Are races getting too expensive?

Recently as I’ve started to plan my 2016 race calendar, I’ve been taking more notice of the cost of race entry fees. I’ve seen several 10k events costing over £50, and a marathon costing more than my entire summer 2016 running budget. As an organiser of a number of tennis tournaments, I appreciate the amount of time and effort that must be involved in the organisation of a large race. There are the advertising costs, insurance costs, race day infrastructure related costs, race licence costs, course measurement costs etc.

Although I’m fully aware that there are still loads of reasonably priced races out there, it just feels as if the cost of entering some of the larger races has increased quite rapidly over the last 4-5 years.

When did races get so expensive?

The Runner’s World race finder tool enabled me to locate the historical entry fees (I do love a bit of research!) of a couple of contrasting races in the Midlands. I’ve decided not to name and shame them. I’ve included the costs (where available) of entering both races in advance as both an affiliated and as an unaffiliated runner.

I would have produced a couple of pretty graphs, but frankly after three years of producing pretty pointless graphs for my PhD, I’ve had enough of Excel.

“Race A” is a relatively small (field of less than 1000 runners) 10k race that takes place on country lanes. The route isn’t closed to traffic.Race AI understand that the cost of virtually everything has increased since 2003, but is an increase of £10.00 really justifiable? The format of the race hasn’t changed since 2003. In 2016 unaffiliated entries will be £20.

“Race B” is a large (several thousand runners) half marathon that takes place on main roads in and around the centre of a major city. These roads have to be completely closed to traffic for several hours. I accept that the cost of holding “Race B” (policing, road closures, insurance etc.) has probably increased a lot since 2008.Race BThe increase in the cost of entry fees between 2010 and 2011 was particularly impressive! It’s amazing what happened to the entry fees when the half marathon was added to the Great Run series and rebranded. Although the event was improved, I’m not so sure that these improvements justified the large increase in entry fees. What happened to discounted entry fees for affiliated runners?

Unfortunately I found numerous examples of races like Races A and B. Do the organisers of large races (and in some cases relatively small races) think that runners are made of money?

Am I the only runner who thinks that races are getting too expensive? Are runners being priced out of larger events?

As I wanted to make sure that reaching middle-age hasn’t suddenly turned me into Miss Stingy, I decided to get the views and opinions of other runners. I used the new poll feature on twitter (huge thanks to the @UKRunChat guys for sharing my tweet). The results were pretty conclusive. 86 per cent of the people who voted in my poll (thank-you) were of the opinion that runners are being priced out of larger events. The results of my Fetcheveryone poll were similar with approximately 11 per cent of the Fetchies who voted voting no.

Feedback from other runners

My blog post on Fetcheveryone generated quite a lot of feedback…

“I’m sure some price increases are just profiteering, but I also wonder if things like insurance and getting council permissions, etc, account for at least some of the increases?”

“Something going up in price faster than house prices. £18 for a local 10k is steep.”

“I am sticking to local events these days and am restricting the number I do next year. The cost of the bigger events is just too much.”

“Having been closely involved in running a local 10k (no chip timing, ltd goodie bag, just a nice old fashioned race) I would say, no costs have not gone up much, except that you have to do a lot more advertising, both paid and unpaid to get a decent number of people out, such is the number of events available. I concede that some of the city based 10k’s require a lot of staffing/policing/road closures etc and so are more expensive, but I think £1/km is a pretty good guide in general, especially when you look at ParkRun and other free events.”

and

“I fancy the price of trainers has gone up in the same sort of way.”

Thanks Fetchies 🙂

Perhaps I should debate the rising cost of trainers in another blog!

Interestingly, not all of the larger events and races have increased their entry fees virtually every year. Back in 2003 the Silverstone Half cost £15.00 to enter as an affiliated runner. This year the entry fee was £18.00, an increase of £3.00.

What does the future hold?

I’m afraid that if entry fees continue to rise, an increased number of runners will be unable to afford to enter some of the larger events. I’m also concerned that the increasing costs (not to mention the red tape) associated with event organisation will result in the loss of the slightly more affordable, smaller local club events.

