LAST UPDATED: 22 May 2023

Race Insurance: Know Your Options

Do you know your options when it comes to race insurance? We look at all the ways you can get your event (and yourself) covered.

Race Insurance: Know Your Options

One of the more common questions coming up in our race directors' group concerns race insurance: Where can I get it? What does it cost? And what will it cover me for? 

In the rest of this article, we're going to be breaking down the different kinds of policies you can purchase, the organizations offering cover for your type of race, and some high-level numbers on what these policies cost and the benefits they provide. 

Types of race insurance

When it comes to the different types of insurance you can purchase, there's some you will absolutely need for a good night's sleep, and others you can choose to do without.

Here's a brief description of the kinds of policies that are most relevant to mass-participation events, and the circumstances in which you'll be likely to need one:

Event liability insurance

Event liability insurance (also known as general liability insurance, public liability insurance or, simply, liability insurance) is the most commonly purchased type of insurance for races. It protects you from claims made against you by participants, in case they get injured or suffer property damage during your event.

In the spectrum ot must-have to good-to-have insurance policies, liability insurance falls squarely into must-have territory. Indeed, taking out a liability insurance policy for your event will often be a requirement for obtaining event permits in many jurisdictions. 

Note that the main job of a liability insurance policy is to protect you, the organizer, against suits filed against you by third parties. This policy with help you with your legal fees and damages you may have to pay out in the event of an injury you may be liable for. But, it will not cover expenses your participants may incur if they injured during your race, e.g. by tripping and falling due to the their own fault (which might be covered by a participant accident policy - more on that below). 

The distinction above is important - and it's the reason most liability policies require you to ask participants to sign a waiver/release of liability.

By signing a waiver, participants accept the risk of taking part in an inherently risky activity (=sport) and the fact that they may get injured in the process. But, getting injured in other ways (e.g. by tripping over a timing mat or having a race sign drop on their head) will not be covered by the waiver, and claims against you in the event something like that happens is why you'd want to take out an event liability policy.

Event cancellation insurance

Event cancellation insurance protects you against financial loss in the event that your event has to be cancelled for reasons beyond your control. 

Cancellation insurance is a much less common type of insurance taken out by race directors, although use of it is growing due to the growing awareness among event organizers of risks that can lead to event cancellation - most notably, severe adverse weather (hurricanes, severe storms etc), natural disasters (earthquakes, wildfires, floods etc), acts of terrorism and, of course, communicable disease (COVID!).

In the event that you own a cancellation policy and your event has to be cancelled, you will be reimbursed by the policy for either your gross revenue or expenses incurred, depending on which of the two you chose to insure when the policy was purchased.

To be honest, if your event is not in a high-risk area, you probably won't need a cancellation policy - which is all the better, because cancellation policies are considerably more expensive that liability insurance.

Operations/equipment insurance

This type of policy is pretty self-explanatory: it will cover you for theft, damage or loss incurred to your equipment and hardware (e.g. timing equipment, laptops, fixed structures etc) during the event. 

This type of policy will get you similar coverage you would get from a business insurance policy. So, if you already have business insurance, your work equipment may already be covered by that policy, or there may be an option in your business insurance to add equipment cover as an optional extra.

Participant accident insurance

Participant accident insurance is a great add-on to a general liability policy, and it helps cover medical expenses your participants may incur as a result of an accident during your event. 

Participant accident insurance complements your event liability policy by covering your participant's medical costs and thus reducing the risk of getting sued by them in the event of an injury. 

Insurance providers & plans

Nicholas Hill Group

Types of races covered: running events

Nicholas Hill Group is a specialist insurance broker providing a range of comprehensive insurance programs for endurance events. NHG policies are available through a number of membership organizations, including Race Directors HQ which offers an additional 10% discount on standard NHG rates.

NHG offers the following types of insurance:

  • Event liability insurance: Starting at $0.15 per participant subject to a $75 minimum premium, NHG's liability insurance is one of the most cost-effective options on the market. The policy can be purchased online, and comes with a $2 million aggregate claim limit (a virtual events option is also available at an average cost of around $0.07 per participant). 
  • Participant accident insurance: Should you wish to add participant accident cover to your event liability policy, that is also available at $0.10 per participant subject to a $250 deductible and a $10,000 maximum payout per claim.
  • Cancellation insurance: NHG offers "all-cause" cancellation insurance coverage for things like severe adverse weather, acts of terrorism, earthquakes, wildfires, labor strikes and other common cancellation causes. Prices depend on the policy scope, and can be customized to match your event circumstances.

You can receive a no-obligation quote from NHG on any of these policies here. Event liability insurance and participant accident cover can be purchased and confirmed on the spot, with cancellation insurance quotes being responded to within a maximum of 48 hours.


Types of races covered: running events

RRCA insurance is available to all RRCA Event Members. Membership fees come to $0.05 per participant, volunteer or race committee member with a surcharge of $76/$100 for non-profit/for-profit organizers respectively.

The RRCA insurance policy for events covers:

  • General liability insurance: RRCA offers two policies with a max per-occurrence cover of $1 million and $2 million (both policies come with unlimited aggregate coverage). Insurance costs start at $107 and $217 respectively and increase with the number of people covered (number of people covered should include all participants, volunteers and race committee members) at a rate of $0.25-$0.63 per participant, depending on the total race size and selected cover limit.
  • Volunteer medical coverage: On top of the general liability insurance, volunteers can separately be insured against medical expenses for an additional $250-$300.
  • Operations insurance: For a further $750 you can extend your race insurance coverage to include damage, destruction or theft of equipment (e.g. timing clocks, computers etc), hardware and personal property. This Operations Insurance will get you much the same coverage you would get from a business insurance policy. If you already have business insurance, there's also a standalone equipment insurance policy available.

It's important to note that the RRCA insurance policy covers event organizers only for events they organize that they also own. For event organizers providing timing or other event management services to events they do not own, a different policy is available with similar coverage to the general liability policy above. This policy is only available to RRCA Certified Race Directors.


Types of races insured: running events

USA Track & Field offer insurance coverage for USATF-sanctioned events (event sanctioning fees start ta $60 for events with up to 100 participants).

USATF insurance services include:

  • General liability insurance: The policy covers race directors, race officials, volunteers and USATF members against liabilities up to $2 million per occurrence with a $10 million aggregate event cap.
  • Volunteer medical coverage: Separate medical coverage can be purchased for event volunteers starting at $20 per person ($56 for volunteer physicians/doctors). The policy comes with a $1 million per occurrence cover subject to a $3 million total policy cap.
  • USATF's Event Director Program: For coverage outside sanctioned events, race directors can choose to purchase USATF's Event Director policy. This policy provides general liability, auto liability and physical damage coverage for event directors during day-to-day business operations.


Types of races insured: multi-sport races 

USA Triathlon offer both an Event Liability insurance policy for use during an event and an Event Directors Program policy, similar to that offered by USATF, that covers race directors for day-to-day business operations.

The USAT Event Liability policy is only available to USAT-sanctioned events and provides comprehensive liability insurance coverage for race directors, participants, volunteers and race officials.


Types of races insured: adventure races

The US Adventure Racing Association provides specialist event insurance for sanctioned adventure races. The policy includes general liability coverage with a $5 million policy cap and accidental medical coverage for event participants with a $2 million maximum policy limit.

Other options

Outside of the options listed above, there are a number of other commercial insurance brokers offering general liability, event cancellation and equipment insurance to the mass-participation endurance event market.

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