The Latest in Road Running for Race Directors and Industry Professionals
Credit Union Cherry
Blossom Ten Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk:
Inside a Large Race Cancellation
Timeline of Events
Deliberations of Race Organizers Grappling with the Decision to Cancel
By Rob Wolfe
What follows is an inside
look at timelines for both the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the Credit
Union Cherry Blossom's (CUCB) deliberations over the virus’ impact on
the event leading up to the decision to cancel on March 13. World events
are shown in italics and blue font; CUCB events in medium font.
As background, Cherry
Blossom, Inc. (CBI) is a 501(c)(3) corporation that owns and stages the
Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk. The event
conducts a lottery in December to fill its fields of 16,000 in the 10
mile and 2,000 in the 5K Run-Walk. Approximately 28,000 apply for spots
through the lottery. The entry fees are $48 for the 10 mile and $38 for
the 5K Run-Walk. Individuals who volunteer for the race receive a
guaranteed entry (which is transferrable) into the following year's race
in exchange for volunteering. The stated race policies are no refunds
and no deferrals after a one-month transfer period during February. The
2020 race date was April 5, 2020.
DEC. 31 - Chinese authorities treated dozens of
cases of pneumonia of unknown cause.
JAN. 11 - China reports its first death.
JAN. 20 - Other countries, including the United
States, confirm cases.
JAN. 23 - Wuhan, a city of more than 11
million, is cut off by Chinese authorities.
JAN. 30 - The W.H.O. declares a global health
emergency. U.S. State Department warns travelers to avoid China.
JAN. 31 - The Trump administration restricts
travel from China
213 people had died and nearly 9,800 had been
FEB. 2 - The first coronavirus death is
reported outside China.
FEB. 5 - A cruise ship in Japan quarantines
FEB. 7 - A Chinese doctor who tried to raise
the alarm died.
FEB. 10 - The death toll in China surpasses the
number SARS killed worldwide. The death toll in China rises to 908, and
confirmed cases of infection in the country rise to 40,171.
FEB. 13 - There are more than 14,000 new cases
in Hubei Province.
FEB. 14 - France announces the first
coronavirus death in Europe.
FEB. 21 - A secretive church is linked to an
outbreak in South Korea.
FEB. 21 - The virus appears in Iran from an
FEB. 23 - Italy sees major surge in coronavirus
cases and officials lock down towns.
FEB. 24 – U.S. has 35 confirmed cases and no
FEB. 26 - Latin America reports its first
coronavirus case: Brazil - brought into the country by an individual who
had been in Italy.
FEB. 28 - The number of infections in Europe
FEB. 28 - Sub-Saharan Africa records its first
infection: Nigeria - from Italy.
FEB. 29 - The United States records its first
coronavirus death and announces travel restrictions.
MARCH 3 - U.S. officials approve widespread
Friday March 6 -
COVID planning meeting for CBI Executive Committee on Zoom – discussion
about possible ramifications for race and what to do now. Creation of
statement for website and social media; Treasurer Rob Wolfe creates
preliminary spreadsheet for anticipating financial effect.
Saturday, March 7 -
CUCB places COVID statement on website and on Facebook that the race
will go ahead as scheduled, although organizers are monitoring the
situation - replies are
generally positive - most want the race to take place as scheduled.
Click Here for the text of the COVID-19 Statement posted to let
participants know that at this point, plans are for the race to proceed
Monday, March 9
Event Director Phil
Stewart receives phone call from one large group supplying over 85
volunteers telling him that the group will not allow its volunteers to
participate in the race. The call prompts internal discussion about the
potential impact on volunteers, who, it is generally felt, have less of
an incentive to show up on race day than the runners, even though they
receive guaranteed entries into the following year's race. Plus, it is
possible that additional organizations supplying groups of volunteers
may not want to take the risk of sanctioning the volunteer activity. A
decision is made to poll the key race officials to determine the minimum
number of volunteers that would be needed to safely and effectively
stage the race.
Some calls and emails
start to come in from registrants wishing to know about CUCB policy on
Coordinator emails full committee asking them to analyze and estimate
the minimum number of volunteers needed for each station.
Committee meeting at Headquarters Hotel - Although the official
stance is the race is still on, there is lengthy discussion about
coronavirus and planning an event with modifications. General sense of
committee is optimistic that the event will go on as planned. Much of
conversation is what to do if there is a lack of volunteers.
