Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rising Race Fees

Last week I noticed an article online that reminded me of a post I started months ago but never completed. It asked the question "Are runners being priced out of their own sport? Or are the demographics changing?"After I finished reading it I knew I had to finish what I started.

I've long had a suspicion that race fees have been on the rise, but never took the time to verify. With my renewed interest in the subject I decided look back and see if I wasn't imagining things. I'm one of those people that track everything in Quicken, so it wasn't going to be too difficult.

First, I ran a quick report and found these entry fees from a few years ago:

Date Race Cost
Jul 2007 Red Cross 5k $15
Sep 2007 Senator Stampede 5k $15
Jan 2008 Polar Bear 5k $15
Feb 2008 Resurrection Runs $15
Mar 2008 Founder's Day 5k $20
Apr 2009 Wright Flyers 5k $15
May 2008 CityFest 5k $18
May 2008 Pancake Run For Missions 5k $12
Nov 2008 Turkey Burner 5k $18

Keep in mind that I likely signed up for each of these races during the early registration period. I don't have anything to refer back to, but I probably saved a few dollars per race doing this.

Next, I started looking at more recent races. Since my training schedule has kept me from running in many smaller races, I wasn't able to find everything in Quicken. So, I scoured and our local running club's website for early registration fees.

Date Race Cost
Oct 2010 Chili Trot 5k $18
Nov 2010 Turkey Burner 5k $18
Feb 2011 Polar Bear 5k $16
Feb 2011 Run for the Kids 5k $20
Feb 2011 Trinity Run the Race 5k $25
Mar 2011 Resurrection Runs $17
Mar 2011 Centerpoint 5k $15
Apr 2011 Wright Flyers 5k $21

I tried my best to find the same races to compare against each other, but had to make due with just a few. What I discovered was a bit of a surprise. For the most part the fee hikes were either non-existent or modest. Sure, there were a couple of standouts like Wright Flyers jumping $6 (yes, that's the early registration fee) and Trinity charging $25, but other than that prices are still comparable.

So, what's lead me to believe that race fees have jumped significantly? I have a few theories.

  • The economy. Maybe money's just tighter and every dollar counts more now than it did a couple of years ago.
  • I procrastinate more. When I first started racing I would sign up for events well in advance. They would server as carrots for my training, so I was really good about being on the ball. These days I'm more likely to make up my mind much later in the game and miss the reduced fee deadline.
  • I don't enter as many small races now as I did a couple of years ago. Fees for half marathons and marathons are understandably higher, so perhaps that's skewed my perception.
  • The Seaside Half Marathon. I hate to pick on an individual race, but the organizers of this one have made it an easy target. I ran this race in 2009 and gladly shucked out the $55 to enter. This year when a friend mentioned doing it again this March I balked at the $90 price tag. And that's for the early registration. After December 17th they hiked it up to $115. I sure hope whoever goes really, really likes their hallmark Vera Bradley bag!
  • Schwag bags and race amenities have gone south. When I first started racing organizers seemed to put quite a bit of effort into their goody bags and refreshments. I remember coming home and dumping out all kinds of things on the kitchen counter. These days you're more likely to get a bag with a few flyers in it.

Whether I'm right or wrong, I will say that race fees don't seem to be affecting the number of participants at races. That Seaside Half? Yeah, it sold out long ago. And just a couple of weeks ago a local 5k, Cruising the Creekwalk, had over 400 finishers, which is an outstanding turnout for our area.

Have you noticed a rise in race fees the last few years? Can you think of any exorbitant offenders? Have you opted out of a race because of costs? Let me know in the comments.


  1. The Rock'n'Roll events have increased over the years. The inaugural RnR San Antonio (2008) cost me $65.00 for early registration ... ended up pulling out due to an injury that took forever to heal. This year's event will cost me $90. Will it deter me from entering? Nope. It's all about the reward at the end. Not the medal, the incredible feeling of completion!

  2. I think your sample was too small. I have no quicken data to back me up, but for the first time I find myself balking at the price of events. $40 is too much for a 5K or 10K and that seems to be the going rate these days, unless you sign up months in advance.