British marathoners in New York want money back

UK travel agency Sports Tours International says the reputation of the ING New York City Marathon will be damaged if organisers fail to return entry fees to runners


New York Road Runners is under growing pressure to return entry fees for the cancelled ING New York City Marathon according to a major UK travel agency that has around 1000 disgruntled athletes in the Big Apple.

Sports Tours International, a Manchester-based company that has been organising NYC Marathon trips for Brits since 1983, says marathon organisers risk losing credibility if they don’t reimburse an entry fee that ranges from $216 for NYRR members through to $347 for non-US international runners.

Chris Bird, the chief executive of Sports Tours International, appreciates why the race was cancelled and sympathises with the city and its people in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, but he believes it’s not acceptable for runners to be left so badly out of pocket.

“If the event had been cancelled well in advance, the British runners could have avoided travelling and claimed on travel insurance,” he said, describing a situation that has seen runners spending hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on flights and hotels.

“But now my company alone has 1000 runners out there and another 200 friends and family – so 1200 customers in total – and there is a growing feeling that organisers New York Road Runners should give them their entry money back.”

NYRR has said the entry fee is not refundable, but they are considering a rollover solution where disappointed entrants for the 2012 race can run the event at some stage in the next five years.

But Bird warns that “runners could vote with their running shoes” in future and potentially avoid the Big Apple. “The organisers are sending out a pretty poor message to the 47,000 runners who were due to start this year and those who have supported their event since it began in 1970,” he said, adding that there are moves behind-the-scenes to create an online petition calling for runners to get their entry fees returned.

The cancellation of the race has also caused a headache when it comes to the charity-raising element of the event. Bird says this problem is “huge”, as 50% of runners were planning to raise money and charities expected around £2 million to be raised by British runners in New York on Sunday. “We have lots of runners who have basically been sponsored to do a race they are never going to complete,” he explains.

However, Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 NYC Marathon winner, 2004 Olympic silver medallist and one of the 2012 elite entrants who have lost a major potential payday this weekend, said: “Any inconveniences the cancellation causes me or the thousands of runners who trained and travelled for this race pales in comparison to the challenges faced by people in NYC and its vicinity in the aftermath of Sandy.”

6 Responses to “British marathoners in New York want money back”

  1. Jeanette says:

    They all checked a box at the end of the marathon application that said "I am aware of the terms and conditions". Those terms and conditions state that there will be no refunds if the race is cancelled. I was supposed to run as well. I do not think the race should have been cancelled. But also don't expect my money back. It will go to charity instead, and I'm fine with that. The rest, well, that's the risk we take when we participate in a sport that happens largely outdoors and relies on the kindness of the elements. Focus forward.

  2. Ponzi Scheme says:

    Mary Wittenberg should resign. Although she had no control over the weather or how the east coast would react to the marathon, she did have control over how things were dealt with in term of the marathon cancellation this past week. To tell runners the marathon is still on as late as Wednesday afternoon, and then cancel late Friday causing thousand of runners to travel to NY anyways (and lose thousands of dollars) is not good leadership.

    Additionally, no contingency plan? She has a $30M budget, full-time staff, and this race has been run for 40+ years, and no one thought it would be a good idea to have a contingency plan?

    She showed her glaring weakness in a time of adversity. Resign Ms. Wittenberg, that is the only right thing to do.

  3. Rachelle says:

    Mary Wittenberg is a joke! I am not coming back!

  4. moose says:

    thinks sports tours is way out of line, i have completed loads of races of varying distances and yes some have been cancelled, but hey ho these things happen now and again.if sports tours think that people will stop doing the new york marathon just because of whats happened then he doesnt know the type of people there own clients sure the money they have paid will go towards helping with the current situation as already the people who where supposed to run have been giving up there time to help with the clean up. good on all the runners helping out and shame on sports tours

  5. alunpg says:

    Mr. Bird of Sports Tours leaves out an important aspect here, and that is the fact that a lot of runners booked the package, including race, with them, that means the runners do not have a contract with NYRR and so no rights to regress from NYRR.
    But against Sports Tours they may well do, as the service that was paid for was not delivered……… The fact is Sports Tours has to see that it gets its money back from NYRR not the runners themselves, sounds to me like Mr. Bird is simply trying to get himself out of the line of fire…………….

  6. HelpingHand says:

    Please wake up foks. Mary gave you a way to get your money back.

    She Tweeted, 4am Oct 30. AND SHE LIED. She deceived you, and from where I stand this tweet equates to fraud.
    All media outlets reported catastrophic damage at that time.

    She lied to get you here, and keep your money, regardless of what happened to the race.

    Please file a class action. Or at least save that tweet so you have copies of it for further legal action.

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