The New York Road Runners Club will announce today (December 20th) that it will offer full refunds to all entrants for the 2012 New York City Marathon, which was scheduled for November 4th but cancelled after Hurricane Sandy.
The decision comes weeks after a disastrous and horribly insensitive attempt by both the Bloomberg Administration and New York Road Runners to allocate supplies, including portable generators, to the race, which begins in Staten Island less than one mile from the heavily damaged South Beach section which is at sea level and was inundated by the record 20-foot storm surge. Make no mistake about it, the race was cancelled only after serious public protests, including by some runners. And serious runners (such as myself) felt that running the race was not only grossly insensitive but also would have been counterproductive for serious runners and would basically eviscerate the very reason for a serious athletic competition.
And the New York Road Runners Club, a nonprofit organization which is overseen by the New York State Attorney General's Office (and to whom I asked to investigate the NYRR's initial attempt to retain runners' entry fees) has suffered possibly permanent brand damage. Read these quotes from the Times' initial article:
Mary Wittenberg has also had to mend relations with sponsors of the race. As a nonprofit, Road Runners does not have a large financial cushion, and it no doubt wanted to avoid paying refunds. As a result, some partners, like ABC and ESPN, which was going to broadcast the race, may have their contracts extended for an additional year at no cost.
The larger question is how much the fiasco surrounding the cancellation of the race, which included planned protests, online petitions and attacks by local politicians, damaged the Road Runners brand. Road Runners is now in talks with ING, the Dutch bank that is the title sponsor of the race. If the bank decides to end its affiliation with the race, Road Runners could be forced to scramble for a new lead sponsor.
A victory for runners. But this ten-time marathoner still recommends you run the Philadelphia Marathon -- a superior race and running experience -- next November. (PS: Time to brag. I finished the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon in an okay 3:49:59.)