Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why is transferring bibs frowned upon in this establishment?

No riding dogs like it's a small horse friends, it gets you time out. Via

We've all been there; an overzealous race schedule, an injury, or you simply have register's remorse. Either way, there's always going to be a large number of people who, for some reason, can't make it to the start line of race day. Sadly, there is NO solution for these individuals. I am not talking about individuals who want someone to run their 9+1 for them and just so happen to place in an age division, I'm talking about last minute issues that often let perfectly ready race bibs go to waste.

I was the recipient of a bib for the Philadelphia Marathon 2012. The second my friend heard that NYC was canceled, she texted me and said "My Philly bib is yours if you want it." She was injured and couldn't run, and was essentially eating $125 (CHEAP by NYC Marathon standards!). I wrote to the Philadelphia Marathon and explained the circumstances, and requested that somehow the name could be transferred. I offered to pay administrative costs and fees etc. The response was very polite, but they declined my request...and wished me good luck in the race. I think it was a generous move to wish me luck when they knew I would probably use someone else's bib. 

Most large races do not offer refunds or transfers. Refunds,  I get. You clicked register, you signed on. However, when big races sell out, what good is it to keep able bodied runners at bay when there are people willing to transfer their bibs? I looked up NYC, Philadelphia, and Chicago; none of them allow for transfers. These are huge races, with tens of thousands of participants...which are also very expensive. These races take a lot of logistics, I understand, but with our technology today, what's holding them back from relieving the financial burden of one runner and rewarding one who is ready to race?

I stumbled upon a great post about this on a race director's blog. I appreciated the response, the candor that there will always be runners running "illegally", and that a main concern is fairness and medical safety. However, when  I read the comments, I was surprised to learn that the Marine Corps Marathon does indeed offer transfers. It's actually pretty genius.

Ottawa Marathon has the transfer spirit! Via

Transfers for the people! Basically, their policy is YOU find someone who wants to be the opt in to your opt out (They recommend Facebook...technology, oh my!), go through some service payments, and just like that, you're done. There is a time window which I find to be very generous (You may transfer up to two months prior to the race), but any monetary exchange concerning the registration fee has to be handled privately. I was also surprised to see that The Color Run not only offers transfers, but gives you a REFUND minus your Active.com service fee! These races are cutting edge and ready to lead by example as races who understand, well, crap happens.

So, is this the wave of the future? I foresee some definite issues if the bigger marathons started offering transfers with people exchanging hundreds of dollars privately...it could turn into a scalper's dream. However, for middle of the road races such as popular half marathons, could there be a movement toward transferring of bibs? With the popularity of races rapidly on the rise, I think it would be smart for race directors to consider SOME reasonable alternative. While runners sit on the sidelines looking forlorn, or are running "illegally", they could have done it legitimately if an alternative had been provided. Especially when the "You'll be banned from all races forever and ever" is a popular punishment for running with someone else's bib.

How about you? Have you ever run a race with someone else's number? (Obviously I have!) Do you think transfers should be allowed with certain restrictions? Do you check refund or transfer policies before signing up for a race? TELL ME ABOUT IT!
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