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Are Race Fees Too High and Justified?

Posted Dec 01 2010 1:31pm

During #runchat the other night there was a discussion about race fees.  I never really thought about them, I see them as a necessary evil- if I want to run a race then I have to pay to enter that race.  Never has the cost of a race turned me away nor have I ever really sat down and examined what I pay.  After the #runchat I thought more and more about this and something wasn’t sitting right.  Was I paying too much for race fees?  Or better yet, were race fees getting too expensive?  After all is said and done are the race fees worth paying?

First let me start locally and the NYRR, as much as I love them and as amazing as each of their races are, they have an absolute monopoly on the races and fees here in NYC.  Have you seen any other successful races by outside organizers in NYC?  Sure, there are a few but not many.  After you buy their membership, $40 per year, and go through 9 races for automatic entry for the Marathon (9 x about $25 per race) plus your Marathon application fee of $11 then the race fee of $156 you have invested over $432 to run.  Again, I am not complaining at all since no city and organization can hold a candle to the quality events they produce (they also raise and donate an ass load of money which is an important note)- I happily pay these fees, but with increased costs of putting on a race, competition from sponsors, a fledgling economy and high unemployment in NYC is the NYRR looking after its “runners” by continuing to raise race fees?  Is the NYRR setting the standard that justifies other race directors to set similar fees?

Let’s look at the Chicago Marathon, in 1977 the race was $5, with inflation that calculates to just over $18 in 2010 money.  In 2010 the fee was $125 that just about 45,000 runners paid… joking here, this is big business.  I am not a race organizer nor do I know what a budget looks like for putting one of these races on, however, if the race fee for 2011 goes up to $140 as rumored in online chat boards, how is that really helping or doing good for promoting running.  During a time when people in the Midwest are out of jobs, working more for less, how is the signature running event can justify an increase of 12% in its race fee?  Again, I am not complaining at all, but does this all trickle down to local smaller races and are people being pinched out of them because of increasing fees? Are new runners not looking to get involved because of increasing fees?

I am amazed that with some of the larger races I run that I am still getting cotton shirts.  For real?  Who actually RUNS in these shirts?  I’d rather the fees not increase and get no shirt.  Most races have learned and are either sponsored by a company that provides tech shirts or are giving out tech shirts.  I would say 90% of the NYRR races are still cotton shirts, and that is fine since the fees are not that high for each individual race.  The Wheeling 20k in 2010 gave out cotton shirts, but the race fee was only $25.  They ended up raising over $30,000 and boast one of the toughest courses I have ever participated on, so that was justifiable.

Rock ‘n Roll Philly was $85 sponsored by Brooks and had a Brooks tech shirt and finisher medal.  Gasparilla Tampa Half was $60, sponsored by Nike and had an awesome Nike long sleeve tech shirt and also had a medal. The National Half Marathon was $65 and had a generic tech shirt.  The Boulder Spring Half was $55, gave me a free tech hat and a tech shirt with a finishers medal.  Finally, the best race of all with the best race shirt of the year was my $15 10k St. Pete Turkey Trot, go figure.

Fees, fees, fees.  I will continue to pay them because I have to and I understand that someone needs to foot the bill.  I am interested to know what others think about the fees and the value you feel you get in return.  I mean, there have been days that I have enjoyed running 13.1 miles on my own and I didn’t have to pay a nickel for that.  I hope race organizers are finding what the best balance is and not assuming that ever increasing fees are okay.  We do have to the power as runners to say no and run for free in our parks and streets.

How do you feel about race fees?  Too expensive or just right? Would you ever not run a race because of the fees?

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