Mother Nature is a sassy little beast, isn’t she? Just when you think you can expect “normal” weather like clear skies and sunshine in April or cool, crisp apple picking weather in November, she and her partner in crime Global Warming throw you a curve ball like the Polar Vortex or record high heat and humidity that leaves you blindsided and your event in shambles.
No one wants to cancel an event, but what do you do if weather forces you to pull the plug on your race?
Make Sure Your Bases Are Covered
This is obviously something you want to think of long before you ever have to cancel an event, but you want to make sure your bases - and expenses - are covered.
As I'm sure you already know, most of your expenses are going to be incurred light years before race day actually happens. The bills for your permits, vendors, schwag bags and food do not go away just because Mother Nature decides to (literally) rain on your parade.
Make sure you have a solid event cancellation insurance policy in place before you have to cancel your event. Those inevitable race registration refund requests you’re going to get hit with post-cancellation are not going to be fun if you can't cover the refunds. The imATHLETE Event Cancellation Refund Program is the best option in the industry to protect you and your event and will cover your registration refunds up to a million dollars if you have to cancel due to weather.
Tell Your Athletes
Yes, a big ol' knot of dread has probably settled in your stomach at the thought of telling your athletes that the event they were so incredibly stoked about is cancelled. But considering the fact that you are cancelling the event because weather conditions are making it too unsafe (see: potentially life threatening) for your athletes to compete, the last thing you want anyone to do is brave the elements The Perfect Storm-style and show up anyway.
Announce the cancellation on your social media channels and online race registration platform. Send an email out to your list. Text all of your athletes and let them know that you have to shut things down. Cover all your communication channels.
No one likes being the bearer of bad news, but put on your big boy pants, rip off the bandaid and let your people know ASAP.
Do Damage Control
Once your athletes know that your event ain’t happening, you’re probably going to have some pissed off people on your hands. Even if the thermostat is pushing 114 degrees or you’re up to your knees in rain, people are still going to shrug it off and think that you should have made it happen. And that’s when it’s time to do damage control.
Let your athletes know that you did everything that you could to make the event happen, but Mother Nature had other plans and you’re working around the clock to come up with a solution that works for everyone.
Then actually work around the clock to come up with a solution that works for everyone.
If most of your athletes are flying in from around the world to participate in your race, rescheduling may not be a plausible option for you. But if most of your athletes are local, the best thing that you can do when Ms. Sassy Pants Mother Nature shuts down your race may be to reschedule. That way, all the sweat, blood and tears you put into getting your event off the ground aren’t in vain and your athletes get to show up, throw down and compete on a later and more (or less) sunshine-y day.
Work with the local government and law enforcement to figure out a future race day that street closures will work and transfer your permits to that date. Check in with your sponsors and vendors to see who can make the new date work.
It’s definitely some extra work, but it’ll all be worth it when you see your athletes buzzing with excitement (and caffeine) at bib assignment and rocking their medals at the finish line, thoughts of your weather cancellation miles behind them.
(PS - For more information on how to handle the registration side of event cancellations at imATHLETE, check out What to do if you need to cancel your event.)