I have been asked to share my opinion on the subject above for Run With an Idea. The idea for the discussion comes from the entry fee for The British 10k, which boasts that it’s £50 entry fee will give you access to one of “the world’s greatest road race route[s] through the heart of central London passing many of the capital’s truly world class historic landmarks.” As well as a medal and a couple of technical tees.
As a responsible adult, I use online banking to keep track of my spending. I’m not really a shopoholic, and most of my non-bill money goes on food (in fact, a disturbing amount of my money is swallowed up – ha, I’m hilarious – by things to eat). I don’t even spend that much on running stuff. Usually 2-3 pairs of shoes a year, a few sports bras, and maybe a couple of pairs of tights to replace ones I’ve worn so much they have become a sunny day away from obscene. Technical race shirts mean I don’t even have to worry about my top half (apart from already mentioned sports bras, because these are important). Basically, since entering the world of full-time employment and becoming too old for cramming my sweaty body in a 7 inch gap at the bar, I no longer make this face when I log in to check my balance:
I also check by balance more than twice a year, so, you know, progress. But while Quentin Tarantino’s weakness is feet, and George Best’s weakness was getting drunk, my weakness, according to my bank statements, is entering races.
In 2012, I took part in 25 races. This year, I have run 17 races, and I’m signed up for 7 more. So far.
Some of the races I have taken part in have been excellent value for money, but require a certain amount of travel. The Skye half marathon in June this year was one example of this. At £16 for entry, the course was beautiful, the weather was on our side, every finisher got a commemorative shot glass and miniature of whisky, and because it was an anniversary race, everyone got a wonderful canvas printed bag. Of course, we did have to GET to the Isle of Skye to run the race, which isn’t free, and we also had to sort out accommodation (which was a reasonably priced hostel). However, for the scenery alone, all of the extra costs for this race were worth it.
Isle of Skye average cost each, including entry, travel, accommodation, food : £100
Another example of a ‘destination race’ for me this year was the Paris marathon. Looking back at bank statements, I started to wonder how I had managed to afford this at all, but then I remembered that different parts of the trip were paid for over the course of about 6 months, which made it seem a lot more reasonable. I entered in October. I had missed the ‘cheap rates’ because I was on a 10 hour flight home to Houston to visit family (and run some races), so I ended up paying about 90 euros for my entry fee. Google tells me this is about £77. Not cheap, but for the opportunity to take part in such a huge event in an iconic place, a fee I was willing to pay. I also paid for flights, which were around £200, and direct from Aberdeen, which was a bonus. While my travel companions were staying at a parent’s apartment, there was no room for me, so I splashed out on a nearby hotel, booking it well in advance, and setting aside money every month to cover the final bill, which was a staggering 550 euros (for 4 nights in Paris).
Total cost of Paris marathon, including flights, accommodation, entry fee, pastry consumption: ~ £750 (this hurts to look at)
At the other end of the spectrum, I take part in several local races, some run by running clubs with very reasonable entry fees and a ‘no thrills’ approach to holding an event. Yes, this sometimes does mean that there is no medal, which can be a bit of a grumble with me, but races are also a bit of a social affair in Scotland, the Arbroath Smokies 10 mile ladies road race being no exception. With an entry fee of £14, and less than an hour’s drive from Aberdeen, this year’s 25th anniversary race saw all entrants receive a special commemorative technical shirt, a challenging course, and a generous spread of sandwiches and sweet treats to gorge yourself on after the race. In addition, there was a raffle at the end (I won an Arbroath smokie!), and there was a great atmosphere.
Total cost of Arbroath 10 miler, including travel: ~ £20
Looking back at all of the races I’ve done, I realize that there isn’t a single one that I wish I had never done. Even the ones that I didn’t enjoy at the time, I’m glad I did because they taught me something, like running a half marathon a week after your second ever marathon isn’t going to be super fun. I also realize that I spend an awful lot of money (to me) on entering races and getting to them (even though Ronnie needs to stop paying for gas when I try and sneakily pay for it while he’s occupied!). But is it worth it?
To me, a race is all about an experience, increasingly one spent with friends. Paris is without a doubt the most expensive race I’ve shelled out on, and even though I look at the total cost figure and think about all of the things I could use that amount of money for, if I had the opportunity to take back the experience, I wouldn’t. It was extravagant, but it became more of a holiday than just a race, and the majority of the cost was the hotel, since I was a solo traveller, and also because I chose to treat myself to something a bit fancy because I wanted somewhere nice after I’d run 26.2 miles.
So is there ‘too much’ you can spend on a race? I guess it’s down to the person. £50 for a 10k sounds extortionate to me, but if you consider that a marathon is just over 4 10ks, you could argue that I spent, roughly, £187.50 on a 10k, and that I did it four times!
Obviously some of the larger, more established races are extremely popular, and their popularity means they can get away with charging more for what is essentially organizing for a bunch of people to run from one place to another, time them, and then give them a medal and a t-shirt. Does that annoy me? A bit, I guess. Especially when these big races do a sloppy job. And while some of these big races are gimmicky, for others, there’s sometimes a good reason why they’re popular. Maybe they are set in places where you get to run by landmarks, or run with people you wouldn’t normally get within a mile of. I guess it’s down to individual preference.
I mean, I would pay upwards of £250 to run in a race that David Bowie would be participating in/attending/living near. Double that if he was giving the post-race massages. But would I pay £50 to run The British 10k in London? I’ve been to most of the ‘iconic landmarks’, and run by them before. It’s certainly not something I would travel to London exclusively to do, but if I was feeling flush that month and happened to be there on the same weekend? I’d probably cave and run it.