I was supposed to run the George Washington’s Birthday Marathon on Feb. 16 in Greenbelt, Md. Unfortunately, the same wintry storm system that led to the postponement of the Duke at Carolina game forced the race organizers — the D.C. Roadrunners Club — to cancel the race.
This was very frustrating for me because I was looking forward to a redemption race of sorts. Twenty years ago, that was my first marathon attempt and my only DNF. I was eager to finish that race 20 years later, but it wasn't to be.
The D.C. area got much more snow than we did in North Carolina, and there was additional snow on the day before when the race would have been held. It was absolutely the right call. The DCRRC folks made the decision Thursday, which kept out-of-towners like me from having to spend money to travel.
Priceline refunded the cost of my hotel room — even though I used the name-our-price method — because of the wintry weather.
Most races have an absolute no-refund policy if weather forces a cancellation, and I assumed that the same would be true here. It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal since it only cost me $45 to register. That’s dirt cheap by marathon standards.
But look what showed up in my inbox late last week:
Here is the key portion of that letter:
Unlike some of those big commercial marathon promoters, we're not going to take your money, say "too bad about the weather," and run. We will send all runners their shirts and bibs. We will send solo marathoners their medals. And we will send each runner a refund for the un-spent portion of the entry fee, which will be about $20-24 for solo marathoners and $10-12 for relay participants. (That's an estimate, not a promise, and the actual amount may be lower or higher.)
I’ll still get the T-shirt, bib and medal and it sounds like I might get around half of my money back on top of that. I won’t display that medal along with the others that I’ve earned by finishing marathons, but it still is a nice gesture by the DCRRC folks.
How odd is it that I don’t have a medal from the GWBM that I ran, but I’ll have one for the GWBM that I didn’t run!
Most races would not do any of that and I applaud the DCRRC for their thoughtful action after making a difficult decision. This race, like most locally run races, is administered by runners who can relate to other runners. They are more interested in giving back to the sport than taking the money and running.
The other example comes from my favorite local race, and what I consider to be my home marathon: the Tobacco Road Marathon. It began in 2010, I've finished the race all 4 years and, on March 16, I’ll run it for a fifth time.
Race officials hinted a couple of months ago that they’d do something special for folks who have run the marathon all five years. I found out Monday that the 10 of us in that group will be given nice running jackets.
Maybe this is a very early version of the Marine Corps Marathon's “Groundpounders.” That is a group that is now down to 4 people who have run MCM every year since it started in 1976. That group includes Raleigh's Will Brown.
I certainly plan to run TRM every year!
The TRM also has added extra motivation for runners trying to earn a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Any runner who qualifies for Boston at the TRM will get a special T-shirt to honor that accomplishment.
For you folks who overpaid to run the Raleigh Rock 'n’ Roll Marathon in April, I wish you well. I wouldn't spend a penny to run that race, as I've written before in this space. Despite the pricey registration for this race, I made more money as the first-place Grandmaster (50+) finisher at last September's Asheville Citizen-Times City Marathon ($300) than the second overall marathon finisher will make at Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll ($250). (A sub-2:18 men's finisher or a sub-2:43 women's finisher automatically gets $1,000.)
Some might point out that the Rock ‘n’ Roll race earns money for charities. You know about it because they publicize it a lot. And you’ll keep hearing about it since WRAL is a race sponsor. The station ran this story on Wednesday night's newscast.
But you don’t have to be a corporate race to do that as the TRM shows every year. It donates money to JDRF, the Triangle Rails to Trails Conservancy, the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Red Cross from race proceeds. TRM expects to donate $100,000 to beneficiaries this year.
The TRM is run by an all-volunteer committee and has no paid staff.
I’ll stick with races administered by local folks, which have unexpected rewards. For the first time, I’ll also run the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon in November. That’s a race that isn't permitted by the City of Raleigh to have the sort of course that the moneybags Rock ’n’ Roll people are getting.
While corporations such as Competitor Group (the people who run the Rock ‘n’ Roll series) are raking in profits from runners around the country, I’m profiting from supporting locally run races!