Coronavirus Threatens Race Season

Coronavirus written newspaper close up shot to the text.

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The Coronavirus (COV-19) is changing our daily lives. Events are being canceled with increasing regularity. Colleges are are closing their campuses, The NCAA is planning March Madness without fans. As I am writing this The NBA has suspended the season. Races are being cancelled or postponed.

The Town of Brookline, MA. has prohibited all non essential public meetings or events in town or school facilities until April 30th. The announcement didn’t specifically address The Boston Marathon, but it seems increasingly likely that The Boston Marathon will be affected.

All of the above are relatively minor inconveniences. These are necessary inconveniences to try to slow the spread of COV-19. If we are going to err, it’s better to be overly cautious.

I highly recommend reading this article on The author does a great job explaining why cancelling events is necessary.

How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chart

Your Race Is Cancelled?

You are bummed that your race got cancelled. The amount of cancellations we are seeing is unprecedented. More cancellations are certain to come.

It’s natural to be disappointed if you’ve trained hard for your spring race. But, please do not lash out against the race. Some larger races may be in a position to offer full refunds, while other races may not be in the same position.

Financially, cancelling events is far more devastating to the municipalities, charities, and the events than they are to the participants. The vast majority of races have you interests at heart, and are offering a variety of options to registered runners. Generally the decision to cancel is being made by the community, and not the event organizer.

Medals, shirts, and supplies cost money. The Best Damn Race had to cancel their races after The City of New Orleans cancelled the permits. They have offered a number of options, and did a fantastic job explaining what goes into running a race.

The New York Half Marathon was cancelled on Tuesday evening, and is offering runners full refunds or a guaranteed (non complimentary entry) to the 2021 race. I have seen dozens of people complaining. NYRR was not obligated to offer anything, and is offering a full refund.


Economically the Coronavirus is impacting all industries. It is obvious that travel, tourism, conventions and events are impacted greatly. Those that make their living timing and managing races are facing significant lost revenues for an unknown amount of time. Please keep them in mind before issuing a charge back, or scorching an event on social media.

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  1. No NYRR didn’t have to offer anything, but I think the issue a lot of people are having is that it’s not fair how they are handling it. You can get your money back or pay twice. If I decide not to run their race again or risk the lottery, I can get my money back. But if I decide I want to run next year, I don’t get a refund AND have to pay next year (paying twice). They are basically treating it with their deferment policy when we aren’t voluntarily deferring. Even a discount of some sort would have been better than what they are offering.

    Remember, NYRR has races throughout the year, so a lot of their supplies (sports drink, water, etc) will be able to be used for their other races. NYRR is a business with execs making well into the 6 figures – it is not your typical local, charity race. Yes, they have the cost of medals and shirts, but most of the rest can be cancelled or used at other races.

    • I would imagine that if you dispute the charge with your credit card company / bank, you’d win. They can’t charge you for a product/service that they did not provide. Races should all immediately refund all race fees if they cancel, even if it causes serious financial harm for the race. It’s the right thing to do.

  2. Suggest medals and stuff be recouped through virtual races. Then again, most races aren’t prepared to ship the stuff.

    The situation just sucks. But it’s better than getting COVID-19! I see the dreadmill in my future.

  3. Thank you for this. My husband and I own a small race timing company, and we just lost about two months’ income in the span of a few hours this morning as races and track season were cancelled. I’m also a runner with a cancelled race, and I can confirm…it’s worse to be on the timing/RD side of the table in this situation.

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