Lost And Found

My marathon girls!

There aren’t many situations quite as terrifying for parents as losing sight of their child at a public event.

Two weeks ago we had a frightening incident involving our 7-year-old daughter, Miss A, at the ING Kids Marathon in downtown Nashville. I will preface this by saying that she was fine the entire time and was technically not “lost,” but 40 minutes went by from the point my husband watched her turn the final corner toward the finish line with the other 1st grade runners to the point he finally laid eyes on her again.

40 minutes.

The traffic going into downtown as completely backed up before the event, which started on a Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. – the heart of rush hour.  It seemed, at least to us, that the inflow of participants had not been anticipated.  We have come into town for Titans games and gotten to the stadium with ease.  Traffic was so slow, though, that hubby and Miss A got out of the car while we were stuck on the off-ramp and ran the rest of the way so Miss A wouldn’t miss her race.

Because Miss C and I were trying to find a parking place the entire time hubby was with Miss A (finding her school’s tent, finding the starting line, finding her group, watching her start, watching her round the corner toward finish, then vanishing), I wasn’t really aware of the situation until she and I finally arrived at her school tent at 6:05. I texted hubby to let him know we’d finally parked and were at the school tent waiting for her race, which was scheduled for 6:30. He didn’t respond because he did not want me to yet know that he had not been able to locate Miss A, whose race began at 5:15 and who had been seen and photographed by a couple of her P.E. teachers crossing the finish line.

She should be waiting for him to retrieve her at the finish line, right? Wrong.

I found later that hubby had managed to get to the end of the “corral” that Miss A was supposed to come out of on time. When he got there, the kids were packed like sardines waiting for their parents to produce a matching number. There was one girl from our school that he recognized and she was at the front of the line, crying as she didn’t see her mother and there was pressure on her as other racers finished and the corral bottlenecked. When the mother finally got the girl after 25 minutes, hubby was able to ask her if she had seen Miss A. The girl had, and said that Miss A had finished AHEAD of her. That’s when he got really scared.

When we spoke on the phone again, he said “There is NO SIGN OF HER ANYWHERE, Jamie, and it’s been 30 minutes!” My heart had that sinking feeling, like a rock slowly falling to the bottom of a pool. I had to help him find her. I left Miss C, our 4th grader, with other parents at the school tent as her race was about to start, so I could help locate Miss A.

A few minutes later hubby called to say he had FINALLY spotted Miss A behind some marathon workers in the finish line area in the wrong corral. Because of the way they were situated and she was situated she had been virtually hidden. By then I was ready to have a nervous breakdown. I was so proud of her for being calm…but she had no idea that anything was wrong!

So, facts and questions remain:

  • Everyone we dealt with from school during this situation was SPECTACULAR.  We are so very lucky to have the excellent teachers and staff that we do at the girls’ school.
  •  Hubby saw dozens of first graders crying as they were waiting in the “corral.” They were packed like sardines, and parents waving numbers to claim their child were at least 12 deep.  He said it was slightly organized chaos, and parents were busting through and pulling their kids out on the sides rather than wait their turn.  He said it was like the floor of the Stock Exchange, but with kids.  How did that happen?
  • When my husband was advised to go to the medical tent, he saw no injuries…just 4 children who were “misplaced” and a line of frantic parents reporting that they could not locate their kids.
  • How can you be a gate worker and have a small child right beside you who has been waiting for 40 minutes…and NOT be proactive by using your walkie talkie to see if she was reported lost or missing?

Miss A wanted to participate this year and I was all for it. The P.E. teachers at our school do a superb job of organizing our runners and keeping parents informed of the race day details. All the kids wear matching t-shirts and parent volunteers run with the kids. All kids are required by marathon organizers to have their names, grade, and school printed on their official marathon number tag pinned to their t-shirts, as well as have a parent’s cell phone number written on the back.

With that said, the logistics of having 7,000 kids and their parents in a small area, running in sequence in a short time frame, created a scenario that was one of the scariest of my life, and quite a few other parents, as well.

Have you ever lost your child at a public event? Were you at the Nashville kids marathon? What do you think could be done to improve logistics of crowd control and safety?

13 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Ohmigosh! Sam (7) was supposed to participate in that as well and was DEVASTATED when we couldn’t get there on time! I left work at 2:00 pm to get to his school and down to the stadium for his 5:20 race. We STILL couldn’t make it. Traffic was that bad and I was only traveling a total of 12 miles between work, school & stadium! I was stuck in traffic ~1 block away for over 45 minutes just trying to get to the parking lot. We didn’t have the ability to take him to the race while one of us parkedt he car so he just missed it entirely being THIS CLOSE to the stadium the entire time. Bless his heart, he just cried. But after hearing this story, I question whether we would do it NEXT year. I wondered why they would have a race during Friday peak traffic time at the beginning of a very big weekend for the city to begin with?I So glad she is safe, Jamie!

    • Blonde Mom says:

      I have heard from several parents whose kids also missed the marathon entirely because of the traffic. I sincerely hope that next year (because I’m assuming participant numbers will grow AGAIN) that the event organizers consider breaking this up over a Saturday and perhaps having the younger kids, K-3, run in the morning, and older kids run in the afternoon with some sort of lunch/entertainment in the middle to break it up. This is just WAY too much crammed into a short amount of time during busy weekend rush hour !

  2. Jessica Kelley says:

    I heard the traffic was terrible that night. What a terrifying experience! Maybe they could do it better by letting the parents into the corral area to meet their kids, and then checking matching numbers at the exit of that area.

    • Jamie says:

      That’s a great idea. They definitely need to do something…I think the races themselves should be timed out further and the event should even be held on a Saturday. I know the organizers like to hold it the night before the big marathon but something must change if the #s continue to grow!

  3. Melinda says:

    When we were younger, my sister and I loved playing a “game” every time my mom took us shopping, where we would hide in the clothing racks at the department store. We thought it was hilarious. Needless to say, my mother thought otherwise. 🙂 Glad to hear your daughter is ok!!!

  4. EG says:

    That is terrifying. I’ve lost site of a kid for less than a minute and I’m convinced that I aged in just that amount of time. Have you given the feedback to the marathon organizers? I do remember getting separated from my mom at Sesame Place when I was maybe 5 or 6.

  5. Miz Vickik says:

    Wow, it sounds like they should have passed out medals of courage to the adults too! Glad it turned out ok– I can’t even imagine coordinating 7000 kids like that. Whew.

  6. Katrina says:

    I work downtown and traffic is always horrible the Friday afternoon before the race because of all the runners trying to get downtown to pick up their packets and everyone working downtown trying to get out. I can’t imagine why they’d think it was a good idea to throw the kids race on top of that.

    I do love the idea of the kids race. With obesity on the rise, I think it is such a great idea to try to get kids involved in fun running events at an early age. I am a runner, but was not exposed to any events like this as a child and did not start running until after college. I love the idea of my daughter being exposed to activities like this at a much younger age. It sounds like they need to really rethink the logistics.

    My daughter is only 3, so she is still forced to hold our hand or ride in a shopping cart, when out in public, but I dread the day she gets too old for that. That is a terrifying experience. I am glad she turned out to be okay.

  7. Liz says:

    We lost our daughter at a race, too. The whole thing worked out really well, but my heart starts pounding and I get that same sinking feeling whenever I even think about it.

    My daughter fell and then got into someone’s car. It all worked out well and I even got to thank him later, but it was a good lesson on strangers for my daughter (and us, who thought we had adequately covered the subject).

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