As this discussion is totally one-sided at the moment, I would really, really love the organiser of a larger event to share their thoughts and opinions 🙂

Do you think that races are getting too expensive?

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20 thoughts on “Are races getting too expensive?

  1. Helen says:

    Fantastic blog post!

    I get the rising entry fees as organisers have so many expenses to pay out, but no one is getting paid much more and with some major events now in excess of £50 – and that’s before the card processing fees, the hotel, the transport, it gets an expensive business!

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    • Emma says:

      Thanks Helen!
      I’d love to know how much profit some of the larger events make. I’m definitely not getting paid enough to enter some of the London events I’ve seen advertised recently.
      Perhaps if an expensive event offered race transfers/partial refunds I’d be more willing to part with my money 🙂

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  2. MrsB says:

    I’m ok to pay up to £60 for a very popular half marathon or a marathon in or around London. For 10k-s, which I do more often, I don’t want to pay more than £20. I’m not on a tight budget but if a 10k race in London is £40, which one race that I was eyeing is, I am skipping it.

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    • Emma says:

      Although I’m prepared to pay slightly more for popular events, I think my limit for a half marathon would be £40. The prices of some London 10k races are getting ridiculous. Even the discounted “early bird” rates are a joke. I guess if runners keep paying and filling up events, event organisers will keep on increasing entry fees.

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      • Emma says:

        Given the amount of bad PR the race has received over the years, I also have no idea how the British 10k has survived! Some of the complaints on the Runner’s World forums were incredible. No water, chaos at the start, waiting hours to collect bags at the finish… I guess there must be a continuous supply of new runners who are willing to part with £50 to experience running in the centre of London.

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  3. Julia says:

    Great post. Please do a graph! Some races are quite pricey. I noticed the price of Brighton Marathon was quite a lot higher than other marathons. There are also a couple of 10ks I’ve noticed costing over £30. Entry fees is the main reason I can’t get on with triathlon, hate for running to go the same way.

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    • Emma says:

      Thanks for reading my slightly ranty post and for commenting Julia!!

      I might plot some graphs when I’ve looked at a few more races.

      I was going to enter Brighton last year but when I saw the price I didn’t bother! I worked out that by the time I factored in train, hotel and other costs it was just too expensive.

      A lot of London 10ks are getting really expensive. I’m also concerned that runs are eventually going to become as expensive as triathlons to enter. If that happens then I’ll be limited to parkruns and smaller, local club events.

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  4. wanderwolf says:

    I think the price of shoes, if anything, has gone down because of all the different ways to get a pair. You can get them in a personally run running store, in larger department stores, online, from other runners… with the internet, the options are “nearly” endless.
    However, races are increasing based on the costs increasing (more runners and less sponsors [another interesting development] means more fruit they have to buy for the post-race party), but also, perhaps, some amount of profit-gouging capitalism. Racing has become A LOT more popular, thus the demand is higher, thus the price can go higher because the provider knows there are enough consumers.
    I don’t like it…

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    • Emma says:

      I think that the cost of trainers and running gear has gone down quite substantially since I started running. I remember visiting a specialist running shop and paying £100+ for a pair of trainers back in 2003. There weren’t really any other options. Now as you said there are loads more options. Virtually every High Street store now seems to stock an active wear/running range.

      I worry that as running becomes increasingly popular the larger events will become more and more expensive to enter. I just wonder how much profiteering is taking place. Only this morning I saw a runner complaining that a 5k event had decided not to give out medals at the last minute. Apparently this was due to a larger than predicted number of entries. Not the best experience for a new runner.

      I’m also slightly concerned that only the larger events with corporate sponsors will be able to survive if the costs associated with organising races continue to increase.

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  5. Amanda says:

    Lots have gone up too much yes, but I will still pay for the ones I really want to do. There is a 10k held in the olympic park every month in London, £15.00 which may seem pricey but not compared to a lot of other London events. I happily pay that! Brighton marathon fees…… no bloody chance. I could go on holiday for the money I would spend on that weekend.

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    • Emma says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my rather ranty blog entry!

      I don’t think that £15 for a 10k in London is unreasonable, £50 for a 10k however seems excessive. There are still plenty of reasonably priced events out there, you just need to know where to look.

