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The $500 Marathon

In case you haven’t heard the news, today is the deadline to choose your Resolution Option for the New York City Marathon.

After giving us a very long window of time (read: 2 weeks) in which to make this decision, NYRR has ominously declared that if a participant fails to choose something today, he or she will forfeit all claims to one of these options. There’s no default choice for those who don’t respond — you either pick something by the deadline, or you’re out $250.

Seems a bit harsh, but hey — this is an unprecedented situation. And despite all the restrictions around it, I really do appreciate the fact that we were actually given options instead of being told that we had to accept one resolution.

In case you haven’t been following the news or aren’t a misplaced NYCM-er yourself, here are the 4 options we were presented with. Basically, you could get a refund, defer your entry to a later race or use the fee to guarantee your spot in the NYC Half. The key thing to note here is that the 2012 entry fee holds your spot only. It does not apply to the costs of any of these future races.


I really want to run the New York City Marathon. I want to be a part of that 26.2 mile celebration through the streets of one of my favorite cities. I want to know that I am out there racing with (okay, fine — behind) some of the world’s greatest marathoners. I want all of that…someday.

Dsc05618NYCM Cheering 2011 — Yes, I know…you’ve seen this picture thousands of times between Ali’s, Emily’s, and my blog. But I like it. So there’s that…

But not in 2013.

Yesterday I officially selected my resolution option. Truthfully it was a pretty easy decision. One that didn’t require a second thought.

I asked NYRR for my money back.

And at the same time, I signed the following waiver, giving up all right I have to ever running the marathon again, along with my first born child:

Screen shot 2013 01 24 at 2 28 16 PM

The key line: “I hereby waive any right I may have or claim to Guaranteed Entry into the 2013 or any future ING New York City Marathon as a result of my cancellation of my entry in the 2012 Marathon or the cancellation of the event itself.”

Which I’m assuming means that I simply expressed my understanding that by getting the refund, I do not qualify for the guaranteed entry resolution option anymore. However, the inclusion of that “or any future ING New York City Marathon” line sort of seems to suggest that this decision may disqualify me from ever getting a guaranteed entry (i.e. time-qualified) into NYCM. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but it just seems a little strange to tack on such an ominous (and ambiguous) sounding phrase at the end. (thoughts??)

Either way, I will not be running NYCM this year. It seems as though they will not be accepting time qualifications for 2013 in order to make room for all these extra entries (they’ve taken down their guaranteed entry page). So even if I ran really fast all year and significantly dropped my half or full marathon time, I wouldn’t be unable to guarantee myself a spot.

That is all just fine by me. And here’s why:

1.) No matter how you look at it, $255 is a lot of money for a marathon. I shelled out the cash originally because, well, it’s New York. A race that is on many runner’s bucket lists. A race that I want to do at least once in my lifetime. Plus, the fact that I spent half of 2012 injured may have had something to do with my motivation as well…

Had I selected to defer my entry, that $255 would not go toward an entry fee — it would simply be reserving my spot. When the time came to register again, I’d have to shell out another $250+ (prices will only continue to rise each year) in order to receive a bib for that year’s race.

So when all is said and done, I’d be spending over $500 to run a marathon. That’s just not an expense I can justify, no matter how prestigious the race.

2.) Maybe (maybe) if I lived in New York and had put in a lot of time, money and effort to qualify through the 9+1 program, I would have been persuaded to defer. I know people who devoted an entire year of racing in order to get into NYCM. It would be really hard to face the fact that I had essentially done all that for nothing…and would have to go through the process all over again if I wanted guaranteed entry. I don’t know how much those races end up costing in the end, but I suppose the cost a member of NYRR pays to enter the marathon could be worth it to hold a spot.

[Edited to add: I’m an idiot. NYRR canceled the “3 times, you’re in” lottery option last year. I apologize. I should have been better at checking the facts before I wrote about it. I’m not going to delete this next point in order to preserve the integrity of my original post, but please feel free to disregard it. Thank you to those who updated me with the correct information!]

