Let’s Talk: Race Cash Money

Happy Saturday evening, readers! Today was pretty uneventful and I spent most of the day being lazy with a splitting headache. I did, however, manage to squeeze in 7 miles late this morning. I thought they were some pretty hideous miles – slow and sluggish. I began falling apart between 4 and 5 and knew then that I should’ve brought my water bottle with me. It was warm and I was parched. Rookie mistake #47859 in the books!

In this post I want to get down and dirty about races and good ol’ cash money. I’ve received the same questions on numerous occasions over the past month or so from the Ruggles (non-runners, similar to their Harry Potter Muggle counterparts): “Do you have to PAY for races? Why? What’s the money used for? I thought you just run!”

Source: Pinterest

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never directed a race so I won’t claim to know where every dollar and penny is spent. I do know that there are t-shirts to be made, refreshments to be served, awards to be given, police to be paid, and local permits to be acquired. I assume that these costs start to rack up, especially for small, local races. For large race productions on the other hand, I will assume that most of the registration fees collected are put toward these overhead costs with the remainder going toward company profit.

It used to be that if you were a runner, you would just run, usually for little to no money. Times have changed! You can attribute this to inflation or to the fact that the sport has taken off and folks realize there’s money to be made. Again, I’m not too sure. What I do know is that some of these races are insanely priced and that will inherently dictate who can and can’t participate. That bothers me.

Personally, I don’t have too much beef with paying a race fee especially if a portion of the proceeds is going to charity. However, I want to know exactly what the charity is and how the money will be used which is sometimes hard to figure out. I also place a self-imposed cap on the races I run. I paid $90 for RnR NOLA plus the Active.com fee (about $8). For me, anything over $100 for a marathon is too expensive for my pocket unless it’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, e.g. NYC (2012 price is $255), Boston ($300), etc., neither of which I’m running. And, let’s face it, I’m way too slow to qualify for Boston anyway. For half marathons, I think a price range of $40-65 is reasonable and from what I’ve seen this is pretty average.

Sometimes there’s a “no t-shirt” option. I see t-shirts as a perk. I don’t expect one because I choose my races based on my schedule, training plan, and what I think will be a fun or challenging race or distance – not on whether or not I’ll receive a shirt in my registration packet. I have weeded through many shirts lately and a good portion have been donated to local shelters or charities. It’s the memories that matter the most, not the swag that comes with those memories.

Source: Pinterest

In a nutshell, it’s clear that race fees have skyrocketed over the years for a variety of reasons. To recap, if you are looking to race but money is tight, here are some good alternatives:

1. Choose the “no t-shirt” option if available

2. Look at your local race schedule. Many times you can find the distance you want at a fraction of the cost of larger races conducted by a race company.

3. Enter a virtual race. Many bloggers host virtual races of varying distances for free. Sure, you’re not running with someone right beside you but the same reasons you race will still kick in – camaraderie, competition, and pushing yourself beyond your limits.

4. Outline your race calendar early in the year if possible so you know your projected expenditures. Like anything else, budget yourself. And, if you just HAVE to run a Rock n’ Roll race or any other big name production, limit yourself. Your wallet will thank you!

Do you think race fees are overblown? Do you choose races based on price? How do you feel about big race companies making pure profit off runners?


13 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Race Cash Money

  1. Kristin,

    I agree race fees have ballooned. I can’t see paying $35 or more for a 5k unless it is for a charity that I want to support or a race for a cause (memorial races, specifically). My running club actually defrays costs for certain races if they are part of our “race series”, which certainly helps. Funny enough, we (my running club) just put on a 15k race that had ~350 runners and we provided tech tee’s for the first 300 and it was $20 pre and $25 post entry. Probably the easiest way to save cash is to register early, as you mentioned. Can result in significant savings! I don’t foresee prices dropping anytime soon because these races are coming close to or are selling out!

    1. That’s awesome of your running club. Mine holds winter series races which are free for members ($5 for non-members). No frills but still a great time.

  2. I think some races are WAY too expensive. Unless it’s an amazing opportunity (e.g., Boston), I’m not paying hundred of dollars to go out and run 26.2 miles. I realize there is course support and t-shirts and all of that jazz, but sheesh. Another reason I like the smaller, local races. Usually the funds are going to a great local charity and they are MUCH more reasonable!

    All this being said, I am training for the SF Marathon right now, which is a bit pricy. But I am viewing it as one of those ‘bucket list’ races that I might not ever be able to run again.

  3. I definitely think that some races are complete rip-offs! We try to only do a few that are really expensive (especially since we always have to multiply the price by 2) and then do local (or near where other relatives live) races the rest of the time. Our last race had a no t-shirt option and we definitely didn’t get it, I don’t need another cotton t-shirt!

    I don’t even want to think about paying for our eventual Ironman, we’re going to need a loan!

  4. Option #3. Have not heard of that one before.

    I am definitely a penny pincher when it comes to race fees. I do not want to pay over $100 for a marathon/$25 for a 5K and rather not do too many. Plus we have two runners in the family so they add up twice as quick. With all that said, there are my favorites that I will need to do every year.

    1. You should check one out! Many bloggers even design their own race bibs for runners to print out & wear on race day. The 2nd Twitter Road Race is coming up on 4/28 – a 10k. You can get the deets from Doug at http://www.dougcassaro.com. 🙂

  5. I was just thinking about this while running this AM – I don’t know what goes into a race, but I hate that it’s becoming so exclusive! I wish there were more options for deferrment based on need or sponsorships – everyone deserves a chance to race if they want to!

  6. New follower here! I completely agree with you! I am fairly new to the blogging world and think that the virtual race options are absolutely amazing. I am going to stick to local races and splurge maybe once a year on an expensive one!

    1. Thanks, Kelly…and welcome! I’ve checked out your blog too and I’m LOVING your blog name. 🙂 And I think you should become a runner but don’t worry, I’ll find a way to lure you in!

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