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Unless you’ve been living on a remote island without wifi, you probably know that just about the entire spring racing season was canceled, summer races are dropping like flies, the fall preview is canceled with a side of not happening, AND there are now 27 races every day from November to January. Even the World Majors are not immune: Yesterday would have been Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon (now scheduled for fall), and today the Berlin Marathon was canceled and Chicago sent out preliminary information on how to cancel (guaranteed entry for 2021, but you have to pay the race fees again).

Given that we are current living in a global pandemic situation involving a virus for which there is no vaccine and no definitive cure, you shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, you should join me in praising the race directors’ individual and collective decisions to keep us and our communities safe. (As Marathon Matt Forsman observed, “It’s been brutal these past few weeks.”) So far we know the COVID-19 virus spreads rapidly through a droplet- type method. While that doesn’t include sweat, aerosolized droplets can stay airborne for hours. We also know that the virus can live on surfaces for quite a long time; while it is an extreme example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found COVID-19 on the Princess cruise ships up to 17 days after all the passengers left. This is a menace we need to take seriously.

Graphic courtesy of Race Raves

If You Run Enough Races, Eventually One Gets Canceled

This is just a math problem. (Remember “story problems” from math class? No? [Insert Millenial “new math” joke here.]) The more races you run, the more likely one gets canceled. I ran my 100th half marathon in 2017. That’s just half marathons. I’ve also participated in dozens of races of other distances. If you run enough races, you’ll have one get canceled. That’s just what happens. Races I’ve not-gotten-to-run:

  1. Walt Disney World Half Marathon (canceled, lightning)
  2. Walnut Creek Half Marathon (course shortened due to early am traffic accident on one of the roads on the course)
  3. Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Mile In The Sand (canceled, high winds/beach erosion concerns)
  4. Blue Ridge Marathon (black-flagged while I was on course, lightning)
  5. All of my 2020 races to date…

Races get canceled ALL THE TIME. The reasons are usually more mundane, like dangerous weather (e.g. lightning near the course, high heat & humidity, smog) or unforeseen events that affect the course. But there IS precedent for canceling races due to global pandemics. In 1918 (with both World War I and the “Spanish” flu–the one that killed a quarter of the population of the world–in the background) the Boston Marathon was canceled (a military-only event was held instead), and the Indianapolis Speedway voluntarily closed. As they say on “The Good Place,” shirt happens.

I haven’t taken a picture like this in months. As a runner, that feels weird!

The Registration Form Said “No Refunds”

I’m surprised to see so many runners whining that they are not getting a refund. Did you not read the registration materials? Pretty much every race says there are NO REFUNDS, right up front, and makes you check a box that says you have read and understand the rules. Even races that have some kind of refund policy often state there are no refunds when the event is canceled due to an “act of God” or “force majeure,” legal talk that basically means things outside the control of the race director. Can you imagine people demanding a refund if the course was buried by a volcanic eruption? Yeah, me either.

Look, it’s pretty simple: the race lays out the rules when you register for a race. The rules don’t change because the circumstances do. A race with a “no refunds, no transfers” policy has ZERO obligation to do anything if you get pregnant and put on bed rest, or break your leg, or have to go stand up in your sister’s wedding, or get stuck on a hijacked cruise ship, or the venue floods, or you get kidnapped by Norwegian trolls and held hostage on a fjord. A virus–even one causing a global pandemic–isn’t any different.

Woe to the poor race director who did not have the experience, foresight, or outside advice, to spell out a clear “no refund” policy (or whatever the cancellation policy is) early. (If you’re thinking about directing a race, read this one.)

(In Part Because Your Money is Gone)

If you’ve ever been on the other side of a big event–doing the organizing, getting the permits, registering the participants–you know that a lot of planning goes in long in advance. Budgeting requires predicting expenses and how many participants you need to break even. By four or eight weeks before a race, the money you paid to enter is gone. It’s been spent on a website, flyers, race shirts, finisher medals, permit fees, and more. That booth you visited at another race’s expo? Not free. The swag you got for registering early? Not free. The down-payments (or even total payments) for the extra police and security, for barricade rentals, for the sound system rental, for the post-race entertainment? Also not free. Also probably not refundable no matter why the event is canceled. If you haven’t read “In Support of the Race Director During Crisis,” and “Why Can’t I Just Get a Refund? And Other Emails to RDs in the COVID-19 Era” go read those right now.

