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Nov 15, 2014

Inside the costs of races.........

Like many runners, I love running races in the area and also traveling to new areas to run a race.  I've run over 80+ races since I started running and it's a great motivator for your training.  I'm sure I'm probably on the extreme since I run anywhere from 12-25 races a year.

There has always been lots of discussion about the cost of races to runners.  These fees can run anywhere from $15 for a small, no frills 5k race to a major marathon like NYC which is $255 + $11 processing fee.  I thought it would be interesting to break down the costs involved in races.  I think there are many runners out there that just don't understand the costs that are involved to the race organization and are much more than you think.

I'll examine what I believe to be costs for your mid size race(500-2500 runners).  I received some input from some local race directors but the figures you will see below is not for any particular race but general costs involved with planning a running event.  With that introduction, let's dig into the details.

There are many different categories of expenses involved with races and these are in no particular order.  I've also assumed in some of the numbers a race size of 1,000 runners just so you can see a per runner cost.
Many races use Active
Processing fees - I know, you think perhaps that because runners pay a fee online to register that this cost is passed onto the runner.  Well, that's partly true, however, the race is responsible for some costs related to this as well.  On average, about $1/runner to the race company.
Everal Race Management is one of the most known in our area
Timing Company - Of course, any quality race is going to have professional timing and it happens to be a fairly large part of the race costs but it's expected by most runners.  Typically there would be a set fee no matter what size of race, then as you go over that number, there is a per runner costs.  Total cost can range from $3-5/runner.
Custom bibs cost more
Bibs - Prices can vary on this.  You could go with inexpensive bibs that just have a number but many races these days customize their bibs, some even allow the name of the runner to be on the bib.   Many are also offering QR codes too.  $0.50/runner

Race management(paid staff) - The larger the race, the larger the costs.  For something of this size, likely not more than $1,000 for the race.  $1/runner
Detroit Police at Mustache Dache
Police - Police is also another major expense for the race management and it's one that's really mandatory based on the City and what they require.  No they don't do it for free!  It could be as little as $500 and and much as $5,000.  You typically need to have a minimum number of officers as well as a minimum number of hours to pay them too.  Also, doing a race on Sunday - yes, double time.  I'll go a little higher than middle on this $3,000.  $3/runner
When you got to go, you got to pay
Port-o-potties - $40 per port-o-potty times 10 for a cost of $400 or $0.40/runner
Barricades all the way back at mile marker 13 at the Detroit Marathon
Road Barricade rental - $500 - $0.50/runner

Prizes for AG and overall winners - $500 - $0.50/runner
Signage for Mustache Dache that this was only a small part of what they had
Signage - a variable cost depending on the size of the event but consider that this is not just signs at the start but signs for directions throughout the course, for packet pickup, for mile markers.  Of course, if you buy quality signs, they can be used from year to year.  $500 - $0.50/runner

Announcer - it's fun to have an announcer there but it's not typically free - $150 - $0.15/runner
Food tents for Kona Wicked Halloween - they had 2 large tents and 4-5 smaller tents
Tents - you need tents for numerous things including food, age group awards, first aid, etc - $1,000 - $1/runner
A Luau at Kona Run in June
Music - while not required, having music at the start finish line is a great feature and keeps the party going afterwards too.  $400 - $0.40/runner

Uhaul rental - There are plenty of logistics in a race and all the stuff needs to be transported - $500 - $0.50/runner
Brooks Trail marathon tech shirt - the best in my opinion
T-shirts - T-shirts are also another major expense but everyone expects them.  Whether they are cotton or tech material will depend on the cost but a high quality tech shirt could run $10,000 - $10/runner
Back to the Beach participant glass
Finishers glass - not all races have them but they are a nice option - $1,000 - $1/runner
Pizza at the Ann Arbor Half marathon
Food - finish line race food.  Bagels, bananas or apples, cookies, pizza, Gatorade, water - $1,500 - $1.50/runner
Brooksie Way packet pickup at Oakland University
Facility fees(for packet pickup) - no, the building where packet pickup is not free.  Some races use their running store which is not a direct expense but still has costs related to it. - $1000 - $1/runner
This medal is clearly more cost given it's size - yes, all half marathons got this too
Medals - This is one that many runners are looking for these days.  For a decent 2.5 - 3 inch medal that's a decent thickness, $3,500 or $3.50/runner

Website costs - costs here need to be factored into this annually since the race is typically promoting a race for a year ahead.  $2,000 - $2/runner

City Fee - these can vary widely per City but permits are typically necessary - $200 - 0.20/runner.  In addition, many cities are going to a "per runner" charge.  A race for 1,000 runners could be up to $2/runner or $2,000

EMT support - $500 - $0.50/runner

Marketing costs - Facebook, news ads, websites, t-shirt and graphic design, etc - $5,000 - $5/runner

Postage for marketing - $1,000 - $1/runner

Printing/copying - $1,000 - $1/runner

Liability insurance - $1,000 - $1/runner

Charity(10% of revenues) - $5/runner

Add up those costs and you have $47.95 per runner!  Remember, that's cost not profit!

If you assume an average price in our area for a half marathon of $55, that does not leave much for the race from a profit standpoint -- at $7.05 per runner that's only $7,050.  Not much when you consider the time and effort that goes into an event that can take almost a year to plan and can require 100-300 volunteers.  I think this is the reason why races have started to increase their numbers where they can in order to make more money whether it's for charity or for profit.  Even if all the profits were going to charity, that still only $12,000.

Of course, one of the key things I'm not taking into consideration is sponsorship to help pay for things.  With these, the race might gain back anywhere from $2,500-$15,000 depending on the size and popularity of the event.  I would imaging that the number would be on the lower size especially for a new race that has yet to prove itself in the market.

The above is also assuming a basic event.  It's not any fancy post race party.  It's not something that offers special food or entertainment at the beginning and end of the race.  It's not counting all the bling that you might get like huge medals, extra shirts, sweatshirts, or other unique things race directors come up with.  These items just push the costs even higher which leads to a higher race registration for runners.

I know all of us try to watch our money closely and we get to decide where we want to spend it so having lots of race options is an advantage for us runners.  It also means that races need to come up with new and exciting ideas to lure runners to their race.  Unfortunately, to do that, it means race costs go up.

So next time you are thinking about signing up for a race, keep in mind that the hard work, time and commitment to put a race together for us, much of that race registration fee goes into putting on the event and is not making anyone rich.  It is, however, providing choices for runners to race.

If you don't like the costs, you can always just run outside your door and not race but I, for one, really enjoy the race atmosphere and welcome new races into the area.  I know there's a cost and I'm willing to pay for it to keep these companies offering more races for our area.  We are very lucky to have so many choices for races in our area.

So tell me what you think about race fees?  Are they too high?  Would you pay more?

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

1 comment:

  1. It all adds up if you look at it like that.
    I ran a marathon on the weekend and it cost all on about $10, so what did I get? a timed race with water and coke on route plenty of toilets and food for sale at the end... T-shirt extra...