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Runner frustrated with organizers of canceled Providence Marathon

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of all types of sporting events, including the upcoming Providence Marathon.

Hundreds of runners would’ve pounded the pavement downtown on Sunday, May 3. On Friday, one runner expressed his frustration with the race’s organizers to Target 12.

Rugged Races, which now runs the Providence Marathon, emailed participants on Monday saying they were unable to postpone the race and therefore had to cancel it. They’re planning to hold a virtual run instead and will be sending runners their “swag bags.”

“So you run solo and they’ll send me a T-shirt and a medal,” George Ross said. “I think that’s the biggest insult that was thrown at me in my whole running life.”

Ross said he’s been running competitively for more than 40 years. He signed up to run the half-marathon and is just one of the hundreds of runners who won’t be able to cross that finish line. For him, it’s more about the competition.

“I want to beat people. I want to chase people, and I want people to beat me,” he said. “The only way to race hard is with lots of people. You can’t do that on your own.”

Understanding and agreeing with the reason behind the cancelation, Ross said he sent an email to organizers asking that his entry fee be used for the 2021 race. He received the following response:

“Medals and t-shirts have been ordered; permits have been secured; venue expenses have been incurred; and many other unrecoverable event production expenses have already been paid for. As such – so we simply don’t have the resources to be able to offer refunds or deferrals to 2021.”

“There is nothing in the terms and conditions that states they will not offer deferrals,” Ross said.

As a thank you for understanding, Rugged Races will also be sending runners a 20% discount for the 2021 race.

“Every single large race on the planet offers a 20% discount if you sign up early, so that’s like nothing,” Ross added.

“By my record, based on the previous year, you’re talking about 2,200 people,” he continued. “Individually, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but 2,200 people times $70-$120? It’s a couple hundred thousand dollars and they didn’t incur that kind of expense on an event that didn’t actually happen, which I think is kind of scandalous.”

Target 12 reached out to Rugged Races for clarification on the number of people who signed up for the race and the cost per entrant, but was sent the same email as the runners.

“The reason why the race was canceled was because of COVID-19,” Ross said. “COVID-19 is crushing the economy of a lot of people, and a lot of families are struggling, and this organization is just keeping money?”

The office of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha released the following statement to Target 12:

“The Attorney General recognizes that the COVID-19 health emergency has created terrible economic hardship for consumers, businesses and other entities across Rhode Island. We don’t believe consumers alone should have to bear the cost of those losses.

“When businesses receive payment to provide a service and are unable to provide that service, they should work with their customers and offer a refund or apply the payment toward a future purchase whenever possible.

“If consumers cannot resolve their complaints with the business or service provider, they are invited to contact our consumer protection team at 274-4400 or file a complaint online at riag.ri.gov.”

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