I asked Marathon Matt for his take on this. He said, “I think most recognize this is a ‘force majeure’ we’re all scrambling to manage. EVERYONE is being impacted by COVID-19. I also think most people recognize I’m a small operation/business and simply can’t provide refunds/transfers (this is stated explicitly in my waiver). While ‘some’ larger race production companies can support this, very few production companies I’ve seen can. There are lots of articles circulating right now explaining why races can’t issue refunds, which is really important during a time like this.” True story.

Yes, runDisney did issue partial refunds or a transfer to the marathon when they cancelled the half on marathon weekend, and they made some kind of accommodation for the Star Wars themed races (no ideas what it is/was; I never signed up to run) but they didn’t have to. Frankly, when you’re a gigantic international corporate superpower like Disney, and your race sponsors are also large and well-funded, of course you can afford to offer a partial refund. But you’re not required to.

Early morning sleepy pre-race selfie with the founder of Every Runner Counts; the fuzziness of the picture matches my pre-coffee state of mind.

Early Cancellation is for YOUR Benefit

Race Directors don’t generally get rich doing their jobs. Many organizations that put on races are non-profits, and many of the “for profit” race organizations are not making that much of a profit. Trust me, they DO NOT want to cancel. Do you really think the city of Chicago wants the Chicago Marathon to NOT bring millions of dollars into the city, fill hotel rooms and restaurants, and other prop up the economy in October? Under ordinary circumstances, larger races understand that people book hotels and flights–not to mention days off from work–months in advance; late cancellation ordinarily results in losing deposits, and eating nonrefundable airfares. With the travel industry also hard-hit by COVID-19, my friends have had better luck rearranging and canceling travel plans. If it’s clear a race isn’t going to happen–like the “Stay at Home” order doesn’t expire until a week after your race date–early cancellation benefits the runners by giving them the maximum amount of time possible to rearrange plans.

What If It Is YOUR Job to Cancel the Race?

As you might guess, it kinda sucks. I asked Marathon Matt about his experience as a race director starting down a race date that you know just won’t happen.

For awhile, I was clinging to the hope that I’d be able to pull off my race on Sun, 4/5. While many larger (1,000+) races were being canceled, I was spared for awhile as I usually see 200-300 for my races. But, as constraints around public gatherings became more and more stringent, it became apparent I needed to plan for the worst. I would need a contingency plan.


I was fortunate in many respects that a number of races were postponed/cancelled prior to mine. People were seeing it happen with a ton of events which kind of prepared them for the inevitable. It softened the blow a bit when I had to use my contingency plan.

–Marathon Matt

As with many canceled races, the race directors facing down COVID-19 did not really have “the last word” on whether to cancel. A variety of “Stay at Home” orders meant that state governors and even mayors canceled races, not an emergency response team. There are only so many options when a race date is canceled–reschedule, go virtual, offer a transfer, cancel and do nothing–and not every race director has every option. Road races often involved coordination among multiple governmental agencies, road closures that local law requires be announced months in advance, and other administrative red tape. Marathon Matt’s race was a trail race, which made it easier for him to secure a new date. “Rather than cancel the race entirely, I elected to postpone it… What I ultimately offered my participants was the option of participating in the event on the new date OR they could opt for ‘virtual participation’ and I would send them their shirt, race woodallion, and other race swag,” Matt explained. “People have generally been pretty cool about this.”

Part of the idea for this post came from the whining on Facebook in various running groups (which I sincerely hope was just temporary frustration seeking an outlet). So I asked Matt what he’s seen and heard. “I’m fortunate that most of my runners have been understanding” Matt reported, giving me some hope for humanity. “I’ve seen more than a few runners lash out at races and race directors demanding refunds, issuing threats, and other unpleasantries. While I understand being frustrated and disappointed that your race was canceled, it’s important to have some perspective. We’re all dealing with something completely unprecedented. We’re all struggling to figure out how to best proceed.”

Go Forth and Suck It Up, Buttercups!

There are no races right now and if all of your 2020 races have been canned, you might feel like ugh, there is nothing to train for and so why bother. Hey, I get it; I’ve done more than my fair share of deep-couch-sitting during the first five weeks I’ve been trying to work from home. Wearing something over my mouth and nose when I run? Sucks. Being mindful so I don’t have to pass other people on the sidewalk? Meh. Not petting any of the adorable doggos I see when I go out? I’m dying. Kill me now. Seriously though, it’s hard times all around, so be gentle with yourself.

But here’s the deal: you probably have extra “free” time on your hands. While you’re certainly not under any obligation to teach your children Mandarin cooking and how to play the cello, or to church out the next novel for Oprah’s Book Club, maybe that’s what you want to do–and maybe you want to do that instead of running. That’s absolutely fine! Or maybe now’s the time you finally check out Athletes for Yoga or check out that cross-training method you’ve been curious about. Somewhere in between “I’m going to cure cancer” and “wake me when it’s over,” is your happy place. Go find it.

