'Act of God': No refunds on canceled Gingerbread 5K run

News-DemocratDecember 9, 2013 


The race that was canceled Saturday in Belleville due to frigid temperatures, paired with snow and ice, will not be rescheduled, race organizers said Monday.

And while the nearly 650 participants who signed up for the eighth annual Gingerbread 5K Run may still pick up their T-shirts, they will not get the $20-25 adult and $15 youth sign-up fee back.

"It's, you know, an act of God," explained Debbie Belleville, the director of Belleville Parks and Recreation.

The biggest wave of registrants usually happens the final week before the event. Last year, more than 1,000 participated, so Belleville said they anticipated a large group.

They already had ordered between 1,200 and 1,300 long-sleeve race shirts. In addition, the department had purchased fruit for runners.

"We probably lost a bunch this year," Belleville said.

Belleville said she wasn't sure how much this year's event ultimately would have cost. The money raised goes toward other Parks and Recreation events, Belleville said.

In 2012, the Parks and Recreation Department made about an $8,000 profit from the holiday-themed race, she said. It brought in about $27,000 and cost about $19,000 to put on, she said.

Kelli Tobin, of Belleville, describes herself as an avid runner and racer. "I'm upset it was canceled and lost my money, but I realize it's all a part of the running lifestyle," she said. "I do wish it was rescheduled."

It's not uncommon to not offer refunds when races are canceled. Gingerbread 5K participants agreed to "no refunds" when they signed up.

Participants can pick up their shirts and race packets from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday at the Parks and Recreation Department, 510 West Main St., Belleville said.

Fred Rice, a runner from Swansea, said a small part of him was disappointed that the race was canceled. "The much larger part of me was very supportive because the conditions were just honestly unsafe," he said.

Ice and snow remained on roads and parking lots Saturday morning and the temperatures were in the teens.

One of the main sponsors of the event, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, encouraged the cancellation, Belleville said. "They really did not feel it was going to be a safe run."

The event will not be rescheduled because most of the 160 volunteers are students at Lindenwood University-Belleville who soon will be on winter break, Belleville said. In addition, several other events in town, like the Gingerbread Cookie Walk this weekend, make rescheduling difficult.

"Logistically, it just wasn't going to work," she said.

Kim Yancey, of Belleville, ran a slick race in 2011 in Forest Park as part of the St. Louis Track Club Frostbite Series. "The weather was bad and the roads were icy and they had no salt and people were falling everywhere," she said.

She said she wasn't mad about Saturday's cancellation: "I'd rather have them be safe about it -- especially after what happened in the Frost Bite."

She planned to run the Gingerbread 5K to complete the Triple Crown events. Athletes who participate in the Law Day Run 5K, the Tour de Belleville bike ride and the Gingerbread 5K win a Triple Crown medal.

Belleville said all Triple Crown participants could pick up their medals from the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Gingerbread 5K was scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Officials decided to cancel the event at 6 p.m. Friday.

The cancellation notice was posted on the event website and on Facebook. Organizers emailed participants and utilized a phone system that notified all but 13 people who had registered, Belleville said.

Belleville said she looks forward to future Gingerbread 5Ks after this year's cancellation, the first in the history of the race.

"It was a hard call. We cannot control the weather and we thought it was a safety issue," she said. "It wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right one."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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