3.) Even if I don’t ever qualify for NYCM’s time standards (whatever they end up being after this year), there’s still the lottery option. It costs $11 to enter the lottery. So according to how things have been done in the past, if I entered for 3 years in a row and got denied all 3 years, I’d receive a guaranteed entry the next year**. That’s $33 (and a few years of waiting) for a guaranteed entry spot, which, last I checked is way less than $250.

**This is all assuming that they continue to offer this option in future years. Maybe not a good assumption, but I guess only time will tell…**

4.) Finally, to be completely honest, NYRR isn’t exactly at the top of my list right now. Most of my love and excitement for this marathon has faded over the past several months. NOT because the race was canceled (I don’t want to bring that up again, but in case you’re interested, I discussed my feelings on that here), but because of how they handled everything around the decision. I realize there were a lot of politics and logistics involved in the cancellation and resulting resolution options but that doesn’t mean that NYRR couldn’t have made it a priority to communicate with the thousands of individuals who spent tons of time and money preparing for this race.

From not canceling the marathon until the Friday before, not sending out an official email announcing that decision until the next morning, and then keeping the runners in the dark for months, NYRR seriously needs to work on their communication skills. No matter how much crap and politics surrounded each decision, there’s something to be said for open, honest, and timely communication with the very people who support your organization. The lack of such has left a bad taste in my mouth — and has made me hesitant about forking over close to $300 to run the marathon anytime soon.

Anyway, I realize not everyone will agree with me. And, as I said above, I realize that NYRR was not required to give us a choice. It may not have been the best for their already tarnished image, but they could’ve kept the money or simply required all of us to use our fee to hold a spot in a future race. I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to request a refund.

Which is why I want to hear from you! What do you think of these options? Fair? Will you be running NYCM 2013? Some of you may not have even thought twice about using the $250 to guarantee your spot in a future year. I’m very curious about what most people decided to do and why.

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49 Responses to The $500 Marathon

  1. As incredible as NYCM is, I would have made the same choice as you!!
    Krissy @ Shiawase Life´s last post ..Spring Running Plans…and BEYOND!

  2. The marathon will always be there and you aren’t even 30 yet so you plenty of years left to run it. I probably would have done the same thing as you. And my friend Leah did too. Plus I’m a believer in one marathon at a time, ya know? You’re already signed up for a Spring Marathon and you’re going to run so amazing at that one that maybe you’ll want to take a break from marathons for the rest of 2013??

    But as you know, I do believe YOU HAVE to run NYC someday.

    : )
    Lizzy´s last post ..The Future of the Blog…

  3. I do have to say that the refund option was really nice on their part. I don’t get that option because I registered through charity, but even if I did, there is a part of me that NEEDS to do it. It was supposed to be my first marathon, and I traveled across the country to get there, and I was devastated when it was canceled. Although it won’t be my first marathon, I feel like I need to finish what I started. However, if I was in your boat, and had already run several, I would definitely take the money back and apply for the lottery!
    Ari @ Ari’s Menu´s last post ..Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles {vegan}

  4. So I picked 2014. Basically because I think 2013 will be too crazy and also I don’t know that I want to train for a marathon again in the fall…

    I considered asking for my money back but I really do want to run NYC and want to make sure that happens (not sure if I’ll ever hit their new entry qual standards).

    Thanks for writing about this!

  5. I don’t think you have to worry about waiving your right to a guaranteed time qualifying entry, because the rest of that sentence reads “as a result of my cancellation of my entry in the 2012 Marathon or the cancellation of the event itself.” I think all you were waiving was the right to turn around in like, 2015, and say “I should be guaranteed an entry because you cancelled the 2012 marathon!”

    Good luck, though – I’m still working on running my second half marathon. Whether I ever try for a full remains to be seen. :)

    • Thanks! You’re totally right. I figured I was just overanalyzing it, but glad to get someone else’s take on the statement!

  6. Just as an FYI, the option where you automatically get in after 3 years of not being picked in the lottery is no longer available. I think the lottery has about 100,000 entrants this year and they picked only about 10,000 (rough numbers based on my research so could be way off). That means that 90,000 people don’t get in each year (and that number is only increasing every year). If they kept that old policy, the race would have to be expanded to close to, or more than, 100,000 entrants.

