Ryan and I race direct a series of running races in Connecticut — the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon, Retro Run 5K, Solstice Sprint 5K and Hogsback Half Marathon. We’re both volunteers and while we feel like we produce quality races there is no paid race director or paid race production company. Since we started directing race almost 12 years ago, we’ve always allowed runners who can’t race for whatever reason to defer their entry to the next year or to transfer into another race at no cost and no questions asked. Here’s what our current policy reads:
Can I defer my registration / transfer my registration to another runner?
We do not permit transfers to another runner but we do allow transfers and deferrals to another race (the 2018 Quarter Marathon, the 2018 Solstice Sprint 5K, the 2018 Retro Run 5K or the 2018 Hogsback Half Marathon). Requests for transfers / deferrals must be received by September 23, 2017 (you can request a transfer deferral by email firstname.lastname@example.org, please don’t send a Facebook message, comment on a post or tweet). No exceptions.
Runners may not realize it but transfers and deferrals cost the race money. If you email me today saying you need a deferral to 2018 I’ve already have a bib with your name printed on it, ordered a shirt in the exact size you requested, allocated a finisher’s medal to you and included you in our counts for food, water and port a potties. When you enter the race for free next year, the race will need to pay for all those things again. Generally speaking, that’s the cost of doing business. By offering such a policy, we gain goodwill from runners and our donation takes a slight hit in hopes of creating a repeat customer and good word of mouth.
The problem is that in recent years we’re getting more and more requests for deferrals (for example for this year’s Hogsback Half Marathon we have 60 runners who paid $0 to enter the race, some of those of free entries we donated but most of those are deferrals and transfers from previous years). We begun to notice a few things about the deferrals / transfers: (1) people are deferring / transferring year after year. For example we current have a deferral that goes back to 2014, that’s a long time for the race to carry a liability; (2) people are deferring / transferring and then registering for another race. People will register early for one of our races but then another race ends up being scheduled for the same day, they then request a transfer / deferral from us and attend a different event; and (3) more people generally are transferring / deferring. For whatever reason more people are requesting transfers / deferrals than they have in past years. The problem with this is that the races are carrying huge liabilities from year to year and the administration of these deferrals has become a bit of a nightmare.
So here’s my question — WHAT WOULD YOU DO? DOES A GENEROUS DEFERRAL POLICY MAKE YOU MORE LIKELY TO REGISTER FOR A RACE?
In trying to come up with solution, we’re at a bit of a loss, here are some of our ideas. We’d love to know what you think and to hear your ideas as well:
- Eliminate all transfers and deferrals. Our races are really reasonably priced (if you registered early for our half marathon it was $35) and runners have to assume the risk.
- Eliminate deferrals for people who use a free registration code.
- Require a form to be filled out / doctor’s note for all transfer / deferral requests (I’m not crazy about this because I don’t want to be policing what’s a medical necessity and what’s not).
- Allow runners to purchase the option to transfer / defer as an add – on at registration.
- Change the date for requests to 1-2 months before race day.
- Others? Thoughts?