Some recent cancellations took place when authorities declined to approve courses after runners had already signed up.
By: Dave McGillivray, for Runner's World
Meghan asks: Two races (Ragnar Florida Keys and the Minneapolis Marathon) were recently cancelled long after registration had opened because organizers were not able to get the proper permits. Shouldn't permits be secured before runners can enter?
As a rule of thumb, I prefer to wait to open registration until I have all the needed permissions to conduct the race; I am confident that I am going forward with the event barring factors out of my control; and I have all the necessary details decided (like course, fees, amenities, and so on) so people who register know exactly what they’re getting into.
That said, I suppose there are cases in which race directors feel pressured to open before some of the above is accomplished because they will lose valuable lead time and marketing opportunities if they wait. Some even think it’s beneficial to open registration for the next year’s event either the same day as this year’s race or the day after. Most organizers, however, feel that opening registration about five to six months out from the race is ideal.
Unfortunately, many permitting authorities will only issue permits for one year at a time, and they sometimes don’t issue them until a few months before the event. I have one agency in my area that typically does not issue their physical permit to me until the day before the race even though they have verbally approved the event sooner. Then what do you do? You can’t wait until two months before your event to start promoting it.
If this is the case, discuss your plans with local authorities to get a sense as to whether an official permit will be forthcoming before you start promoting the event and open registration. You don’t want to surprise anyone.
If your event has been existence for years and you have a good relationship with permitting officials, you probably won’t have any issues securing your permits. Even so, you may run into problems later: I’ve had permits that have been rescinded before race day for reasons having nothing to do with me or my event.
The key is to be as transparent as possible. If you don’t have a permit before registration, you should let customers know (without alarming them) that you have the city’s unofficial approval and fully expect to get the permit when the city decides to issue it. And even if you do have a permit, you should let registering runners know what will happen if unforeseeable problems outside your control (construction, safety concerns, etc.) cause the route to be changed or the event to be postponed or cancelled.