Running & Trail Running: a short review of some cancelled events in 2020 and their different reimbursement policies

With the diffusion and the spread of COVID-19 in the first quarter 2020, several nations have gradually introduced different form of social-distancing measures. The latter have been maintained or gradually reduced, according to the specific situation of each country and/or geographical area (https://www.emigrantrailer.com/?p=3240)

The implementation of these social-distancing measures had a huge effect on several famous and traditional running and trail-running events, with the majority of them cancelled during the last months and weeks.

It is fair to say that it was a though and difficult decision for the organizers, often not fully supported by a clear direction of their respective government. Therefore, it was better to cancel the event, to avoid later problems with the authorities, bypassying the problem of any possible misinterpretation of the official (sometimes unclear) rules.

Simultaneously, the cancellation of these events has generated different reactions among the running community. In particular, while everybody fully understood the reasons for the cancellation, many athletes found (and still find) hard and difficult to accept the behaviour of certain organizers for what concern the reimbursement policy, especially in those cases where the given (or not given) explanations were: “the official regulation that you signed at the registration states that xxx % of the registration fee will be refunded….”. In other words, a runner, like a normal person economically affected by this worldwide situation in 2020, would have expected more empathy by the organizers as well as a runner understands the expenses that the organizers must face. Sticking to the words stated in the official regulation, in a period where everybody was facing a completely unexpected scenario, sounded a bit “selfish”, “venal” and “harsh” at the ears of the registered athletes.

Reading through the comments in the social media or talking to several runners & trail-runners, I can summarize that most of them was expecting two possible options in order of priority from the organizers:

  1. Defer registration to 2021 for free;
  2. Reimbursement fee at least > 75% in 2020;

So, what is the situation in this « strange » 2020 ?

In the following tables, I tried to summarize the current updated situation, reporting ten famous events of road-marathons, trail & ultra-trail running, and endurance trail.

Table 1 – Most relevant information for ten famous events of road marathons, trail & ultra-trail running and endurance trail (https://www.emigrantrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Table-1-Running-Events-2020-Reimbursement-Policy-Emigrantrailer_20200720-4.png)

Table 1 should be self explicative, with the events classified by 2020 planned dates (top – down, from the earliest to the latest event in the year), with the most relevant information (nation, distance and planned date) and with final event status (confirmed or cancelled).

Table 2 – Cost Fee, resolution options due to COVID-19 after cancellation, and economic loss for the runner (https://www.emigrantrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Table-2-Running-Events-2020-Reimbursement-Policy-Emigrantrailer_20200720-3.png)

Table 2 is the core of this short review, with the information about cost fee, resolution options due to COVID-19 cancellation of the event, and the economic loss for the single runner. Note that this cost is simply the registration cost: it does not include all the other expenses like travel, accomonation, etc. which are of course part of the overall cost for the single runner.

Among the selected races, you can observe that Transgrancanaria in Spain was the only one that took place, just before the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases in Europe. I decided to add to this table as sort of “reference point”, “milestone”, before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the other following races have been cancelled. All of them have offered different resolution options.

It is positively remarkable the decision from the three big road-marathons : Boston, Berlin and New York. All of them granted the 2020 fee (100%). New York and Berlin also allowed the option to defer the 2020 registration for 2021. When you think about the numbers of these three marathons (participants between 30,000 and 55,000, in big cities with a lot of public) and the fact that the organizational machine starts usually 1 -1,5 years before the event, you cannot ignore that this was a though decision by the organizers. But, for sure, well appreciated by the registered athletes, who also needed to account for other economical losses (booking of flights, hotel, and extras). I would define it “a small ray of sunshine in the middle of the storm”.

When you look at the off-road World (Trail, Ultra and Endurance), the decision was not always the same. The organizers of Zegama-Aizkorri and Western States (and many other races not listed here), without any doubts and with very limited time before their planned event, decided to give two options to the registered athletes : return the full amount of registration or defer the registration for 2021. “Chapeau” is the first word that it came in my mind, when I read about this decision.

The decision of the organizers at Lavaredo Ultra Trail also generated positive feelings and reactions. As far as I know, many runners welcomed in an extremely positive way the possibility of returning to the paths of Cortina in 2021, without having to spend any other additional euro. I would define it as a “wise decision“, looking positively towards the future.

The remaining three events (Ultra Trail Monte Fuji, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, Tor des Geants), and their strict decision to comply with the regulation, have definetively left the already registered runners with a bitter feeling (and empty wallet). I believe that many runners, like me, asked themself :  “and where is now this famous spirit trail, the one founded on the principle of mutual support and sharing of exciting and depressing moments ? “. Regulation is regulation. But, in occasion of extraordinary events like this year, I believe  that empathy, flexibility, understanding and wisdom should play a significant role.

No other words. This is what it is in 2020. We will see how the scenario will evolve in the next months and in 2021.

I look forward comments & suggestions. If there are any mistakes, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Enjoy the running…with or without a starting number !

Andrea

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