Thursday, April 26, 2012

The real cost of the marathon


Like I said earlier in the year, this fall my main races are the New York city marathon and the St George marathon.  Unfortunately, you can't just saunder up to the expo and pay your way in. Oh no, for these races you must promise to name your first born "Gu" and get Gatorade tattooed on your forehead either qualify with speed or enter a lottery and get randomly picked.  Well, the NYC lottery was yesterday and I didn't get in. Shit.

As I complained about it on twitter, I said that instead of using my $250 for the race entry, I was going to use it secret service style - Colombian Hookers.  Of course, I was only kidding (duh, they are cheaper in Vegas PLUS I could see Hoover Dam - make it a real educational vacation) but I was serious about how I am glad that I can use that money for something else.  I did however get more than one person say that $250 was waaayyy too much to spend on a marathon. I agree in some respects, but in others I don't.  Let me explain.......

The New York City marathon is POPULAR. Each year tens of thousands of people enter and the race organizers have to select only the most beautiful to run the it (which is obvs why I did not get in). If they really wanted to be jerks, they could raise the price to the point at which the lottery is no longer needed. $1000? More? This is sort of what they did this year as last year was approx $160. The fact that it is still selling out tells me that the demand is there. Capitalism! While slightly different due to the length of the course (40-60 miles of road support), ironman is sort of doing this. Right now an entry to one of those is $600. Yikes. Yet, people shave off all of their body hair and wait in line to get the opportunity to pay and race.

Furthermore, if I look at the total cost of the race weekend, the entry itself is rather insignificant:
Race entry: $250
Flight me & wife: $700
Hotel:, $200 @ 5 nights: $1000
Transportation: $100
Colombian Hooker: Negotiable, as long as I am not Secret Service
Food, $50 @ 5 days: $250

If you add ALL of that up it is $2500 - and i really dont think my estimate is that far off. (granted, if I were to go I'd spend a few days before/after) So, the race is only 10% of the entire experience. Looking at it that way doesn't make it seem so bad.

However, the devils advocate in me says Vegas!! "come on man! Just because it is only 10% of the trip doesn't mean that it is cheap!! A corvette is only 25% the cost of a Bentley, going to go buy one of those soon!? I know of dozens of races that have $60 entry fees!!". But, to that I would say that you do get what you pay for.  The Rock and Roll marathons are a great example of this at $100.  Tons of port a potties? $$. Organized corals? $$. Police support at every road? (no, they are NOT volunteers) $$. Big awesome finisher medal? $$. Tech TShirt you'll actually wear? $$. Add 5 bucks to each race entry for all of those and you get the idea.  

I actually don't mind paying a bit more for a few more perks of a big race. I don't have any other hobbies WXCEPT DRINKING so I can justify spending a bit on a race entry. BUT, I know that is not what everyone else thinks. So, what DO you think?  Is $250 too much for the NYC marathon?

42 comments:

Laura is Undeterrable said...

For New York, no. Like you said, you are paying for organization, support, and just for the experience.

Chelsea said...

Uhm, where are you getting $200 hotel rooms in NYC? DO TELL.

Also, for the big marathons, like NYC, Boston, Chicago...it's also the EXPERIENCE. LIke, holy shit, I just ran Boston. People are willing to pay that.

And it's not like it's a random, SURPRISE expense. You train for marathons, and if it's your goal, then you make it part of your budget.

pensive pumpkin said...

It is a significant amount of money, and I think that is what makes people gasp. You could, of course, run 26.2 miles for free.

But it wouldn't be the same.

People pay significant amounts of money to attend NBA games, and aren't allowed to even play. People spend money for extensive cable packages or glasspack mufflers- and those things make them happy.

Life is about the experience of it. If the experience of the NYC Marathon is what you want, you do what it takes to make it happen. *steps off soapbox*

Mark Matthews said...

Where are you staying for 200 a night? Best I could find is 350. And you are right on. It is the rest of the costs that are painful.

See ya there after I raise five grand for a great charity.

Melissa said...

