Race day is one of my favorite days of the year. I love the expo, the adrenaline on race morning, the crowds, and the chance to put my will to the test and see what I’m made of. These are arguably all things that you cannot get while running the same distance on your own (although a group track workout may *almost* simulate the last one).
One thing I don’t like about races is the price. Lately it seems that race registrations have gone up. Half marathons (correct me if I’m wrong) used to be in the $55-75 range and marathons in the $65-95. Now a half is $90-100 (if you’re running RnR even higher) and fulls are $100-120. 5ks are usually $30-40. It’s hard for me to fork over money to run a race that lasts less time than it takes to drive there. The worst of all races is the Rock n Roll series which charge $110-$165 for the half and $125-175 for the full (based on 2013 San Diego RnR prices)! The only benefit I see to doing a RnR series race is the music along the course but let’s be honest when you’re hitting the wall at mile 20 the last thing you want is a rock band blaring in your ear.
To put it perspective, I plan to run 3 half marathons, a 15k, and a marathon this year. I may throw in a 10k Turkey Trot. At $90/half, $110/full, $65/15k and $40 for the 10k, that’s $485 in race registrations before including processing fees. Although, now that I added that up, it seems like nothing in comparison to the $600 Ironman entry fee that about 25% of people lose by getting injured or changing plans before the race (most races do not offer refunds and Ironman is one of them). Last year’s races cost me over $1300 (full marathon, two half marathons, half Ironman, Full Ironman). And of course, there are way more costs associated with racing than just the entry fee (see my post on how much it cost me to train for a full Ironman here).
The major races in the most desirable cities charge the most. While researching this topic I found an interesting article that confirmed my suspicions – race prices have gone up. For example, here’s a look at how race fees have increased for some of the most popular races since 2008:
Graph thanks to stridenation.com
If you’re into math, the NY marathon price has gone up 62% over 5 years. That definitely beats inflation.
What’s Included in Your Race Fee
In case you’re curious, your race fee for a running race pays for the following:
- Bib, timing chip (and online race results), t-shirt, food and water
- Race event staff (although most people you will encounter are volunteers)
- Porto-Potty rental
- Insurance (a big one!)
- Police department staffing
- City permits
- Buses to/from start and finish, if necessary
- Prizes for winners and age group finishers
- More that I don’t even know about I’m sure!
Of course, you get more than just the race day and all of the above for that fee. Signing up for a race provides motivation for workouts for months as well as camaraderie if you join a running group or train with friends. Clearly, I think it’s worth it because I continue to sign up for races. However, I don’t race that often (March will be a first with two races but May-July I’m race-free for now). I see some bloggers/twitter friends who race monthly or even twice a month. I’m sure some of them receive sponsored entries but at the end of the day, it all adds up, from the training fuel (gels, bars, etc) to the running shoes to the transportation costs to get to the expo and race day, hotel and flights if its a destination race.
In the end, most fitness endeavors cost money. CrossFit, Dailey Method, triathlon, a fancy gym membership, snowboarding, golfing (possibly the only sport more expensive than triathlon) – it all adds up! But I’m sure the reduction in lifetime healthcare costs will make it all even out in the end (or the savings from fewer nights out). And if not, at least you had fun right!?
What is the most you’ve paid for a running race? What is the most you are willing to pay? How often do you race? Does cost even play a part in which races you choose?
Yeah, I totally feel you on the race registration fees. I’m running NYCM this year and am not looking forward to shelling out $250 for the race (not to mention the cost of two years’ NYRR membership plus the 9 races I had to register for and complete in order to qualify). But whenever I hear people lamenting on twitter about the cost of races, I know there are dozens of small races near where they live that they could register for if they wanted to. The cost of racing the big ones has gone up because marathoning is so popular now, but that popularity means that there are more small races popping up everywhere to handle the demand. Because the NYCM is going to drain my race budget, I’m making a $50 half marathon my goal spring race. They’re out there if you look for them!
Amy @ Writing While Running
Yeah, I just registered for a small, local 20K race for $35, which is great! I tend to avoid the larger city races because they tend to be much more expensive, more crowded, and just not as personal as the smaller races. But there is a good feel that you get at a big race that you miss at smaller ones. And being early to register helps out A LOT. I am usually not prepared enough to look that far ahead to get the earliest registration fee 🙂
I nearly always register very far in advance to get the cheapest price but I do tend to run the big races. I should look for those smaller ones!
Yup. Running is experiencing its Second Coming nowadays (the first in the 70s/80s).
17,000 people just paid $175 for the Disney 1/2 and bought up all those bibs in a record 26 hours.
I think for me I look and see what the dates are for price increases. After that I shop on the web and see if there are coupon codes, etc to get more of a discount. A good example was I was looking at the RR 1/2 here in Portland and the entry was pretty steep so I debated and on one day back in Dec they offered a special one day discount for almost 1/2 off the entry. Shop around and do some reserach is the best advice I could give. Good luck on your upcoming season.
I live in Canada and have found that the race fees have also gone up here. I just ran a half marathon last Sun that had a $85 entry fee. Got a gym bag, medal and brunch for that. We live in prairie farming country, not very close to larger cities where the runs are all held. It may be hard to believe and crazier even for me to admit, but I live about 3 1/2 hours away from a city of decent size so we always have the cost of hotel, gas and meals. A run for my husband and I including fees is usually $400. Hard to cough that money out too often. But we continue to do this which might be the craziest of all. There is just something special about races; they motivate, invigorate, challenge, and validate. For me, that maybe priceless.