Race Fee Ridiculousness

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I’ve been training really hard lately. I mean really, really hard. I’m in what I feel like is the best shape of my life. In 2008, I ran a 1:07 10 mile race (6:42 pace) that I consider my best race I’ve ever run. Right around that time, I ran an 8-mile tempo in 53 minutes (6:37 pace) and I ran a 17 mile long run in 1:57 (6:52 pace). Last week, I ran that same 8-mile tempo on the treadmill in 52:46 (6:35 pace) and am hoping to build on that. My goal is to run some really fast race times this spring once the snow and ice melt at a variety of distances.

I know my first race will be coming up in a couple weeks when I run the Perham Freeze Your Face 5k. I love supporting our local cross country team, but I also love the fact that they keep their race fees reasonable. In fact, all of their races are reasonable. The two 5ks they put on during the year cost $20 ($25 if you wait until race day) and the half marathon is $35 ($40 on race day). The races are very professional with accurate courses, water stops, food at the finishing line, chip timing, bathroom facilities, and partially closed courses (or at least people there to stop traffic at intersections). It costs a certain amount of money to put on a quality race, but why is it that our races are a tremendous fundraiser yet are still cheaper than most races?

On a nice(ish) weekend March thru November, there is nothing I would rather do than run a race. Except, I’m not sure how many races I’ll actually enter. In 2012, I ran 14 races which is about the same amount that I ran between 2008-2011 combined. I have a handful of races that I’ll always run if I’m not busy no matter what, but race fees have me really questioning how many races I should be running.

There are a handful of races in my own backyard that just don’t make sense to me. $35 to run a 7k (~4.4 miles) in Pelican Rapids (20 miles away). $60 to run a half marathon in Nisswa (about an hour drive). A ten mile race just 10 miles away from me that costs an absurd $60. The absolute worst offenders are the new “themed” races. Care to run a “Warrior Race” or a “Color Run”? That’ll be $70-100 for a 5k. I’m sure they are a lot of fun. But for that same $100, I can either
a) run a 20-40 minute race or
b) go see a few bands I really like such as bandsRa Ra Riot, Atmosphere, and Gaslight Anthem and still have enough money to get a moderately decent seat to a Timberwolves game and Twins game. Probably would even have enough money left over to pay a babysitter.

Races are one area in my life where I’m not opposed to spending money (See: 14 races entered in 2012), but something needs to be done about the $30-35 5ks, $40-60 10ks, the $60+ half marathons, and I won’t even get started on the full marathons. Want to run the 2013 NYC marathon? I’m sure it will increase over this year’s $255 ($60 of which goes to NYPD).

What makes me upset is when you run an expensive race and can just see it just a cash grab for some organization. If you put on a $60 half marathon, I’m going to directly compare it with the Fargo Half which is equally expensive, but, in my opinion, one of the best run races in America (despite having the same mediocre shirts year after year). Usually, if I run an expensive race, I expect a marked course that is accurate and organized. I expect traffic control of some sort. I expect accurate (and possible chip) timing. I expect finishing snacks, a decent swag bag, decent support on the race course, and a race drink that doesn’t taste like last year’s watered down, powdered Powerade. If you’ve got an unmarked course, some questionable timing, no finishing snacks, or no organization whatsoever AND the audacity to overcharge me for a race, it will be the last time I ever run that race. For the past (many) years, I’ve run a local 10 mile race that is neither organized or accurate. However, it is $10, so despite my race report complaints that the mile markers are as much as 0.2 miles off, I will continue to run that race.

I really wish more races would do what local running club Lakes Agassiz Pacers experimented with last year. They had two price points… the higher price point was for people who wanted whatever goody (shirt, bag, hat, etc) went with the race. They also had a cheap option (sometimes as low as $5-10) for people who didn’t need a shirt, but just wanted to run the race. I really hope more people run with this idea. However, running is a sport that has an extremely high participation among adults by the highly educated and compensated and sometimes I feel we, as runners, are taken advantage of because of this.

Which is fine. Just know I’m know that a guy that you could count on to run your $20-25 5k or $35 half marathon for the next 10-20 years is never going to pay $40 for your 5k or $60 for your half marathon.

Which brings me back to my treadmill 8-mile tempo run the other day. I had more of a sense of personal accomplishment from running 6:35 pace on a treadmill for 8-miles than probably any other race I ran all last year. I’m sure I will bite the bullet and run a few races with questionable fees this year, but I really wish race organizers would get this in check. It’s getting ridiculous.