A Tale of Three Canceled Races

AJW's TaproomThe extraordinary circumstances of the past several months have led to widespread cancellations of hundreds of ultramarathons around the world. While these cancellations have left race organizers scrambling to reschedule their events, it has been fascinating to observe the different approaches each race has taken in determining what will be the next steps in their events. The three most popular and high-profile 100-mile ultras in the world, UTMB, the Western States 100, and Hardrock 100, have taken decidedly different approaches to their futures that have undoubtedly impacted their organizations and athletes around the world.

UTMB, the largest of the three races profiled here, upon announcing their cancellation, returned 55% of their registration fees to the runners. Additionally, they extended an offer of an automatic spot in the race in any of its next three runnings, 2021, 2022, and 2023 to all of the 2020 entrants. In explaining the rationale behind the 55% refund, the organizers of UTMB said that at the time of the cancellation that was roughly the amount of money that had been spent on the race up until that point.

The Western States 100, upon announcing the cancellation of their race for the second time in their history, made the same decision they made when they cancelled in 2008 due to wildfires, that every entrant and waitlister would have their entries rolled over to 2021. Additionally, given the fact that so many qualifiers have been canceled, these rolled-over entrants will not need to re-qualify for 2021. Should any entrant choose to withdraw from the race, they can receive a full refund provided they withdraw by June 26, 2020.

The Hardrock 100, which was facing its second consecutive cancellation and fourth cancellation in race history, has taken a decidedly different approach and one which was quite different than the decisions they made in their previous cancellations. As Hardrock currently has a lottery that is divided into three categories; Veterans (people who have run the race five or more times), runners who have never run the race, and Everyone Else runners (runners who have one to four Hardrock finishers), the race organizers decided to roll over the entries of the Never group and to nullify the entries of the Veteran and Everyone Else groups and waitlists. As a result, the 110 runners in those two categories will have their full entry fees refunded and a new lottery will take place for those two categories in December of 2020. Essentially, the results of the December of 2018 lottery have been expunged for Veterans and Everyone Else runners.

In the midst of a global pandemic, we have all seen that the normal rules of life and living have simply been turned upside down and in many walks of life it has become increasingly clear that making decisions in the context of these extraordinary circumstances is difficult, at best, and downright impossible when pushed to the limit. While each of these high-profile events have chosen to address these decisions differently, they seem to have all attempted to do so in ways that honor the integrity of their events. Ultimately, time will tell how these choices will impact the sport and the events we love so much.

Bottoms up!

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Call for Comments 

  • Were you in one of these three canceled races? If so, what are your thoughts on the decision-making process?
  • What other unique approaches to canceling and rescheduling have you see in other ultras around the world?

There are 20 comments

  1. Todd Salzer

    Hardrock vet, was upset by decision. After reading Blake Wood’s response in a FB thread (basically, #s of applicants in vet and else pool have stayed same since 2013, while never pool has exponentially increased), I get why they did it. I am curious to see makeup of starting field in 2021, and how (or if) the Silverton scene feels different.

  2. Damian Boyle

    I had a UTMB place. The roll over to one of the subsequent 3 years is very accommodating and understanding of the long term planning needed to get in to it. However there is nothing on whether the points requirement will be lifted. Very few people will have ran their planned races this year and subsequent years plans will possibly have been made without ITRA points in mind. I’d like/need this requirement to be lifted a la WS100.

    1. Brian

      As an else I am pretty bummed out about the decision, seems like the elses and the vets are being penalized for factors out of their control. But yes, rule #1…

      I think a better solution would be a 2021 run with no pacers(or pacers only for 60+) and more runners; roll everyone over and give all of the additional runner spots to the nevers.

      1. Gzrrnnr

        As an old Hardrock vet who did not use a pacer for any race, I could not agree more. Getting rid of pacers (keep them for 60+ is OK, I guess…) and adding a like numbers of runners, I think will not do significant environmental damage or damage the HR experience. IMNVHO, if a runner at HR absolutely cannot do it without a pacer, then maybe they should not be there in the first place. Good idea – try it on the Board.

  3. Marcus

    Andy, nicely written without a judgement, thanks for the good article! On another note – so curious – did you finish your virtual race last week?