    As for the waiver, it’s terribly worded but I’m pretty sure it just means you are waiving your right to the guaranteed, non-complimentary option for 2013-2015 and not guaranteed entry by time qualifying.

    • Thank you very much for the update! I actually thought I had seen something about this, but I wasn’t sure and couldn’t find any updated information to verify. The NYCM website is less than helpful right now…

      Very good point about the numbers and the need to expand the field if they stuck with the old policy. Guess this just means I’ll have to work extra hard to run a qualifying time in the future!

  7. The three entries and then you’re in thing? They cancelled that last year.

  8. I don’t know what I would do. Honestly, I’ve tried for the last three years to get in, and have been denied. Luckily, this coming year is (supposedly) the last year that people have that option for the guaranteed entry (although that may change because of the 2012 cancellation). Knowing that, I may have forked over the extra $250. Is it absolutely ridiculous to pay that much for a marathon? Yes! However, I am not nearly as fast as you and don’t know if I’d ever make it there based on my times, so I may have been willing to sacrifice the extra cash for it. Who knows, though! You did what’s best for you and that is what’s important!

    • Hi Amanda,
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      As a nice incentive…The person who raises the most funds for us will win a 7 day accommodation with one of Elite Islands Caribbean Resorts.
      If you are not interested, please pass this along to your fellow runners.
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  9. I can totally see how you feel this way. Even before Sandy, I calculated how much it would cost me to do the NYC Marathon. Let’s see: $250 for the entry fee, plus room and board, transportation to get there and within the city, food, etc. Well over $1,000! That’s A LOT of money to spend for a few days in NYC. I’d rather take that money and spend it on a marathon across the pond (Europe), which is exactly what I did (Paris Marathon 2012). Entry fee was only 65 euros! :)

    • That’s it? What a deal! I guess I need to start looking into marathons in Europe! …now if only flights over there weren’t so expensive…

  10. I would have made the same choice, because that is a lot of money, and practically speaking, it can be used toward other races. Everyone has a different situation and maybe that’s not the best option for everyone, it WAS nice that there was an option though.
    Steph @ Steph Runs On´s last post ..I Will Stop Comparing Myself to Others

  11. I used to want to run that race so badly, but I’m just not feeling it as much anymore. It’s so expensive, and I live in California so flying all the way out there is pretty costly too. Plus, I’ll (hopefully!) be in school for an MPH starting in fall of 2014 so that’s where my extra money is going right now.
    Anyway, would probably have made the same decision if I were in your position. Their handling of everything is kind of disappointing.
    Cate´s last post ..Kale, Pinto and Mushroom Tacos with Guajillo Salsa

  12. I wasn’t registered to run the 2012 NYCM, but I did do my 9+1 last year to qualify for 2013. After the debacle happened, I decided that I wanted no part in this race and no part in giving NYRR any more of my money – at least not now. I don’t approve of the way they handled the entire situation and I don’t understand how they can never learn from their mistakes and implement some type of communication strategy. Until they get their act together, paying their high fees to run is just not worth it. Instead of paying 250+ to run NYCM in 2013, I chose to pay $65 to run the Richmond Marathon. The company that organizes that race, Sports Backers, is organized, communicates well and always responds to their customers. I don’t want to reward a company who ignored years of customer complaints about their communication skills just because the race happens to be in a great city.
    Dori´s last post ..DSB Review: Revolve NYC – The Real Deal in Indoor Cycling

    • I keep hearing great things about Richmond. Personally, I prefer smaller marathons like that. Definitely putting this one on my list.

