Defer! The one word in any racers vocabulary that one never wants to hear and one that so far I have never had to use. However after last Sundays London Marathon, and the stress it has put on an old ankle injury, I have not run once this week and simply not in a position to complete the 13.1 miles tomorrow.
At the time of booking Hackney Half Marathon I was buzzing from my endurance for long runs increasing and I believed that I would be in a peak level of fitness to be able to take on this race for a second year running. And, fingers crossed, improve on my bad performance from the previous year.
So, all with good intentions, I contacted the race organisers (now Virgin Sport) to explain my situation in the hope that they would be able to defer my entry to the following year or even offer me a spot in another race.
The response I got was rather unsympathetic. I was told that I was neither allowed to defer my entry nor move my place to another race. The only option, even though I had already paid a hefty sum of £49 to enter, was to volunteer as a Marshall to be given a free spot for another race. After complaining further to head office, I was promptly sent an email spouting the terms and conditions I agreed to when signing up for the race and, a rather patronising staff member asked if I would like to be sent a full copy of these terms!
Yes, I signed up to the terms and conditions at the time of booking. However, at that time I had no intention not to run. I had no idea that an old injury, that I had not suffered with once during my marathon training, would re-surface and cause me issues.
The fact that Virgin Sport have no policy in place for those suffering with an injury or have any empathy towards those racing is disgusting. Never before have I experienced races where you are simply told “sorry, tough luck. Come volunteer instead.” I have many friends who have had to pull out of races at the last minute and every time the race organisers have allowed them to defer or transfer their entry to another race that suits them.
It is downright rude and quite frankly shows very poor customer service on Virgin Sport’s part. I suppose it is also a great way to make extra profit. Rely on a percentage of drop outs or no shows and simply say “sorry, its in our terms and conditions.” In other words, give you the finger.
Sadly I have already booked another race with Virgin Sport in the Summer, previously Run London run by Vitality, so that’s more of my money in Virgin’s pocket. I will have to ensure I don’t do anything between now and then to jeopardise running this one – as that too came with a hefty entry fee.
After this, I am going to re-consider entering any Virgin Sport events, which saddens me. All the races they have taken over from Vitality are throughly enjoyable and always a great experience.
However, what I have learned over the last few weeks is there are plenty other 10k’s and Half Marathons out there, with new races such as London Landmarks Half and The Big Half both released for 2018. So, as Virgin Sport do not care enough to show empathy to their customers I will simply take my custom elsewhere!