Tuesday, March 10
Treasurer Rob Wolfe
reviews known contracts to create spreadsheet with possible financial
impact on race if canceled.
Event Director Phil
Stewart sets up a Zoom meeting on next step in CUCB COVID response - the
topic is whether to create a deferment policy. Under normal
circumstances, deferrals are not allowed.
NYRR cancels the United Airlines NYC Half
Marathon - (the event, which features a lottery, offers a lottery
exemption into the 2021 race with payment of the 2021 entry fee, or a
full refund of the 2020 entry fee).
Wednesday, March 11
At a Zoom
meeting, the Executive Committee creates a deferment policy.
D.C. declares State of Emergency
through March 31.
Thursday, March 12
NBA, NHL, Conference basketball tourneys all
postponed/canceled; followed by MLB and NCAA and then all NCAA winter
and Spring Championships; many colleges announce online learning for
rest of semester.
Word gets out that Boston will be postponed -
no formal BAA communication yet.
3:47pm - CUCB email is
sent to all participants that we remain optimistic that the race would
go on as planned; however runners are now able to defer their
participation in CUCB to 2021 with no refund and will pay the 2021 entry
fee; others could stay the course and run the race. At this point, the
Executive Committee's thinking is that as long as we are planning on
holding the race that the issue of entry fee refunds is moot. Facebook replies are vocal and mixed - many think we should just go
ahead and cancel and offer refunds; some think there should be a
deferment option for both the entry and the entry fee. A few want us to
stay the course. A majority of the posts are from individuals
dissatisfied with this announcement because we do not discuss a refund
Click Here for the text of the
Email sent out detailing how to opt to defer race participation to
Zoom meeting at 6pm -
Executive Board members accept that the race must be canceled. Key
factors include: Federal and local warnings about the dangers posed by
this virus and concern for the health of our participants, and also
influenced by the fact that events being held on dates later than ours
in April, most notably the Boston Marathon on April 20, are now
cancelling or postponing; this decision was followed by serious
discussions of what runners’ options would be in the wake of the
cancellation and the wording of the cancellation announcement.
MARCH 11 - U.S. President blocks most visitors
from Continental Europe.
MARCH 13 - U.S. President declares a national
National Building Museum, site of the CUCB Health & Fitness expo and packet pick-up, announces closure for the
rest of March and April.
Drafts of the cancellation letter
CBI President emails the rest of the
Board of Directors about cancellation decision.
Committee members are notified of
Director and Deputy Director contact
vendors to inform of cancellation penalties.
Event Director emails the
two headquarters hotels to
cancel based on force majeure clause in contract, and also sends hard
copy letter to hotels.
Saturday, March 14
8:00 am – CBI
Executive Committee Zoom meeting on financial ramifications of
canceling. Budget spreadsheet is adjusted for optimistic and
pessimistic forecasts on income/expenses.
9:38 am - As
Executive Committee meeting is in session, an email is released to
all participants that 2020 CUCB has been canceled. Text of the email
is also posted on the race website, race app, and social media. [Note:
participants who had opted to defer their race participation to 2021
based on the email of Thursday, March 12, were asked to start from
scratch and fill out the new form offering the three options -
defer, refund or charitable donation. All of the previous deferral
requests were deemed invalid.]
for the text of the Cancellation Email that was sent out to all
participants on Saturday, March 14, 2020
Monday, March 16
agrees to let CBI out of the contract based on force majeure clause.
Discussion of Virtual
Run options begins.
sponsors, vendors, expo exhibitors and other key stakeholders begins.
(Expo exhibitors will receive full refunds.)
Programming to allow
for three refund options for race participants begins by online
registration provider MarathonGuide.com.
Thursday, March 19
Click Here for the text of the
Virtual Run email that was sent out to all participants on Friday, March
Still to Be Done at
Blast email to
participants regarding the mail-out of t-shirts and medals -
participants will be given the choice of having items mailed to them
for $6.00 or pick them up at soon to be disclosed locations in the
Washington, D.C. area for free once social distancing restrictions
Results of Virtual
Run to be posted on website and social media after the Virtual Run
period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, April 5 (the original race
Rob Wolfe is the Treasurer of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile
Run & 5K Run-Walk.