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New York City Marathon to offer refund of entry fee

6:59 AM, Dec 21, 2012   |    comments
A runner runs past equipment that was to be used for the New York City Marathon near Central Park Nov. 2 in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg announced Nov. 2 that the marathon, scheduled for two days later, was cancelled.(Photo: Allison Joyce Getty Images)
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The New York City Marathon, after weeks of gut-wrenching discussions about how to respond to runners regarding the storm-related cancellation of the Nov. 4 race, announced groundbreaking and perhaps controversial options Thursday.

One option is for an unprecedented total refund of the 2012 entry fee, which ranged from $216 for New York Road Runners members all the way to $500. For typical domestic runners, the fee is $268. For international entries, $347.

Most major marathons do not offer refunds, and the New York City Marathon has never before offered one.

The other main option is that runners can decline the refund and be guaranteed entry into the 2013, 2014 or 2015 races - but they will be required to pay entry fees, at the 2012 rate. Or they can accept a spot in the NYC half-marathon in March, paying the entry fee for that race.

So they will in effect be paying twice to run once.

Is this fair?

"Financially, it was just impossible to offer entry into the race without paying," said New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg. "We wouldn't be able to do any of the other programs we put on.

"I would hope that runners will appreciate that we've gone beyond what we've ever done before in offering the refund, and they can take that refund and decide not to run. If they still want to run, I would hope they would appreciate that this was an unprecedented situation, a dire and challenging situation for the city and the marathon.

"Is it a perfect solution? No. Did we achieve a goal of offering a refund and still guaranteeing people a spot in a future race? Yes."

The policy is great news for runner Marcos Velez, 38, of Jersey City. He already has a guaranteed spot for the 2013 race through NYRR's 9 + 1 program -- if you run in nine NYRR events, you get a marathon spot. So he can take the refund and run the 2013 race, too.

"I was pleasantly surprised with the policy," Velez said. "The rumors were that there wouldn't be any refunds."

Amby Burfoot, a writer/editor at Runners World and the 1968 Boston Marathon champion, was in New York City the marathon weekend and saw the runners go from "shock and disappointment" at the Friday announcement to helping "do the right thing" and serve as volunteers on Sunday.

He thinks most runners will be accepting of the policy.

"We all know that if you want to run it, you have pay twice for one race, but the refund is very fair," Burfoot said. "I think runners got more back than they thought they would, but certainly there will be some disgruntled people."

The NYRR sent a letter, signed by Wittenberg, Thursday to the approximately 47,500 runners who were planning to run the New York City 26.2-miler before it was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy.

Wittenberg said she doesn't know how many runners will seek refunds and that the financial ramifications of the cancellation are not totally clear yet. The race had some insurance protection but not enough to refund all runners and cover all expenses related to running the race.

"The insurance gave us some flexibility with the refund policy, but we'll be working through this financially for a few years. We'll feel the impact for a while."

USA Today

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