HiTOPS Apologizes to Princeton Half Marathon Runners

The organizers of the Princeton Half Marathon have sent a letter to runners apologizing for a previous email that went out over the weekend notifying runners that the Nov. 4 race would be canceled and the registration fee would be considered a donation.

Runners who registered this year will now receive a $20 discount if they register for the race next year.

Leaders from the nonprofit HiTOPS acknowledged in the most recent letter and in an interview with Planet Princeton this week that communication about the half marathon cancellation could have been better, and that the decision making process after Hurrican Sandy could have been made more transparent to people who had registered for the race.

HiTOPS received some emails from angry runners in response to the original cancellation email. Fueling the frustration, all the registrants could read email responses because the entire list of runners’ email addresses inadvertently was included in the email for all the runners to see.

“We did a bad job of communicating what was happening and what our thought process was. It was a crazy situation,” said  Bill Schofield, chairman of the HiTOPS board of directors.

“Work on the marathon began a year ago, and by March we were firing on all cylinders,” Schofield said. “You can imagine the intensity with which we wanted this race to happen. We were as shocked as anyone when the doomsday scenario happened. We had to cancel the race because it would not be safe.”

A date could not be scheduled by the end of the year. If HiTOPS waited until next spring to host the race, Schofield said there would not be enough time to prepare for the November 2013 race. Crediting runners for 2013 would mean the nonprofit would not take in any revenue to run the next race.

“We feel bad and we appreciate all the training, miles and effort the runners put in to prepare for the event,” Schofield said.

Schofield said it is a standard practice to not refund runner fees, which cover the costs of running the event. Sponsorships are where the event makes a profit, he said.

HiTOPS had event liability insurance, but did not have event cancellation insurance, which HiTOPS Executive Director Elizabeth Casparian said would have cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

All runners who registered for the 2012 race will receive a $20 discount from the opening registration price of $85, and will have 30 days front he day registration opens to claim a spot at that price.

Runners who registered for the 2012 race can still pick op their medal, t-shirt and goodie bag at HiTOPS on Nov. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. HiTOPS is located at 21 Wiggins Street. Originally HiTOPS announced that the pick up location would be a Route 1 hotel, but the hotel can’t accommodate that many people, HiTOPS officials said. Materials not claimed will be donated to non-profits helping people affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“We’ve gained some hard fought experience this year,” Schofield said. “We hope to run a fantastic race next year.”


  1. Has there been any element in this fiasco that places HiTops in a favorable light? They won’t make money next year? How much profit did they make off a race that was never run? Enough to pay their advertising agency? Not quite enough for a P.R. director? This is an insult to everyone involved, particularly for actual low budget nonprofit organizations that take the proper steps during their fund raising activities.

  2. Correct that they could’ve done a better job explaining why a refund wasn’t feasible, but a better approach would’ve been to explain where the money actually went. Notably, how much of each entry fee went to support the HiTops organization and the fact that sponsorship money was presumably pulled when the event was cancelled. I was supposed to run the also cancelled New York Marathon, and in comparison to the communication and approach to handling nearly identical circumstances, HiTops has done an amazing job–particularly considering that HiTops was holding an inaugural event for 1000 participants in comparison to NYRR’s 40th+ event for 47,000. Comparatively, HiTops is the sort of low budget nonprofit you refer to, Kb, and at least the runners were well informed that this was a charity run and offered some compensation for next year. Whether the race happened or not, I was also pleased to see the increase in running involvement in Princeton that this event seems to have inspired.

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