We’d like to start off by thanking you for your support of the Free Half Marathon and for supporting the concept of a free running event. Unfortunately, we are canceling the Arizona Free Half Marathon originally scheduled for February 16th and then moved to February 23rd.
This decision does not come lightly, as this event has been a personal passion of the founder and the entire team we put together to make this event happen - to develop a world-class series of races paid for by sponsors and affordable for those that are new to the sport as well as those that are passionate about running.
The cancellation comes after a long road over the past 12 months of trying to make the event happen. First, we hired a national sales director to oversee our sponsorship sales who was unable to secure any sponsors for the event. Next, we had been unable to get a solid answer from the city entities involved as to the cost of the venues for the event. Without a solid answer on costs and without sponsors, we felt it was too risky to pursue the event at this time.
We have already begun processing refunds for those that registered for the event. We would prefer to process the refunds directly through PayPal. If you do not have a PayPal account or would prefer a refund via check please send an e-mail to info at freehalfmarathon dot com with your current address.
We were recently interviewed by Runners World about our attempt to put on a free race series and below are our full responses to their questions.
1. Can you give an overview of the Free Half Marathon and why you decided to put it on?
The ambition for this race came from a very personal experience by the company's founder.
It all started in 2005 when the founder, realized he needed some motivation to get moving. He’d enjoyed running in the past and figured why not give it a shot again. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm came crashing down when he realized the exorbitant fees that were being charged for most long distance races (at that time the average race fee was a now-modest $75). Flash forward three years to 2008 and we find our company's founder still contemplating how to kindle his youthful exuberance for running amidst rising fees. That's right - he waited 3 years to make the commitment due to the high race-entry fees. Thus was born the idea behind the FREE Half Marathon series of races. The goal of the Free Half Marathon series was to give folks an opportunity to experience the sport we all enjoy, without the fear of making a huge financial commitment. Our goal is to attract new participants to the sport, while helping runners of all ages to develop an active lifestyle and a lifelong enjoyment of fitness. All while making countless friends and visiting new cities along the way.
2. Can you tell us about your background as a race organizer?
The Free Half Marathon team consisted of 12 staff members with broad experience in the race management field from sales to race operations.
3. There is not a lot of transparency on the website--no mention of specific sponsors, no map of the race course or race location details, not even a group listed as the race organizers. Was that by design? To what degree did you think these lack of details might make some people question the legitimacy of the race?
The event has been cancelled due to a lack of participation and lack of sponsorships. Had our sales team been able to secure sponsors for the event, we would have posted their information on our website. Had the course been approved we would have posted the detail on our website.
4. How many people signed up for the race?
There were 100 original entries, most of which have been refunded.
5. The Glendale public events department said the race application was withdrawn on January 14, and yet you only announced through your Facebook page that the race had been cancelled two days ago. Why did you wait so long to make the announcement? And why were racers still able to sign up for the race, even after the permit application had been withdrawn?
The Free Half Marathon staff was unable to get a solid commitment from the various cities involved as to the permitting costs of the event. Free Half Marathon staff were searching for an alternate location and were unable to secure one. FHM staff notified members via e-mail of the cancellation.
We allowed a small number of people to register for the event in 2012 as a proof of concept (with full refund guarantees) and chose not to open registration again until the course was selected and the permits were issued (i.e. racers were not able to sign up for the race after the permit application had been withdrawn, quite the contrary).
6. What other races are part of the Free Half Marathon group?
There are no other races being put on by the Free Half Marathon team. We do not consider this a viable business plan going forward.
7. Some runners have expressed concerns that they felt this was a scam. Was it?
We would not be offering full refunds to participants if this was a scam. A failed business idea, perhaps.
8. Some of those runners wrote on the Free Half Marathon Facebook page expressing their concerns, and then somebody from the Free Half Marathon deleted those posts. Why?
We chose to post our contact information on our Facebook page for anyone with concerns to contact us. We find direct communication with our participants the most constructive avenue for communcation.
9. According to one runner, the date of the event was pushed back an entire year from 2013 to 2014 with anyone notice given to that runner (They only found out by checking the race's website.) Then the race was pushed back another week in February 2014 without any notice. Why was the date change not directly communicated to the participants?
We originally envisioned the event taking place in early 2013 and quickly realized 3-4 months is not enough time to plan and execute an event of the magnitude we expected. We postponed the event until 2014 in order to hire additional sales staff and to hire additional staff to manage the anticipated size of the race (with plans for future events in the series if the first one went well). We notified all participants of the date change and many requested refunds at that time.
10. Will you be putting on any other races in the near future?
Unfortunately, the FHM series is not planning any other events at this time.
For any questions or concerns, please contact us at info at freehalfmarathon dot com