As the US government continues in its closed status, many races are starting to have to work on contingency plans or outright postponements of races due to portions of the course being on National Parks land. Some of the races are smaller town races while two of the big ones are the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon. If you are wondering if your race is potentially going to be affected and you have not yet received a message from organizers, check the race map to see if any of it takes place on national park land.
The shutdown has affected different areas around the country and some more important than race organization. However, since this is a running/travel blog, we will focus on dealing with the shutdown as it concerns that area (this is certainly not a political blog so I will not comment on the political angle).
Dealing with the Shutdown
As the shutdown continues, race organizers are scrambling (if not publicly, certainly privately) to make plans in case the shutdown continues and they are not able to use the portion of the course that is on land belonging to the National Parks. There is actually more land like that than we might believe and it has already wreaked some havoc on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. They had to move the race date from October 6 to November 10.
Some of the other races that have had to make changes so far are:
- Freedom’s Run Marathon in West Virginia/Maryland – October 12 – sticking with the date but making major course changes
- Jersey Shore Half Marathon – October 6 – canceled
- Towpath Marathon in Ohio – October 13 now November 3 (with contingency for November 10)
- Le Grizz Ultramarathon 50 miler in Montana – October 12 – sticking with date but making major course changes
The two big races that will face some decisions if the shutdown is not resolved are the NYC Marathon (November 3) and the Marine Corps Marathon (October 27). Both are affected by either their starting area (NYC) or the finish area (Marine Corps). They have both stated that the race will continue no matter what but some moves may need to be made. Especially for NYC, this could be a logistics nightmare. If you are running either race, keep checking their websites for updated information.
How this affects the runners
Obviously, if the race date on your upcoming race is moved that has a huge impact on you and we will cover what you can do to adjust, but if there are course changes for your race, does it make that much of a difference? Yes! For one thing, most marathoners (myself included) study the course map and elevation profile as they assemble their race day strategy. If you are aiming for a PR or some other type of goal in your marathon, you may find it slightly more difficult if there is a difference in elevation or the course profile changes significantly from what you have trained for.
How about if you are local to the marathon? If so, I am certain that many of your runs and some of your long runs took place on the marathon course. You know every inch of it and can really plan out a strategy. To have the course shifted around could bring some concern as you go from great familiarity to a new, uncertain (and, untested) course.
Another big affect is how your family/friends will be able to locate you along the course. Large marathons are very good about giving details on the best viewing positions along the course. If serious course corrections need to be made, the chances of these great details being spelled out for the new route are not that good since it is not a priority.
The biggest way that it can/will affect the runner is if the race is shifted to a different date. If you are flying in for one of the above races (or some other race that is similarly affected), you more than likely already have your tickets and now face a big decision – skip the marathon and pay a fee to get some money back or pay a lot of money to change the ticket. If this has happened to you, here are some tips and bits of information to help you in your tough situation.
- Insurance – First, if you have purchased trip insurance, this is not one of the points of coverage of that so you will be hard-pressed to have that trip insurance cover you in this situation.
- Call the airline – This is very much a shot in the dark, but if you are facing some large fees, you really have nothing to lose from contacting the airline to explain the situation and kindly ask if there is anything that they can do. They will almost certainly tell you no but they do have the power to waive fees so you may reach an agent who will have pity on you and help you with your situation.
- Cancel the ticket – Unless you purchased a fully-refundable ticket (which most of us never do), you can definitely count on not getting your money back. If you decide to not change the ticket but seek a refund, you will receive a credit for the price you paid in airline dollars but it will be minus the change fee (which is around $200 per ticket). For some airlines, that amount will be subtracted from the ticket value while others will charge you that amount when you go to rebook a ticket. You will be able to use that voucher/credit on that particular airline anytime in the year from the date that you booked the ticket.
- Change the ticket – Let’s assume you have decided to go through with the marathon still and you want to run it on the new date. In this case, you are looking at changing the ticket. For this, you will still be paying a fee plus a difference in fare. So, if you booked this ticket when it was really cheap (say a $200 ticket) and you need to change it for travel two weeks from now, that ticket may now cost $430. In this case, you will lose your original ticket entirely as the $200 fee will subtract from your $200 ticket. On top of that, you will need to pay another $230 for the difference between your original ticket and your new ticket. In other words, you will be paying the entire $430 ticket price because of the change fee. Not a very helpful scenario but one that you will face should you desire to change your ticket.
- Run a different marathon! If you had planned on flying in for one of the races above, say the Towpath Marathon, you can still keep your travel plans and choose a different marathon. Chances are if you have to fly in to run that marathon, it is one of three reasons – 1) you have family/friends in the area 2) you need Ohio and that was a weekend free to you 3) you knew someone who ran that one and you thought it would be worth traveling for. Except for number 3, you can choose a different race and still accomplish your goals. There is another race in that area – the Northern Ohio Marathon – that would allow you to get that done. Now, I know that this race was this weekend, but this is simply to help with a possible scenario.
- The Exception – The exception to all of these rules is Southwest Airlines. If you call to change or cancel your flight before it is schedule to take off, you will receive a voucher for the whole amount of points or dollars – however you booked it. This is one of the great things about Southwest Airlines and should you have chosen them as your carrier, you will find yourself very happy!
- Use your American Express Platinum card – The American Express Platinum card gives you a $200 airline credit each calendar year that would cover things like change fees. If you have one of the Platinum cards – the Amex Platinum card, the Amex Platinum Business card, or the Amex Platinum Mercedes Benz card – you would be able to have that reimbursement credit be applied to your change fee (as long as you have not yet used it this year).
Hopefully, everything will be resolved soon so things can get back to normal with the parks! In the meantime, keep training and plan your own contingency plans for your upcoming marathon should it be affected.
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