  13. Oh what a tough decision!! I have this race at the top of my bucket list but I have decided that I want to wait a few years before entering the lottery system (also hoping that stays in place) so that I can let all this drama pass! I like you would have gotten a refund, it is a big race but that is definitely a lot of money to run a race, not to mention the travel expenses that are incurred. I have a very good friend who was supposed to run it and run with someone and I think they will decided to accept entry into 2013 but they are also in a very different financial situation than I am and can afford that, and they also want to guarantee they can run together. Either way you slice it it’s a rough deal and I completely agree that NYRR has failed at proper communication in these regards. Kudos for the options and I understand when you are dealing with thousands of people that you have to be objective but they could still use some help in the communication and resolution departments! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I’m very interested in what everyone else thinks.
    Lauren @ The Unlikely Runners´s last post ..The One About Gym Goers

  14. I paid for my NYRR membership, then paid to enter 9 NYRR races (at least $20 each), volunteered for 8 hours at the expo, and then paid then same $255. In 2015 – the option I chose – I’ll have to pay again.

    Yes it’s a lot to pay to run a marathon.

    NYRR works very hard to put on the world’s largest and world’s best marathon. Last Fall, through no fault of their own, they were put in a no win situation. I believe they would have cancelled sooner had the mayor not wanted the race to go on. Even as a fan of NYRR I’ll say that they earned an “D-” for communication.

    I’m trying not to think about what it’s going to cost to run in 2015. I am thankful the storm was such a non-event in my neighborhood and that my family was safe. I chose 2015 in order to give myself plenty of time to prepare so that I can make it special. My goal is to run the 2015 NY marathon sub 3, which may be a stretch goal since I’ll be just shy of 49, it’s tough race to PR, and it’s nearly an hour faster that I run NY in 2011.

    • I didn’t realize the entry fee was just as high for NYRR members. That’s a lot of money and a lot of time invested into one marathon…but I understand the draw because it’s New York. If I were to defer, I would’ve chosen to run in a future year as well. I know entry fees will be higher by then, but I think this year’s race has the potential to be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Hopefully things will have settled by 2015.

      Best of luck working toward your sub-3 goal! I really hope the marathon is a special one for you!

  15. I did the same thing as you. At the end of the day, I really wanted to run NYCM but not for $500 + hotel costs + airfare costs, etc. I was really happy they gave us options and I know that if it’s meant to be, I will get to run NYCM one of these years. It will be interesting to see how they handle the next few years of marathons with entry options.

  16. I chose the refund as well. It was an easy decision for me living in the area. Although costly, 9+1 is not that hard to do. I would rather take the refund than NYRR hold onto the $255. It would be like a 0% interest savings account :)

    I did 9+1 in 2012 so technically I could run in November if I want to but I am not sure if it is something I want to do yet. It is weird how a dream I have had for years can become such a confusing decision. We’ll see what happens. They haven’t even opened up regular registration yet!
    Ashley´s last post ..“Certified Humane” or Certified Bullshit?

  17. I chose to enroll in 2013. I have no idea where my fitness/running level will be in 2014, and I can deal with that later. Yes, I don’t like spending $250 to do it, but still, running is a cheap hobby relatively speaking. (Ever talk to a serious bike dude?)

    NYRR has made it very confusing though, to try and register for the new marathon. I chose my option, but can’t figure out what O am supposed to do next.

    If this looks like it is going to be a logistical nightmare this year, I might just run Marine Corps.
    NY Wolve´s last post ..A Music Revolution

    • Yeah, the website is a mess right now. Hopefully they will update it with more information once the selection window has ended.

      I am really interested to see how it all plays out this year…how many people will choose 2013 over the other options, etc. Sounds like a potential logistical nightmare. Hopefully that’s not the case and everything will work out for those choosing to run!

  18. Question…I am the aforementioned “Leah” above…I chose the refund option and now my NYRR page when I login says “payment processing”. Does yours say this? OR something else?

    • Mine says the same thing! It’s a weird statement, but maybe that’s just the generic language on the site? I read that it could take 4 – 6 weeks to get the refund, so I’m just assuming that just means it’s in process. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it though!

      • Freaked out cause I saw they had a payment pending of $1 on my cc so I emailed them. Here’s the response:

        “Payment is being processed” means that the Finance Dept. is working on your refund.

        In order to process refunds, credit cards have to be verified to be sure that they are still valid.
        The standard way this is done is to temporarily charge $1 to the card, which will then get credited back to you.

