16 Mar 20 by James Elson

2020 Race Postponement: Logistics Implications and Transfer Policy

I wanted to take the opportunity to expand further on the situation regarding our race postponement, cancellation and explain the financial and logistical issues faced not just by us but by organisers in general. 

Overall since the news the outpouring of support has been overwhelming, particularly on our facebook Centurion Community page. But there have been those who have asked for 100% refunds and become quite angry with us for only offering 70% of their money back if they can’t make the new date. Then in between we have some runners frustrated that we aren’t offering deferrals and transfers. I feel that everyone deserves the full picture, we have always tried to be as transparent as possible.. Because of the overwhelming support I realise also some people who are not happy do not feel able to speak out or ask questions, so I hope that this goes some way to alleviating any frustrations.
What I won’t do is re-iterate why we are postponing and or cancelling events. Please see the Full Statement here for those details. This is an unprecedented situation.
We have had a few complaints from people about the new race dates. In particular why the SDW50 has been moved to the start of Half Term weekend and the day after the Beachy Head Marathon. We have one group who are proactively mobilising to complain and ask for that to be changed. 
Whilst I understand the frustration, this affects a very small number of people and ultimately the date is good news to many others. The summary here is, we simply can’t win. Whichever date we choose, someone will be unhappy. But here’s the factors we have had to consider when finding new dates:
- We are postponing 3 events, and doing so into a period of 18 weeks, where we already have 5 other events scheduled. 
- We cannot have a 50 mile within 3 weeks of another 50 miler, because of the Grand Slammers - less than 3 weeks is what we deem the minimum safe recovery period between races without encouraging runners to injure or compromise their health. We cannot therefore also have a 100 mile race within 3 weeks of another 100 miler. Roughly 25% of the field of each event is comprised of Grand Slammers so this is a significant issue.
- We need to ensure the Start and Finish are both available, these are locations that cannot be moved, in some cases because there are simply no alternatives - over the last 10 years of staging these events, we have looked.
- We need to ensure there is no clash of events on those dates on the routes.
- We need to ensure the key check point locations are also available. In the case of the 100s we have 13 check points to move too
- We need to have availability of the Medical Team
- We need to have availability of the Timing Team
- We need a core of Staff from our regular team to be available.
- We cannot have certain events on at certain times of year. The prime example being the Thames Path 100 too late in the year, because of regular flooding on the route. The same has been true however of both the NDW50 and the SDW50 both courses that have flooded regularly this winter (River Mole NDW50, River Arun/ Alfriston SDW50). 
When you take the above considerations into account, we were left with 5 possible weekends for 3 events, total. And then in terms of configuration of the calendar we were reduced down to three options, the three we have gone for. Quite simply, we did not have alternatives. 
Ultimately, postponing or cancelling is extremely expensive and in offering the policy that we have, we have taken a substantial financial loss. We are yet to see the full picture of this because a. we do not know how many of our runners will take the refund and b. if necessary to try to replace them which is almost certain, how many of those ‘lost’ entries we will be able to replace.
We have also lost money when moving the events in question, so there is an immediate financial implication here too.
We have offered runners two choices in the postponed or cancelled events. Around 85% of the costs of staging an event, are incurred prior to race day. When we elected to postpone an event, at this stage for the three races in question, outgoings have been lost to the following, this not an exhaustive list:
- Deposits for venue hire. In some cases we have received free transfers to the new dates. In some cases we have been charged the full hire amount. Because those contracts stipulate that if the venue cannot replace the booking then full charge is incurred. Obviously at this juncture, our bookings have a close to zero chance of being replaced. As harsh as that may seem, those venues are in the same position as us, they are hurting too and they need to do what they can to keep their ships afloat.
- Deposits for contractors. In some cases we have received free transfers to the new dates. In some cases we have been charged the full amount. This situation is identical to the one above. Contractors for events include toilet hire, medical, timing, race day staff, vehicle hire, caterers etc etc.
- Card and registration fees that are incurred at the time of booking which are non-refundable (we pay all card fees when entries are received, the card fee is not levied on top of the entry fee as in the case of some other events).
- Disposables for the initial events that will be out of date before the first event can now take place. This includes large amounts of short dated sports nutrition (our sponsorship agreements with our nutrition partners are that we get a discounted rate on the products we put on the check point tables), and all the food we already have in stock for the first three events. Some can be rolled over but much cannot. We will of course try to send this on to be used in some way but with all events looking at going the same way this might be impossible.
- Insurance which is now invalid for the original date. We have had to arrange new insurance for the new dates.
- Admin. This is the most vast and incalculable area. How much admin is involved in a move of this nature? A very large amount. Time effort and cost is sunk here that a figure cannot simply be put on. 
- We also have in stock medals, tees, buckles and trophies for these events. These do not have a date on to reduce waste which is a great advantage here as they can be stored.
The money lost to each postponed event varies greatly, but having more than one event we need to show parity in our decisions across each event. Refunding different levels for different events would lead to all kinds of issues.
Why are we not offering transfers?
Because most of the other events are full to capacity. We cannot increase the start list of races like the A100, CW50, SDW100 even by a handful or the venues will be over the safety limits we and those venues have set. Until we know how many people will cancel for a refund, we cannot be sure how many places we will have available in the postponed events. If we have say 50 cancel from both the SDW50 and NDW50 and we have requests for transfers that is absolutely something we can consider. But transfers from the TP100 to other 100s is not possible.
Why are we not offering deferrals?
To do so is to delay the problem. Ultimately if we are forced to move another event that may be a consideration. But if we defer entries to next year and cannot re-sell them, then the financial liability of those events is compromised for 2021. If we offered deferrals it is likely we would see a large number of athletes flow out of 2020 into 2021. We cannot calculate that number. But if for example 30% of people deferred, our events would not be viable for 2021. We cannot at most events, expand the field size because of venue restrictions. 
We have this. It allows us to be paid in full if we have to cancel events for the majority of reasons, including communicable diseases which we pay an additional premium for. However for us the timing was extremely unfortunate. our policy renewed on the 6th of February. At which point no insurer would cover any event organiser for COVD-19. It is now a named exclusion on every insurance policy out there. So we are not covered under our cancellation insurance for this virus. Many are in the same boat and include in this hotels, restaurants etc etc. Everyone is hurting here.
Longer term for us but a reality for some events who have already cancelled is, If we do have to cancel events, our sponsor contracts will not be fulfilled and they may be forced to withhold payment.
If we do have to cancel, many of the charges listed above will be incurred again and in fact increase. Because some of the contractors that have rolled forward without charge or with a partial charge, have done some purely on the basis that we will still hold the event within the calendar year, which we yet not be able to do. If that happens, we will still be charged.
Ultimately, we may yet be forced by the constantly changing situation, to cancel or postpone other events. Rest assured if that happens we will continue to do everything we can to offer everyone the best financial and logistical outcome we can.
Thanks to everyone for your continued understanding in this situation.