  4. JacobsA

    Leadville has been pretty piss poor about rolling over for entrants. For example, I was unable to login to their registration portal and defer to 2021. So, the same day, I ask them if they’ll roll me over. They respond a week later saying it’s filled up and I can apply for the lottery or defer to 2022. I am not upset at the time it took them to get back, but not being able to roll over simply because they didn’t get back to me in time. They could do the right thing here, but don’t seem too inclined to.

  5. Phillip

    I have been rolled over to 2021 for UTMB. Cant really complain in the circumstances and understand that it is a big loss for the organisers and also for the local economy in Chamonix and surrounding areas.

    Western States – unlucky in the lottery for the 4th year this year. The deferred 2020 race means that the earliest would be able to get in would be 2022. C’est la vie. Rule #1 also applies. 2 more years to get better.

  6. John Vanderpot

    Supposed to be in Bozeman, MT, running right now, obviously not! But on the whole, given the situation, my experiences suggest virtually all RD’s are doing what they can to make things right, or as right as they can, and if some of the emails sound a bit “terse” I assume it’s because there’s a lot of frustration in the air these days and maybe it’s just a good time for all of us to go a bit easier on each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt?

  7. Tony F,

    Lots of tough decisions for the RD’s for sure. I was lucky enough to have the two races I was supposed to have run this year give automatic rollovers. I’m also supposed to run Wasatch 100 this year, which is so far planning on having the race still. I don’t really see how 300+ runners, however many volunteers, plus spectators are supposed to gather for an event. I also noticed an email from Run Rabbit Run which has apparently received an overwhelming number of people hoping to defer to next year. I was really excited about getting into Wasatch, but I sort of wish it’d just roll it over. We’ll see what happens.

  8. David

    There has been a great deal said about how tough this has been on race directors and race organisations, but very little about how much runners have lost out financially speaking. There are races in the UK that have refunded 100% or rolled over to 2021, such as Lakeland 100 and the West Highland Way Race. This is very generous of them to say the least – and frankly makes runners even more likely to support them in the future. UTMB’s 55% refund is disappointing given that we have to pay all over again for next year (or 2022/23). Why such disparity? Lakeland and the WHWR are non-profit organisations with charitable donations. UTMB is big business and treats its ‘customers’ in the way big business normally does – as a number. Having said that, UTMR also offered a simple roll over to 2021 for its entrants. I won’t be taking up my place with UTMB in the future, but I will try to get into UTMR next year and will hope for another entry into Lakeland and WHWR in the future too. Some of us are still waiting to hear what’s happening with TDG…no doubt more money down the drain…the money seems so much more important now that I’m out of work – funnily enough..

  9. Steven

    As a fellow educator, I thought better of you AJW. Canceled races and how they will allow runners to defer to future races is not an important issue this week. I am disappointed that you have not utilized the teachable moment in front of us to open the running community to a broader discussion as to how we might be more welcoming to people of color.

  10. David

    I would agree with Steven of course. It’s worth checking out a podcast on Centurion Running here in the UK, talking about this very important issue.

    While I’m here: TDG has just cancelled with a 50% refund due to entrants. It’s an awful lot of cash to lose (£350?) and very similar to UTMB. It strikes me that these 2 organisations are actually better off cancelling than if they ran the race!
    It’s also surely true that in these uncertain times it’s pointless entering a race if the RD / organisation is always going to stick with the T & C’s? It’s just throwing money down the drain.

    Well at 58 years old I think that’s the end of this ultra running thing for me. I simply can’t afford it anymore….frisbee anyone?

  11. David

    Hi Andrew,

    Yes, rolled over to either 2021/22/23 – but 50% non refundable and then to pay the full amount again…there is some considerable criticism of this policy going on via social media and emails being sent to the race organisation. That’s actually an understatement!

  12. Andrew

    Thanks David, I saw it all kick off on Facebook mostly in french and Italian! Is it right you can give your place to someone else?

  13. David

    Hi again Andrew,

    Yes, I believe so – I take it you fancy doing TDG?. It’s all a bit odd actually, as the race organisers have not followed up with any further communication since they emailed to confirm cancellation. We’ve had nothing about refunds for example.

    We shall see!

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