parts of the city. If the runs start expanding and impacting other streets, Chance will then decide if the regulations need to be expanded.
Though not everyone is excited about the changes (see my intro), Chance believes in the new regulations. “I’m hoping once I get some stuff off the street, I’ll go, ‘Oh, I don’t have a problem anymore.’”