        • Good to know. Thanks for the update! Fingers crossed it’ll happen quickly but I agree with you Ashley…I expect it to take the full 6 weeks. So it’ll be like a fun spring “bonus!”

    • I submitted for a refund on the first day available and mine says the same thing. I bet it will take a full 6 weeks :) yay
      Ashley´s last post ..“Certified Humane” or Certified Bullshit?

  19. I feel very similarly. I was SO excited for this race. I trained harder than ever and daydreamed about PR-ing on such an amazing course (plus, my half marathon PR is from the NYC half so I know the racing in NYC magic works). Yet, in the week leading up to the race I nearly made myself sick worrying if running the race was the right thing, wondering what decision NYRR/the city would make, and basically obsessing over things that could have been avoided if NYRR displayed ANY communication skills.
    The whole situation left me feeling very differently about NYRR and the NYCM than I felt before the race. I took the refund as well and will put it toward the races I do this spring as tune ups for Boston. Despite my displeasure with how they handled things, I am thankful they are offering us the refund when they were not legally bound to do so.

  20. I was just about to ask you what your decision about this was! I completely agree with all of this. I can’t imagine anyone living outside of NYC not wanting their money back, yet there are individuals who will be paying that $500 just to run one marathon.

    I feel very lucky. I do live in NYC and I did the 9 +1 last year so that I could have guaranteed entry for 2013. I was planning on running it 2 years in a row. Since I already have my spot for 2013, I was able to ask for a refund and will therefore use that for my entry towards next year.

    Do you know what the qualifying standards are? I was trying to find them, but there is nothing on their website right now. You probably have a chance of re-qualifying since you are a speedy runner. So hopefully you will be able to run NYC one day!!!
    Steph´s last post ..Winter Marathon Training

    • I don’t! They took most of the useful information off the website. I’m assuming this is because they probably won’t have time guaranteed entry this year to accomodate all the displaced 2012 runners who chose to defer. I know the qualifying times got faster, but I can’t remember what the final decision was. Once all of this “resolution dust” settles, I’m really interested to what will happen in future years — including what they decide for qualification standards.

  21. i got my money back – i had decided that 2012 was going to be my last nycm for awhile, and i was not going to run any marathons in 2013. so even though i didn’t run nycm in 2012, i don’t love how nyrr handled the whole situation, and would rather run/support smaller races that seem to care more about the runners than their bottom line.
    katie´s last post ..intricately cut paper patterns by donna…

  22. That is a really tough decision. If I were in your shoes, I would have made the same decision but I agree that it would be really tough, and seems unfair, for those who put in all the work (time and money) for the 9+1.

    And, though it is very vague, I am reading the waiver to mean that you have no right to ever claim guaranteed entry in the future based on this cancellation. It sounds like you could still receive guaranteed entry with a qualifying time or 9+1.
    Carrie Shaw´s last post ..My Marathon

  23. I chose the $500 marathon. I hate myself. Please be at mile 17 again to re-enact the above photo as I power walk my way up 1st Avenue. But I am “one of those people” who invested so much time, money and energy doing the 9+1 program and after all that, it’s hard to think about NOT running the marathon through my little hometown.

    But really, your points are all so valid and, as always, incredibly well thought-out.
    Ali´s last post ..Taking Responsibility

  24. I also chose the $500 marathon. Not happy about it, but I knew I’d always want to run NYC and with the time qualifying standard lowered I knew I’d probably never get in again for time after last year.
    I’m running it in 2013. I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted NYC to be my fall marathon this year, but I think making plans for 2014 or 2015 hold a lot less certainty than plans for later this year. I completely understand why people are so turned off by the NYRR, especially those who traveled internationally. I was only in PA and hadn’t left yet when it was cancelled, but still felt such frustration with the whole experience.

  25. Your thoughts are exactly what mine were; I chose the refund. I couldn’t justify a $500 marathon either ($255 was bad enough). There are plenty of other marathons I can run.
    One day I want to run NYC, but it will be several years before I try to get in again.