I didn't get in either...so that being said, for a major marathon the $250 pricetag is worth it and I didn't even really give it much thought when entering the lotto. However, if it were $250 for a RnR event I wouldn't pay it.

Andrea Hill said...

It's expensive, for sure. But I agree that maybe the cost DOES serve to narrow the field a bit. I know some people who sign up for races they're not sure if they want to run, just in case. Well, there probably aren't too many people willing to throw down 250 bones for a race they're not sure about.

Pat said...

I didn't get picked this year either. But, it was my third year decline, so I'm guaranteed entry next in 2013. I'm a penny pincher, but this is worth it.

Brian said...

I complain about race costs, but I agree with your point about the race cost being a relatively small part of the cost of the trip you took to run the race.

I remember seeing, I think on your blog (apologies if not) a post about the Big Free Marathon in Las Vegas. Great idea if you're local, but since I'd have to fly to Vegas, get a hotel, etc., I might as well pay the $100 bucks to run RnR and be able to run the Strip at night.

Have a great race at Eugene!

Christy said...

No more than $10 per mile. That's my motto!

Jill said...

$200/night for a hotel in NY? You'll be sharing one with the cockroaches! Ha. I paid well over 2k (for myself only) in Boston, and I shared a room with other bloggers. But if the race is worth it to you and you have the means, then it's worth it. I may be paying for Boston for a few years ;), but I would't have not run it for anything.

Finger's crossed for you for StG; that was my first BQ race in 2008!! :)

Sue's Ramblings said...

I don't mind paying a "bit more" for a well organized race + race experience, especially in a away-city.

Missy said...

I payed $693 do do Ironman AZ a year in advance. I'm clearly not sane and obviously the wrong person to answer this question.
Sorry you didn't get into NY.

Scallywag said...

I'm going to play devils advocate here for you- compared to the UK those prices are flipping RIDICULOUS.

The Edinburgh Marathon- which 30,000 runners run- is £48 ($77) and is huge with porta potties, police everwhere, straight through the centre of Scotland's capital and GU tables, energy drink, cheerleaders, technical race tees, medal etc.

Loch Ness is 47 pounds ($76) and more low key but (although I've never done a marathon) my friends say its brilliant, including a friend who has done Berlin. It also does tech tees, medals.

London which is the biggest UK marathon (40,000 runners) is £42 ($68)- its so popular it has balloted or charity entries or qualifiers like NYC, tech tees, straight through the biggest city in the UK including straight through a royal palace. Thousands of police.

I just think you guys are being ripped off :(

I also think tech tees in races are something race directors pretend are really extortionate (my home city has a women only 10k that charges 30 odd pounds- expensive for UK!- but pretends getting tech tees is too expensive)... My best tech tee comes from the Grangemouth 10k... A 10 POUND ENTRY FEE RACE ($16).

Race directors know they got us gooood...

Shannon @ Tales from an Average Runner said...

Personally, NY doesn't appeal to me, so yeah, I think it's a bit pricey. On the other hand, I wouldn't bat an eye to pay that for other races I might be more interested in.... I guess if you want to do it badly enough, it's worth it then.

C2Iowa said...

You are dead on. I agree with you. Good luck with StG.

Team Serrins Springfield said...

I don't think it's a matter of is $250 too expensive for a marathon; it's is $250 too expensive for ME for a marathon and the answer is yes. I basically can afford to enter 2 (local) races per year (one in Fall, one is Spring). I couldn't afford $250 for NY let alone the travel. But I think that it's also a matter of the market driving the cost. People pay it and compete to pay it and love it and it may be the best moment of their lives. So they can pay it and I'll stay home and do my (cheaper) local races.

abbi said...

$250 is a lot but that is still in the range that I'd probably splurge for if I really wanted to run it. I see the appeal and of course they are going to charge for it and continue to increase prices because the demand continues to increase. Sorry you didn't get in!

JojaJogger said...

This is why I've switched to running mostly ultras instead of marathons. For $40-$60 you get 30-60 miles of beautiful trails, all the food you can eat, and get to run with some amazing people. Also, these races are run by runners, not huge corporations, so they know what runners want and need. One run thing for me is that the elite runners are right out there with you, not in a special corral. Granted some ultras (namely Badwater) are even more expensive than NYC, but those are the exception rather than the rule. I just hope ultras don't get too popular and suffer the same fate as the marathon.

