DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
Races should allow the transfer of race registrations. Many of us know what's it like to have registered for a marathon only to get an injury and lose the $100 or more. Race directors should set up a utility for runners to put their registration up for sale should they be unable to make the event. This is now being done for season ticket holders for pro sports, so why not marathons? You could charge a 25% service fee, which would discourage people from registering too early to avoid the crunch, only to resell their entry later. - Gary, Los Angeles
Hi, Gary. Transferring of race numbers is certainly a hot topic in road racing circles these days — especially given how quickly races are filling up. From the participant's standpoint, it seems like a no-brainer that runners should be allowed to resell their entry, just as they can resell tickets to a sporting event or a concert.
On the positive side, allowing transfers may accommodate what is already taking place. Organizers know that unauthorized transfers occur — that is, that runners sometimes race using someone else’s bib number, even when the rules say not to. This situation is hard to prevent and jeopardizes the accuracy of the results. When a 25-year-old female runs using the bib number of a 50-year-old male, the age group results are inaccurate. Plus, if there's a medical emergency and the person wearing the number is not the person in the database, it creates an even more serious issue.
Race organizers face several hurdles, however, before opening the door to transfers.
First is the possibility of a race ending up overbooked. Many races have a consistent history regarding the percentage of no-shows; as such, they set the registration limit higher than they can actually handle, thus accommodating more people. Before allowing transfers, these races would need to bring their registration limit down closer to their field limit or face the possibility of having too many runners on race day. For popular events, this will effectively shut out more runners from having a chance to participate.
Second is the issue of cost and cut-off dates. There should be some fee to cover the administrative cost of accommodating transfers. If this cost is too high, however, participants will revert to making unauthorized transfers. Most races that do allow transfers will only do so up to a certain number of days before the race. This prevents procrastinating runners from overwhelming the race’s administrative staff during race week when their focus needs to be on execution.
Finally, there is the issue of who should determine the transferee (the person who receives the transferred entry). Races need to determine whether they are going to keep a waiting list of people who did not register before the event sold out, or allow the transferers (those giving up their entry) to select the recipient themselves. This aspect of the debate is fraught with administrative challenges and issues of fairness.
So, as you can see, race organizers have numerous issues to consider regarding transfers from athlete to athlete. Since there is not a uniform position on this issue in the industry, it is critical that the organizers clearly state their position up front before anybody puts his money down.