“The running community is amazing and filled with a lot of wonderful people. It’s this unique community (which includes runners and race directors) that will help us get through this. It’s important to remember we truly are all in this together.”

–Marathon Matt
True, they are not buttercups, but you get the idea, right?

How are you dealing with the cancellation of your races? What are you doing for quaran-tainment?

Marathon Matt left Corporate America to spread the love of running to as many people as possible. Check out Sasquatch Racing, and follow the Sasquatch Facebook page. Tired of “virtual races” and looking for a longer-term commitment? Check out Virtual Run Club, or The (no-stress) Loch Ness Virtual 5k/10k/Half & Running Challenge.

Disclosure: I’m not an ambassador for the Run Revel series–but I sure would like to be! Revel definitely needs a Portland-based crew now that we have our own “hometown” Revel here, don’t you think? You know, someone to hang out at the annual Fleet Feet all-races expo, the weekend days of the local race expos, hand out flyers at the community events, make sure all the running stores have flyers…

2019: The Second Annual Revel Mt. Hood race! It’s not every race series that considers you a “legacy” runner at just your second year, but that’s definitely how Revel rolls. As I mentioned in my review of the Inaugural Revel Mt. Hood, I signed up for 2019 pretty much as soon as registration opened. (I had a great time, so why not?) This year my friend Tina flew in from Alaska for the weekend to join me, because the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics designated Revel Mt. Hood as a reunion race. More on that later. I was bummed to miss Revel Mt. Charleston this year (see my review here), so it’s great I now have a hometown Revel!

The ExpoThree runners posing with the REVEL sign

Expo At the Convention Center! While the Oregon Convention Center (actually the Portland convention center, but Portland likes to pretend it *is* Oregon) is perpetually under destruction–I’m not kidding, half the doors are boarded up, the statute dedicated to MLK is under a tarp, and there is landscaping going in officially in the name of beautification (but maybe in the actual name of preventing the homeless from sleeping there?)–it’s still a good spot to hold a race expo. It’s accessible by MAX, then a walk to the currently functional doors, and a quick run through an adult habitrail to get to the rooms used for race expos right now.

Small, but mighty…¬†With a Saturday race, it’s a one-day expo. Tina went early to grab her packet, as well as a few for friends flying in late; I went after work. Neither of us experienced much of a line. This year I love the color of the women’s tank (you choose your shirt at registration: tank, short sleeve, long sleeve, or soft non-tech cotton), and this year’s swag was a pair of Revel-themed goodr! Everyone got to choose either a black or a light blue-green (which reminds me of the Sunbathing With Wizards goodr I completely banged up by losing the safety cloth…). Revel isn’t an inexpensive race–so register EARLY and get the best prices–but the swag is always quality. In past years, I’ve received socks, a beanie (the warm kind with a hole for your ponytail), and a Headsweats hat.

The swag bag included pre-race essentials, including a heat sheet and a pair of tosser gloves (though I’m cheap and re-use them for sweat during the race, and then wash them to use them again). There were also some very random samples (probiotics for runners, okay) and an event guide. This year the expo also had some fun new photo ops. Speaking of photos, ALL participants get FREE race photos!

Like last year, there was an app to enter to win a race. Each of the main race sponsors had a code to enter. Aside from the Revel series, the other sponsors included my favorite bluetooth headphones, Aftershokz (see my review), the Portland Marathon (now under management by Revel’s parent company), Honey Stinger, and, ugh, doTerra was back as a race sponsor. I still really hate that Revel has chosen to partner with a multi-level marketing (MLM) company of any brand. (MLMs prey on stay-at-home-moms and women in conservative religious communities. Most people lose money as MLM “independent sales representatives.”) The best thing I can say is that at least the “independent consultant” there wasn’t overly pushy. Once again, there is no mention anywhere on the website, at the expo, or any of the printed literature to warn runners that doTerra’s “blue” rub–available on the course–contains sweet almond oil. If you are allergic to nuts, THIS IS DANGEROUS!¬† Especially on a long course with infrequent medic stations. (No thanks, I’ll stick to BioFreeze when I need a muscle rub.)

A stack of goodrNew at the expo this year (or at least I don’t remember seeing them last year?): Eastwind Running & Endurance Club, which has a Wednesday night summer run series on Portland’s east side; a photo booth with props; and the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics booth, which had membership sign-ups, information about the clubs, and clearance merch (all of which was too small for me, at least in the styles I like). Since I didn’t leave work until 5, there was just enough time to chat our way through the expo, hang out with Gregg (the regional Half Fanatics/Marathon Maniacs ambassador, or at least one of them), take some photos, and race off to dinner–naturally I wrangled the group over to McMenamin’s Kennedy School, where I showed off a gem in Portland’s history.