Andy said...

$250 is a lot of money, but I don't think it's unreasonable for the NYC Marathon. The NYC marathon is a big production and it's not cheap to do.

My wife and I like to take part in Marathon Weekend at Disney every year. Last year, we ran the half marathon, this year we did the Goofy Challenge. Chances are that we're going to do Goofy again next year. The entire trip ends up costing us like $2500, so it's about the same as for you to go to NYC (sidebar: we live about 45 minutes from NYC and my wife is running the marathon this year). While, that $2500 also gets us a vacation (we stay for 6ish days total, usually), the fact that entry for the Goofy Challenge itself is about $350 is kind of crappy. So about a quarter of the cost of our vacation to Disney goes to the race. Yes, that's for two days of running—a half marathon and a full marathon—but this is Disney, they have money. Lots of it. Plus, it's on their property, there are no roads to shut down to the public. They also have all their own people to work it. And it's not like they don't do it without sponsors either. To be fair, it's not like I've actually seen their accounting, but I can't fathom how the weekend could possibly cost them more than $100/runner. And do they need to profit that much from it? It's already bringing people into the park. But the point is, we pay it, even though we think it costs more than it should.

It comes down to the argument of cost vs worth. Even at $2500 out of pocket, it's worth it to us. We like the race, it's fun, we get three medals and three tech shirts for doing Goofy. We friggin' get to run through Disney World! Yeah, it's worth it.

To bring it back to NYC, look at what you're taking a part in. The size of the event and the experience. If that's not worth $250 to you, run cheaper races, but for many, the experience is more than worth it. I know it will be for my wife and when I finally get in, it will be for me as well.

Valerie said...

I would pay $250 to run NY, but it is definitely all the other expenses that start adding up. Its the experience also, just to tell people "I ran Boston" or "I ran NY".

Bean said...

I feel that if running is your hobby than spending money on it is okay. And this hobby is better for you than many other hobbies you could be spending money on. You are paying for the experience. I would pay to run NYC for sure.

Meghan said...

NYC Marathon is beyond worth it. I did not get in this year (but am guaranteed for 2013). I run 1 race a month with New York Road Runners (who puts on the NYCM) and the a damn good job EVERY race and really go balls to the wall for the Marathon.

My buddy knows someone who sees the budgets for everything they do - and they are a nonprofit. Therefore - no $$ to be made it goes back to the runners in any way they can.

Maybe I should rent out my apartment for NYCM week!!

Andrea said...

Naw, it's not to much...and if you can afford to travel, then why not?? Sorry you didn't get in.

Rachel said...

Is $250 too much for NY? NO. Is $110 too much for an RnR race? Yes! And you don't really get a useable tech tee at those. I ran the Chicago one the last two years and got ugly, ill-fitting unisex tees. But I'm not bitter...

I agree with a previous commenter - the tech tee does not make a race expensive. My best tech tee came from a $17 race - and they had mens and womens styles.

Coy Martinez said...

I got it this year and I'm glad I did! For me, NYC is a my number 1 Bucket List item. It always has been. I guess everyone has there "race" they dream of running.

Anyway, I think the cost is a shade steep but the saving grace for me is that my dad lives in Queens so I'll only be out airfare on this one.

Cori said...

I think $250 for NYC is reasonable. The people I know who have run it have said that it is worth it for the experience alone...it's on my bucket list for someday...and I'll happily fork out the fee at that time.

Kimberly said...

Everyone is saying $250 is reasonable because it's New York. Fine. Whatever. But because $250 for NYC is OK, it then makes it OK for a smaller but still big marathon to be $150 and the hometown marathon to be $100. Race entries have become astronomical to the point that many runners (like myself) are being left behind because they literally can't afford to run.

kilax said...

I don't think that is too much, but we have friends to stay with.

It wasn't $160 last year. I think it was close to $200 or even $210 (I don't even want to remember :P). I bet you will qualify by time eventually! :)

Blaine said...

