This week Ironman announced that, after Ironman 70.3 Victoria had been “rescheduled” to 2021, the company “cannot viably operate the event in 2021,” and that “Ironman officials are working to determine options for possible future events in the region.” While that might sound like the race has been cancelled to the rest of us, according to the company’s website, it is “postponed.” (It’s interesting to note that the SuperSeal and SuperFrog 70.3 events that are also not going to be happening in 2021 are listed as “cancelled.”)
Considered one of the sport’s most scenic venues, Ironman 70.3 Victoria, which started in 2014, has never managed the kind of fields that Ironman typically looks for in its events. Last year just over 1,700 athletes took part in the race, one of the largest fields in its history. In 2018 there were 1,571 racers. In 2017 there were 1,226 individuals and 43 relay teams at the event. In 2016 the race included a sprint and relays for both that and the half-distance race. That year the race had 1,463 competitors in the half-distance race, 124 in the sprint, with 36 half-distance relay teams and 10 sprint relay competitors. Ironman has not outlined the reasons why the race is “not viable” – one would imagine field size and organizational challenges are factors in the decision.
The comments on the event’s FaceBook page after the announcement have been highly critical of the company for not offering refunds. While many athletes were happy to defer their entry to 2021, now that there won’t be a race in Victoria they would like a refund. Instead they’ve been offered a number of “deferral options” to a number of 2021 events including: Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 St. George, Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast, Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, Ironman 70.3 Boulder, Ironman 70.3 Augusta, Ironman 70.3 Memphis or Ironman 70.3 Washington – the date for that race is still to be determined.
⚠️ RACE UPDATE ⚠️
After further discussion and internal evaluation regarding the future of IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria…
Posted by IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria on Wednesday, August 5, 2020
“These deferral options are not options,” Chris Foster commented. “It it’s not safe to race here in BC, it’s definitely not safe to send everyone to races in the pandemic epicenter in the US. Especially given that the border isn’t even open right now and has no clear timeline for reopening.”
Many athletes have asked that their entries be moved to Ironman 70.3 Calgary, but since that race is licensed, Ironman “cannot transfer any athlete” to that race.
After pressing the company, another athlete, Ian Tucker, commented that after four emails he’d got what he described as the “(expletive) you policy”
“Thank you for your email. Please note, that cannot transfer any athlete to IRONMAN 70.3 Calgary because it is a licensed event. We sincerely apologize that none of the given options will work for you. Please see attached for the WTC waiver you signed at the time of registration, which states the below:
“If the race course or Event is changed, modified, delayed, or cancelled for any reason, including but not limited to acts of God or the elements (including without limitation, wind, rough water, rain, hail, hurricane, tornado, earthquake), acts of terrorism, fire, threatened or actual strike, labor difficulty, work stoppage, insurrection, war, public disaster, flood, unavoidable casualty, race course conditions, or any other cause beyond the control of IRONMAN, there will be no refund of IRONMAN’s entry fee or any other costs incurred in connection with the Event.”
Again, we sincerely apologize that none of the given options work for you. As mentioned below, at this time we are only offering the transfer options or deferral. If you would still like to select one of the options, please use the link that was sent to you from Active to complete your selection by August 19, 2020, 11:59 PM ET. Please let me know if you have any questions and I am happy to assist.”
Another athlete, Eric Glaser, wondered why a credit might not be an option:
“While I completely understand the rationale behind the decision not to hold the event in Victoria, I find it unacceptable that the only options provided are options that involve significant travel (ie. extra costs) and mostly to areas in the US, where the safety of participants is far lower than in Victoria, Canada.
Given the current situation in the world, they cannot possibly make us travel to the US, the global epicenter for Covid-19 cases, just so they don’t have to refund entry money?
We all appreciate that these are not easy times for Ironman, but they must also consider that these are not easy times for those who have lost their jobs, face uncertainty with sick family members, let alone face their own uncertainty when it comes to travel and safety.
Please, do the right thing here Ironman, and refund people their entry fees.”
Darren Rozsa is now questioning his loyalty to the brand:
“For years,I’ve proudly associated with the IM brand, but this may be the tarnishing turning point. I can’t imagine the impact of COVID on the IM business and their dedicated people; it must truly be difficult and I really try to view these decisions with that lens. While I don’t like that we summarily signed away refund rights in the standard one-sided waiver, we did and I get the corporate and legalistic arguments…BUT this simply isn’t right for the “relationship” going forward. Sharing the economic impact of COVID, compromising, building “good will” and future customer loyalty ought to be the approach here; at least 50% refund option (recognizing expenses incurred) or a credit to future event (even a 75% credit) would have maintained my respect and loyalty. These are, indeed, “extraordinary times” and they call for extraordinary BALANCED responses….forcing us to choose between significant travel costs (#unIMpressed), a U.S. race amidst likely continued border closures (#IMpossible), or walking away and “eating” the entire entry fee with corporate #IMmunity is just extraordinarily #IMbalanced and some will argue #IMmoral. For me, I am now reIMagining the IM brand, and wondering how to take the IM out of #IMpunity.”