Pre-Race

Get on the bus, Gus. As with last year, the Bain and Tina get ready to hit the bus to the race bus loading at the Lloyd Center hotel began at o’dark-thirty. With a first wave starting at 5:00 a.m. the marathoners got on board first. (I think they boarded at like 2:00!) Even though we swore we wanted to be in bed by 9:30, it was closer to 11:00 and the morning came way too early. Tina and I had prepped our gear the night before and walked over to the hotel in plenty of time. New this year: deluxe motor coaches for the drive to Mt. Hood!

Herd in the Corrals. The half marathon holding area was in the same place as last year. Basically, it’s perfect: not too far a walk from the start, plenty of room to hang out, loads of fresh porta-potties, water, and a DJ. What’s not to like? Like last year, I brought an extra heat sheet and made like a grounded baked potato pre-race. The busses arrived a bit later this year, so there was less slacker time before the race. In addition, this year the race was earlier in the year, so the sun came up earlier–rewarding runners with gorgeous views of the moon over Mt. Hood on the walk over to the start.

Run All The Miles (or 13.1 of them)!

The Course. As near as I could tell, the half marathon course was exactly the same as last year (which is fine by me–I knew exactly what to expect!). I remembered the mini-hill early in the course, and the uphill around mile 8 or so, and the uphill to mile 10, and the uphill at mile 12. Half marathoners enjoyed a great deal of lovely shade, green, and river views from mile 1 to mile 10, when the course joins the marathoners and Highway 26.

This year I felt like I totally smoked the first four miles. This is, of course, 100% subjective and bears no rational relationship to my actual speed. I started out trying to do the intervals assigned for my Chicago Marathon Training (I was supposed to run five miles with intervals of run 3, walk 2), but I messed up setting my watch and so had to time them manually. By mile 4 I was done with the intervals, and I ran random segments as it felt good. Still, without a solid training base? It was awesome! I felt fantastic. (In the pictures? Yeah…not so much. Still, I do love free race photos as a perk.)

The last three miles felt MUCH better than last year, but were not as amazing as the first few. One major change this year: the bus route changed. Last year, after turning onto the road that leads to the Rainbow Trout Farm (the finish line venue) at some point the running route aligned with the route the return buses took. This year, instead of bringing the buses out to the trout farm, Revel used golf carts to take runners out to the buses (waiting on a major surface road on the other side of the trout farm). It was delightful to run without bus fumes! Off-roading in the golf cart was a little bit like the adult version of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride;” I’m confident the driver was safe and did a great job (she’d been at it since 6 am!) but I was wearing running clothes, and the slick fabric of my knickers was not helping me stay seated in the rear-facing seat!

Eat All The Foods.

Finish Line ShenanigansFinish Line Perfection. Since I’m a slowpoke, I had the pleasure of being individually announced as I crossed the finish line. I grabbed a towel from a giant tub of ice water, as well as a bottle of chocolate milk and a bottle of water. After a quick stop at the (still very fresh!) finish line porta potties, I washed my hands (they had the water pump stations with soap and paper towels) and headed over to the Fanatics and Maniacs tent.

Each year the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics, two related clubs for people who are crazy enough to run tons of race for fun, choose several races to be “reunion” races. This draws people out from all over the place, as these special races come with a club tent (with tables and chairs, if you want them), and–for those who sign up properly–bonus swag! This race included an extra towel, club event tee, and special bling! I love being a Double Agent (member of both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics). I’ve met so many great people online and at races; it was especially fun to meet people literally on the run at events, as we recognized each other by our club singlets. The clubs also have a monthly newsletter, race discounts, and private Facebook groups.

Anyway, after I collected my checked bag (contents: Oofos, sunblock, face wipes, warm-up clothing) and dropped it on the shaded lawn under the club tents, I collected the snacks. First, a slice of cheese pizza from Papa John’s and an old-fashioned chocolate glazed donut. Next, an ice-cold Diet Coke. I spent the remainder of the morning hanging out with other club members under the tent, and occasionally taking pictures. Tina’s friend was sweeping the marathon so we waited until she finished to leave–putting us on the final bus back to Portland (alas, a regular school bus) after the wild golf cart ride from the finish area.

Overall? See you at Revel Mt. Hood next year! Psst! Register by midnight  July 19 and use code EARLY to save an extra $10! https://www.runrevel.com/rmh/register