Very topical this weekend…race cancellations

Like seemingly half the runners in the UK today I feel victim to Mini-Best From The East and had my race cancelled.  Reading Half Marathon joined the long list of cancelled runs. Unusually they hung on until the last minute cancelling at 6:41am on Twitter for a 10:15am start race, after many had set off.  No email cancellation until 7:48am and no text received by me at any rate.

There isn’t a good time to cancel a race so you feel for them.  Cancel too early (like Bath Half a few weeks ago) and people turn up on race day to run anyway, whilst laughing at your ridiculous early decision.  Cancel too late and people have incurred hotel costs, travel costs etc all to stare at a deserted start area in the snow.  The recent Big Half in London went ahead but in respect of those unable to reach London due to the weather offered a virtual option so posted out the medal to anyone that ran their own run at home.  Big respect for the handling of that.

For the events that have to cancel completely the main issue is how they deal with the issues going forward.

Option 1 – The Bath Half – Offer a full refund.  The organisers may lose some funds but presumably are suitably insured to cover the costs.  Runners get their direct costs back but still out of pocket for fuel, train, hotels etc.  It’s fair and reasonable and insurance within the ‘bigger event’ price tag makes sense.  Runners will return next year.

Option 2 – The small events – Oakley 20 – Send out ‘medals‘. Cancelled on race day at 5:15am email direct to all runners and all over social media as well as texts.  As a small club-run event they would struggle to offer refunds and presumably couldn’t justify the insurance costs.  Instead they donated all food to a local charity and offered to post out or allow collection of the Hoodies (they don’t do medals so this is THE reward for the run). All this was announced promptly. The same thing happened about 5 years ago when also sadly cancelled for snow.

Option 3 – FQ Events MK Winter Half – reschedule– Cancelled in December due to snow.  Within days they had rescheduled for February (the next available date) and everyone given a choice of accepting this or deferring until the next December.  Faultless management.

Option 4 – Reading Half – Annoy Everyone. As stated above, social media cancellation 6:41am. Many who made it there went home. At 12:43 an announcement on social media that if in the area you could collect your medal and goodie bag until 6:30pm on that day.  That was it.  No posting out as “we simply don’t have the facilities to post medals to 15k runners”.  They did have staff to post out 15,000 runners bibs at up to £50 and countless parking permits at £11 each previously.  Seemingly when the letter stuffing isn’t earning them money they have a staffing issue.

As the day progressed there was precious little update on refunds or rescheduling.  Given the traffic management issues and access to the stadium the rescheduling looked unfeasible anyway. Things happen, the right decision for safety was made, let’s have our money back thanks.  Hopefully a big event like Reading, one of the more expensive HM in the UK would have insurance though.  Seems not.

At 4pm all runners received an email that we’d be getting a £40 e-voucher for Sports Direct.  Why this store?  Reading HM is put on by Brasher Leisure Ltd trading as Sweatshop.  Sports Direct is a major shareholder.

They presumably think this is enough to stem the PR disaster on social media.  Is it?  If you’ve paid the final price of close to £50 plus parking at the very ‘reasonable’ price of £11 you’re £60 down.  They’re giving you a £40 voucher, handy if you want something from the store, but how much is it actually costing them?

According to retail price is normally around 2.5 to 3 x the trade or whole sale price, depending on the mark up of the retailer.  Giving Sports Direct the benefit of being a high volume, low margin retailer let’s assume it’s as low as 2x.  So that £40 set of running kit could be costing them around £20, possibly even less.  In return for your £60 of hard earned cash they’re giving up around £20 of stock.  That’s not a bad return for them.

Incidents happen, weather is unpredictable but if you’re an RD please sort insurance and pick one of the top 3 options.  Chatting to an actual RD with many years’ experience I was advised insurance is typically less than £1 per entrant so whilst excessive for a £5 fun run for charity, more than feasible for a major event charging £30+.

Unfortunately running is so popular and with so many new entrants keen to enter events that there is little reward for good service or punishment for poor.  Stage such a diabolical event that thousands of participants will vow never to return, safe in the knowledge you’ll be able to refill those spots several times over next year.  Some of the bigger name events in recent years have run out of water, run out of medals, had short courses, baggage queues over 3 hours long, closed access roads leading to event car parks so paying users couldn’t access them, and probably several more disasters along with the usual issues. Are they still going?  Yes.

If you’re looking to book events then check for honest reviews by previous participants before parting with cash.

Had a race cancelled and want a refund? 

In theory your credit card or paypal may be able to make a charge back.  There’s some good advice here:

If enough people do this the events will eventually have to refund like big grown-ups, or actually sort some insurance.

2 thoughts on “Very topical this weekend…race cancellations

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