How to Cope with Increasing Sign Up Fees at Running Events
I’ve just signed up for the Geneva Marathon and it hit me while I was submitting the payment information: Running is the most expensive “inexpensive sport.” After you factor in the price of shoes, nutrition, gear, massages, recovery tools, and race fees, this activity can quickly empty your wallet. A 2013 Washington Post article examined this increasing price problem and calculated the cost of various races per mile. The most expensive races were in the “for-profit” sector, such as the Color Run, which typically charges more than $15 per mile.
Where does the money go? According to the race director of the Marine Corps Marathon, here’s a breakdown:
• 36% of your entry fee goes towards course operations;
• 34% towards course enhancement;
• 34% towards security;
• 22% towards miscellaneous operations;
• 13% towards runner rewards (i.e. shirt, medal, etc.);
• 12% towards food;
• 6% towards actual cost of registration
Are you confused as to how those numbers add up to a total greater than 100%? The Marine Corps Marathon has sponsorship that also contributes an extra $58 for each runner that participates in order to fully cover the costs, without charging more money.
Nevertheless, entry fees continue to rise. This year, the 2017 New York City Marathon will cost $295 for non-New York residents and $358 for non-US residents, up from $158 in 2008. Are you feeling the pinch due to ever increasing sign up fees? Listed here are ways to cope with this problem.
Oftentimes large races have various events throughout the year that require the help of volunteers. Occasionally, volunteering can result in free or reduced entry into future events. Spartan, Raid, Rugged Maniac, and Terrain Racing, among others, all offer this option.
Opt Out of the T-Shirt
For smaller races (and sometimes larger ones) there is often an option to not receive a t-shirt, which takes $10 – $15 off the price. If the preference is not listed on the entry form, inquire with the race director to see if a deal can be made.
Run for Charity
Certain organizations, such as Team in Training, will cover your race entry fee in exchange for fundraising for a worthy cause. Every fundraising organization has different registration policies, however, so it is important to understand exactly what you are getting yourself into before signing up for any money-raising obligations.
Put Races on your Wish List
By now your friends and family members are probably used to giving you running-related gifts at the holidays. Why not put race entry on your Christmas list? This gift is perfect for any runner, especially for the one that is hard to buy for. For an expensive race, such as the New York City Marathon, multiple family members can go in together to cover the cost.
Choose 1 – 2 Big Races Per Year
At the beginning of each year create your race calendar. No matter how busy you are, you can take 1 hour to do some research. Decide on 1 – 2 expensive races, and then look to see how you can cut corners for the rest. For instance, instead of choosing an expensive for-profit race such as the Color Run, Hot Chocolate 5k, or other “gimmick” race, look for a less expensive, local option. Runners can frequently save up to half their registration price by choosing a local charity 5k as opposed to a “brand name” race.
Don’t save registration until the last minute. Race fees rise tremendously in the days, weeks, and months leading up to a big event. If you have a certain “bucket list” race that you would like to run in the future, keep track of pricing throughout the year. Typically, large races have drastically reduced entry fees the day after the race has finished.
For instance, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis was only $65 when registration opened, down from the normal price of $115. Many runners wait until the last minute to register just in case they become injured or a work obligation occurs, but nowadays races are trending towards deferral programs and bib-sell options that reduce this anxiety.
Search for Coupon Codes
If you are signing up for a for-profit race, look for coupon codes online. Websites like RetailMeNot, EBATES, and Groupon sometimes offer discounts for these popular races.
Seek out Race Ambassadors via Social Media
Another option is to seek out referral codes and discounts via race ambassadors. Races like the Pittsburgh Marathon, Trail Run Events, and the San Francisco Marathon use race ambassadors to garner hype for their events. These people are typically bloggers or people who are active on social media. Occasionally, race ambassadors can provide a discounted registration code.
Alternatively, if there is a race you have always wanted to run but cannot afford, apply to their ambassador program. Race ambassadors frequently receive a free entry, as well as hotel accommodations or travel reimbursements. A wide variety of race ambassadors are generally chosen, meaning runners of all ability levels are eligible for this opportunity.
Ask the Race Director
Even though it can be uncomfortable, it never hurts to ask what you could do in return for a free or reduced race entry. If you are a sub-elite runner (sub-3:00:00 marathon for women, sub-2:30:00 for men, or equivalent) many races can offer free entry and possibly a reduced hotel rate. For smaller races, sub-elite standards may be more relaxed.
If your race times are not elite, you still may have a chance to have your entry fee reduced. Offer your services such as blogging, filling packet pick up bags, social media advertisement, or whatever else you can manage. While this method is not guaranteed, you don’t lose anything by asking.
Keep an eye on the social media accounts for your favorite races throughout the year. Many will offer promotional contests where the prize is a free entry, including hotel and travel. Just make sure that for any contest you enter you will be ready to race in case you’re chosen!
Run a Virtual Race
If you aren’t concerned with the competition aspect of racing, consider running a virtual race. This option is considerably cheaper than a typical race (i.e., $25 – $30 for a half marathon) and still provides a bib number, race medal, and benefits a worthy cause. To complete a virtual run, simply sign up and then complete the race distance within the given time frame.
After your result has been uploaded to the proper website you will receive your finisher’s medal. A virtual run can be completed anytime, anywhere, and with anyone, making this a great alternative to traditional road races.
Set up a No-Frills Race
What are is your motivation for racing? To have fun with friends? To challenge yourself? To try something new? Unless your motivation is to qualify for a race like the Boston Marathon, consider setting up your own race with a handful of friends.
Approach companies for sponsorship that could benefit from advertisement among fit individuals, such as local running stores, physical therapists, massage therapists, and other health services. The race can be as informal as setting up a general route and seeing who can complete it the fastest, or as formal as hiring a timing company to log official results. Look to others in your running community to see who else is feeling the pinch of entry fees and come up with your own solution.