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.”