What are your plans if you don't get in StG either?

I'd pay the $250 for NY. Of course, I'd probably have to compete with a homeless person for their cardboard in order to stay.

Nobel4Lit said...

The price is definitely a turn-off. For that price, I can run TWO marathons, but who'd want to??? If I were to do this race, I'd probably run fewer races in the year to make up for it. I'm actually visiting NY a couple of weeks beforehand, but that's just a separate trip. Combine them, and you're golden!

JFord said...

At this point in my marathon career, $250 is way to much. I have only done 1 marathon to date and at the pace of my last marathon, I would only be paying $40 a hour to race, which does seem steep.

avc said...

I think 250 is on the high side of reasonable, but the sheer amount of participation increases the costs because of all the insurance that needs to be purchased. Everything in NYC is more expensive - including all the police, road closures (which cost a ton bc the city probably needs to mitigate economic costs of essentially shutting down the city for the greater part of the morning), portables and rentals and there are *way* more of them then at any small race. When you strive to accommodate every runner then rental time it is only exacerbated. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the idea of cutting course limits to 4 hours, thereby saving about half of rental fees. Plus, NYRR makes it a point of pride that they are doing a sh-tton of fundraising.

BrianFlash said...

I ran New York last year - got in thru the lottery. Killer for me was that I got in three years ago and had to keep deferring while waiting for my brother to get in. So I paid to enter three times before actually running!

Also, good luck on the $200 hotel room. I think $250-$300 is more like it, even with the marathon specials. And that's if you are willing to stay away from the primo locations.

Great race for a one time fling but that satisfied me. But you are totally right about the entry fee - they might as well crank it up to cut down on the number of people who will lose in the lottery.

Annette@(running)In the Right Direction said...

I got into NY...(woo hoo) sorry couldn't help it! But honestly you don't even think about the $...I was just so excited to be in it! Now that you MADE me think of it...it is a lot...but worth it in the end!

Kathy said...

OMFG I can't believe those prices! YES! WAY too much. course, here a 10K costs $10 to $200 ($0.80 UScents to $16USD) so my frame of reference might be off. :) I'll check what our biggest marathon costs, DF...I think it is around $300 (or $24USD) so there you go. I'll take Mexico any day. :)

Melissa Fleury said...

Whoa! I had not idea it was so expensive... and an Ironman fee is $600?! Holy crap. I still think that if it's your dream to run this races, then by all means, save up and do it. However, it's kind of a shame that competing in a marathon is something you have to save up for!

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

amen brother the race fee is like a drop in the bucket of the rest of the stuff

Lisa said...

$250 is a lot, but not too much. In my opinion, the only time when it's valid to complain that a race is too expensive is when the organizers don't deliver on what was promised. Otherwise it's an individual decision on whether the race is worth the fee.

I don't see anything wrong with there being different tiers of races, just like any other consumer product or experience. Just like some people buy a designer purse for the brand name, or stay at a 5-star hotel for the luxury experience, the NYC marathon can be considered a premium item that people should expect to pay more for. We all have to make choices in life about where and how to spend our money.

Char said...

You should have sent in the picture of you wearing that cute gold headband and you would have been picked for sure. Rookie error.

Half-Crazed Runner said...

NY marathon is soo very crowded, too. If you wanted to visit all 5 boroughs on the same day, you can hop on the subway, instead - it would cost less than $250 and people are screaming and yelling at you there, too - hey, with a little imagination ...close your eyes & you can pretend your running the NY marathon! :D Good luck!

Jen said...

I'm sorry you didn't get in either :P I was really annoyed and upset about it.

When you get in to NYC - your family is more than welcome to crash at my place a few days. We are within 16 miles of midtown and not too much further than the starting line. though, not as fun as staying in the big apple, i'm pretty sure we can get hookers of any ethnicity from the town over.

M said...

Yes it is too much. But you have to do it once....and maybe qualify for Boston?

Last weekend my daughter and I ran a really small 5K. The entry was $15 including a t-shirt...and she placed first and got a $50 gift card! Sometimes cheap is good :)