      As for the Brighton marathon, no chance! I’d rather spend the money on a weekend away somewhere 🙂

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  6. ros says:

    The bigger races are certainly getting rather expensive. I know many will cite cost of closing roads etc. and I think this will bring it’s own problems. If local councils can make a small profit on road closures for the bigger races then they are going to want roads closed for club races. So potentially we are in danger of losing some of the best, small, less than £25 to enter 10Ks and HMs.
    The logistics of supplying water in bottles etc etc to 1000s of runners must be more expensive than water in cups to a few hundred, but other than that, economy of scale should make providing T-shirts/goody bags etc. cheaper .
    Advertising shouldn’t be expensive – if a race is good it will fill without glossy ads in magazines – the best smaller races fill within hours of opening with very little advertising – just word of mouth.
    So I am also interested to hear what “the big guys” have to say.

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    • Emma says:

      I’m also concerned that larger races with more spending power will replace smaller events! I’m amazed that some of the smaller events in the Midlands have managed to survive. They don’t seem to attract very many entries, charge reasonable entry fees and give out decent goody bags. I wonder how many events are dependent on the goodwill of a core group of volunteers? The point you made about road closures has concerned me. Local councils always seem to be on the hunt for ways to make a profit. I’m still waiting to hear what the “big guys” have to say. I have a feeling I’ll be waiting for a while 🙂

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  7. Emilie says:

    I ran the Great North Run for the first time this year, was absolutely blown away by the cost so won’t be able to do it again 😕

    The Manchester Run has increased year on year and as much as I enjoy it, I’m questioning doing it again. I’m fairly new to running in that I’ve only run a few big races, but with the huge prices I don’t think I’ll be able to do many more!

    I would love to know more about the costings behind putting on the runs, I don’t expect them ever to be very cheap but I’d love to see a breakdown.

    Glad you’ve got the conversation going on this anyway! 😊

    Like

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

      The Great North Run is really expensive but I suspect that the price will continue to increase while the demand for places is so high. By the time I factored in transport and accommodation costs I worked out that I couldn’t afford to complete the Great North Run.

      I have no idea why the Manchester Run has got so expensive. I’d be interested to know exactly how much it costs to hold a large event. At the moment there are still loads of very well organised, smaller and cheaper events. I just hope these events aren’t priced out by increasing insurance, policing costs etc.

      I’m still waiting to get some feedback from an event organiser. I suspect that I’ll be waiting for a while 🙂

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  8. Maria @ runningcupcake says:

    A really interesting post. I think that the entry fees change my expectations (eg for a small local 10 mile it’s something like £15 to enter and you get a technical t at the end, but I would not expect any goody bag or photographers or anything), whereas with a bigger branded event if I had paid more I would expect a good medal, proper bag drop, goody bag etc. But I do tend to enjoy the smaller events. The worst run I did was the Great South run- I would never do that again for numerous reasons, and it wasn’t the most expensive. So although the race entry might put me off, I would still put more on the reputation of the race or what I think it will end up being. I did Brighton marathon this year, but I chose it because I knew I could travel there easily, plus it was in the school holidays and I didn’t want to have to work the next day, plus I love running by the sea. So perhaps it was more costly than other marathons, but it ticked other boxes that they could not.

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    • Emma says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on the increasing costs of race entries 🙂
      If I pay less than £10 to enter a local 10k event then I don’t even expect a medal. A bottle of water and a banana at the finish is enough for me. If I pay over £30 for a 10k event I’d expect as a minimum a nice medal, technical t-shirt (that isn’t the size of a tent) and a decent goody bag. A lot of smaller events are now providing free race photos, it’s a shame the larger more corporate events can’t do this. I’m sorry you didn’t have a very good experience at the Great South Run. I haven’t read many positive reviews of the Great South Run. Like the Great North Run it’s an event I no longer have any desire to enter. As a Midlander I’m not really a huge fan of the seaside. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t like the costs associated with entering the Brighton marathon. I suspect that I would probably be prepared to spend similar amounts of money to enter a different marathon 🙂

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