Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Counting The Costs

Ironman New York charged $900 per entry this year, and sold out in 15 minutes.  The New York Marathon is now over $200, and maybe one in five get in via lottery.  I’m running Rock and Roll Seattle this weekend—they charge $140 or so, unless you register early, in which case you get the “deal” of $90 or so.  Sold out months ago. Western States is this weekend too---GOOD LUCK Rich, Monica and other friends—I think that one cost nearly $400. If you're reading this, you probably know about the odds of getting into that one.

On the other end of the spectrum, I ran Lake Youngs Ultra a week or two ago, signing up two days before:  $40, which got me aid along the way, a great barbq at the end, and significant goodies to boot.  I know the Green River Marathon earlier this month was free, as always, and is rightfully proud of the fact.  Lost Lake 50k at $40 is one of the greatest deals on the Planet Known As Earth, considering the trails, the amenities, the RD.  Skagit Flats is also a great deal.  Waving the flag for the Skagit peeps on the last two a bit, but if you know them, you also know they’re too legit to quit. 

OK, so prices of races differ, as does availability.  Some races are a total ripoff, others are great deals.  What more to say about the inequities in pricing?  There is a Latin phrase, "Res Ipso Facto," which means, "the thing speaks for itself," or maybe in rapper terms, it is what it is. And so it is, but I'm going to lay down a few comments about costs just the same.

Now, I try not to run races that I think are a total jip, but this is easier said than done.  It seems the bigger the event, both in reputation and racer counts, the higher the cost.  Big city events charge more too.  Truth be told, I end up paying the higher prices sometimes, rationalizing the purchase with old truisms like “this is my life, we only live once," "it's only money" and "I can afford it.” So, this year I put in for New York, I put in for Western States.  I guess despite the price inequity, I’m still buying. I can rationalize with the best of them. 

It would be nice if there was more talk was out there about the cost of races.  Invoke market forces, Grand Economy. It would be nice if some races dropped their prices--when do you hear about that happening? Maybe make a big deal about it too. "We slash prices."  Put some price pressure on these Nordstrom type races. It might be fun to have races use Groupon or auction the entry fees. Sell in bulk, like Costco. The Rainshadow already gives you miles and views in bulk.

For the non-profit races, it  would also be nice if race budgets get a little more exposure. Maybe websites could publish budgets, so runners know how much goes for what. There is opportunity to highlight volunteer activity with such things too. Scandals do happen with races--witness the Seattle Marathon's donation PR fiasco of a couple years ago.

One reason I do ultras more these days is that it costs less than marathoning, generally.  It’s not the only reason, or the main reason, but it is a consideration.   I’ve done many road marathons, but they’re now mostly above $70, with many creeping towards $150.  

Meanwhile, many ultras are under $50, and some are free.  Ultras often give you a choice and prices break related to shirts.  And even when an ultra is more expensive—for example, $195 for Cascade Crest 100, its still usually a great deal, considering the all night aid stations, the big breakfast (in CC's case), search and rescue needs, RD extraordinary efforts, and all the other typical amenities. 

So that’s race fees.  Travel costs are another thing.  This year already I’ve raced in Virginia.  Canada too, but that doesn’t really count for budget purposes, since their money is different.  But travel can get expensive.  I spent a bunch on trips to Colorado, California, Utah, Hawaii, Virginia and New Mexico the past couple years. Money well spent, but I try not to go overboard.

Shoes.  I go through lots of them.  Socks.  Gels.  Stinger waffles.  Skittles.  Jackets, sleeves, hats, water carrying devices.  Shorts.  I never buy shirts—I have too many of them already. Running clubs. Subscriptions. Yak Trax. Gloves. More socks.

Anyway, the costs all add up.  I spend a whole lot more on running than I used to.  That’s fine—events, running and friends have a bigger part of my life.  I could wrap this post up in some tidy conclusion, saying it’s worth it, etc., and we’ll all live healthily ever after.  And maybe that's true.

But I don't wish to obfuscate my real point, which is that I do indeed pay attention to costs when making my recreational decisions. And some races are a ripoff.  I’m running one this weekend. 

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