This week I did something that broke my heart

Ironman Weymouth 70.3 logo

[written 6th May 2016]

I found out that I was pregnant a while ago, but decided not to cancel all of my race entries immediately, in case something went wrong. However, Ironman has strict deadlines relating to withdrawing from races and refunds. In order to receive a 50% refund (the maximum possible), I had to withdraw from Ironman Weymouth 70.3 at least 4 months before the race date.

So, this week, I finally submitted my withdrawal request.

Withdrawal request

I really wanted to take part in this event, but I know that it’s not a sensible option at nearly 8 months pregnant. I also know that there are many women who would be grateful to be in my position, but when you have set your heart on taking part in something, it’s hard to have to give it up.

One thing that really frustrates me is that very few events have any kind of cancellation insurance. (Well done to Long Course Weekend who allow you to pay £10 insurance, which will then allow you to receive a full refund).

Ironman have said that they are actively trying to increase female participation in their events, but as the majority of women who take part in their events are child-bearing age, this really isn’t a measure that supports female participation.

Most Ironman-branded 70.3s cost upwards of £200 with a full-distance event costing £450+. As the events are so popular, many sell-out very quickly, so you have to make a decision about whether or not you want to take part up to 12 months in advance. Also, some races have early entry fees, which encourages people to sign up quickly. Whilst some could argue that family planning should play a part in choosing the events you want to race, fertility is unpredictable and this attitude may mean that some women stop entering events for several years.

On the withdrawal form there was a comments box, so I wrote my reasons for withdrawal and stated that I thought that insurance should be available for circumstances such as this (or injury). I was surprised to receive a personal email back from Ironman Europe:

Withdrawing from Ironman Weymouth

I really do hope that they genuinely are looking into this issue and that it doesn’t take too long for a solution to be put in place.

My experience with Ironman is a direct contrast to my experience with Prudential RideLondon, which gives participants the chance to defer their entry up to 24 hours before the start date. I’ve now withdrawn from that event too, but am hoping that I can take part next year.

Withdrawal from Ride London

What do you think about this issue? Does the availability of insurance factor into your decisions when choosing whether or not to enter an expensive race?



28 Responses

  1. Congratulations!!! Did I totally miss this announcement earlier??!!

    For expensive races, I would total prefer an insurance or at leased a deferment. My sister broke her arm, 2 days after we signed up for a local Zooma Race. This is an all female race series and the have a norefund, no defer policy…..totally ridiculous! My sister ended up running it 1 wk post surgery because she didn’t want to waste her money.

    I don’t see why more races don’t have the full refund/deferment option.

    • Thank you 🙂 It’s the first time I’ve mentioned it on my blog (or any social media)… although some people might have guessed as I’m definitely looking bigger and running slower!

      It makes me so angry that some races just seem out to exploit people. I’m fortunate that I’ve never had a serious injury that has kept me out of racing for long, but I’ve lots of friends who’ve signed up for events that sell out, only to sustain an injury. They then find out that they can’t transfer their place, defer it or get a refund, but they were also not offered any insurance. Throwing away money on top of not being able to take part is tough for a lot of people.

      Kudos to your sister for completing her race, but it’s sad that she couldn’t just defer it to the following year when hopefully she would have been injury-free.

  2. I think you raise a really important point. This is something that we are now seeing workplaces becoming more aware of as they try to attract more diverse candidates and I hadn’t even thought about it with respect to these type of commitments. I’m disappointed for you that you don’t get to compete but I’m sure your new family member will make it better for you!

    • Thanks, Bry. Don’t even get me started on the workplace… a colleague started campaign for a place to express milk before she had her second child. That child is now 2, but nothing has happened, and yet we work at a Russell group university that supposedly works hard for equality and holds a silver Athena Swan (women in science/engineering) award :-O

  3. Congratulations on the baby news.

    I agree with you. It is quite ridiculous that IM Europe take the stance they do and had the gall to write you such a condescending letter.

    While there are , naturally, commercial reasons why a race might not want to give refunds, surely if you cancel a long way out due to pregnancy they can be a little more considerate and see it as (1) a congratulatory act to refund the entry and (2) an act of good faith towards increasing female support.

    I wonder whether they would also refuse to refund in the case an entrant were to be diagnosed with a major illness like cancer.

    • I’m quite cynical about it, but I think their decision would be based on potential media publicity… if the person were likely to die imminently then they might not bother with a refund, whereas if they thought the cancer patient were likely to be around for a while and cause a public fuss then they’d give a refund (or more likely ‘generously’ offer them a place the following year on the condistion that they were able to exploit their story).

      I’d understand more if it were a small local race that mainly needed the money to cover costs or was trying to raise money for a good cause. It’s not even as if my entry fee were going to pay the pros a decent amount for their wins 🙁

  4. PS the lack of deferral / refund options is one of the reasons I no longer participate in races that require long periods of commitment. I’ve thrown away too much $ over the years.

  5. First of all: Congratulations!

    I’d never really thought about cancellation and refunds in that way before, but I agree you’d think there’d be something in place with all the drives to get women into sport. I’d have thought that you’d at least get a larger percentage back with having a very valid reason, like a gesture of goodwill.

  6. Congrats on your news!

    I believe Ironman did introduce a withdrawal insurance option a few years back (though whether it was worldwide, not sure). From memory it was expensive and seems to have dropped off the map fairly quickly.