  26. I chose the refund option. Like you, last year’s debacle left a bad taste in my mouth. After receiving the Wednesday email that the race was still on, I flew out there from San Francisco on Thursday only to have it cancel on Friday. I’ve decided that I’d rather put the money toward other races (because it’s enough money to fund a few!) and other organizations that are more component with basic business practices. I suppose I’ll still try the lottery option in the future but if it never happens, then it just wasn’t meant to be.
    Naomi´s last post ..20-min At-Home TRX Workout

  27. I chose the refund. With that said, EVERYONE who wants to experience a great marathon should run NYC. I ran it in 2011 and I thank God I had that chance. It was a great experience, a streamlined race, the BEST SUPPORT…to put it simply, you are NEVER alone during this race. I can’t say enough good things about the RACE. The organization that puts on this race had many flaws and has lost lots of participants because of their inability, in a social media by the minute world, to adequately communicate decisions and options. I hope to run it again someday. For now, I’m focusing on half marathons.

  28. Wow…
    Honestly, I would expect choice #1 (refund)to be the most popular choice. $255 to get a guarantee spot is a bit steep.
    I thought the choices could more be:
    1) $255 refund
    2) Donate the $255 for relief funds
    3) No refund, but apply $255 towards future race. When registering for the future race with the guaranteed spot, then the race will be say $25-50 more when you register for the future race.

  29. I think you made the right choice getting your money back. Then, you just start over — same as you did before.
    Kelly´s last post ..Is There One Right Way to Run?

    • Yes! Such a simple statement, but so true (and I actually didn’t even think about it like that). I love that perspective.

  30. I would choose the refund! Maybe if money were not a concern for our family I would pay it….but I couldn’t see myself doing that either. I don’t live in NY so when you add airfare and hotels that would be around $1000! As much as I love to race, it adds up and I am a stay at home mom with my 2 kids so money is tight. We really have to think about and budget for the races we run (my husband runs too!) It gets pricey when you add up the races and hotels and shoes and running gear :)!

  31. Great post! If in the same position as you, I would have gone the same route. I have been entering the lottery since 2010 and after three denials this would be the year I’d get in (they grandfathered when they made that change). Based on how things were handled for the 2012 race I have zero interest in running NYC anymore. I live an hour from the city and can visit anytime, plus there are lots of races in the city that are growing, so i may look into one of those. No marathon is worth $250, and especially not $500.
    Kim 2S4O´s last post ..Ten Things Tuesday

  32. I went for the refund. All ready had entry for 2013 from 9+1 last year and 2014 and 2015 are WAY to far in advance to make an educated decision about to be honest. So I took my money back and used it to hire a run coach and am beyond happy with my decision.

    As for the waiver, terribly worded (they need better attorneys) but it applies to the inability to run 2012 as not extending to any OTHER NYCM.

    Great post Lauren, well thought out and researched as usual.

  33. I totally agree with your (and everyone else!) who chose the refund and will be running another marathon (or no marathon…) this fall. I took entry for 2013 because 1) I already planned to defer before the hurricane even happened and 2) my ONLY cost for the marathon is the entry fee, which makes it cheaper than any other race I would run. Plus, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be living in NYC (no plans to leave yet, but still), and it’s definitely a marathon that great to run when you live here. It’s not my “A” race for the fall, but I will be smiling through the streets of my city.
    Susan – Nurse on the Run´s last post ..soul cycle to a tempo run

  34. I selected the same option as you and it was a no brainer for me. If there was an opportunity to get my money back I was there! I already “wasted” $500 on the plane ticket to NYC in Nov that I knew would never be refunded. (Fortunately, like you I found a small replacement marathon that weekend in PA but not one I would have flown across the country for by any means.

    I would still love to run NYC someday but it’s going to be a few years. Being there in Nov with all the crazy drama surrounding it sort of left a bad taste in my mouth.
    Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom´s last post ..In sickness and in health… LR training weeks 5 and 6!

  35. […] post caught my attention this week, The $500 Marathon, from Health on the Run, discussing the plan the New York Roadrunner’s Club finally decided […]

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