Before Registering for Events, Be an Informed Consumer

The RRCA has worked for over 60-years to promote safe and enjoyable events for runners.  Nothing is more frustrating than stories about race promoters that cancel a race with minimal notice, provide no refunds, and offer vague excuses or lie about why the event is canceled.

We aren’t talking about races that are cancelled or postponed due to emergency weather conditions, acts of God, pandemics, etc. Bad weather, emergencies on course, and now global pandemics happen, and are out of a race director’s control.  We are referring to races that are canceled or postponed, because the event owners didn’t do due diligence in the planning of their event, and the runner is the one that looses as an end result.

We recommend thinking about the following questions before paying hard earned money to register for the event:

If an event boasts anywhere from 3 to 30+ years running, there is a good chance the race will go off as promoted.

If the race is a first time for the event, there are a lot of questions you need to consider before hitting the payment button on registration.  

If the race is an inaugural race, closely review the race website. 

Does the website have all relevant race information posted and easy to find on the site?

Events that are missing important information like exact starting location, course map(s), packet pick-up information, event schedules, event rules including refund information, award information, race director contact information, etc. should be suspect. 

A well-thought out race should include a well-thought out website ,or at the very least, a detailed registration page.

Websites with limited event information should be suspect, especially if the race promoter is trying to attract out-of-town runners or if the promoter is from out of town.

While the RRCA does not have direct oversight  or involvement in the planning and execution of member events, RRCA members agree to follow our Guidelines for Safe Events along with our Race Director Code of Ethics.

If the event is posted on our calendar, it means the event is insured by the RRCA, or verified insured, and the race director has taken the important step in prudent risk management for the event.

Look to see if a local running club is hosting the event.  RRCA member clubs host nearly 10,000 events each year and many of those events are well into their 30th running.  Even if the event is new, if it is hosted by a long-standing club, chances are they know what they are doing.

Look to see if the event is hosted by an event management company.  There are many highly-reputable race management companies that are members of the RRCA.  If the event is on our calendar, it is hosted by an RRCA member.  The race director may indicate that they are an RRCA Certified Race Director on their website.

Events managed by someone that lives in the community where the event is taking place, usually have a good track record for going off as planned.

If the race is promoted by an unfamiliar promoter, or out of state company, Google the company or promoter.

Do they have positive comments about other races they have directed on review sites like Race Raves? 

If reviews are bad, or if you find negative articles about experiences with certain event companies or race directors, buyer beware applies.

If you can’t find any information about the actual event organizers/owner, that is a red flag.  Reputable race organizers are likely to be clearly associated with the events they produces.

The purpose of the USATF course certification program is to produce road race courses of accurately measured distances.

Certified Courses shows that the event director has taken the required steps to ensure the course has been accurately measured, and that the event director is taking their duties to host an accurate event distance seriously.

icon link arrow left purpleYou should be able to find the certification number for the course located on the event website. The best place to look is at the bottom of the site or in the course information section for the event.


Look for safety information on the website or in the waiver of liability. 

Does the website outline expected weather conditions and road conditions on race day? 

Does the waiver contain information specific to the event, the course conditions, the event director, and the event sponsors? 

If not, think twice before registering for the event.  Including specific conditions related to the course and local weather information means there is a good chance the event director is at least familiar with the area and the race course.

Look for signs of community support for the race on the event website. 

Determine whether the race has designated a local charity as a beneficiary of the event.  Does the event note how much they plan to donate to the charity or how much they have given in the past? 

Think twice about an event that simply says, “proceeds go to charity,” without naming a specific charity partner(s).

Does the event outline how donations can be made directly to the charity partner? 

Has the race partnered with the local Parks & Rec department, local running club, local Y, local sports commission, etc.? 

Are local merchants on board supporting the event? 

A quick review to see if an outside promoter has community support can be an indication that the event will most likely take place, because there is a joint vested interest in the success of the event. 

Does it appear the charity partners or local sponsors are cross promoting the event?  If not, think twice about entering, or contact the partners to determine if they are really associated with the event.

It is important to review the event’s refund policy.  Pre-Covid19, most race organizers had a no refund policy that you agree to during the registration process. 

Race participants are encouraged to respect an event’s stated refund policy, and understand that if an event gets cancelled due to a public health crisis, weather emergency, civil unrest, etc., that situation is completely out of the control of race organizers. 

Understand add-on fees for partipcant cancellation insurance!  READ THE FINE PRINT.

If a participant has purchased some type of cancellation insurance (Allianz policy through registration), it is important to read and understand the fine print for coverage.  In the case of a public health crisis or pandemic, civil unrest, weather emergency, these types of policies most likely will not provide coverage/refunds in the event of a cancellation, or if a participant elects not to participate.

If a race proceeds, and you elect not to participate, you should never expect a refund from organizers if you elect not t run.

Keep in mind, when a race is forced to cancel due to severe weather, civil unrest, pandemics, and more, organizers have already committed to financial outlays for items such as shirts, medals, and other costs they cannot get refunded from their vendors. 

Ask yourself before registering, “What am I getting for my money?”

For events with high price tags, you are better off to seek out events with a proven track record of performance. Better yet, find a great local road race hosted by a running club with a proven track record, for an affordable price. 

Does the event offer finisher rewards:  tshirt, medal, etc.?

Does the race outline what amenities are on course, such a chip timed event, water/Gatorade stops, port-a-potties, etc.?

Does the event have an expo, a post-race party, etc.?

In recent years, registration companies have put systems in place to hold funds for a period of time, thus incentivizing organizers to actually produce the race as  advertised. 

That noted, don’t depend on the registration company to make you financially whole if a registration is a scam or the event is cancelled for unjustifiable reasons.  If you follow our tips, you can minimize your risk of spending your hard earned money on race registrations.

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