    Recently a friend who hasn’t been in the sport long, entered Ironman by mistake (instead of the 70.3 in conjunction). Participant list very late going up ie a few weeksprior, and until that published hadn’t realised. Missed both deadlines for refunds, goodbye $$$ goodbye race.

    I’m sure much of the reasoning is to encourage genuine entry only – the financial commitment / refund policy should make most stop and think but I’ve known people talked into entering by enthusiastic friends and pull out midway because heart not in it.

    Totally agree with your thoughts re female participation. Pregnancy is a no brainer, should receive full refund or future entry.

    • I have heard about insurance options for other countries, but I think in Europe it’s mainly tied in with entrants paying for a package that includes (expensive) accommodation along with their race entry 🙁

      I feel so sorry for your friend. When there are two or more races happening at the same time many companies allow people to transfer form one distance to another as long as they are notified a reasonable time (a week or so) in advance. If Ironman had allowed that, your friend might have been slightly out of pocket, but at least she would have been able to do her intended event. Long Course Weekend’s £10 insurance gave me the option of having a full refund or transferring to any of the other distances on offer with no penalty, which goes a long way towards making me consider the company for their other events.

  7. Congratulations!
    And I thoroughly sympathise – being pregnant cost me a fortune in lost entry fees – it is amazing how many events are no refund/transfer/deferral.

  8. Hi, firefly congratulations on the pending new arrival.

    Karen has had the same issues as you albeit with IronMan Asia. What both organisations fail to allude to is when racing in the States, race insurance is offered. Why IronMan cannot be consistent across the world on this is only known to them!

    The intriguing thing is that Nirvana who are owned by IronMan Europe do offer race insurance – makes no sense at all why a subsidiary company is able to do this.

    • Thanks, Nic. It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? I was looking at some Women for Tri data yesterday which shows that far fewer women in Europe and Asia take part in Ironman events and I wonder whether this is a factor.

      I guess that Nirvana can offer the insurance because the cost of their special travel and accommodation packages is so expensive, so they’ll always end up quids in 🙁

  9. I would sooner pluck my butt hairs with tweezers than pay for an Ironman. The fact that you can’t sell your place after the fact is absolutely disgusting when you consider what they charge.

    • Second that. I am doing my first this year and refuse to shell out that much for a branded event. On the plus side, I won’t have to get that awful tattoo either 😉
      But on a serious note, congrats Tamsyn, that’s great news, and feck the rest of it. Life in all its forms throws this shit at us all the time. My car insurance company tried to double my premium wen I changed car, so I had to change policy and now they want about 250 quid for the pleasure of me canceling the policy early. Long and boring story, but it just shows at the end of the day that large corporates will always try and screw us. You will be bringing new life into the world, and that beats any old triathlon any day.

  10. Interesting point, my friend Kat Marshall told me about your blog so I thought I’d respond

    If you take out Yellow Jersey annual travel insurance and then later fall pregnant i.e. it wasn’t a pre-existing condition (I know that sounds funny) then you would be able to claim the costs – you would need to mitigate the losses for the insurer by informing them as soon as you realise.

    Also if you have a YJ annual bicycle insurance we allow you to make one claim a year up to £500 for race fee cancellation.

    I’m working on a project to try an give event organisers a race fee cancellation option so watch this space.

    • Thanks, Ryan… if I’d been a bit more like Kat then I’d have upgraded to the full, rather than withdrawing from the half 😉

      I’ll keep an eye on Yellow Jersey as that does sound good. My husband had a cycling accident a week before a half ironman in Dublin last year. His beloved Canyon was fine, but he tore his calf muscle and was unable to compete. Fortunately, there was a group of us going to Dublin, so he got to spectate with friends, otherwise it would have been a really miserable experience for him.

  11. Congratulations! I’ve never done an ironman but I have had a baby and I suspect that child rearing is more challenging and rewarding than an ironman! But there will be time for the ironman later? Re the insurance it would have thought that it would make more sense for individuals to be able to buy an annual policy, a bit like travel insurance or car insurance based on how much you spend on race entry per year. The insurance company could promote their policy through big events etc. It would save a lot of hassle all round.

    • Thank you. I currently have all sorts of idealistic plans about how the baby will love the white noise of the turbo trainer and that it will soothe her to sleep, but suspect that I’ll be the one desperate to sleep by then!

      • Lol! They say that those whooshing sounds are very soothing! You will find your own way? I tried so hard not to give my son a dummy. At 6 months he went to nursery and they gave him one. If only I’d known I could have had all that sleep …..

  12. First of congratulations on your pending new addition.

    Regarding insurance, while I think it is a nice option, I CAN say thay I’ve never purchased it when available. I do think at a popular event that regularly sells out that there is no reason these organizations can’t work with Active or other registration companies to make it easier for participants to transfer or sell their bib to someone else. Every time it is mentioned race directors roll their eyes, wring their hands and complain about how it makes running a race impossible. I call BS on this. The only possible effect could be needed a different shirt size. They can whisk the money out of your account at sign up faster than the blink of an eye but changing the name on entry for seems to require a scribe from the dark ages and an act of congress.

    There are races out there that make this easy. The Marine Corp marathon and The Army 10 Miler leap to mind.

  13. Mmmm, very interesting post. Hate that you’re classed as ‘ill or injured’ and made to feel like an inconvenience when you’re fit and well. Insurance issue and attitude definitely need sorting here.

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